JCPA PUBLIC POLICY POSITIONS
THE JEWISH COUNCIL FOR PUBLIC AFFAIRS (JCPA) is the umbrella body of the Jewish community relations field, representing over 125 local Jewish community relations councils and 16 national Jewish agencies, including the four denominations of religious Judaism. Together our network builds consensus on behalf of the entire Jewish community to promote a just and pluralistic American society, advocate for human rights around the world, and support Israel’s quest for peace and security. JCPA convenes its network to deliberate key issues and identify and develop policies, strategies, and programs. Through this network, we have an unparalleled capacity to mobilize grassroots Jewish activism in order to achieve a more just world.
We have prepared the following overview of our positions on issues we anticipate receiving national attention in 2020 to assist the community relations field in responding to future events in the policy arena.
Rooted in Jewish values and traditions, for over 75 years JCPA has advocated for a compassionate federal immigration, asylum, and refugee system that balances national security concerns with the protection of civil and human rights. Our highest priority is fighting to end family separation and detention, advocating instead for effective and humane alternatives. JCPA continues to advocate for higher refugee admissions and a fair and generous asylum system that upholds due process. We support legislation that provides a pathway to citizenship for Dreamers and a permanent solution for those with Temporary Protected Status, while opposing the rollback of child welfare standards and the criminalization of migrants and asylum seekers. We believe that to be effective, border security and enforcement must be evidence-based, consistent with humanitarian values, and part of a broader reform package that upholds refugee and asylee protection, family reunification, and economic opportunity.
JCPA is committed to protecting and advancing civil rights for all Americans. We will continue to focus on protecting individuals from discrimination on the basis race, sexual orientation, gender identity, religion, and disability. JCPA will also advocate for new policies to address bullying, including proactive 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 and updates to the Americans with Disabilities Act—are implemented and enforced.
Criminal Justice Reform
The U.S. currently incarcerates a quarter of the world’s prisoners despite comprising only 5% of the population. Beginning in the 1970s, our prison population skyrocketed, disproportionately impacting people of color and contributing to poverty, income inequality, and family instability. The U.S. keeps people behind bars at great social and financial expense. JCPA advocates for bipartisan legislation that would meaningfully reduce mandatory minimums, eliminate racial disparities, and provide greater support for rehabilitation and reentry.
The cornerstone of democracy is the election process and the right of every eligible citizen to cast a meaningful ballot for a candidate they choose. In 2013, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down key provisions of the Voting Rights Act, which weakened enforcement, allowing many states to adopt new,
restrictive voting laws that disenfranchise segments of the voting population, particularly communities of color. JCPA is committed to ensuring fair and representative elections, advocating for measures that would expand early and absentee voting, protect against voter ID requirements, and restore voting rights to millions of formerly incarcerated people. We will also work to ensure a fair and accurate 2020 Census, which determines political representation and apportionment.
As a religious minority, Jews have a special stake in ensuring the U.S. remains committed to both freedom of religion and separation of church and state. Since its founding, JCPA has worked to find an appropriate balance between religious liberty and other civil rights when they clash. JCPA will continue to fight efforts to repeal or weaken the Johnson Amendment, which would bring partisan politics into nonprofits and houses of worship. While we are sensitive to questions of individual conscience, we are equally concerned about governmental policies that may lead to discrimination. JCPA will closely monitor legislation and regulations regarding 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 employees’ religious freedom without leading to discrimination or infringing on program beneficiaries’ rights.
Poverty and Food Insecurity
JCPA works to build a more just and equitable society. We strongly support raising the minimum wage, ensuring access to affordable health care and housing, and expanding eligibility for the Earned Income and Child Tax Credits. We remain committed to ensuring broad eligibility and robust funding for critical social safety net programs, such as Medicaid, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, or “food stamps”), and Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF). To lift the next generation out of poverty, we also support full funding for child nutrition programs. JCPA will also continue to advocate for policies that help empower older adults to live healthier, more independent lives free from poverty.
Climate change is an international security threat and one of the defining issues of our time. Climate change is already increasing the intensity and frequency of extreme weather events, exacerbating armed conflict and unprecedented global migration, and threatening the biodiversity on which humans depend. JCPA will continue to advocate for policy 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.
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.
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 are counterproductive. JCPA’s network unanimously endorsed efforts to promote Israeli-Palestinian coexistence, and we will continue to urge Congress to fund such initiatives.
International Humanitarian and Refugee Crises
JCPA supports the vigorous protection of human rights as an integral part of U.S. foreign policy, especially in situations involving genocide, mass atrocities, and sweeping population shifts due to displacement by violence and persecution. We will continue to raise awareness and advocate for the U.S government and international community to hold the Burmese military accountable for perpetrating a genocide against the Rohingya people. JCPA also believes that the U.S. and the international community must respond to today’s unprecedented refugee crisis, which has displaced over 68.5 million people. With the most sophisticated resettlement program in the world, the U.S. should increase annual admissions of refugees, while maintaining
the rigorous security screenings that are integral to the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program.
International Humanitarian and Refugee Crises
JCPA supports the vigorous protection of human rights as an integral part of U.S. foreign policy, especially in situations involving genocide, mass atrocities, and sweeping population shifts due to displacement by violence and persecution. We will continue to raise awareness and advocate for the U.S government and international community to hold the Burmese military accountable for perpetrating a genocide against the Rohingya people. JCPA also believes that the U.S. and the international community must respond to today’s unprecedented refugee crisis, which has displaced over 68.5 million people. With the most sophisticated resettlement program in the world, the U.S. should increase annual admissions of refugees, while maintaining the rigorous security screenings that are integral to the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program.