ISRAELJune/July 2024L'CHAIM

Leading CA Policymakers

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Leading CA Policymakers Support Measures to Counter Antisemitism at JPAC’s Largest Ever State Capitol Conference

Jewish Public Affairs Committee of California (JPAC), the voice of California’s Jewish community to the State Capitol, welcomed 500 Jewish leaders from across the state to its annual conference in Sacramento. This was JPAC’s largest Summit ever, representing a 60% increase above record attendance in 2023. More than 300 participants were first-time attendees, a sign of how the October 7 attacks and subsequent spike in antisemitism has mobilized and unified California’s Jewish community.

California Governor Gavin Newsom joined via video to formally unveil his Golden State Plan to Counter Antisemitism, which serves as a roadmap to ensure Jewish inclusion in statewide education and keep Jewish communities safe from discrimination. “The events of October 7th are horrific enough that the details are burned into our minds and need no repeating,” Governor Newsom said. “And the rise of antisemitism has only accelerated since then. This kind of hate has no place in California, or anywhere for that matter, so we’re doing something—something specific—about it. Working with JPAC’s statewide coalition and California’s Legislative Jewish Caucus, we’ve created the first plan of its type, and that’s the Golden State Plan to Counter Antisemitism.” The Golden State Plan’s key tenets include supporting and protecting Jewish communities, addressing and preventing antisemitism, uplifting Jewish heritage and building mutual understanding, and advancing equity and countering discrimination.

Fifty of California’s 120 legislators joined the conference on Tuesday, May 14, to express their solidarity with the state’s Jewish community, and almost the entirety of the 19-member Legislative Jewish Caucus spoke about their close working relationship with JPAC. In addition to Newsom’s remarks, Lieutenant Governor Eleni Kounalakis, Senate President pro Tempore Emeritus Toni Atkins (by video), Attorney General Rob Bonta, and Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond addressed participants. Experts discussed how to address issues on college campuses and the spread of bullying and misinformation online, and members of the Assembly spoke about their recent trip to Israel with JPAC, the Jewish Community Relations Council Bay Area, and Jewish Federation Los Angeles.

On Wednesday, May 15, participants lobbied 106 state legislators (of 120 total) on an antisemitism bill package, crafted by JPAC. It includes legislation to respond to antisemitism in K-12 schools and higher education, and to expand education about Jewish peoplehood, culture, and history of persecution. It also protects the physical safety of the Jewish community, including through nonprofit security grants. Participants also lobbied legislators on bills to restore funding for programs that support asylum seekers in the California border region, and to extend critical services for new refugees.

“This year’s Capitol Summit demonstrated the resilience of California’s Jewish community,” said David Bocarsly, Executive Director of JPAC. “Amidst a very challenging year, we’ve turned pain and heartache into action. We are deeply grateful to Governor Newsom for his comprehensive Golden State Plan to Counter Antisemitism, and we must now pair it with legislation to counter harassment and violence in schools, on campuses, online, and in our communities.”

During a time of intense anxiety about the future of Jewish life in California, the need for statewide action countering antisemitism and promoting understanding of Jewish history has never been more acute. Following the Hamas terror attacks in Israel, hatred against and misinformation about Jews have been rampant across California. This unprecedented rise has been seen in biased curricula and antisemitic bullying in K-12 schools, verbal and physical harassment of Jewish college students, employees made to feel unsafe expressing their Jewish identity and views about Israel in the workplace, hateful rhetoric at city council meetings, graffiti and vandalism, and much more. According to the ADL, in the five months following October 7, antisemitic incidents on California college campuses increased 2,000 percent compared to the same period a year earlier.

Even before October 7, antisemitism was a serious issue in California. In 2022, anti-Jewish hate crimes accounted for over 60 percent of all reported hate crimes involving religious bias in California, despite Jewish people making up roughly three percent of the state’s population.

“At the same time,” Bocarsly continued, “we remain steadfast in our commitment to supporting California’s most vulnerable communities. There is a sense of solidarity and of being in the trenches with groups who are also fighting uphill battles, which is why it’s no surprise that Jewish organizations are in turn some of the leading social service providers across the state. This Summit demonstrated our community’s deep commitment to uplifting Jews and all people across California.”

The Jewish Public Affairs Committee of California (JPAC) is the voice of California’s Jewish community to the State Capitol, and the largest single-state coalition of Jewish organizations in the nation. Learn more at http://jpac-cal.org.

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