The student news site of Charles E. Smith Jewish Day School

The Lion's Tale

The student news site of Charles E. Smith Jewish Day School

The Lion's Tale

The student news site of Charles E. Smith Jewish Day School

The Lion's Tale

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Lawmakers initiate Maryland Legislative Jewish Caucus

Photo by Eden Durbin, used with permission
The Jewish caucus honors Marsha Tishler, Rockville resident and Holocaust survivor, for Holocaust Remembrance day at an event on Jan. 29.

As the Israel-Hamas War advances, antisemitic incidents have reached extreme rates worldwide, inspiring a rise in Jewish advocacy through social activism and regional protests. 

Senator Shelley Hettleman of Baltimore County took her advocacy a step further with the idea of the first Maryland Legislative Jewish Caucus. She approached her colleagues in the Maryland State Senate and partnered with Delegate Jared Solomon of Montgomery County. On Jan. 16 in Annapolis, Maryland, Hettleman and Solomon inaugurated the caucus as co-chairs.

The caucus has an additional 18 state lawmakers who have united their voices to speak out against antisemitism and promote Jewish culture and heritage. The caucus aims to become an impactful voice in the Maryland General Assembly, pursuing its mission to protect the civil rights of all Marylanders. 

“Now especially in the world, it is important to have a structure and a framework to advocate for the Jewish community, to make sure our colleagues understand the perspectives and needs of the Jewish communities in Maryland,” Hettelman said.

The caucus’ target audience is not just the Jewish communities of Maryland, but the diverse communities of the state at large. The legislative forum intends to work with other Maryland caucuses towards its mission, such as the Latino, Women’s, Black and LGBTQ Caucuses. 

The mission of the Jewish caucus is sixfold. They aim to combat hate crimes, protect religious freedoms, improve security measures, celebrate Jewish heritage, educate communities and serve as a liaison. Although the assembly is in its beginning stages, it is currently outlining upcoming legislation that it plans to institute. 

“There’s a bill that Delegate Edelson from Baltimore City has introduced to create a Holocaust education assistance fund, which would help schools and community groups to be able to do more Holocaust education and more enriching programs,” Solomon said. “One jurisdiction that’s been introduced by Delegate Korman, who represents Bethesda, would require MCPS to train its employees in how to prevent antisemitism, anti-Islamophobia and other forms of religious hate.”

To uphold its pluralized mission beyond Jews, the caucus invited its non-Jewish colleagues to join them in its fight for Jewish state representation as associate members. Delegate Joe Vogel (‘15), who is Jewish, serves as a member of the caucus in his second legislative session, and has quickly become involved. Vogel spoke at its first inaugural event on Jan. 18 in the name of the Israeli hostages and their families, calling for their immediate release from captivity.

Everything’s possible if you work hard and you stay committed to service and to making the world a better place,” Vogel said. “Those are some of the values that I learned while at JDS, and they inform a lot of the work that I still do today.”

The Jewish caucus won the support of the General Assembly’s presiding officers, Senate President Bill Ferguson and House of Delegates Speaker Adrienne Jones. The officers have been long-standing allies of the caucus since its inception, standing firmly against the surge in hate crimes. The caucus calls upon its young constituents to motivate change, and to continue to advocate for Jewish communities across the state. 

“You [Jewish high school students] can have an impact on policy and you can be representative of your community and the greater community,” Hettleman said. “You can make change in our laws in ways that will protect the community, and help it to be safe, grow and thrive.”

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About the Contributor
Maya Greenblum, News Editor
Maya is thrilled to serve as one of The Lion’s Tale’s News Editor for the upcoming term. She is ready to inform and educate our readers on current affairs and events, and uncover any obscured news updates lying within our broader community. Apart from the newspaper, Maya is one of the presidents of the biomedical club, is a member of the CESJDS choir groups Shir Madness and Chorale, and plays on the girls varsity tennis team. Maya is excited for another amazing year on staff with new and former staff members, and for many more issues to come.  

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