02/14/2013 02:59 pm ET Updated Apr 16, 2013

Priorities for the Jewish Community in 2013

As the chief lobbyist for the Jewish Federations of North America I am often asked about our advocacy issues, and how we decide on those priorities. The key to our efforts is that we form consensus among the Federations in order to focus on issues that are relevant and timely.

With 154 Federations from New Hampshire to San Diego and Miami to Seattle, one might think achieving such consensus would be a Herculean task (or perhaps "Solomonic" is the better analogy). In fact, the concerns confronting Jewish Federations and affiliated agencies across the country are remarkably consistent. We assess the issues by consulting with our colleagues across the Federation system, compile our annual Public Policy Priorities, discuss it with the Federations, debate and approve it within our governance structure, and then disseminate it to key policy makers.

The 2013 Jewish Federations of North America Public Policy Priorities are the guiding principles that instruct and focus the advocacy efforts of Federations. They are the roadmap used by Federation professional and volunteer leaders who knock on the doors of their elected officials at home and here in Washington.

Our priorities this year include:
  • Safeguarding our nation's fiscal health while protecting the most vulnerable from bearing the brunt of any cut-backs.
  • Promoting a strong, vibrant Israel and robust U.S.-Israel relations, in part by combating the assault on Israel's legitimacy and sovereignty.
  • Advocating against Iran's development of nuclear weapons.
  • Protecting Medicaid, Medicare, and the health safety net by advocating for improved quality and delivery of services.
  • Empowering older adults to live healthier, more independent, and more engaged lives, by promoting aging-in-place, as well as increased social service support for Holocaust Survivors.
  • Maximizing incentives for charitable giving and supporting interests of nonprofits, by protecting the charitable contribution deduction and supporting making the IRA Charitable Rollover permanent.
  • Safeguarding the Jewish community from terrorism by championing the Department of Homeland Security's Nonprofit Security Grant Program.
  • Advocating for individuals with disabilities and promoting their full inclusion into society and specifically Jewish life, including affordable and accessible supportive housing, job training and employment opportunities, transportation, respite care for caregivers, and support for adults with disabilities after they age out of disabilities education funding.
  • Speaking out for children and families by raising awareness on a range of children and family issues, including day school and early childhood education, after-school programs, the State Children's Health Insurance Program, and nutrition to promote wellness.
  • Sustaining community services to alleviate poverty by advocating for assistance for economically vulnerable Jews and others in need, supporting critical programs such as the Social Services, Community Services, and Community Development Block Grants, affordable housing, job training and counseling services, and the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program.

Clearly, our community faces myriad challenges, which makes it all the more important to raise our collective voices and make a collective impact.

In the first half of this year, we have 22 advocacy missions coming to Washington, including this week's Government Affairs Institute, at which dozens of professionals and volunteers from Federations and affiliated Jewish Family and Children's Services Agencies convene from every corner of the country. Throughout the year, there will be numerous opportunities to advocate for key issues important to our priorities and values.

Together we can make a real difference. Join me, Jewish leaders from across the nation, your local Jewish Federation and Jewish Community Relations Council, and let's make the world a better place for ourselves, our neighbors, and our children.