Co-chair of Sacramento’s Jewish Caucus, State Senator Scott Wiener cites his upbringing as inspiring legislation that will allow religious institutions to build homes on their land
LOS ANGELES — California State Senator Scott Wiener paused to munch on blueberries as he pitched his affordable housing bill earlier this year to members of IKAR, a Jewish congregation based in LA.
The bill, which recently gained ground as it advances toward ahead of a final vote on the Senate floor, touches on an issue that’s close to Wiener’s heart and closely tied in with his Jewish identity — which he made sure to mention in the Zoom meeting.
“I learned very early on that, for Jews, if the wrong government comes into power, really bad things can happen,” Wiener told the attendees. “I view politics and lawmaking as saving lives and we know that the housing crisis is killing people.”
Newsom has already proposed spending reductions in education, transportation and climate change programs, and almost every other area of state government is braced for cuts as well. But somehow, in the middle of this budgetary mayhem, the governor was able to find additional money to fight hate. Newsom’s newly revised budget allocates $10 million to continue California’s Nonprofit Security Grant program, which provides funding support for nonprofit organizations that are at high risk for violent attacks and hate crimes due to ideology, beliefs, or mission.
For the state’s Jewish community, which has faced an alarming number of antisemitic acts in recent years, this security grant funding has provided critical financial support for synagogues, Jewish day schools and other community organizations. But just a few weeks ago, it appeared that the funding would not be included in Newsom’s new budget.
When the money did show last week, it was not an accident. What happened was a testament to the commitment, the determination, and the tireless work of the California Jewish community and its leaders, who recognized the threat that the lack of security funding would pose and who escalated their already considerable efforts to convince the governor and his advisors to find the money even in an exceedingly difficult budget year. As the governor’s revised proposal was being finalized, the Jewish Legislative Caucus, led by Assemblymember Jesse Gabriel (D-Woodland Hills), met with Newsom and strongly urged him to continue his past support for the safety program. And just two days before Newsom’s revised budget was due to be released, the Jewish Public Affairs Committee (JPAC) mobilized more than 300 of their members from across the state to descend on Sacramento to lobby for the nonprofit grants.
The result was an unadulterated success.
The California Legislative Jewish Caucus aims to pursue a broad variety of bills to lift up many struggling groups during the 2023 session.
Assemblymember Jesse Gabriel, the co-chair of the Jewish Caucus, said that “this year, we are proudly bringing our Jewish values into the policymaking process and working closely with allies in other communities to address issues like hate crimes, Holocaust education, community security, mental health and environmental justice.”
The top three “priority” bills include a proposal to regulate automated decision tools to counter “algorithmic discrimination”; expansion of the California State Nonprofit Security Grant Program; and streamlining efforts by faith-based groups and nonprofit colleges to build affordable, multifamily housing.
SACRAMENTO, CA - Today, the California Legislative Jewish Caucus announced its legislative priorities for 2023. This year, the Caucus has selected important legislation for two legislative packages that further the mission of the Jewish Caucus: to advance the Jewish Community’s top priorities and uplift vulnerable Californians of all faiths and backgrounds.
Gov. Gavin Newsom has issued a proclamation declaring May as Jewish American Heritage Month in California.
It’s the first time he’s done so since becoming governor in 2019, his press office confirmed.
Amid language offering support and plaudits for Jewish contributions to California, he made a point of mentioning antisemitism and the state’s measures to combat it.
“As we celebrate these accomplishments, we must also recognize the bigotry and violence that Jews have faced throughout history, and that shamefully persist to this day,” the May 6 proclamation said.
The document notes the work of the California Legislative Jewish Caucus in pushing through security grants that help synagogues and other Jewish institutions pay for features like cameras and fences and for training on how to respond to an active shooter.