In Virginia, new session, new administration

Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin(R) in November

Virginia’s general assembly has a week left until the end of its 2022 session in Richmond. Then, the state’s new governor, Glenn Youngkin (R), will decide what will stay and what will go under his administration.

The Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Washington hopes that some budget items implemented during former Gov. Ralph Northam’s term will continue to be funded. These include the security grant program for places of worship that has awarded $300,000 to Jewish agencies in Northern Virginia in the past year.

Vicki Fishman, the JCRC’s Northern Virginia & D.C. director of government and community, said the program is “likely” to continue.

Fishman said the JCRC is also watching two other budget items: Jewish Social Services Agency (JSSA) Northern Virginia program for care of aging Holocaust survivors and the expansion of the Jewish Foundation for Group Homes’ MOST program into Loudoun County.

“Social services are crucially important to building the community that we want it to be,” she said.

The JCRC is also supporting the funding for a pilot program proposed by Del. Kathy Tran (D-42nd District). It would provide both extensive case management to limited English proficiency individuals and grants to immigrant and refugee-serving organizations. The JCRC thinks this is especially important to support Afghan refugees who have recently resettled in Northern Virginia, Fishman said.

“We [the Jewish community] have been immigrants and refugees over time,” Fishman said. “Being in a position to advocate for providing assistance for those in need is something we see as a core part of our mission. In particular to the Afghan refugees, these are people who helped us [the United States] and it’s crucial that we don’t abandon them.”

The JCRC is weighing in on a couple of bills pertaining to criminal justice reform, Fishman said. A bill introduced by state Sen. Joe Morrissey (D-16th District) that would restrict the use of solitary confinement is one the JCRC has worked on for years and hopes will finally pass this year, she said.

Other JCRC priorities include gun violence protection, voter access, women’s health and environmental matters. Fishman said that each issue is a Jewish concern.
“We do all of our work grounded in, first and foremost, Jewish learning, Jewish work, Jewish text, Jewish values and Jewish law,” she said.

Days after his inauguration, Youngkin announced the creation of a commission to combat antisemitism in Virginia.

The commission will “study antisemitism in the Commonwealth, propose actions to combat antisemitism and reduce the number of antisemitic incidents, as well as compile materials and provide assistance to Virginia’s public school system and state institutions of higher education in relation to antisemitism and its connection to the Holocaust,” the governor wrote in the order.

The Republican Jewish Coalition said it is looking forward to the results of the commission’s work.

“We are hopeful and looking forward to those recommendations from the commission. And we hope that the legislature takes those recommendations and puts them into substantive action on the ground in the commonwealth,” said Sam Markstein, the group’s national political director.

The RJC also hopes that Youngkin will follow through on his campaign promises of “putting Virginia students and parents first” through policies that prioritize school choice. Youngkin vowed to sign the largest education budget in Virginia’s history during National School Choice Week.

“We’re looking forward to a new day in Virginia when it comes to school choice,” Markstein said.

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