On February 5, I joined more than 40 fellow early morning risers and got on a bus to Richmond for Virginia’s annual Jewish Advocacy Day with the Community Relations Council of the United Jewish Federation of Tidewater. Nearly 200 advocates from Tidewater, the Peninsula, Richmond, and Northern Virginia came together to meet with our Delegates and Senators and hear from Lieutenant Governor Justin Fairfax, Speaker of the House of Delegates, Eileen Filler-Corn, Governor Ralph Northam, and Attorney General Mark Herring.
I had always been politically active and canvassed for my favorite candidates. I had knocked on doors and participated in get-out-the-vote campaigns. But never had I processed politics as an extreme sport until recently. When I learned about Virginia Jewish Advocacy Day or fondly called “Date with the State” in our community, sponsored by the CRC, I thought it would be a terrific opportunity to meet my state elected representatives. I was excited to talk with my people, the ones I supported. But what I didn’t know was that I would have to meet with folks who actually won in my district, even though I prayed they would lose. This wasn’t going to be comfortable, and I wasn’t excited. The bus trip to Richmond was fantastic. We got our talking points and knew our agenda. Who could be against a Holocaust and Genocide education bill? Right?
So, there was one Delegate who didn’t like the bill, and that was unacceptable. After seething internally, I breathed hard and deep. What I learned about petitioning our representatives that day was that when you actually meet with these folks (and their staff), especially those you didn’t vote for, they may just listen after all. Talking to those with really different views can mend the torn fabric of differences. In fact, it may be our only hope. That bus ride with people who cared about actively practicing democracy was nourishment for me.
And guess what? We convinced the Delegate who originally voted no in committee to vote yes, and we learned a few days later, the bill passed! I learned so much that day, and I hope you will join me next year. Date with the State is a trip with your community worth taking.
– Lisa Bertini
For more information about the Community Relations Council, or to get involved, contact Megan Zuckerman at firstname.lastname@example.org, or 965-6112.