4.1.16 Issue

by Becki Brenner, State Policy Advocate, NCJW Omaha Section

On March 15, more than 300 NCJW members and supporters gathered at the NCJW Washington Institute 2016 to raise our progressive Jewish voices for social justice. The Omaha Section: Alice Klein, President, Becki Brenner, State Policy Advocate and Deb Marburg, VP of Public Affairs brought the message to Capitol Hill in the shadow of the Supreme Court and engaged in a silent procession to deliver copies of the U.S. Constitution and individually-signed letters that were presented to Senate Judiciary Chair Chuck Grassley of Iowa, and to lobby our representatives on proposed and pending legislation.

The goal of the Institute was to meet with Nebraska Senators and Representatives to speak with our unified, progressive Jewish voice on issues related to our core initiatives — ending sex trafficking, advancing reproductive justice, protecting voting rights, and ensuring a fair, independent, and fully-functioning federal judiciary.

Meeting with Senator Fischer, Senator Sasse, and staff for Congressman Ashford, our Omaha section leadership highlighted the importance of the four core initiatives.

1. The responsibility of the Supreme Court vacancy now lies in the Senate. Senators swear an oath to uphold the Constitution; they should  fill any vacancy on the Supreme Court in a fair and timely manner. We addressed our questions and concerns with our Nebraska Senators. Senator Fischer was firm in her stance to not proceed with the nomination process and would not support President Obama’s nominee. Senator Sasse reiterated his position that any nominee would need to denounce executive actions taken by President Obama as unconstitutional before Senator Sasse would allow the process to proceed. NCJW is taking the lead in educating our membership on why this vacancy is important. We are partnering with dozens of progressive organizations locally and nationally  to urge the Senate to #DOYOURJOB.

NCJW members and supporters in Washington DC.

NCJW members and supporters in Washington DC.

2. Also discussed was the Voting Rights Advancement Act with Congressman Ashford’s staff, Senator Fischer, and Senator Sasse. The right to vote is a cornerstone of our democracy. The Advancement Act introduced in 2015 would restore Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act and reinstate the ability of the federal government to review changes to voting laws before they’re enacted to check for discriminatory practices. Our three Nebraska representatives are not co-sponsors of the Advancement Act, and we encouraged their support in passing this critical protection before the access to voting could be compromised.

3. NCJW and the Omaha Section endorses and resolves to work for laws, policies, programs, and services that protect every child from abuse, neglect, exploitation, bullying and violence. The Runaway and Homeless Youth and Trafficking Prevention Act (RHYTPA) would reauthorize and strengthen critical federal programs.

As Jews, our work is grounded in respect and dignity for all human beings and guided  by the Jewish values of tzedakah (righteousness), gemilut chasidim (acts of loving kindness), and b’tselem elohim (we are all created in God’s image). Runaway and homeless youth are among the most invisible and vulnerable populations in the U.S., and our values compel us to act to ensure our nation’s young people get the care they need to ultimately lead productive lives.  Senator Fischer and Senator Sasse voted against RHYTPA as an amendment to the Justice for Victims of Trafficking Act of 2015. We encouraged their reconsideration of this most important protection of our vulnerable youth.

4. Equal Access to Abortion Coverage in Health Insurance Act (EACH) would ensure health coverage for every woman, regardless of her income or type of insurance.  NCJW believes every woman should have comprehensive insurance coverage for the full range of her reproductive health care needs, including abortion. While this bill has not advanced to the Senate and remains in the House, we encouraged support from our representatives in preserving a woman’s health and safety.

NCJW Omaha Section is grateful to our representatives for allowing us the opportunity to share our positions and listen to their perspectives on some of the most important issues coming before them as they represent their Nebraska constituents. Our visits demonstrated the importance of engagement in the democratic process, understanding the issues, voting, and, most importantly, holding our elected officials accountable and transparent.

If you would like more information on our visit or to share your thoughts on the stated NCJW positions, please e-mail Becki Brenner at becki.brenner@cox.net.