For Immediate Release
January 11, 2024
Washington, D.C. — Today, the Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America (Orthodox Union), the nation’s largest Orthodox Jewish umbrella organization, kicked off Jewish community lobbying on Capitol Hill for 2024 with a national leadership mission.
Over 100 Jewish leaders traveled to Washington to lobby for causes important to their communities. They included lay leaders, rabbis, and congregational and educational leaders.
The mission comes at a crucial time during which Congress is working on key spending bills of importance to Israel and American Jews. Today’s mission ensures these goals continue to be front and center in the minds of legislators.
Mayor Stephen Benjamin, director of the Office of Public Engagement, welcomed the group at the White House. The Orthodox leaders engaged in discussions with Dr. Philip Gordon, National Security Adviser to the Vice President, on American support for Israel in its war against Hamas. Amb. Deborah Lipstadt, Special Envoy to Combat Antisemitism (State Dept.), discussed efforts to thwart the current surge of anti-Jewish animus.
On Capitol Hill, senators joined a luncheon where, one after another, they spoke clearly and forcefully, supporting Israel’s continued battle to destroy Hamas and against the alarming spike in antisemitism in this country.
Senators in attendance included Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and Senators Marsha Blackburn (R-TN), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Katie Britt (R-AL), Ben Cardin (D-MD), Susan Collins (R-ME), Kevin Cramer (R-ND), John Fetterman (D-PA), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Josh Hawley (R-MO), John Hoeven (R-ND), Marco Rubio (R-FL), Tim Scott (R-SC), Thom Tillis (R-NC) and others.
In the afternoon, the Orthodox Jewish leaders met in small group sessions with their members in the House of Representatives. Attendees focused on advocating for supporting Israel in its continuing battle against Hamas and acting decisively to address the rising antisemitism. The release of the hostages was also a pressing issue in all the meetings and presentations.
Representatives were asked to pass the overdue $14 billion emergency supplemental funding for Israel. They advocated for continued Iron Dome funding and urged legislators to continue supporting Israel publicly. Legislators were also asked to support the UNRWA Accountability and Transparency Act, as ties between the organization and Hamas continue to be exposed in Gaza. Attendees urged legislators to end the suffering of the hostages and bring them home now.
Regarding domestic policy, amid an ongoing surge of antisemitism in the U.S., the leaders urged legislators to include $200 million in emergency funding for federal nonprofit security grants in the emergency supplemental aid package. This would be in addition to at least $305 million in the regular Department of Homeland Security appropriations bill.
Emphasis was placed on passing the Antisemitism Awareness Act, which would require the Department of Education to use the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) working definition of antisemitism when monitoring and prosecuting federal anti-discrimination laws. This would assist in minimizing the concerning spread of antisemitism on America’s college campuses.
The mission also provided an opportunity for constituents to personally thank their elected officials for showing support to Israel and American Jews in the aftermath of October 7.
Senator Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said:
“One of the things I vowed to increase funding for is the Nonprofit Security Grant Program (NSGP) to help religious institutions of all kinds protect themselves from hate crimes and terrorist attacks… I talked with OU leadership about this because it’s so necessary. I started this program. I started this program in 2020 with $90 million a year; last year, we got it up to $305 million, but I’m happy to say, in the supplemental, there is $1 billion in this program.”
Senator John Fetterman said:
“I don’t support any conditions on (Israel) aid. Who are they fighting? It’s a group of cowards. They hide in tunnels, hide behind civilians, and attack, kill, and mutilate women and children. Stop talking about proportion. They shot their best shot on October 7… The UN has never condemned Hamas. They wouldn’t even recognize Hamas in any of the resolutions. Why aren’t we talking about the systemic use of rape and torture? I have a 12-year-old daughter. If someone did that to my daughter, do you expect me to sit and negotiate with them? Not no—NEVER! And I wouldn’t expect Israel to do so either.”
Senator Marco Rubio said:
“What I think here is the most shocking is to wake up, not two weeks or a month after — I mean hours after this happened. The reality is that there are people in our country who view what happened as justified. It’s not just anyone. It’s people in charge of important things. People who do your dental work, people who are involved at high levels of certain companies, and most troubling of all, it appears many students at some of the most prestigious and expensive learning institutions in our country.”
Orthodox Union Executive Vice President Rabbi Moshe Hauer said:
“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 October 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 President Mitch Aeder said:
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 Executive Director for Public Policy, Nathan Diament, said:
“There is crucial business for Congress to address. 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. Today, 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.”