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Make your voice heard: Join Virginia Jewish Advocacy Day on February 7

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(From left) At Last year's Advocacy Day -Pastor Isaac Hanna, Christina Ramirez, Rabbi Randi Nagel, Rabbi Scott Nagel, Del. Lamont Bagby, Megan Ferenczy, Rabbi Elisha Paul and Melanie Feldstein.

By Debra Rodman, Interim Director JCRC

The core of the Jewish Community Relations Committee’s work is the ongoing effort to connect with and build relationships with legislators at both local and statewide levels.

As the legislative session in Virginia lasts only a few months, this focus becomes even more prominent.

In December, we hosted our annual Legislative Breakfast, bringing together many of our central Virginia Senators and Delegates to engage with the Jewish community. Renewing these connections each year ensures their strength and informs our leaders of evolving needs each year.

Virginia Jewish Advocacy Day is February 7

The day is set to begin at 8 a.m. at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, 815 E. Grace St., Richmond.

On Wednesday, Feb. 7, we will have the opportunity to meet our elected Delegates from the House and Senate.

It is imperative that we have as many of you as possible in attendance to come together and advocate with the other Jewish communities from across the Commonwealth. 

Attendees will meet with our area Delegates and Senators (or their staff) in their offices in the new General Assembly building.

Join us and ensure your voice is heard!

At Virginia Jewish Advocacy Day and in the coming months, we will actively review presented legislation to ensure the interests of the Jewish community are considered.

We have presented our legislators with key priorities to guide this process.

Legislative priorities for 2024 include:

Hate Crimes Bill: The legislation adds the word ethnic to the list of protected classes, which also includes race, religion, gender, sexual orientation, and national origin.

The bill makes it clear that antisemitism will be treated like all other manifestations of hatred and that Jewish individuals and communities of Virginia are included in Virginia’s laws against discrimination and assault regardless of whether they identify or are targeted based on Judaism’s religious or ethnic aspects.

This will ensure that Jews are a protected class even when targeted for ethnic attributes rather than those related to religiosity.

Budget items:

  • The Hate Crimes Security Grant was proposed by Gov. Ralph Northam in 2020 and approved by the General Assembly for an annual appropriation of $1.5 million a year.

The proposed Governor’s budget recommends increasing the appropriation by an additional $1 million every year.

− In addition, the budget language proposed allows non-profits to apply for grants directly, making it easier for organizations to access these important funds.

−  Delegate Delores McQuinn’s budget amendment allows some of the DCJS funds to be used for outreach

− Delegate Betsy Carr’s budget amendment adds localities back in as eligible partnering organizations to apply for grants

−  Senator Lashrecse Aird’s budget amendment combines both of the amendments above.

  • Tax credits: continued support of tax credit for those attending Rudlin Torah Academy.
  • Virginia Holocaust Museum Funding: Out of this appropriation; $250,000 the first year and $125,000 the second year from the general fund is provided for the Virginia Holocaust Museum. This supports the Alexander Lebenstein Teacher Education Institute at VHM, that assists the advancement of experiential learning opportunities for K-12 students.

These funds are intended to support high-quality, off-site learning experiences, educational content, and exhibitions for students to engage in educational content, aligned to the Virginia Standards of Learning, related to the history of the Holocaust and other genocides.

For more information or to register for Virginia Jewish Advocacy Day, including roundtrip bus information from the JCC, visit www.JewishRichmond.org/AdvocacyDay.