Agudath Israel of California Legislative Leadership Day

Senator Ben Allen, Chair of the Jewish Caucus

Neither weather nor mechanical malfunction could hold back the Agudath Israel of California delegation to Sacramento on Wednesday. Despite the inclement and disruptive weather, fifteen community leaders from across the state gathered in the Capitol for Agudah’s annual Legislative Leadership Day. Led by Agudah of California’s chairman Dr. Irving Lebovics and newly-appointed director Yisrael Gelb, the group met with assemblymembers and senators and a senior advisor to the governor.

Dr. Irving Lebovics, Chariman, Agudath Israel of California

The goal of the mission was to begin a dialogue with elected officials about several issues important to our community, including special education services, funding for education that includes students choosing nonpublic schools, and security grants.

The program began with a panel of two Sacramento insiders, Barry Broad and Steve Maviglio, moderated by Jason Bryant of Bryant Government Affairs. The presentation provided the participants with an overview of the political climate in the Capitol, and the new governor’s agenda.

Jewish Caucus luncheon

Agudath Israel then hosted a delicious buffet lunch with the Jewish Caucus, held in the Senate Pro Tempore’s conference room. The delegates had the opportunity to mingle and talk with the legislators during the reception. Led by State Senator Ben Allen, the caucus is active on many issues, including battling the BDS movement and fighting anti-Semitism.


Assembly Health Committee Chair Dr. Jim Wood

Following lunch, the group spent the next two hours interacting with several key legislators including Senate Budget Committee Chair Senator Holly Mitchel, Assembly Health Committee Chair Dr. Jim Wood, Assemblyman Jesse Gabriel, and Senator Anthony Portantino. The discussions focused on all of the issues on Agudah’s agenda including specific proposals to increase security funding in the state budget.

Assistant Majority Whip Assemblyman Jesse Gabriel, Vice-Chair, Jewish Caucus

Senator Holly Mitchell, Chair of the Senate Budget Committee

Reene Mota-Jackson, a manager at the Office of Grants Management at the California Governor’s Office of Emergency Services (CAL-OES) gave a mini-workshop with helpful tips on maneuvering through the security grant writing system. Agudah will be working very closely with nonprofits and schools across the state to encourage them to apply for a 2019 grant and assist them in the process.

Throughout the day, several experts who joined the mission offered their unique perspective on the agenda items: Special education advocate Devorah Weiss effectively impressed upon the legislators the need for change in the current system. Rabbi Yossi Eilfort of MagenAm explained the need for additional security funding, and better training for security guards at our schools and shuls, while Rabbi Menachem Levine of Congregation Am Echad in San Jose, added many insights on security of Jewish facilities and issues faced by large Jewish families.  Rabbi A. D. Motzen, Agudath Israel of America’s national director of state relations provided helpful information about what other states are doing on many of the issues discussed.

The final meeting of the day was with Ben Chida, senior advisor to Governor Newsom on matters of education, officially known as Cradle to Career. The discussion covered special education, pre-K, and ways a scholarship tax credit program could be used to help all students receive more education services. With the rollout of the federal scholarship tax credit the following morning, the discussion about such funding methods, was timely and will be ongoing.

The mission was a success. Many of the legislators with whom the group met have already reached out to Rabbi Gelb and Dr. Lebovics to continue discussing the issues on the agenda. In the words of one participant, “it was wonderful to see that there are such strong ties between the Orthodox Jewish community and the California Legislature.”