As Trump Administration officials, Cabinet Secretaries and Congress acclimate to the levers of power in Washington, members of Agudath Israel of America's Board of Trustees, Executive Staff, Regional Directors and key activists from across the country arrived in the nation's Capitol on Tuesday evening, March 7th, to take part in the Agudah's annual Leadership Mission to Washington.
With the political landscape dramatically altered this past November, the overarching agenda of the trip, according to Chairman of the Board Mr. Shlomo Werdiger, is for Agudah leaders to build new bridges and further relationships with key government officials and influential decision makers in Congress.
Numerous issues including the alarming rise in anti-Semitic incidents, religious liberties, school choice possibilities and Israel's safety and security are front and center on the Jewish communal list of concerns.
The Agudah delegation to Washington
Agudath Israel's Executive Vice President Rabbi Chaim Dovid Zwiebel says that missions of this scope give Agudah advocates a platform to advance issues that are of great importance to its constituencies and provide lawmakers and decision makers a firsthand report and view from the front lines of Jewish communal life.
Chaskel Bennett, Agudah Trustee, concurred. "New policy and legislation is being negotiated now, so we are here to share our perspective and make sure those decisions take into account the unique needs of the Orthodox community."
Rabbi Abba Cohen, Agudath Israel's Vice President for Federal Affairs and Washington Director and Counsel, agreed that the mission comes at a crucial moment for the broader American Jewish community currently experiencing a dangerous rise in threats against Jewish targets. He pointed out that the very same day, here in Washington, all 100 US Senators signed a letter urging the Trump administration to step up security at Jewish community centers, day schools and synagogues. The letter was co-authored by Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL).
The Mission kicked off Tuesday evening with a dinner in the historic LBJ Room situated off the floor of the Senate in the Capitol.
Leaders and activists were joined by House Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer (D-MD), who was warmly introduced by well known community leader and Agudah Trustee Howard Tzvi Freedman. Additionally Jason Dov Greenblatt, assistant to the President, Special Representative for International Negotiations joined the delegates for dinner and was warmly received.
Highlighting the evening was featured guest Senator Rubio, powerfully introduced by Mr. Bennett. Senator Rubio in his trademark style touched on nearly every issue of importance to the Agudath Israel constituency including the rise of anti-Semitism and the BDS movement, School Choice, and Israel's security. He was interrupted several times by thunderous applause.
The evening concluded with reports from the front lines by several Agudah regional directors led by Rabbi AD Motzen, Agudah's national director of state relations.
The Agudah Washington mission continued Wednesday morning with a historic meeting at the U.S. Department of Education with newly-confirmed Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos. This will be followed by a late morning meeting at the White House with White House policy advisors, the first such meeting with a Jewish advocacy group.
The Mission will culminate with a highly anticipated luncheon with influential U.S. senators on the hill.