Before the sun had a chance to fully rise, members of the Jewish community rose to take action at the state capitol in Richmond on Tuesday, Feb. 2. More than 50 participants, Tidewater’s largest group for Virginia Jewish Advocacy Day, gathered to make their voices heard on issues important to the local community.
Jewish Community Relations Councils from across the Commonwealth converged in Richmond and divided their regions’ state legislators among themselves to assert their viewpoints. The Hampton Roads activists, for example, had appointments with 21 different legislators.
House and senate bills were discussed regarding tax credits that help fund Jewish Family Service’s Neighborhood Assistance Program and local private Jewish schools stay afloat by granting educational opportunities to the less fortunate. Continued funding for the Virginia Israel Advisory Board, which contributed to the growth of 144 new jobs in the Commonwealth in 2015, was also a key subject in these meetings. The pinnacle issue for the day was the first resolution condemning the Boycott, Divest, and Sanctions movement (BDS) also known as the HJ177 anti-BDS Resolution.
When the bus arrived in Richmond, the travelers immediately separated into groups to meet with their assigned delegates and senators. Following the activists’ meetings with their legislators, all of the Virginia communities came together to hear from Lt. Governor Ralph Northam before heading out to the Capitol. At noon, Rabbi Rosalin Mandelberg of Ohef Sholom Temple, gracefully led the House in the invocation which began the afternoon session. Tidewater’s delegation, along with other Jewish Advocacy Day attendees, observed the proceedings from the gallery. Delegate Eileen Filler-Corn of Northern Virginia formally recognized the group. Participants then headed back to St. Paul’s Episcopal Church for lunch, followed by a stirring speech from Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe. The audience hung on his every word, joke, and gesture. The advocates left the room comforted by his promise to protect the rights of religious minorities when under attack in the state of Virginia.
Danielle Leibovici, one of Tidewater’s delegates, says, “It was so wonderful to attend this important day with so many motivated participants from Tidewater who understand the significance of speaking up for Israel and other important issues to our Jewish community. We must never take for granted the freedom and safety we have in the United States of America.”
by Gaby Grune