MAZON’S Inaugural Rabbinic Justice Mission Brings Rabbis to the U.S. Capitol to Urge Lawmakers to Protect SNAP

May 21, 2018

MAZON hosted 13 rabbis from across the country and representing multiple denominations May 15 and 16 for its inaugural Rabbinic Justice Mission, an event designed to inspire and empower Jewish leaders to engage in anti-hunger advocacy. The Mission was particularly timely, given the pending vote in the U.S. House of Representatives for the Agriculture and Nutrition Act of 2018 (H.R. 2), otherwise known as the Farm Bill, which provides funding and structure for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), the cornerstone of the federal nutrition safety net.

“Speaker of the House Paul Ryan (R-WI) and House Committee on Agriculture Chairman Mike Conaway (R-TX) have devised a bill that will do real harm to real people who struggle,” said Abby J. Leibman, president & CEO of MAZON. “SNAP is a vital and effective safety net program that provides a small measure of stability to people who have fallen on hard times. Republican leadership is trying to reclassify it as a workforce development program, but without also ensuring that there are the vital elements of such a program in place—job training, child care and most important, local jobs. This is quite simply part of their ideologically driven bid to reduce the number of people on SNAP without regard for the consequences to those impacted by these harsh and severe cuts.”

MAZON’s inaugural Rabbinic Justice Mission participants, with MAZON Board of Directors and staff members.

The agenda for the multi-day event included:

  • Study and discussion about hunger in America through a Jewish lens
  • Advocacy training, current issue education and preparation for meetings with members of Congress and key policy makers
  • High-level briefings on current issues related to anti-hunger advocacy from experts, including Robert Greenstein, president of the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities
  • Updates on MAZON’s priorities and new initiatives from MAZON leadership
  • Networking between rabbinic colleagues and members of MAZON’s national Board of Directors

Above: Robert Greenstein, President of the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. Below, Rabbi David Saperstein, Director Emeritus, Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism.

Participating rabbis joined members of the MAZON Board of Directors for in-person meetings with 36 U.S. Senators and Members of Congress and staff, during which they hand-delivered a letter signed by almost 1000 U.S. Jewish clergy that urges Congress to protect SNAP in the Farm Bill.

“Jewish text and tradition compel us to honor the dignity of every person, especially those who are struggling to feed themselves and their families,” said Rabbi Joel Pitkowsky, treasurer of the MAZON Board of Directors and rabbi at Congregation Beth Sholom in Teaneck, NJ. “The proposals put forth in this draft of the Farm Bill are at odds with the teachings of our faith. No matter a person’s circumstance, no one deserves to be hungry.”