Advocacy in the Time of Corona
Amid the unprecedented challenges of Covid-19 and ensuing lockdowns, Hadassah advocates—300,000 members, Associates and supporters found in every state and congressional district—continue to make their voices heard in Washington and around the country. Hadassah is leading the charge to strengthen United States-Israel relations, combat the rising threat of antisemitism and promote women’s health and infertility legislation. Through virtual meetings, calls, emails, social media posts, letters and more, Hadassah’s advocacy agenda for the 116th Congress earned bipartisan support, and several top priorities were signed into law. Visit hadassah.org/advocate to learn more. Here’s a look ahead to our advocacy agenda and a recap of our recent successes.
- In January 2021, the Hadassah National Board passed new policy statements on Pluralism and the Zionist Movement; Defining Antisemitism; and the COVID-19 Pandemic. The antisemitism statement codifies Hadassah’s adoption of the full International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) Working Definition of Antisemitism, including the 11 examples listed in the description. It also recognizes the IHRA-backed spelling of antisemitism. As explained by that body, “The unhyphenated spelling is favored by many scholars and institutions in order to dispel the idea that there is an entity ‘Semitism’ which ‘anti-Semitism’ opposes. Antisemitism should be read as a unified term so that the meaning of the generic term for modern Jew-hatred is clear.” The statement encourages others to adopt the definition and examples, which will be a focus of Hadassah’s work in Washington and with Hadassah National President Rhoda Smolow serving as co-chair of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations’ Task Force to Combat Antisemitism.
- The pandemic policy statement includes recent developments about the care at Hadassah’s hospitals, the impact of Covid on women and issues related to public education, the vaccine and access to health care. As the statement notes, “Women appear to be more likely to experience lingering symptoms, or long Covid, characterized by post-viral fatigue following an infection.” This lays the groundwork for Hadassah’s education efforts around women and Covid as well as advocacy for women’s health equity and sex-differences research.
- As part of the reConceiving Infertility initiative, Hadassah continues to lobby in key states to expand insurance coverage and will be a leader at the federal level to educate policymakers about the need for infertility diagnosis and treatment. Hadassah’s advocacy reached audiences in the wider Jewish community as part of a virtual Jewish Infertility Summit in February and Infertility Awareness Shabbat in March.
- Hadassah Southern California and Hadassah Central Pacific Coast regions played key roles in securing the passage in November 2020 of Proposition 14, which supported funding for stem cell research through the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine. Local leaders, including Stacey Dorenfeld, national grassroots advocacy co-chair and Southern California advocacy chair, mobilized supporters to submit handwritten signatures to ensure the measure’s inclusion on the ballot. They also organized virtual education programs on stem cell research, and Dorenfeld published opinion pieces promoting Hadassah’s long history of work in the field.
- Hadassah pivoted to virtual Days in the District and the new Sit-Down With a Senator programs, which included meetings with Senators Tim Kaine (D-Va.) Ben Cardin (D-Md.), Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) and the office of Senator Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), among others. Hadassah advocates from Washington State, Michigan and New Jersey also held meetings with their representatives and congressional staff. Last year these sessions engaged over 500 advocates.
- Advocates use the National Action Center to send thousands of letters to Congress on a variety of issues supported by the organization. Some have also begun sharing Hadassah policy priorities by testifying to state legislatures. Hadassah National Secretary Carol Ann Schwartz submitted testimony to support the Ohio Holocaust and Genocide Memorial and Education Commission. In Virginia, several Hadassah advocates submitted testimony in support of infertility coverage.