Combating anti-Semitism and COVID relief were on the minds of three Virginia political leaders when they met virtually on Feb. 3 with members of the Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Washington during its Virginia Advocacy Day.
Gov. Ralph Northam (D), Attorney General Mark Herring (D) and Speaker of the House Eileen Filler-Corn (D) also touched on Holocaust education and issues on the agenda of the current legislative session.
Northam on Holocaust education
Northam said a 2019 trip to Israel reinforced the importance of Holocaust education.
“One of the things that [trip] has brought into focus for me is how we educate our children regarding culture, whether it be the history of the Holocaust or African American history,” Northam said. “So we’re doing a lot of work to talk to folks like you, to experts on history and how we can better incorporate that and make sure that our children hear about these things. Because we know that history can repeat itself, and we never want to go back to some of those tragedies in our past.”
Asked about Virginia’s plans to combat rising anti-Semitism, Northam said it was important for political leaders to condemn the actions of anti-Semites and white supremacists. He added that it’s a priority to make places of worship safer, and to promote kindness.
“So we will do everything we can and, again, with your input, to make sure that we keep folks safe,” he said.
Northam on COVID relief
The governor said Virginia is taking “an all hands on deck approach” to vaccine distribution.
“We’ve lost over 6,000 Virginians to COVID-19,” he said. “We’ve now immunized or vaccinated close to a million individuals. So that process is moving along nicely. It’s obviously supply dependent. So I understand the urgency. But we also need to be patient. We have about 8 ½ million individuals to vaccinate, and we’re doing the best we can to get to everybody as soon as we can.”
Herring takes questions
Like Northam, Herring said political leaders need to speak against anti-Semitism wherever it arises.
“But it’s also important to pair actions with those words,” Herring said. “I do believe that by working together, we will be able to combat it. But we still have a lot of work ahead of us. And we also need to keep the lines of communication open. And I’ve talked with a number of leaders within synagogues around the state. It’s important for us to continue to hear from you and make sure that we are in good communication about how we can work together to address it.”
Asked if there were any legal hurdles in Virginia to help funnel budgetary resources to nonprofits, Herring said he was unaware of any.
“I don’t think there should be any legal barriers to that. But I will say if there are, please bring them to my attention. And we will take a look and see how we might be able to break through.”
Filler-Corn on Jewish identity
Filler-Corn is the first woman and first Jew to serve as speaker of the Virginia House of Delegates.
“My actions are certainly guided from the concept of tikkun olam and repairing the world,” Filler-Corn said. “And I certainly think it’s a value that’s important to me and I know to you all as we try to also instill this in future generations. So all that we’ve accomplished already and the work that we’re currently doing is one way that we are repairing the world.”
Filler-Corn on priorities
In the 2021 legislative session, which adjourns on Feb. 27, Filler-Corn said she wants to “lay the groundwork for a more fair, more equal and more prosperous Virginia moving forward.”
Goals include working toward passing “legislation that protects families like paid family sick leave, eviction protections, making sure families are safe at home, investing millions to ensure that unemployed Virginians get the benefits that they need.”
To better health care, the state is investing $200 million in vaccine distribution, allocating millions to get Virginians enrolled in the state health care exchange, capping the cost of inhalers, expanding telehealth and increasing pharmacy transparency, she said.