Virginia General Assembly members attentive to Jewish community concerns

February 8, 2013

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Armed with talking points, folders filled with information, and an abundance of determination, a contingent of focused Jewish citizens took to the halls of the Virginia General Assembly building on January 22.

The group of 36 who traveled by bus from Tidewater joined other Jews from communities around Virginia for Date with the State, or Jewish Advocacy Day, an event held annually during the legislative session.

The Community Relations Council of the United Jewish Federation of Tidewater organized the trip, with CRC legislative committee co-chairs Jeff Brooke and Jeff Cooper identifying important political issues and leading pre-planning sessions.

Leslie Siegel, Betty Ann Levin, Marilyn Ashe, Amy Weinstein, Rabbi Israel Zoberman, Mike Ashe, Del. Chris Stolle, Megan Zuckerman, Barbara Dudley, Rebecca Bickford, and Laura Miller.

Leslie Siegel, Betty Ann Levin, Marilyn Ashe, Amy Weinstein, Rabbi Israel Zoberman, Mike Ashe, Del. Chris Stolle, Megan Zuckerman, Barbara Dudley, Rebecca Bickford, and Laura Miller.

With a limited amount of time to visit the 20 senators and delegates who represent the Tidewater area, the CRC chose three matters to discuss during their scheduled appointments: a budget amendment to reinstate full funding in the state’s budget for Jewish Family Service of Tidewater’s courtappointed Personal Affairs Management Program, opposition of a bill that would force nursing homes, such as Beth Sholom Village, to disclose the amount of their liability insurance coverage to patients and residents, and a reminder of the importance of continued funding for the Virginia Israel Advisory Board.

“Important work is done on these trips,” Brooke told the group during a briefing session on the bus to Richmond. “Last year’s trip was instrumental in getting VIAB’s funding restored—these guys heard our cry and answered. Let’s make sure they know…that their constituents want this, and remember to thank your legislators when you speak to them.”

Del. Bob Tata listens to Brad Lerner and Dorothy Salomonsky.

Del. Bob Tata listens to Brad Lerner and Dorothy Salomonsky.

Before the two-hours of back-to-back appointments, the Jewish advocates gathered for lunch at a church a block away from the General Assembly building. Guest speakers at the event included VIAB executive director Ralph Robbins, Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli and Governor Bob McDonnell.

“It is vitally important for you to come up here and keep your legislators informed about what’s important to your community,” McDonnell said. “And you must continue to do this.”

The governor concluded his address by thanking the group for its willingness to step forward and advocate for Jewish and community values, and for taking democracy seriously.

Breaking into smaller groups, the delegation from Tidewater spent the next several hours speaking personally to 18 of the General Assembly members, and to two assistants. Among the groups were Robin Mancoll, CRC director, David Abraham, executive vice president of BSV, Betty Ann Levin, JFS executive director, board members from a variety of local Jewish organizations, high school and college students, and senior citizens.

Jason Hoffman, Marcia Samuels, Anne Abraham, Rebecca Bickford, David Abraham, Helene Silverman, Sen. Frank Wagner, Laura Miller, Betty Ann Levin, Scott Levin, Linda Hoffman, Jeff Brooke, and Lenny Brooke.

Jason Hoffman, Marcia Samuels, Anne Abraham, Rebecca Bickford, David Abraham, Helene Silverman, Sen. Frank Wagner, Laura Miller, Betty Ann Levin, Scott Levin, Linda Hoffman, Jeff Brooke, and Lenny Brooke.

On the bus ride home, Levin applauded the group for the efforts and successes of the day. She is continuing to work with Senator Frank Wagner and Delegate Chris Jones, with support from other elected officials, to have amendments included in the Senate and House budgets to support the PAM program.

“Our funding was cut by 50% for the current fiscal year (2012–13) and slated to be eliminated for the 2013–2014 fiscal year,” Levin says. “We went to Richmond prepared with stories of clients we have helped over the years due to this fundingand whom we will continue to help for the rest of their lives. All of our legislators instantly ‘got it.’ They realized the importance of the often life-saving work we do.”

Noting the effectiveness of the group’s efforts last year that were instrumental in having funding restored to VIAB, and the support the JFS PAM program is getting in the General Assembly, Levin emphasizes the powerful impact of Jewish advocacy.

“It’s important—whether they’re federal or state or local—that our elected officials hear from their constituents about what’s important, and how their decisions can help people in our community,” Levin says. “What we accomplished in just this one day, shows what our collective voice can do.”

For more information about this event and other CRC initiatives, check out www.jewishva.org/crc.

article and photos by Laine M. Rutherford

View more photos from Date with the State here.

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