The Jewish Delegate Assembly of Greater Pittsburgh passed three resolutions last Tuesday providing platforms for future advocacy efforts by the Community Relations Council of the Jewish Federation of Greater Pittsburgh.
The latest resolutions address senior poverty, LGBT discrimination and price-tag attacks against religious institutions in Israel.
About 40 of the 75-member Delegate Assembly, comprised from all spectrums of the Pittsburgh Jewish community, were present at the meeting, according to Gregg Roman, CRC director.
“It’s an active legislative process,” Roman said. “They really put a lot of thought into the amendments. There are three computer screens that are going around, people can get up, they caucus, they talk to one another.”
The new resolutions that were voted upon and passed are as follows:
- Policy Statement on Senior Poverty: Older Americans who are living in poverty often suffer in silence, living in the shadows while trying to make ends meet. A single life change — a costly illness, a loss of a job or the death of a spouse — can quickly threaten the financial stability of seniors. There is also a special concern for the rapidly aging Holocaust survivor community. Older low-income Americans face food insecurity, a SSI benefit below the federal poverty line and other critical issues that this policy statement addresses.
- Policy Statement on LGBT Discrimination: Condemning bias and discrimination faced by LGBT people is recognition of the reality that LGBT people are subject to significant incidences of biased and discriminatory laws and violence. This resolution advocates for the removal of laws that discriminate against members of the LGBT community throughout the world.
- >> Policy Statement on Price-Tag Attacks in Israel: This resolution condemns price-tag graffiti and vandalism against Muslim, Christian and Jewish places of worship and individuals in Israel.
The senior poverty resolution, brought by representatives from the Jewish Association on Aging and Jewish Family & Children’s Service, is geared toward federal advocacy, according to Roman; however, more attention will be given to senior issues locally.
“The senior poverty resolution gives us [policy tools] to help support some legislation that’s considered Jewish public-policy priorities nationally: focusing on the needs of Holocaust survivors, advocating for increased assistance with the Older Americans Act, making sure that we pay attention for Naturally Occurring Retirement Communities, paying special attention to the operations of the JAA, JF&CS, JCC,” Roman said Roman said that the LGBT resolution, brought by Congregation Dor Hadash, decries hate or discrimination of any kind worldwide based on anything from sexual orientation to race.
“The community never really had a stand on hate, but the message that this resolution brings forth is that hate is hate — it doesn’t matter which group it’s against,” he said. “Anyone who is trying to use any methods, whether it’s intimidation all the way up into execution, Pittsburgh is now taking a position where we can sign on with other national Jewish organizations that we won’t stand for discrimination.”
Acts of vandalism known as price-tag attacks, hateful or intimidating messages spray painted on religious institutions, are trending in Israel. The Delegate Assembly was clear in its opinion on denouncing these attacks after Rabbi James Gibson introduced the topic, and Roman said he feels the Israeli government will mind how the Pittsburgh Jewish community feels about the issue.
“It’s a powerful statement for a Diaspora Jewish community to comment on matters going on in Israel,” Roman said. “The Israeli government pays attention when the Diaspora speaks even more so sometimes than when Israelis speak. It’s a powerful message that the Jewish community here will not tolerate hate in Israel regardless of who it’s directed at.”
The CRC will now advocate for these issues to be addressed by the correct parties as it has done with past resolutions.
At its last meeting in December, the Delegate Assembly passed resolutions to address food insecurity and hunger and inclusion for individuals with disabilities and special needs in the Jewish Community and proactively support Israel and counter anti-Jewish and anti-Israel activity in Pittsburgh colleges and universities.
Some Jewish organizations were previously involved in combating food insecurity, but after the Delegate Assembly passed the resolution, the CRC had the ability to act on federal, state and local levels to advocate for the issue as well as propose ideas and provide seed money for projects and to food banks.
The CRC gave a $6,000 grant to Growing Diversity: Farmers’ Markets in Transition, according to Roman. This project was a partnership between the Bhutanese Community Association of Pittsburgh, Just Harvest, the Latino Family Center and One Woman Farm to offer farmers’ markets in diverse Pittsburgh neighborhoods.
No national CRC as part of a federation or as part of a separate or hybrid organization had ever brought a resolution that specifically focused on the needs of Jews with disabilities. After the resolution was passed in Pittsburgh, Roman contacted national organizations and CRCs in other cities with information about the policy, which quickly worked its way to the national level.
“Three months later when we were in Atlanta for the Jewish Council for Public Affairs Plenum, which is sort of a national Jewish delegate assembly, they passed the policy,” Roman said. “And now something that was born in Pittsburgh is a policy priority for the entire U.S.”
The CRC met with administrators from the University of Pittsburgh, Carnegie Mellon University and Duquesne University about the Civil Rights Act and ensuring Jewish students can express their Jewish identity and opinions about Israel in a safe environment. The CRC also linked with the Jewish Council for Public Affairs to create contingency plans should an anti-Jewish incident ever take place in a Western Pennsylvania college or university.
“That was probably the narrowest scope of what it called for us to do,” Roman said, “but it was very significant in terms of giving us the tools for us to be able to have an official policy that we could demonstrate with academic institutions where we stood on this issue.”
According to Roman, topics including the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement, Jewish-Christian relations and aging may be on the slate at the next Delegate Assembly meeting, which is scheduled for the fall.
(Andrew Goldstein can be reached at email@example.com.)