The Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America spearheaded a lobbying mission on Jan. 10 focused on advocating for Jewish community interests in 2024. More than 100 Jewish leaders, including lay leaders, rabbis, and congregational and educational leaders, traveled to Washington, D.C., where they met with lawmakers and members of the Biden administration.
The OU begins its lobbying campaign at a time when Congress is working through legislation highly important to the American Jewish community, most notably spending bills that have become hot political topics.
“Although the year on the calendar has turned, American Jews – especially in the Orthodox Jewish community – remain in the throes of the aftermath of the Hamas terrorist assault of Oct. 7. Israel continues its war to eradicate the evil of Hamas, and we, in the U.S., continue to experience unprecedented levels of antisemitism. As Congress reconvenes for 2024, the Orthodox Union Advocacy Center is determined to keep support for Israel and the American Jewish community at the top of the policy agenda,” Orthodox Union Executive Vice President Rabbi Moshe Hauer said in a press release.
The delegation was met at the White House by Mayor Stephen Benjamin, the director of the Office of Public Engagement, National Security Adviser to the Vice President Dr. Philip Gordon, and Ambassador Deborah Lipstadt, Special Envoy to Combat Antisemitism, where they discussed issues pertaining to Israel, Hamas and antisemitism.
The Jewish leaders’ lobbying efforts continued on Capitol Hill where they met with members of Congress in small groups. Among the topics discussed with federal lawmakers was an overdue $14 billion emergency supplemental funding package for Israel, continual funding for the Iron Dome missile defense system, public support for Israel and efforts to bring the hostages home from Gaza. They also asked lawmakers to include $200 million in emergency funding for federal nonprofit security grants to combat antisemitism. The mission participants also advocated for passage of the Antisemitism Awareness Act.
The lobbying efforts were met with supportive responses from both sides of the political aisle, and OU leaders left feeling positive about the support of their elected officials.
“At a time of intense political polarization, we are proud that the Orthodox Union maintains excellent working relationships with Democrats and Republicans alike. That was clearly seen in the large turnout of Senators and Representatives of both parties our leaders met with today,” Orthodox Union President Mitch Aeder said in the release.
“There is crucial business for Congress to address,” said Orthodox Union Executive Director for Public Policy Nathan Diament. “We need Congress to pass the emergency aid package for Israel so the Jewish State can defeat Hamas. We need Congress to pass emergency funding for Nonprofit Security grants so that our synagogues and schools can be safe in the face of rampant antisemitism … local and national leaders from our community met with Senators and Representatives to insist that they take action on these matters, and we appreciate the positive response we received. But we will not rest until legislation on these crucial programs is passed.”