The Washington Conference: Sabrina Goes to Washington

Steeped in a long legacy of effecting change, the JFNA Washington Conference 2022 brings together leaders, experts, and community influencers to network, train, and advocate for pressing issues facing our communities focusing on crucial legislation and government initiatives that address these issues.

The JFNA Washington Conference 2022 brings together 450 Jewish community leaders from across North America to take a stand against the rising tide of antisemitism and work collectively to ensure the safety and security of the Jewish community through education, advocacy, and action – both while in DC and locally back at home.

JCRC Associate Director Sabrina Spector's Reflections on the JFNA Washington Conference 2022

After two years serving as our JCRC of SNJ Associate Director, Sabrina Spector attended the JFNA Washington Conference 2022 in Washington D.C. to advocate on behalf of our local Jewish Community and the Jewish people at large.  Along with 300 other professionals and lay leaders from around the country our local leadership collectively spoke to numerous elected officials about the Jewish Federation’s top priorities this year.

At the top of the list was asking for an increase in the funding of the Non-Profit Security Grant Program. The program received substantial funding last year but unfortunately, much more is needed. Advocating for Congress to commit no less than $360 million to support much needed financial assistance for all non-profit institutions was key! As attacks on synagogues and churches continue to rise, our non-profit organizations need assistance with investment in our security. An increase in hate crimes, especially antisemitic incidents, is at the forefront of many conversations so it was inspiring to hear from our elected officials and other Jewish national organizations about all the efforts that are going toward wining this battle!

Advocating for robust funding for the Jabara-Heyer NO HATE Act was on the agenda. This legislation will assist the FBI to collect more accurate hate crime data and provide the Department of Justice with better tools to analyze these types of crimes and will also empower the DOJ to give state and local governments grants to monitor hate crimes and establish hate-crime hotlines.  By having this critical information and encouraging all community members to report incidents, we can better understand and develop more programs to combat hate.

Senator Ted Deutsch opened the JNFA Washington Conference 2022 and stated that there is something fundamentally wrong with in our society when antisemitism is present. He stated that we must focus on educating our communities and leading by example. He interestingly commented that the majority of both parties are staunch supporters of Israel and that combating hate across our nation is a real priority. He also strongly encouraged us all to continue to speak out when we hear extreme hostility coming from either party, engage in conversation about the changing Middle East, including the impact of the Abraham Accords, and to get out and vote! 

There was also a strong push for financial assistance to support the Ukrainian refugees once they arrive in the United States. Most notably, when a refugee family arrives, local organizations should assist in providing mental and health services, securing homes and jobs, and getting these refugees settled. Attendees had the honor of hearing from the Ukrainian Ambassador, Oksana Markarova who told them about many of the atrocities occurring in her home country.  She thanked the Jewish Federation community profusely for raising to date over $60 million to assist her fellow countrymen and she heavily noted that the road ahead will be difficult and painful.  She urged us all to continue to advocate for the Biden administration to swiftly pass the Ukrainian Aid package!

In the short 24 hours at the conference, numerous Congress members had the opportunity to have wonderful conversations with Israel’s Ambassador Michael Herzog and were inspired by leaders of national Jewish organizations. Pittsburgh Steeler NFL player, Zach Banner, gave a wonderful pep talk and the entire NJ state delegation had an opportunity to meet with Senator Menendez in the Foreign Affairs Committee room (very cool)!  Jennifer Dubrow Weiss, our Jewish Federation of Southern New Jersey’s CEO, and Sabrina made a stop by Congressman Kim’s office, as seen in the picture. 

There were two important take-aways from the event; First, there is an increasing need for education, and dialogue is more important than ever!  As the entire professional staff at the JCRC of SNJ spends its days working to educate the Jewish and non-Jewish community on who they are and what they do, it is obvious that the more we all engage, the more we build relationships and break down barriers to truly understanding the challenges each of our communities face. Finally, and most importantly, although it may not seem like it at times, we are being heard!  We must continue to advocate for the needs our entire community, share our concerns and thoughts, and encourage voting.  We are the most important part of the process and our actions and voices are moving the needle!