Virginia Jewish Advocacy Day 2017

by | Mar 6, 2017 | Other News

Jewish Family Service. Israeli business opportunities. Support for scholarship tax credits (including local Jewish day schools). Elie Wiesel recognition. These are just some of the issues that are examined by the Virginia State legislature, many of which are near and dear to the Jewish people of Tidewater. On Wednesday, Feb. 8, Tidewater’s Community Relations Council delegation participated in Jewish Advocacy Day in Richmond to discuss these issues and more with local representatives.

The newly elected Administration and Congress spurred many participants to attend for the first time, saying that they felt a new imperative to be part of the civic process. As such, this year’s visit with local Senators and Delegates felt more important than ever.

The group left bright and early via bus from the Reba and Sam Sandler Family Campus and made its way to the General Assembly in Richmond. Divided into small groups, each engaged in lively discussions with various Hampton Roads’ representatives in the House of Delegates and Senate. Also, as part of an effort to broaden the reach of the statewide Community Relations Council, several of Tidewater’s teams met with legislators from the western part of Virginia who had not previously been engaged by the Jewish community.

A key issue that was discussed was Virginia Israel Advisory Board updates. Both Republican and Democratic representatives generally support this unique partnership, which seeks to promote and secure Israeli businesses in Virginia. It also promotes cultural exchange opportunities, such as Richmond Ballet’s Minds in Motion program, which just completed their seventh annual residency in Israel teaching and engaging with neighboring Arab Israeli and Jewish Israeli communities.

Another issue involved funding for Jewish Family Service through the Neighborhood Assistance Program (NAP) tax credits. It was comforting to hear directly from many of the Delegates and Senators that they support Jewish Family Service and the incredible programs that the organization offers for Virginians across the state.

The delegation also advocated support for a joint resolution recognizing Elie Wiesel, Nobel Peace Prize-winning author and Holocaust survivor, noting his memorable prose, eloquence and strength Patroned by Eileen Filler-Corn, a Jewish Delegate from Northern Virginia (D-41).

A highlight of the day was hearing from Governor Terry McAuliffe, who gave a rousing talk on a variety of topics including his recent trip to Israel during the summer of 2016 and his sign on to the American Jewish Committee’s ‘Governor’s Against BDS’ letter, sharing it’s something he normally does not do. Governor McAuliffe also denounced President Trump’s executive order curtailing immigration of refugees and foreign nationals from several Middle Eastern and North African countries, stating that this type of activity cannot be tolerated, a sentiment that Attorney General Mark Herring also shared with the community during his remarks. Lieutenant Governor Ralph Northam also delivered a powerful message on the importance of maintaining Virginia as a caring and inclusive community.

This whirlwind day of policy talk instantly created closeness within the lobbying teams as they worked together to figure out how to best communicate messages. Feelings of pride in being Jewish permeated throughout, as many people 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.

To learn more about how to get involved with the Community Relations Council, contact Wendy Weissman at or 965-6107.

– Brad Lerner