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Prepping for Consultation on Conscience: Advocacy 101

Prepping for Consultation on Conscience: Advocacy 101

We’re excited to welcome our Consultation on Conscience participants to Washington, D.C. in just over a week! In addition to briefings with public policy decision makers and the Reform Movement’s own social action leaders, we’ll head to Capitol Hill for a lobby day, meeting with Senators and Representatives to lift up our Reform Jewish voices on key policy issues.

Advocacy is just one of a number of forms of social justice work; all the forms (direct service, petitions, action alerts, phone calls, rallies, sermons, etc) fit together like puzzle pieces to address the problems our society faces. One of my first exposures to these different forms of social action was with my temple youth group. Each year, we went on a Midnight Run, an organized trip to distribute food and clothing to people experiencing homelessness. Our youth group advisor reminded us that although we certainly weren’t solving the problem of homelessness, we were providing a jacket and a meal to people who were cold and hungry right there, that night. Direct service provides an immediate solution, but if we do not also advocate for policies to support people experiencing homelessness, and to improve housing and raise the wage, there will always be people who are hungry and cold. Through advocacy, we seek long-term solutions to the injustices that plague our society.

One way to advocate, which we’ll do at the Consultation, is to meet with elected officials to urge them to act on the issues we care about. It can be daunting, but it’s an important task! So, when you head to Capitol Hill, keep these “P’s” in mind to help maximize the impact of your visit:

Be prepared. Know where your Member of Congress stands on the issue you’ll be discussing. Check Congressional voting records to determine whether your Senator voted to support abortion access or whether your Representative is a staunch opponent of comprehensive immigration reform. If your Member agrees with your position, thank him for his past support and urge him to continue to lead on the issue in the future. If not, acknowledge that you know that you both haven’t seen eye-to-eye on this issue in the past, but you ask the Member to consider your voice as your constituent. Either way, by addressing your Member’s voting record, a related committee she serves on or even a personal connection she may have to the issue, you’re showing that you’re an expert on the topic. (At the Consultation, RAC staff experts will be there to provide information – especially on voting records – if you don’t have it offhand!)

Be personal. The more you do your research, the better you’ll be able to tailor your argument to address the Member of Congress’ concerns or hesitations about an issue. Beyond research, though, think about the perspective you bring to the meeting as a constituent and as a Reform Jew. Anyone can schedule a meeting to share facts and information, but only you can voice why economic justice, the environment or Israel is important to you. By sharing what inspired you to speak out about an issue, you bring a personal element to the conversation, reminding policy makers that policy is about the individuals, families and communities it affects.

Be polite. Regardless whether you and your Congressional representative share the same view on an issue, always be polite when making your argument. It can be easy to get caught up in disagreements over an issue, especially when you’re discussing your core beliefs as an advocate, as an American and as a Reform Jew. But, it’s important to remember that we’re all human beings, and that every human being deserves respect. Plus, people are more likely to give consideration to your point when you’re composed and polite throughout your meeting. Lastly, of course, being polite during your lobby visit includes being professional and punctual. (With Hill visits, punctual means 10 minutes early!)

Looking for more tips? Check out the RAC’s tips for channeling your passion into “Chai Powered” advocacy for change.

We’re looking forward to seeing you at the Consultation on Conscience. If you won’t be able to join us in D.C., you can tune into key parts of the Consultation via livestream at youtube.com/racrj.

If you’re interested in learning more about advocacy, or want to figure out an opportunity for you to do an in-district meeting or a meeting on Capitol Hill, please contact me at 202-387-2800 and we’ll be more than happy to work with you to make it happen!