Fresh from his election victory, Maryland Gov.-elect Wes Moore (D) stood in front of 250 members of the Jewish community last week and promised one of his first overseas visits will be to Israel.
“We are going to be very aggressive” in promoting trade between Maryland and Israel, he said during the Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Washington’s legislative breakfast at Congregation Har Shalom in Potomac.
The annual breakfast gives community members the opportunity to hear from their elected officials. The JCRC also announces its legislative priorities at the breakfast, held on Dec. 9.
Moore was clearly heading the bill, which included elected officials from up and down the ballot.
He vowed to strengthen ties with local faith-based organizations, which he called “the backbone of the state,” adding that he was humbled to be “in a roomful of brothers and sisters of faith.”
He also pledged to stand up to antisemitism and all forms of racism and hatred, adding that he and Lt. Gov.-elect Aruna Miller “will stand with you.”
While acknowledging that he respected the separation of church and state, Moore said, “I am a child of God. I know where my strength comes from.”
As governor, he said he will make sure everyone has the space for their individual faiths, free of harassment. He called antisemitism and racism “the same thing.”
Antisemitism was on the mind of the other speakers as well, as one after another vowed to stand up to and call out antisemitism and acts of hate.
U.S. Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Md.) called the rise of antisemitism “frightening. It’s dangerous. The numbers [of incidents] are off the charts right now. We need to do something about it. We need to act.”
Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-Md.) declared, “Antisemitism and racism are the gateway to destruction of liberal democracy.” Raskin, who received a standing ovation, also said, “We must fight for ourselves with everything we’ve got, and we must fight for others with everything we’ve got.”
He called on people all over the world to stand up for democracy and the rights of Ukrainians.
U.S. Sen. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) called for everyone “to be on full alert” against antisemitism and praised the federal, state and county programs that fund security measures at faith-based organizations. He declared, “Israel should always be able to defend itself against attack.”
Van Hollen also said, “You can be strongly and proudly pro-Israel without being anti-Palestinian.” His comments supporting a two-state solution and that “the Palestinian people should have the right to self-determination” were the only remarks at the breakfast that were not greeted warmly.
Maryland state Sen. Ben Kramer (D- District 19) spoke passionately, declaring, “I am a proud Jew, and I am an avowed Zionist, and I don’t take that lightly.”
He added, “Half our student population [in Maryland] don’t know the word Auschwitz. That troubles me.”
Rabbi Adam Raskin of Congregation Har Shalom told the audience that because of antisemitism, many of the 225,000 Jews in Maryland “are on edge and afraid and feel targeted.”
He said that children in his congregation have told him they are afraid.
A booklet containing JCRC’s 2023 legislative priorities was distributed to all attendees during the annual meeting, the first held in person in three years.
On the federal level, some of the priorities include strengthening the U.S.-Israel relationship, funding people-to-people programs between Israelis and Palestinians, supporting Holocaust survivors and offering emergency food and shelter programs.
On the state level, the JCRC will work to continue funding Protecting Against Hate Crimes, JSSA’s Holocaust survivors and Coming of Age programs and the Charles E. Smith Life Communities’ Elder Safe Center as well as efforts to promote trade between Israel and Maryland.
Two new programs it favors funding are the Charles E. Smith Life Communities’ Revitz House upgrade of its piping system and for The Jewish Federation of Greater Washington’s Community Impact Center of Montgomery County to replace its roof and enhance security by replacing windows and facades.
Legislatively, JCRC will advocate for reproductive freedom, victims of domestic abuse, voter access, behavioral healthcare needs and the disabled, and to curb climate change.
For Montgomery County, JCRC’s priorities include increasing funding for security grants at faith-based nonprofits, fighting poverty, securing funding for social services agencies, making the criminal justice system more equitable, expanding childcare and supporting educational programs.
Most members of the Montgomery County Council attended the breakfast, as did Executive Marc Elrich, many state senators and delegates who represent Montgomery County and heads of area nonprofits.