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Why Do We Lobby?

Why Do We Lobby?

Three teens holding signs in support of criminal justice reform

These remarks have been lightly adapted from those presented at the lobby prep session of the 2019 Consultation on Conscience on Monday, May 20, 2019.

As the Religious Action Center’s legislative director, I’m thrilled to have the chance to work with our Eisendrath Legislative Assistants every day and with our entire community to advance Reform Movement social justice priorities on Capitol Hill and beyond.

Attendees at the RAC’s 2019 Consultation on Conscience have spent three days learning about those social justice priorities, and they’re eager to bring the work we’ve discussed here back home to their congregations – but first, almost 700 of us will blanket Capitol Hill as we meet today with more than 200 congressional offices about issues that are critical to the Reform Jewish Movement and to the United States. We'll be talking to our members of Congress about creating a pathway to citizenship for DREAMers and TPS holders and evening the playing field in the job market for formerly incarcerated people.

This is our Movement’s biggest lobby day yet, and we are thrilled that so many in our community are taking the time to raise their voices for justice the halls of Congress, in a time when it is so desperately needed.

But why do we lobby?

This is a question we actually get a lot, particularly from individuals who know their member of Congress definitely supports – or definitely doesn’t support – the legislation we’re headed to Capitol Hill to talk about.

1. We’re building relationships.

Just as important as bringing a specific legislative ask to a congressional office is the opportunity to build relationships with our elected officials and their staff. These relationships are critical to our long-term advocacy successes.

Building relationships means staff and offices recognize you and your affiliations, it means you can reach key people when an important vote is coming up, and it means you can find ways to collaborate with your elected officials in your community, beyond legislation. The more relationships we collectively have as the Reform Movement – and that you hold as a constituent – the more impact we can make together in the long term.

But in order to build these relationships, we need to show up – and that can mean saying thank you, it can mean recognizing differences but still raising your voice, and it can mean making a request on legislation.

2. We’re making our voices – and our values – heard.

The second reason is to ensure that Reform Movement values are heard on Capitol Hill. Having more than 700 people meeting with more than 200 Congressional offices shows the force and breadth of our Movement.

It is critical for your members of Congress to know that you’re not here alone talking about these issues – that you are part of a group that has power. Tomorrow, our Consultation attendees will tell their members of Congress that they’re here in Washington with more than 1,000 other people – and the sheer visibility of our group together on the Hill will show our power, as well.

3. We’re having a say in the legislative process.

Perhaps most obvious, the third reason is to influence specific pieces of legislation that advance our Movement’s social justice priorities. Tomorrow, individuals lobbying with the Reform Movement might actually get their members of Congress to support a new piece of legislation – and having so many people meet with so many offices on the same day, all about the same bills, can drive real momentum on these priorities.

So that’s why we lobby.

Finally, and just as importantly, we also hope that these are skills our Consultation attendees will bring home with them – that they will continue to be in touch with members of Congress, and that they will work to influence decision-makers at all levels of government in their pursuit of justice.

Traveling to Washington D.C., and making your voice heard to the people elected to represent you is exciting, powerful, and impactful. It is even more of a privilege to have the opportunity to do this together, as part of a community of Reform Jews. Thank you.

Can't be with us at the 2019 Consultation on Conscience's Lobby Day? Take action for the issues we'll be lobbying for on Capitol Hill: creating a pathway to citizenship for DREAMers and TPS holders and evening the playing field in the job market for formerly incarcerated people. Our easy action alerts make it simple to contact your Members of Congress. Just enter your zip code to get started!

Allison Grossman is the legislative director at the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism


Allison Grossman

Published: 5/21/2019