One hundred Orthodox rabbis and communal leaders from across the country converged on Washington for the Orthodox Union Advocacy Center’s 22nd annual Leadership Mission.
During the day-long event, participants met with top administration officials at the White House, heard from several U.S. senators, met with U.S. representatives and their staff to advocate for the Israel Anti-Boycott Act and to increase funding for the federal Nonprofit Security Grant Program NSGP, which awards religious schools, synagogues and other houses of worship grants of up to $150,000 apiece to improve building security. The OU Advocacy Center spearheaded the NSGP in 2005 together with the Jewish Federations of North America and other coalition partners and bipartisan leaders in Congress.
Starting their day at the White House, OU delegates met with U.S. Special Representative for International Negotiations Jason Greenblatt and U.S. Ambassador to Israel David Friedman to discuss U.S. policy toward Israel; Domestic Policy Council Director Andrew Bremberg to discuss school choice and other key issues; and Homeland Security Adviser Rear Adm. Douglas Frears to discuss programs to keep synagogues and schools safe.
Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY) kicked off lunch on Capitol Hill where he and Sens. Ben Cardin (D-Md.), Ted Cruz (R-Texas), James Lankford (R-Okla.) and Gary Peters (D-Mich.) delivered impassioned speeches in support of legislation such as the Israel Anti-Boycott Act; expanded NSGP funding; the opening of the U.S. embassy in Jerusalem last month, and other policies to protect Israel, such as the Taylor Force Act.
Members of Congress who met with groups of OU delegates included Reps. Carlos Curbelo, Jerry Nadler and Eliot Engel (D-NY), Ron DeSantis (R-Fl.), Ted Lieu (D-Calif.); Jamie Raskin (D-Md.); and Albio Sires (D-NJ).
The Mission’s closing session featured an award presentation to Rep. Chris Smith (R-NJ) for his lead sponsorship of legislation passed in February that codifies a new era of fairness for disaster-stricken synagogues, churches and other houses of worship by making them eligible for federal disaster relief through the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).
The OU delegates were then addressed by Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who announced the creation of the Justice Department’s “Place to Worship Initiative,” a religious liberty proposal focusing on protecting houses of worship and other religious institutions rights to “build, expand, buy, or rent facilities” under the provisions of the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act.
“Our elected leaders, by taking the time to meet with us, demonstrated that they heard and understand our concerns,” said OU President Mark (Moishe) Bane.
OU Advocacy Center Director Nathan Diament added, “We appreciate the work of the Justice Department on behalf of religious freedom and the new initiative announced at our Mission to help ensure fair treatment for synagogues and other houses of worship.”
Source: OU Advocacy Center