The new calendar year brought with it a new Congress, and a renewed burst of activity for the CJV. We issued press releases on anti-Semitism, religious liberty and protecting life, and were quoted in Jewish, Christian and secular media. We sent letters and held meetings with leaders in both the executive and legislative branches of government, to influence policy decisions in favor of our values. And I would urge you to see our links at bottom to see our press releases, letters and op-eds on a variety of issues.
In this update, though, I would like to focus upon two particular items that highlight our special role promoting traditional, Jewish values. The first, shorter item is an Op-Ed which appeared in both the Christian Post and Black Christian News Network, by Pastor Wallace Henley, the author of several books and a former White House aide. He quoted a statement of ours printed in Israel National News on the protection of human life — and it is the context that makes this important. He preceded a quote from Rabbi Steven Pruzansky, our Eastern Regional Vice President, with: “The right to life is not merely Catholic dogma. It is the first G-d-given right recognized in the U.S. Constitution.”
Since our inception, we have argued that our presence changes the values debate. We prevent the left from trying to claim that pro-values positions are “sectarian,” much less a “violation of church and state.” When we state that value for life, for example, is a Jewish position, it then becomes part of what America recognizes as “Judeo-Christian ethics” — the nation’s founding principles.
That is precisely how Pastor Henley used our quote, dissociating the right to life from uniquely “Catholic dogma” and supporting his understanding of the Constitution. As a Southern Baptist, he could have used a statement from a coreligionist to show that they, too, believe in valuing life. Instead he reached to the CJV, because a Jewish source most clearly demonstrates that this common view is integral to what the Founding Fathers considered our bedrock values. It is our privilege to serve in this capacity.
The second example is longer, but documents one of our most important contributions to the public policy dialogue thus far. It started with a simple press release, yet that had far-reaching ramifications. If you are already familiar with the Obama-era regulatory changes and Miracle Hill Ministries’ waiver request, you can skip the next two paragraphs, but they are otherwise a necessary introduction.
In January 2017, the Obama Department of Health and Human Services left a “gift” for their successors: a set of regulatory changes which required religious organizations abandon their religious principles if they wished to work with the HHS. In addition to not discriminating based upon race, ethnicity or national origin, they added requirements to not discriminate based on religion, or even whether a couple was engaged in a traditional marriage.
Miracle Hill Ministries provides services for the homeless, for children, and for addiction recovery in South Carolina; it is the largest and best-regarded private provider of foster care services in that state. It received a provisional exemption from the new requirements from Governor Henry McMaster, who also requested the HHS provide a waiver to permit Miracle Hill to continue its efforts.
This was thrown into doubt when a Jewish woman asked to serve as a mentor. Although Miracle Hill referred her to the state’s own foster care system, she said she wanted to work with Miracle Hill precisely because it is the best-run service. She further claimed that it was discriminatory for Miracle Hill, as a ministry, to work exclusively with evangelical families that share Miracle Hill’s creed — apparently oblivious to the idea that Miracle Hill’s religious devotion inspires its excellence.
Our involvement began when the Anti-Defamation League, the ADL, wrote to federal officials in opposition to the waiver request. They claimed that it would be discriminatory and even “immoral,” “because it would only serve to harm the most vulnerable in our society.”
The reality, of course, is precisely the opposite: it is denial of Miracle Hill’s waiver, or requiring it to abandon its exclusive church-based recruitment of foster families, which would result in harming children. And in addition to the embarrassment (Chilul HaShem, for those familiar) of a Jewish organization interfering with the internal functioning of a Christian ministry, the ADL position was directly contrary to Jewish interests. As we believe that all Jewish children should be raised in Jewish families and taught the principles of Judaism, Jewish agencies, as well, require the ability to work uniquely within the Jewish community.
We issued a press release making these points. I had been in contact with Reid Lehman, CEO of Miracle Hill, as I researched this issue, and he advised me to send our release to the Greenville News. It became a front-page article, possibly the first time a rabbinic organization was featured in the local news section of one of South Carolina’s most prominent media outlets.
The Greenville News highlighted the role of the waiver request in Governor McMaster’s first campaign as Governor (he was elected Lieutenant Governor in 2014, assuming his current position when Nikki Haley left to become US Ambassador to the United Nations). His Democratic opponent, James Smith, joined the ADL in calling Miracle Hill’s practices discriminatory, using the waiver request during a gubernatorial debate to attack the Governor as endorsing discrimination against Jews and others. That a group of over 1000 rabbis said McMaster’s position was not discriminatory effectively nullified this argument, and the issue of the waiver request was relegated to a last-minute footnote in their final debate. Governor McMaster won reelection by a 54-46 margin.
The story, though, does not end there. Mr. Lehman asked the Heritage Foundation to invite me to their 2018 Antipoverty Forum and luncheon on religious liberty issues, as he was one of the featured speakers. Emilie Kao, Director of The DeVos Center for Religion and Civil Society at Heritage, publicly acknowledged our organization’s role in Miracle Hill’s fight while introducing Mr. Lehman, an extraordinary nod to our efforts.
Continuing our pursuit of this issue, we later sent a letter to HHS Secretary Alex Azar requesting the regulations be reversed. That same week, the agency granted Governor McMaster’s waiver request. In a video speaking about this important victory, Miracle Hill CEO Reid Lehman acknowledged the roles of Governor McMaster, members of the state legislature, South Carolina Senators Tim Scott and Lindsay Graham, Congressmen Trey Gowdy, Jeff Duncan and others — and Rabbi Yaakov Menken and the Coalition for Jewish Values. He clearly explained our involvement: “because they want the same protection and freedom for people of Jewish faith” as we would want for all.
For our part, we issued a follow-up release, calling the granting of Miracle Hill’s request “a step in the right direction” with immediate benefits for both religious freedom and for children in South Carolina, but continuing to call for a full rollback of the new regulatory changes. There was even a further bit of significant progress and involvement on our part, which I hope to share with you at a future time.
On an ongoing basis, we see our ability to make a very significant contribution when we discuss issues of common concern with the “pro-values” community. And needless to say, this also gives our voice more weight when we turn the conversation to areas of perhaps more unique concern to the Jewish community — such as the anti-Semitic sentiments now expressed by some in Congress.
Rabbinic Group Commends Democratic National Committee for Abandoning Women’s March, Jan. 16
Rabbis Call Omar Appointment a “Slap in the Face”, Jan. 18
Rabbinic Group Asks HHS Secretary to Reverse Foster Care and Adoption Regulations, Jan. 22
Rabbinic Group Praises HHS Waiver, Renews Call for Repeal, Jan. 24
New York Reproductive Health Act “Declares War on Life,” Rabbis Say, Jan. 28
Senator Booker “Would Disqualify Moses Himself,” Rabbis Say, Feb. 6
Is Anti-Semitic Hatred Tolerated by the Democratic Party?, Feb. 12
Letters & Statements:
Letter to Speaker Pelosi re: appointment of Rep. Ilhan Omar to Foreign Affairs Committee, Jan. 18
To HHS Secretary Azar on regulations precluding religious organizations from foster care and adoption services, Jan. 22
Second Letter to Speaker Nancy Pelosi Regarding Appt. of Rep. Ilhan Omar to Foreign Affairs Committee, Feb. 12
Rabbi Fischer Op-Eds:
All published in The American Spectator
And Now the Bane of the Capitol Returns With His Etch-a-Sketch Screen, Jan. 7
If Senate Dems Won’t Legislate, Spend the Time Confirming Judges, Jan. 10
Acosta as Schmendrick: When Fools Rush In, Jan. 10
The Dems Who Cried ‘Wolf!’, Jan. 12
If Only Trump Haters Could Realize How Dangerously Our Democracy Is Being Threatened, Jan. 16
Preparing With Hyphen for the World’s Last 12 Years Amid WWII, Jan. 23
A Stone Left Unturned — So Far, Jan. 29
A Letter to Nick Sandmann of Covington Catholic Ten Days Later, Jan. 30
On Abortion, Killing, Murder, Tearing Limbs, Throwing Out Heads, and Personal Responsibility, Feb. 2
Super Bowl Post-Mortem by a Former Fan Who No Longer Cares, Feb. 8
The Whole Lot of Them Are Bat-Crazy, Feb. 9
Everyone Else’s Op-Eds:
The Racist Nerve of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez
Rabbi Yaakov Menken in American Greatness, Jan. 11
New York State Declares War on Life
Rabbi Avrohom Gordimer in The American Thinker, Jan. 27
The Left’s Collateral Damage
Rabbi Yaakov Menken and Lathan Watts in The American Thinker, Jan. 29
The Homosexual Mafia Strikes Again
Rabbi Avrohom Gordimer in The American Thinker, Feb. 14
We look forward to continued progress in all areas, and expect to have more exciting news for you soon.