Date With the State 2014

by | Feb 14, 2014 | Other News

Rabbi Sender Haber, Rabbi Jeffrey Arnowitz, Rabbi Roz Mandelberg, and Rabbi Israel Zoberman.

Rabbi Sender Haber, Rabbi Jeffrey Arnowitz, Rabbi Roz Mandelberg, and Rabbi Israel Zoberman.

Jewish Family Service funding. Medicaid expansion. Israeli business opportunities. Prayer in schools. These are just some of the issues that the Virginia State legislature is examining during its current session, many of which are near and dear to the Jewish people of Tidewater. As such, I was grateful and excited on Feb. 5 to be part of Tidewater’s annual Community Relations Council delegation to the statewide Jewish Advocacy Day in Richmond.

With a newly elected Governor kicking off his agenda, this year’s visit with local Senators and Delegates was particularly charged. We left bright and early via bus from the Sandler Family Campus and made our way to the House of Delegates in Richmond. Along the way, we participated in briefings from state officials and local subject matter experts. We divided into small groups and engaged in lively discussions with various Hampton Roads’ representatives in the House of Delegates and Senate.

The hottest issue we discussed was Medicaid expansion. Both Republican and Democratic representatives made their cases as to why Virginia should embrace or deny the program. The candor and passion of many Delegates and Senators about this issue was palpable. It struck me that no matter where you fall politically, it was great to see first-hand Virginians’ commitment to democracy and debate.

Another issue we addressed involved funding for our local Jewish Family Service Personal Affairs Management Program, which provides guardianship, conservatorship and other services to incapacitated adults. Local JFS experts spoke with our representatives to secure their commitment to reinstate funding for this important program. It was comforting to hear directly that many of the Delegates and Senators pledged their support to vote in favor of the increased funding measure.

The issue of prayer in school is always a hot-button topic. Notably, our delegation had four local rabbis this year. It was particularly moving to see our spiritual leaders not only “talk the talk” but literally “walk the walk” with us and help to educate state representatives on issues of importance to our Jewish community. Our rabbis spoke eloquently about how they are persons of faith, but at the same time recognize the constitutional right to have our public schools free from unnecessary laws that blur the separation of church and state.

We also discussed the need for increased funding for the Virginia Israel Advisory Board, which was well-received by many Delegates and Senators.

What did I take away from this whirlwind day of policy talk?

I felt instantly close with my fellow lobbying team as we worked together to figure out how to best communicate our messages. Even though we were together just one day, it is always an honor to meet new people who are committed to improving the lives of others. I also loved learning about the process of how bills become law in the Commonwealth. I got to hear a bit of a committee hearing where testimony was given regarding some controversial bills. It was the live civics lesson that I never appreciated in High School! I also felt pride in being Jewish, as 180 persons from across Virginia took the day off of work to unite to speak their minds about making Virginia a more tolerant, healthy and prosperous place—not just for Jews but for everyone.

I am already looking forward to next year. Robin Mancoll, Community Relations Council director, Megan Zuckerman, CRC chair, and Jeff Brooke and Jeff Cooper, CRC’s Legislative Action co-chairs, made the trip seamless, fun and informative.

To learn more about the Community Relations Council and their initiatives, visit

by Brad Lerner