The J.: More than 300 Jews lobby state legislators on top concerns at annual JPAC summit
BY LILLIAN ILSLEY-GREENE | May 12, 2023
California Jews can choose how they respond to the Anti-Defamation League’s new report about increased antisemitism and extremism in the state, Dan Schnur, a UC Berkeley political science professor, said this week.
“How do we face a challenge like this?” he asked hundreds of people, mostly Jews, gathered in Sacramento. “We make friends.”
Schnur hosted a panel Wednesday at the Jewish Public Affairs Committee of California’s annual Capitol Summit, which is all about making friends. This year’s summit on May 9 and 10 drew a record number of amateur lobbyists: more than 300 Jewish Californians who support JPAC’s political mission. They came to schmooze, network, learn about JPAC’s legislative agenda — and pitch that agenda to lawmakers.
The summit focused on seven of JPAC’s 35 legislative priorities for 2023, which place an emphasis on security and supporting vulnerable communities. This includes pushing for $80 million for the state’s Nonprofit Security Grant Program, which doles out grants to institutions vulnerable to hate crimes, including abortion clinics, mosques and synagogues. Another JPAC focus is SB 4, introduced by state Sen. Scott Wiener (D-S.F.), who co-chairs the California Legislative Jewish Caucus. The bill would allow religious institutions to build affordable housing units on their property.
The ADL, American Jewish Committee and Jewish Community Relations Council Bay Area were among the groups that sent delegations to this week’s event.
Attendees heard speeches from members of the California Legislative Jewish Caucus and attended breakout panels on Jewish issues. Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon (D-Lakewood), gave one keynote address. Rendon, a Latino caucus member, represents southeast Los Angeles County.
David Bocarsly, JPAC’s executive director, spoke several times, reminding people why they’d come together.
“We’re asking for significant investments from the state,” Bocarsly said. “We know these goals are achievable because we’ve seen what happens when we unite as a community.”
JPAC, which is made up of member organizations across the state, brings people to Sacramento every year to advocate for bills and issues relevant to the Jewish community.
The lunchtime keynote panel, led by Schnur, focused heavily on solidarity between Jews and other minority communities. State Sen. Nancy Skinner of the women’s caucus and Assemblymembers Evan Low of the Asian American and Pacific Islander caucus and Mia Bonta of the Black caucus — all Bay Area representatives — were panelists.
All three spoke about the need for collaboration among communities, especially since they share many of the same struggles and goals.
“I would suggest that there is no difference between the Chinese and Jewish communities, specifically on the solidarity of these values,” Low said.
Bonta spoke about the importance of not just cooperation but of “allyship” and letting those who know an issue best lead the charge.
“If we have the discipline of allyship at the center of the way we move together as the Legislature, that will allow us to say … you lead, the rest of us will lift,” Bonta said.
After lunch, the more than 300 attendees — twice last year’s number — visited legislators. Groups presented JPAC’s agenda at the offices of 103 of the Legislature’s 120 members. The goal, they were told in a prep session earlier in the day, was not to cover every point in their requests but to make a personal connection.
Speaking to J. on Friday, Bocarsly said he’d already heard from legislators about the impact this week’s effort will have on the current legislative session.
“It will make a huge difference,” he said.
Lillian Ilsley-Greene is a J. Staff Writer. Originally from Vermont, she has a BA in political science and an MA in journalism from Boston University. Follow her on Twitter at @lilsleygreene.