Interacting with legislators and candidates for office is critical to effective advocacy. Conversations with community members gives legislators an opportunity to get to know who they are representing and hear their concerns first hand, and conversely, gives the community an opportunity to learn about and appreciate legislators’ work and accomplishments on behalf of the community. Candidate forums are also very helpful in allowing the community to learn about the positions of the candidates so they can cast an educated vote. Agudath Israel of Illinois recently held a series of community events with current elected officials and candidates for office.
The first event was a legislative barbecue for the Peterson Park neighborhood with State Representative Mike Kelly (HD 15) and his corresponding State Senator Ram Villivalam (SD 8). They spoke about their involvement during the legislative session with issues of importance to the community including securing an increase to the school transportation grant that subsidizes busing for families, $20 million in new funding for a state security grant program, and the fight to make the Invest in Kids tax credit scholarship program permanent. The program is set to expire next year.
The second event was with Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky and her staff. Agudah of Illinois and local community members expressed their gratitude for the excellent constituent services provided by Representative Schakowsky and her staff throughout her tenure in the United States House of Representatives, but especially over the last couple of years as the need for assistance with various issues has skyrocketed. Rep. Schakowsky was touched and shared that in her over 20 years of serving in Congress she had never been invited to an event like this. A plaque was presented to the Congresswoman and her staff, as well as to community outreach specialist Alex Ponder, who has fielded and resolved hundreds of requests for emergency assistance.
Lastly, Agudah also held meetings with the current candidates for US Senate: a virtual meeting with incumbent Senator Tammy Duckworth and an in-person meeting with Kathy Salvi, the Republican candidate. Many topics were addressed, including U.S. support for Israel, combatting antisemitism that has disproportionately affected Orthodox Jews, the nonprofit security grant program, and federal funds and programs that benefit nonpublic school students.
“It is great for both the community and our representatives to participate in events where they get to know each other,” said Rabbi Shlomo Soroka, Agudath Israel of Illinois’ director of government affairs. “Real conversations and interactions between elected officials and community members are beneficial to both parties. We thank all those who took the time to join us.”