On Wednesday, Jan. 30, more than 150 individuals from Jewish communities throughout Texas traveled to the Texas State Capitol for Jewish Communities Day at the State: Legislative Mission to Austin (Day at the State), organized by the Jewish Community Relations Council (JCRC) of the Jewish Federation of Greater Dallas.
Jewish communities from across the state participated in the event, including the Jewish Federations of Greater Dallas, Austin, Greater Houston, Fort Worth & Tarrant County, and San Antonio. Partners also included the Community Relations Council (CRC) of San Antonio, Hadassah – Greater Southwest Region, Torah Day School of Dallas, Texas Hillel, Chabad at UT, Hillels of North Texas, and SMU Hillel.
Jewish Communities Day at the State: Legislative Mission to Austin is a bi-annual event, coinciding with the Texas State Legislative session every two years “The Day at the State program was an opportunity for Jewish communities throughout Texas to come together in order to make a valuable impact in Austin during this legislative session by showing our support for Israel, as well as expressing our concerns about other issues that affect all Texans. Issues important to the Jewish community include anti-BDS legislation, increased safety and security of children in day care centers, and support for social services provided by our Federation partners — Jewish Family Service, Legacy Senior Communities, the Jewish Community Center, and CHAI. We are looking to our state senators and representatives especially from the Dallas area to be receptive and supportive of these important initiatives. Based on our interaction Wednesday, including a meeting with Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick, it was a successful day for our greater Jewish community,” said A.J. Rosmarin, Jewish Federation of Greater Dallas chair-elect .
The Day at the State program began with a legislative briefing by Harvey Kronberg, editor of the nonpartisan online publication Quorum Report, followed by speakers on the various advocacy issues: support for Israel, support for social services and Federation agency partners, and support for access to quality early learning and child care safety for all children.
Regen Horchow Fearon, board chair of Early Matters Dallas, discussed the importance of high quality early learning and need for increased safety and security of child day care centers. Lisa Brodsky, CEO of Community Homes for Adults, Inc. (CHAI), discussed the need to support quality services and programs to instill a capacity for independence and self-sufficiency among Texan adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities. Toba Hellerstein, CEO of the Texas-Israel Alliance, shared facts about Israel as a global leader in water management and innovation, and how Israeli technology can be used to help Texas in solving water challenges.
“The JCRC is grateful to all the speakers and participants who joined us in Austin on Jan. 30,” said Dallas JCRC Chair Melanie Rubin. “Their participation, enthusiasm and commitment in educating our legislators and advocating for issues important to the Jewish community is what made the day a true success.”
Representative Phil King (R- Weatherford) met with the group following the passing of House Resolution 111 that morning, affirming Israel’s achievements in water management and the Israel-Texas Water Initiative. The resolution was crafted at the request of the Dallas Jewish Community Relations Council and the Texas-Israel Alliance. Rep. King also discussed the follow-up bill to the Texas anti-BDS bill, which was passed last legislative session and prohibits the State of Texas from contracting with any company that engages in boycott, divestment or sanctions against Israel. The follow-up bill this session is intended to tweak the existing anti-BDS law and to make some clarifications on enforcement of the existing law. This year’s bill notes that the anti-boycott statute is a commerce issue and not an infringement on any individual’s free speech rights. The new bill also eliminates applicability to sole proprietorships to show that this is not about individual content, but rather about government contracts using taxpayer funds.
During the Day at the State program, the Dallas JCRC arranged advocacy meetings with legislators from both political parties. Small (two- to four-person) groups met with individual legislators or staff during the afternoon. There was also a meeting and photo with Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick, which led to his inviting the entire group on an impromptu tour of the Lieutenant Governor’s office and official Capitol residence.
“I learned so much at the Jewish Communities Day at the State program,” commented Dawn Strauss, Day at the State co-chair. “I left Austin feeling invigorated, proud and excited to be a part of the Dallas Jewish community. This mission was an amazing opportunity to have our voices heard and to make an impact in Austin.”
Adam Segall, Day at the State co-chair, added, “We appreciate the support and participation of the Jewish Federations and many Jewish organizations and agencies throughout Texas. As the only full-time Jewish Community Relations Council in Texas, our Dallas JCRC is pleased to have served as the planning and coordinating entity that brings together all the Jewish communities in Texas for this critical advocacy program.”