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JCPA Plenum: A Place for Learning and Action

[by Matt Goldberg, Director]
Jewish Community Relations Council Jewish Community of Louisville

Earlier this month, I had the pleasure of attending the Jewish Council for Public Af-fairs annual Plenum, which attracted over 300 Jewish commu-nal professionals and lay leaders to Wash-ington, D.C. The JCPA Plenum, which was held from March 5-8, was a fantastic event where Jewish communities from around the country gathered to share ideas, learn about best practices in promoting the Jewish policy agenda, decide what that agenda should be and visit Capitol Hill to promote that agenda.

The first day started with a speech by Israel’s Ambassador to the U.S., Michael Oren, who spoke about the Israel-Palestinian peace process. He called on the American Jewish community to support birthright Israel and focused on the fundamental connection between American and Israeli Jews.

Another important breakout session included a speech from Richard Trumka, President of AFL-CIO, about the history of the Jewish labor movement and American Labor’s support for the State of Israel.

An extremely timely plenary session included a discussion with former CIA director James Woolsey and Sen. Amy Klobuchar about the strategic need fro alternative sources of energy so as not to depend on unstable autocratic regimes for our sources of energy.

Also speaking was Valerie Jarrett, special advisor to President Obama, who reaffirmed the President’s commitment to Israel’s security, and Rep. Keith Ellison of Minnesota, the only Muslim member of congress, who had a unique insight into the importance of dialogue between the Jewish and Muslim communities.

There were important forums on topics such as immigration policy (where I sat on the panel), de-legitimization of Israel, engaging Jewish youth, promoting environmental awareness, civility in our public discourse and many more.

An important part of the JCPA Plenum is the Resolutions session, where representatives from Jewish communities across North America and those from national organization debate and vote on what policy stances we will be adopting and promoting.

During this evening, where Senator Ron Wyden was honored, we adopted new resolutions on immigration reform, the Israel-Palestine peace process, elections, youth bullying, responses to genocide, birthright citizenship, and senior poverty. Amendments were proposed from across the political spectrum, but we managed to obtain consensus on ALL of the resolutions proposed.

The final day of the Plenum was spent on Capitol Hill, where we lobbied congressional offices (including Rep. John Yarmuth’s, D-KY) on the Jewish community agenda. We were greeted by Senators Carl Levin (D-MI), Mark Kirk (R-IL), and Ben Cardin (D-MD), who all had a similar message: Try and get the Jewish community as politically active as possible. As a community, we need to all become lobbyists by becoming politically aware, and letting our elected leaders know when an issue is important to us.

For more information on the 2011 JCPA Plenum, visit www.jewishpublicaffairs.org.

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