Federation Leaders Promote Jewish Causes in Washington June 13, 2012
Sanctions against Iran, the U.S.-Israel relationship, national security and the American economy shaped discussions earlier this week in Washington, D.C., where more than two dozen Jewish Federation leaders from around the country gathered to advocate for the Jewish community.
During a two-day mission organized by The Jewish Federations of North America’s Prime Minister’s Council (PMC), Federation leaders visited the White House, Brookings Institution and State Department to discuss challenges and opportunities facing the Jewish people.
Kathy E. Manning, chair of the Board of Trustees at JFNA, joined the group and emphasized the importance of speaking out for the community. "This is a pivotal time for our nation, as we face challenges such as protecting the most vulnerable populations, restoring and growing the economy, and making sure our national security needs are met. It is crucial that we make our voice heard and our positions known,” she said.
Cynthia Shapira, PMC chair, added, “It is an honor, a privilege, and it is our responsibility to engage with the top leadership of our government on these critical issues.”
At an intimate meeting at the White House, Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Janet Napolitano discussed partnering with faith-based communities during security threats, and highlighted some of the current DHS-Jewish Federation initiatives.
“Homeland security begins with hometown security, and our nation’s faith-based organizations play a critical role in keeping our communities safe,” Napolitano said in a statement afterward. “DHS works closely with communities all across the country so they are better prepared to deal with threats that may originate within this country or abroad.”
Other White House officials, including Alan Krueger, chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers; Daniel Glaser, assistant secretary for Terrorist Financing at the Treasury Department; and Denis McDonough, deputy National Security Advisor, addressed ongoing economic struggles in the U.S. and foreign relations with Israel. Federation leaders were also briefed on how the Treasury Department is implementing sanctions against Iran's central bank.
The Iran situation remained on the agenda during PMC meetings at the State Department. Jake Sullivan, director of Policy Planning, and Andrew Shapiro, assistant secretary of state for Political-Military Affairs, offered perspectives on Iran sanctions and Israel’s safety, the situation in Syria, and evolving conditions in the Middle East. Ambassador Capricia Penavic Marshall, chief of protocol, also spoke to the PMC group.
At Brookings, participants met with Ambassador Martin S. Indyk, vice president and director of the Foreign Policy Program, and Elizabeth Ferris, co-director of the Brookings-LSE Project on Internal Displacement. Ferris spoke about displaced people in a range of situations, including Haiti, Sudan and New Orleans, where natural disasters have left populations in great need, despite government efforts to rebuild.
During a mission dinner, participants also heard from Senator Susan Collins (R-Maine) and Ambassador Barukh Binah, deputy chief of mission at the Embassy of Israel.
"This mission provided an opportunity to discuss the impact of U.S. sanctions on Iran, the challenges regarding economic recovery, and the great work that Jewish Federations across the country do every day to help people provide the best for their families and communities," said Susan K. Stern, JFNA’s national campaign chair.
Journalist Jeffrey Goldberg, national correspondent for The Atlantic and Bloomberg News, also met with the group. Goldberg discussed the situation in Syria and the possibility of a conflict with Iran, and also told of meetings with Israeli leaders including Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and President Shimon Peres.
“The Prime Minister’s Council enables our Federation leaders and most generous contributors to engage in high-level conversations with political experts and government officials about critical issues facing the Jewish community,” said Paul Kane, JFNA’s senior advisor to the CEO.
William Daroff, vice president for public policy and director of JFNA’s Washington office, said it is critical for Jewish Federation leaders to consistently communicate with the Administration and legislators on both sides of the aisle. The Washington mission, he said, “is a testament to the seriousness with which we take our advocacy efforts and to the high esteem in which our government holds the leadership of the Jewish community.”