Community members plan to keep their Annual Date with the State

by | Jan 11, 2013 | Other News

Tuesday, Jan. 22

Jeff Brooke offers advice to those who are unhappy with the current political system and their elected officials: “You have the power, and the responsibility, to do something about it.”

As co-chair of the Community Relations Council of the United Jewish Federation of Tidewater’s legislative action committee, Brooke is helping craft a plan for members of the Tidewater Jewish community to make Tidewater’s voice heard by General Assembly politicians in Richmond.

Brooke and Jeff Cooper, also a co-chair of the CRC committee, will lead an organized group into the offices of the area’s elected delegates and senators to act as advocates for the greater Jewish community next week.

The annual event is known as Date with the State, or Virginia Jewish Advocacy Day, and it’s not just Tidewater Jewish citizens who attend. Jewish community members from throughout the state gather for lunch, share issues and concerns with one another and are usually visited by the Governor, the Attorney General and other top state officials. This year, the Lieutenant Governer will also speak to the group.

After lunch, groups separate and visit their local officials, speaking about two or three issues important to their respective areas of the state, ensuring politicians know the Jewish community is informed and concerned.

Last year, 34 people traveled with the CRC to Richmond. This year, at least that many will attend, including for the first time a delegation of members from the Young Adult Division of the UJFT’s Hineni Group.

Cooper says the more people that travel on the group bus to Richmond the better, and the one-day gathering of Jews from all parts of Virginia imparts a message of empowerment and solidarity.

“It brings an awareness to the people who are acting as advocates from this area, and the politicians, that the Jewish community is larger than you might think,” he says. “When the Governor, the Lieutenant Governor, and the Attorney General make the point to come speak at lunch, it lets us know that they take the Jewish community seriously.”

While the advocates’ final discussion points are still being honed, the general issues that community members will highlight for this year’s General Assembly members include items that affect Beth Sholom Home, Jewish Family Service of Tidewater and the Virginia Israel Advisory Board.

“Going to Richmond is an opportunity for us to raise Jewish community issues, and to make politicians aware of the many number of things that our Federation agencies do,” Cooper says. “We’re partly advocates and partly legislative educators—it’s always neat to see how pleasantly surprised our legislators are to learn about the work of our agencies and how many people they reach in the community, both Jewish and non-Jewish.”

By participating in Date with the State, Tidewater citizens are able to experience democracy in action, says Jeff Brooke.

“Gathering together to represent the community, presenting oneself physically in front a legislator, makes them listen to us, and their attention lets us know that they’re interested in what we have to say. A lot of times they aren’t aware of the issues we’re discussing, and we’re bringing it to their attention for the first time,” Brooke says. “When we get back, we get to say that we were there, pounding on doors, and it made a difference.”

Interested in attending the 2013 Date with the State? RSVP immediately to Robin Mancoll, or call 757- 965-6120. For information about this and other upcoming CRC events, and for issues and sources relevant to the Tidewater Jewish community and beyond, visit

by Laine M. Rutherford