Allies create a strong voice

Allies create a strong voice

In response to Jared Silverman’s “What are the priorities of Jewish advocacy groups?” (July 27), Linda Scherzer was correct in advocating the Community Relations Committee (CRC)’s agenda of speaking out for those who may have no voice (“Our duty: to raise our voices for those who have no voice,” Aug. 10). It is not only the right thing to do, but it is in our interest to be a moral clarion for issues that speak to the shared concerns of all citizens of our community.

We are less than 5 percent of the population of the United States. When we speak out for the Jews who remain in countries of the former Soviet Union, such as the Ukraine, we are speaking for the benefit of the 350,000 Jews in a country of 50 million. We need allies and what better way to aid our causes than to join forces with other minorities to have a greater voice.

For example, HIAS recently asked for help lobbying Congress to pass a new extension of the Lautenberg Amendment. HIAS and my organization, the Union of Councils for Jews in the former Soviet Union (UCSJ), are members of an informal group of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) interested in international religious freedom. HIAS was able to get many of these NGOs to successfully lobby for passage of the amendment. Among the NGOs supporting the lobbying effort were the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and the national organizations for evangelical Christians, Muslims, Hindus, and humanists. 

The UCSJ had a similar experience when it successfully lobbied for the passage of the Magnitsky Bill, which supported penalties against those who violate the human rights of individuals victimized in foreign countries such as Russia. Again, a similar coalition of NGOs worked together to pass this legislation. 

The CRC is a worthy organization whose voice is not only for Jewish causes, but for moral issues that need to be addressed. The Jewish NGOs such as the CRC speak for our community and not merely for parochial interests as suggested by Silverman.

Larry Lerner
President, Union of Councils for Jews in the former Soviet Union (UCSJ)

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