Maryland’s Jewish community turned out in full force Tuesday evening in the state capital to lobby legislators for a number of Jewish causes.
More than 240 Maryland Jews met with more than 30 state legislators and legislative staff members at the state Senate and House of Delegates office buildings at the annual Advocacy Day, hosted by the Baltimore Jewish Council and the Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Washington. Talking points focused on budget items the community would like to see funded, but also included support of the Maryland Education Credit, which would provide a tax credit to companies that donate to non-public schools, the reevaluation of the state’s stormwater management fee and the expansion of services for the disabled and affordable housing for low- and moderate-income families.
Jewish support “had a lot to do with me being here,” Gov. Larry Hogan told the crowd in his dinnertime address. He noted his long working relationship with BJC Executive Director Arthur Abramson and the fact that his first public appearance after announcing his candidacy in 2014 was at a BJC meeting.
“You have a friend in the governor’s office,” Hogan said, noting the work he has been doing to push for the passage of the education credit, a longtime Jewish community priority.
Comptroller Peter Franchot called the Maryland Jewish community the most active and engaged in the country before promising to build a legacy as a fierce advocate for Israel.
“Your organizations succeed because of you,” he told the group. “You don’t just advocate for the Jewish people, you stand up for Jewish values and, here’s the essence, Jewish values are Maryland values.”
Barry Bogage, director of the Maryland/Israel Development Center, was encouraged by the events of the evening. One of the talking points disseminated to participants was the push for a $275,000 grant to the MIDC to support staff.
“Economic development is his thing,” Bogage said of the Republican governor, adding that the MIDC is just the kind of program Hogan seems to want to support in Maryland. The other legislators he met with in smaller breakout sessions appeared supportive as well, he said.
Nathan Willner, who attended the event with the Baltimore contingent, walked away confident that the new legislature and executive branch are committed to working together on behalf of Jewish issues.
“It shows the importance of this group,” he said of the swelling crowd of community members, legislators and legislative staff, which spilled out into the hall during the governor’s speech.
Cailey Locklair Tolle, whom Abramson credited with putting the event together, said this year’s Advocacy Day was likely the most important Advocacy Day she has ever been involved with. With dozens of new legislators and a new governor’s office, the work has been nonstop.
After making a point to meet with as many new legislators as possible, seeing several of them pack into the banquet as soon as they got out of their day’s hearings was gratifying, she said. “It’s so important that we have a presence here.”
Created with flickr slideshow.