Community Relations' Day at the State 2023

Dallas, TX • February 9, 2023

On February 13th, more than 70 Jewish community members from across the state of Texas joined together in Austin for the 2023 Jewish Communities Day at the State: Legislative Mission to Austin. The Jewish Community Relations Council (JCRC) of the Jewish Federation of Greater Dallas helped organize the advocacy day at the Texas Capitol in coordination with all Jewish Federations in Texas, including Austin, Fort Worth & Tarrant County, El Paso, Houston, and San Antonio. The Dallas Co-Chairs of this year’s program were Brent Rubin, Dawn Strauss, and Jeff Kitner.

This biennial event is important because it educates our legislators about the policy priorities that are important to the Texas Jewish community. For the 2023 mission, the collective advocacy issue focused on increasing safety and security of nonprofits and houses of worship by asking the state to bolster the federal Nonprofit Security Grant Program through the addition of state dollars to meet increased demand for facility hardening for eligible nonprofit organizations. The JCRC advocacy mission also supports Federation social services partner agencies – including the Aaron Family JCC, Community Homes for Adults, Inc., Jewish Family Service of Greater Dallas, and Legacy Senior Communities – by providing an opportunity for them to meet with legislators.

“The JCRC’s legislative mission to Austin lets our state leaders know that the Jewish community is attentive to the decisions they make and that we care about issues that impact our Jewish and general communities, including our most vulnerable,” remarked Cyd Friedman, JCRC Chair.

In Austin, the program included morning sessions with a variety of speakers with diverse perspectives discussing a range of topics. Remarks were given by victims of antisemitic incidents in Texas, including the Colleyville hostage incident and arson attack at Congregation Beth Israel in Austin. A presentation by the Chair and Executive Director of the Texas Holocaust, Genocide, and Antisemitism Advisory Commission (THGAAC) was given to review the commission’s work and their recently released Study on Antisemitism.

“As antisemitic incidents have grown more frequent and extreme in Texas in recent years, it is important that the Texas Jewish communities have a presence in Austin to help ensure our state continues its national leadership in promoting awareness, improving security, and fighting back against hatred against Jews,” commented Kenny Goldberg, Chair of the THGAAC.

Special remarks were given by Representative Giovanni Capriglione (R-Southlake),whose district includes Colleyville’s Congregation Beth Israel, and Representative Craig Goldman (R-Fort Worth). Other speakers included Harvey Kronberg, editor of the Quorum Report, who provided an overview of the 88th Texas Legislative Session, leadership of several Jewish social services agencies, and the professional lobbyist hired collectively by all Jewish Federations in Texas to assist with the advocacy on supplemental funding from the state for the Nonprofit Security Grant program. In the afternoon, the JCRC arranged appointments for small (2 – 4 person) groups of our attendees to meet individually with legislators or staff to advocate for our priority issues.

Issues previously advocated for are: the Texas Anti-BDS bill; promoting a healthcare safety net; responding to antisemitism and hate crimes; support for social services and our Federation partners: JFS, Aaron Family JCC, CHAI and Legacy; and promoting access to high quality early childhood education for all children. In 2021, more than 250 community members participated in the Virtual Legislative Mission to Austin program, which was held via Zoom due to the COVID-19 pandemic.