Defining the Local Impact of Federation’s National Advocacy

In addition to supporting the work of local Federations such as our own, the Jewish Federations of North America (JFNA) provides public-policy advocacy for the issues that affect our local, national, and international Jewish communities. Bob Yass, who serves in multiple capacities with both JFNA and Jewish Federation of Greater Hartford, explains how advocacy at the national level has a direct impact on the services and Jewish organizations many of us hold dear in the Greater Hartford area.

There are many ways Jewish Federation of Greater Hartford (JFGH) supports our local partner agencies. Beyond financial and planning support, we are active in the public policy arena in service to the success and vitality of our partners. As a minority community informed by Jewish values, we engage with the broader needs of our local and national communities. Locally, this work is accomplished through the Jewish Community Relations Council and Jewish Federation Association of Connecticut.

Our interest in the local Jewish community, the Jewish community in Israel, and the global Jewish community, is supported by the Jewish Federations of North America (JFNA), our national association. JFNA represents 146 local federations, as well as a large group of smaller communities. Hartford is well represented at JFNA by Carolyn Gitlin, past JFGH board chair and current member of the JFNA executive board; our current JFGH chair, Dana Keller; and me on the JFNA Board of Trustees.

During the past year, I have been honored to serve on the Domestic Policy and Government Affairs Council at JFNA, as well as co-chair of JFNA’s Health and Long-Term Care Committee. Our efforts on federal health and long-term care issues are managed through the professional team at the Strategic Health Resource Center (SHRC). The SHRC team leads the advocacy effort to ensure there is a social safety net focused on health, behavioral health, and long-term care. Funding from Medicare and Medicaid supports the operations of local providers and the broad array of services they offer—upon which many in the Greater Hartford community rely. This advocacy work has been extremely critical during the last two years of COVID challenges. I am pleased to share the Center’s 2021 Annual Report at this link. The report describes the many instances of federal policy intersecting with real-world issues faced by the national Jewish Social Services network; however, I want to specifically share how these intersections impact Jewish Family Services of Greater Hartford (JFS), as shared with me by JFS CEO Katie Hanley.

Last year, JFS provided over 6,700 hours of teletherapy and responded to the needs of almost 400 clients who are Medicare or Medicaid beneficiaries. Katie noted that the Anja Rosenberg Food Pantry at JFS served more than 500 people last year alone. Furthermore, JFS provided services to Holocaust survivors across the state, as well as local crime victims. Many of the people supported in these programs are Medicaid recipients. Where there is reimbursement, much of the gap between Medicaid and Medicare payments and actual costs hits the budget of JFS. As such, we must be vigilant in guarding against cuts and appropriately advocating for reasonable enhancements.

In Katie’s words, “Working in partnership with Federation and JCRC to articulate the local impact on big federal programs like Medicaid and Medicare is extremely valuable to us as we meet with the many clients in our community who use those services.” Katie also expressed to me that policy changes at the national level have a clear and direct impact on her organization’s ability to provide services to our local community, adding that, “having a partner to articulate that impact to, and knowing it will make its way to ‘the hill’ is very important to us.” As grateful as we are for her work, she expressed how grateful she is for our shared advocacy efforts.

I hope you can find some time to take a look at JFNA’s Strategic Health Resource Center report, and consider how these national efforts make a positive difference in our local community.

Photo: Bob Yass, member of the JFGH Board of Directors and JFNA Board of Trustees