Jewish Council for Public Affairs (JCPA) serves as the representative voice of the organized American Jewish community by addressing the principal mandate of the Jewish community relations field: working to repair the world through Jewish activism. JCPA functions as a catalyst to heighten community awareness, inspire civic and social involvement, and encourage deliberation on key issues of importance to the Jewish community. For more than 70 years, JCPA has identified issues, formulated policy, developed strategies and programs, and expressed the organized Jewish community’s perspectives on a wide range of domestic and international issues. JCPA has an unparalleled capacity to mobilize grassroots activism through our network of 16 national and 125 local member agencies. We serve as a policy resource for our member agencies and we help the community relations field express the consensus policy views of the organized Jewish community to national leaders.
The following are JCPA’s current policy priorities. This is not meant to be an exhaustive compilation of all of the issues in which we or our members are engaged.
Informed by Jewish values and traditions, JCPA supports federal immigration policy that balances the protection of civil and human rights with national security concerns. We advocate for reforms that would create a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants while prioritizing more effective border security and enforcement that remains consistent with humanitarian values and protects civil, human, and workers’ rights. Our immigration system should reflect the best of our national values: equality, fairness, due process under the law, and respect for human dignity.
Criminal Justice Reform
The U.S. currently incarcerates a quarter of the world’s prisoners despite comprising only 5% of the world’s population. Beginning in the 1970s, our prison population skyrocketed, disproportionately impacting people of color and contributing to poverty, income inequality, and family instability. We keep people be¬hind bars at great social and financial expense even when the sentences are disproportionately lengthy or counterproductive. JCPA supports bipartisan legislation that would reduce mandatory minimums and al-low for greater judicial discretion. We also support reforms that would promote community-based treat¬ment for people with addiction disorders and reduce barriers to successful reentry by expanding access to public assistance programs and helping returning citizens find employment.
Poverty and Food Insecurity
JCPA is committed to building a more just and equitable society, especially as a growing number of middle- and low-income families face temporary and permanent poverty due to stagnating wages and increasing job insecurity. We strongly support raising the minimum wage, expanding eligibility for the Earned Income and Child Tax Credits. JCPA will also continue to advocate for policies that help empower older adults to live healthier, more independent lives free from poverty. We support a robust social safety net that includes important programs like Medicaid and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). To lift the next generation out of poverty, we also support full funding for child nutrition programs, such as the Summer Feeding Program and the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC). Food insecurity is one of the most acute hardships many Americans, including children, face across the country.
Education is one of the most important determinants of lifetime earnings, social mobility, and health outcomes. Yet our nation’s public schools are chronically underfunded and underperforming, especially within low-income and rural communities. The problems that afflict our education system begin early, starting with the inaccessibility of affordable, high-quality preschools. Increasing the availability and affordability of early childhood education is one of the surest ways to close the achievement gap.
The lifeblood of our democracy is the ability for every eligible citizen to cast a meaningful ballot for a candidate of his or her own choosing. JCPA has a long history of supporting policies to ensure fair and representative elections, including strong support for the Voting Rights Act and early voting. Of principle concern is the effect of the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Shelby County v. Holder, which invalidated key provisions of the Voting Rights Act. JCPA will continue to urge Congress to pass the bipartisan Voting Rights Amendment Act, a modern, common-sense fix that ensures that every American has the opportunity to cast a meaningful ballot. JCPA will also advocate for policies that make the process of voting easier and more accessible. Our primary concerns are reduced early voting, difficult registration requirements, restricted absentee voting, and the scheduling of elections and caucuses on religiously-sensitive days, including the Jewish Sabbath.
JCPA is committed to protecting and advancing civil rights for all Americans. We will continue to focus on protecting individuals discriminated against on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. JCPA will also advocate for new policies to address bullying, including proactive disciplinary measures to combat future incidents and create a safe environment. We will work with the executive branch to ensure that civil rights statutes—such as the Hate Crimes Prevention Act, Genetic Information Non-Discrimination Act, and updates to the Americans with Disabilities Act—are implemented and enforced.
Religious liberty, and the relationship between religious institutions and the federal government, has been a priority for the JCPA since its founding. Among our primary concerns is striking a balance between religious beliefs and civil rights. JCPA will closely monitor legislation and regulations providing government funding for social services by religiously-affiliated organizations. Where such funding is authorized, it must have appropriate safeguards to prevent First Amendment violations and protect the religious freedom of program beneficiaries and employees.
Energy and Environment
Climate change is an international security threat and one of the greatest moral issues of our time. We will continue to advocate for legislation that promotes energy independence and reflects our values of protecting Creation. By supporting policies that promote renewable energy and other clean energy innovations, we can reduce our nation’s dependence on foreign oil while protecting the environment and mitigating the impacts of climate change. Central to this fight in the coming years is state implementation of the Clean Power Plan, which would help reduce the nation’s greenhouse gas emissions and ease our transition to renewable energy.
JCPA believes that Congress and the Administration can boost the economy by creating pathways to sustainable, long-term employment. The government should invest in infrastructure, schools, hospitals, renewable energy, and technological innovation in order to ensure long-term economic and employment growth. JCPA supports targeted employment and job retraining assistance to specific geographic regions and populations that may be struggling economically, including low-income individuals, women, people of color, people with disabilities, seniors, veterans, youth, and the long-term unemployed.
JCPA works to promote a strong, vibrant Israel that is committed to peace, and continues to encourage the U.S. government to pursue a peaceful solution to the Israeli-Palestinian-Arab conflict through diplomacy. Our organization strongly advocates for two independent, democratic, and economically-viable states: the Jewish state of Israel and a Palestinian state, coexisting in peace and security. This vision can only be achieved through direct negotiations. Unilateral attempts to achieve Palestinian statehood through United Nations action—as well Palestinian efforts to achieve full membership in United Nations-affiliated bodies—are counterproductive.
International Humanitarian and Refugee Crises
JCPA supports the vigorous protection of human rights as an integral part of U.S. foreign policy, especially situations involving genocide, mass atrocities, and sweeping population shifts due to displacement by war and violence. Effective American engagement in this area should be on a multilateral basis when possible and only unilateral when necessary. JCPA believes that the international community must respond to today’s unprecedented refugee crisis. With the most sophisticated resettlement program in the world, the U.S. should increase annual admissions of refugees, particularly from Syria, while maintaining the rigorous security screenings that are integral to the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program.
JCPA encourages Congress and the Administration to implement strong U.S. policies to counter international terrorism, including state-sponsored terrorism. The U.S. government must work with our allies to implement comprehensive strategies to prevent and respond to terrorism, including freezing the assets of groups and individuals that have been linked to terrorism, strengthening international cooperation on weapons control, and halting nuclear proliferation.