In Novel Move, Jews Push for Farm Bill

By Nathan Guttman

Published May 20, 2008, issue of May 30, 2008.
  • Print
  • Share Share

Washington — Entering a new field of advocacy, Jewish groups played a leading role in ensuring the passage of the Farm Bill, which could increase federal funding for nutrition programs as well as for farming subsidies.

Congress gave the bill its final approval May 15, and although President Bush has made clear that he will not sign it into law, supporters of the legislation believe they have the majority to easily override the veto.

According to Jewish lobbyists on Capitol Hill, the active involvement of Jewish organizations in promoting the Farm Bill demonstrates a growing interest in fighting poverty and hunger and the rising profile of the Jewish community on issues relating to social justice. Efforts, which once were focused only on the local level, have shifted to the national front, as poverty rises and food becomes less available.

The cost of the Farm Bill is estimated at $289 billion over five years, with two-thirds of the sum spent on nutrition programs, including food stamps and food pantries. A third of the funding is set to support American farmers facing a competitive global market. When voting on the bill, lawmakers stressed that the latest hikes in prices of food worldwide make it timely.

The Jewish Council for Public Affairs was among the first to pick up on the legislation and turn it into one of its main lobbying goals on Capitol Hill. Earlier this year, the group launched a campaign against poverty. During the High Holy Days, it set a “food stamp challenge” in which politicians and communal leaders were urged to live for a week on a budget based on the food stamp allowance. Even so, for most other Jewish activists, the issue remained largely off the radar.

“This was entirely new for our community,” said Hadar Susskind, JCPA’s Washington director. “This time, our effort really moved votes on Capitol Hill.” Even less expected was the new political situation the Farm Bill brought about.

Jewish groups — which tend to come from the left to lobby swing voters on social issues — found themselves this time focusing their lobbying efforts on progressive and liberal lawmakers who opposed the farming subsidies the bill provides.

The effort was joined by major national Jewish groups, including United Jewish Communities and the Reform movement’s Religious Actions Center, and was also pushed forward by local Jewish activists countrywide, who called their lawmakers and urged them to approve the bill.

“They didn’t expect to hear from us on this issue,” said Nancy Kaufman, executive director of the Jewish Community Relations C ouncil of Greater Boston.






Find us on Facebook!
  • This is what the rockets over Israel and Gaza look like from space:
  • "Israel should not let captives languish or corpses rot. It should do everything in its power to recover people and bodies. Jewish law places a premium on pidyon shvuyim, “the redemption of captives,” and proper burial. But not when the price will lead to more death and more kidnappings." Do you agree?
  • Slate.com's Allison Benedikt wrote that Taglit-Birthright Israel is partly to blame for the death of American IDF volunteer Max Steinberg. This is why she's wrong:
  • Israeli soldiers want you to buy them socks. And snacks. And backpacks. And underwear. And pizza. So claim dozens of fundraising campaigns launched by American Jewish and Israeli charities since the start of the current wave of crisis and conflict in Israel and Gaza.
  • The sign reads: “Dogs are allowed in this establishment but Zionists are not under any circumstances.”
  • Is Twitter Israel's new worst enemy?
  • More than 50 former Israeli soldiers have refused to serve in the current ground operation in #Gaza.
  • "My wife and I are both half-Jewish. Both of us very much felt and feel American first and Jewish second. We are currently debating whether we should send our daughter to a Jewish pre-K and kindergarten program or to a public one. Pros? Give her a Jewish community and identity that she could build on throughout her life. Cons? Costs a lot of money; She will enter school with the idea that being Jewish makes her different somehow instead of something that you do after or in addition to regular school. Maybe a Shabbat sing-along would be enough?"
  • Undeterred by the conflict, 24 Jews participated in the first ever Jewish National Fund— JDate singles trip to Israel. Translation: Jews age 30 to 45 travelled to Israel to get it on in the sun, with a side of hummus.
  • "It pains and shocks me to say this, but here goes: My father was right all along. He always told me, as I spouted liberal talking points at the Shabbos table and challenged his hawkish views on Israel and the Palestinians to his unending chagrin, that I would one day change my tune." Have you had a similar experience?
  • "'What’s this, mommy?' she asked, while pulling at the purple sleeve to unwrap this mysterious little gift mom keeps hidden in the inside pocket of her bag. Oh boy, how do I answer?"
  • "I fear that we are witnessing the end of politics in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. I see no possibility for resolution right now. I look into the future and see only a void." What do you think?
  • Not a gazillionaire? Take the "poor door."
  • "We will do what we must to protect our people. We have that right. We are not less deserving of life and quiet than anyone else. No more apologies."
  • "Woody Allen should have quit while he was ahead." Ezra Glinter's review of "Magic in the Moonlight": http://jd.fo/f4Q1Q
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.