New US Congress to be sworn in – what’s on Jewish orgs’ agenda?

For US Jewish organizations, the new Congress will mean seeking consensus between Republicans and Democrats to promote bills on issues important for the community.

The sun rises on the US Capitol dome before Joe Biden's presidential inauguration in Washington, US, January 20, 2021. (photo credit: JONATHAN ERNST / REUTERS)
The sun rises on the US Capitol dome before Joe Biden's presidential inauguration in Washington, US, January 20, 2021.
(photo credit: JONATHAN ERNST / REUTERS)

WASHINGTON - The 118th Congress will be sworn in on Tuesday, marking a shift in power balance on Capitol Hill, as Republicans will take control in the House of Representatives while Democrats will remain in control of the US Senate.

A divided Congress will require both sides to compromise to pass legislation and would all but guarantee that neither Party will be in a position to promote its full agenda.

For US Jewish organizations, the new Congress will also mean seeking consensus between Republicans and Democrats to promote bills on issues important for the community.

Fighting antisemitism, countering Iran, and providing security assistance to Israel remains a top priority for many organizations.

What do major US Jewish organizations have planned for the new Congress?

"As the new Congress prepares to be sworn in, Jewish Federations look forward to continuing working in a bipartisan way to promote the legislative policy priorities that help Jewish communities flourish,” said Elana Broitman, SVP for Public Affairs at the Jewish Federations of North America.

 Elana Broitman, Senior Vice President of Public Affairs, Jewish Federations of North America (credit: JFNA) Elana Broitman, Senior Vice President of Public Affairs, Jewish Federations of North America (credit: JFNA)

“Among our top priorities are vital security assistance to nonprofits, strengthening government tools for combatting antisemitism such as strengthening the office of the special envoy to monitor and combat antisemitism and expanding Holocaust education resources, providing Holocaust survivor services, renewing our commitment to refugees, bolstering a sense of belonging for all, and strengthening critical supports for education, health, and human services that our community and others need,” she said.

“Among our top priorities are vital security assistance to nonprofits, strengthening government tools for combatting antisemitism such as strengthening the office of the special envoy to monitor and combat antisemitism and expanding Holocaust education resources, providing Holocaust survivor services, renewing our commitment to refugees, bolstering a sense of belonging for all, and strengthening critical supports for education, health, and human services that our community and others need.”

Elana Broitman

She went on to say that she was “heartened that leaders from both parties have been vocal about their support for Israel and look forward to continuing to work in a bipartisan way to promote Israel normalization and regional prosperity through expanding the Abraham Accords and people-to-people initiatives such as those funded by the Nita M. Lowey Middle East Partnership for Peace Act."

William Daroff, CEO of the Conference of Presidents of Major Jewish Organizations, said the umbrella group “looks forward to engaging with the bipartisan leadership of Congress to ensure the continuation of unconditional aid to Israel, to highlight the importance of the IHRA Definition of Antisemitism as a tool for combating and educating about antisemitism, and to help build the circle of peace between Israel and Arab and Muslim states through the reinforcement and expansion of the Abraham Accords.”

“The Conference of Presidents will work closely with our member organizations to encourage increased security funding for Jewish communal institutions.”

William Daroff

“The Conference of Presidents will work closely with our member organizations to encourage increased security funding for Jewish communal institutions,” Daroff added. “We will also engage with Congress to celebrate the close bond of 75 years of US-Israel relations, in tandem with Yom Ha'atzmaut (Israel Independence Day) this Spring.”

Dan Mariaschin, CEO of B’nai B’rith International noted that his organization’s top priorities this upcoming session will “see us pressing for de-funding of the UN Human Rights Council’s biased Commission of Inquiry, whose sole objective is to delegitimize and criminalize Israel.”

“On the domestic agenda, is our continued support of maximum funding for the Department of Housing and Urban Development’s senior housing program, focusing on meeting the needs of the growing number of seniors who need affordable housing,” said Mariaschin.

“Since the early 1970s, B’nai B’rith has been a leader in the Jewish nonprofit universe in sponsoring affordable, low-income housing for seniors,” he explained. “We sponsor nearly 40 such properties, housing thousands of seniors around the country. Since these properties have been built in cooperation with HUD, the housing is open to all, on a non-sectarian basis. In the Jewish community, which has a wide band of seniors, the need for such housing is ever-present.”

Jason Isaacson, Chief Policy and Political Affairs Officer at the American Jewish Committee (AJC) said that his organization will continue to work with Congress on a range of issues, including to support US and global initiatives to combat antisemitism; to counter Iran's nuclear ambitions, its regional aggression, its global terror campaign, and the regime's human rights atrocities; to strengthen and widen the circle of Arab-Israeli peace; and to maintain US leadership in support of freedom and democracy – “in Ukraine and wherever these fundamental principles are threatened.”

The American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) is now in the process of developing the specific legislative agenda, and will focus similarly on the same issues, including strengthening Israel’s security, increasing pressure on Iran, including additional economic and diplomatic pressure on Iranian regime and resources for Israel to counter Iranian threats, and “building on the successes of the Abraham accords.”