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At home and abroad

When talk turns to Jews and lobbying, the subject is usually Israel. And indeed, pro-Israel supporters — including groups like NORPAC (see op-ed) and the Community Relations Committee of Greater MetroWest NJ — have played an essential role in securing and maintaining congressional support for Israel and its security.

But Jewish political activism includes more than Israel. With the federal government deadlocked over the budget, congressional leaders and administration officials are hearing from Jewish organizations about cuts to the social safety net that their agencies help stitch together. They have been particularly alarmed over a plan to reduce Social Security spending. In a statement earlier this month, the Jewish Federations of North America warned that by slowing the program’s cost-of-living increases and by cutting subsidies to pharmaceutical companies that service the Medicare program, the budget would be balanced “on the backs of those among us who are most vulnerable with cuts to critical social services.”

The Jewish federations also weighed in against the Obama administration’s plan to reduce the charitable tax reduction from 35 to 28 percent. By removing a key incentive for charitable giving, the plan, says JFNA, “place[s] a stumbling block in front of the ability of charities to feed the hungry, shelter the homeless, and heal the sick.”

Tens of millions of Americans remain in economic hardship because of the recession. To meet those needs, federations and their affiliated agencies have long leveraged a number of federal programs, including the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, the Emergency Food and Shelter Program, the Community Services Block Grant, and Section 202 and 811 housing.

Jewish organizations are working hard to prevent further cuts to these critical assistance programs, demonstrating their commitment to Eretz Yisrael, klal Yisrael, v’al kol yoshvei tevel — the State of Israel, the Jewish people, and for all who dwell on earth.

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