Each May, I head to Sacramento with the Jewish Public Affairs Committee of California (JPAC) and dedicated Jewish community members from across the state to meet with our elected officials on issues that impact California. As the largest single-state coalition of Jewish organizations in the nation, we work for long-term and long-range policy changes to benefit not only the state’s Jewish community but also the majority of Californians. Among our many accomplishments, we secured an unprecedented $3.6 million in 2018 for services for California’s Holocaust survivors.
The number of living Holocaust survivors is rapidly dwindling, and many of them struggle to maintain their quality of life. California is fortunate to have multiple Jewish Family Service agencies working to ensure that the state’s estimated 3,300 Holocaust survivors can live out their days with dignity, in their own homes if they choose, despite the increasing costs of health care and in-home supportive services. With the $3.6 million allocation, six JFS agencies throughout California will now have the means to prevent the conditions that survivors should never have to face again: eviction, hunger, inadequate medical care, loneliness, social isolation and despair.
JPAC is very proud of this accomplishment. We were able to do it with the leadership and support of the California Legislative Jewish Caucus and the help of our strong cohort of advocates: the scores of Jewish community members who join us in Sacramento each May on JPAC’s Advocacy Day to lobby members of the Legislature.
Securing funding in the state budget for an issue that is dear to our hearts is nothing new to JPAC and our member organizations. Since the 1970s, we have been organizing and lobbying to ensure budgetary funding that will have a direct impact on those most in need in California. Many of those efforts have had a Jewish focus (such as reinstating the California State University study abroad program in Israel, cut after the second intifada), but the majority have not. As my colleagues at Jewish social services and legal aid organizations will tell you, 90 percent of the people they serve are not Jewish; these organizations want to end the cycle of poverty and everything that goes along with it in the realms of housing, health care and education, to name a few areas.
This coming Advocacy Day event on May 6-7 will be my seventh as JPAC’s director. Each year, I am inspired by my experiences in Sacramento, whether I’m having a sit-down dinner with members of the California Legislative Jewish Caucus, or learning what state Sen. Holly Mitchell is doing about ending childhood poverty, or hearing from a panel of experts on affordable housing or immigration — about the roots of problems that are complicated and difficult, as well as how to fix them. I am also inspired by the many individuals who come up for the day and tell me afterward that this experience changed their life and their trajectory. I am honored to have a job that enables me to meet so many interesting, motivated, passionate Jewish community members from all over California who want to make a difference.
For concerned citizens who are interested in engaging in the political process and are motivated to learn about and advocate for the wide range of issues that are important to the Jewish community, JPAC’s Advocacy Day provides an opportunity. The culmination of months of research and coalition building, it is an important and empowering experience. I will be there this May, and I hope that you will be too!