More than 125 lay and rabbinic leaders of Orthodox Jewish communities from across the country convened on Capitol Hill and at the White House on June 15 for the Orthodox Union Advocacy Center’s annual Leadership Mission to Washington.
Throughout the day-long mission, the delegates focused on advocating for three issues critical to the Orthodox community:
•Greater funding for the federal Nonprofit Security Grant Program to protect Jewish day schools, synagogues and other nonprofits from attacks;
•Passing the Taylor Force Act, which will suspend U.S. aid to the Palestinian Authority until it ends its practice of paying financial stipends to the families of terrorists;
•Advancing school choice to empower parents to offer their children with high-quality K-12 education.
The OU center “works year-round to advocate for the values and interests of the Orthodox Jewish community,” said OU President Mark Bane. “Coming to Washington is a very visible reminder of our commitment to those we represent and our appreciation for this country's leaders who work tirelessly on behalf of the Jewish people and Israel.”
Nathan Diament, executive director of the OU Advocacy Center, added: “We are grateful that so many prominent leaders of our community came to Washington and successfully advance the critical policy priorities of security for Israel, security for American Jewish schools and synagogues and school choice.”
Bronx Democratic Rep. Eliot Engel, ranking member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, spoke of his commitment to pass bipartisan legislation. North Carolina Rep. Virginia Foxx, chair of the Education Committee, emphasized her commitment to school choice policies.
OU delegates met with their congressional representatives in small groups to discuss the policy agenda and afterwards reconvened for a luncheon with senators.
Sen. Robert Menendez (D-NJ) announced the 98-2 vote that had just occurred in favor of new sanctions on Iran, for which he received a standing ovation.
Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) said the U.S. must make sure Iran is held accountable for its actions. “They haven’t moderated a bit,” Schumer said. “They’re still exporting terrorism.”
Schumer was among several senators who spoke about the need to pass legislation like the Taylor Force Act.
“Abbas has to stop making payments to terrorists and their families, and all elected officials should call them out” for this practice Schumer said.
“We’re going to find a way to pass the Taylor Force Act,” said the ranking Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Sen. Ben Cardin (D-MD).
Making the cause bipartisan, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX), noted he was one of the original sponsors of the legislation, and that Congress must take action immediately to stop funding Palestinian terrorism.
Cruz also spoke about his support to relocate the U.S. Embassy in Israel.
“Now is the time to recognize Jerusalem as the one eternal, indivisible capital of Israel,” Cruz said. “It is long past time to move the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem, where it belongs.”
Other senators who spoke during the lunch were Orrin Hatch (R-UT), Bill Nelson (R-FL), John Hoeven (R-ND) and Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), all of whom voiced their strong support for OU Advocacy’s work and their ongoing efforts on behalf of Israel and the Jewish people.
The OU leaders then traveled to the White House where they met with Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos to discuss school choice initiatives; Special Representative for International Negotiations Jason Greenblatt, who spoke about advancing the Israeli-Palestinian peace process; and Deputy Assistant to the President Sebastian Gorka, who provided insights into national security policy.
“Coming to Washington reminds all of us that we have great strength when we join together and speak with a unified voice in our nation’s capital,” said OU Executive Vice President Allen Fagin. “[We] appreciated the many representatives and senators who met with us and will be our partners on our policy priorities. And we were all honored to meet with such senior administration officials.”
Updated 6.21.17 at 3:50 pm