On Thursday, September 6, 2018, three members of Seattle Hadassah met with Kate Baumgartner, Seattle Outreach Director for U.S. Senator Patty Murray. Seattle Hadassah President Susan Adler, Seattle Chapter Advocacy Committee Chair Kindra Cooper, and Seattle Chapter Member Jacqueline Silver attended the meeting at the request of Hadassah National, who is seeking the Senator’s support for the Health Equity and Accountability Act. The Act was recently passed by the U.S. House of Representatives with bi-partisan support; it has not yet been introduced in the Senate. Given Senator Murray’s status as the ranking minority member of the Senate HELP Committee (Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions), the Senator is uniquely situated to assist with the passage of this legislation.
Discussion between Susan, Kate, Jacqueline, and Kindra focused on three items: Women’s Health Equity, the need for a strong U.S./Israel Relationship, and support for legislative measures aimed at Holocaust education and countering anti-Semitism, specifically, the Never Again Education Act and the Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Anti-Semitism Act of 2017. The tenor of the meeting was friendly and productive. Susan and Kindra worked with Kate last year at the Seattle Hadassah/Jewish Federation of Greater Seattle advocacy training, “Women of Valor: How to Advocate Jewishly.” Senator Murray, moreover, is a Life Member of Hadassah. In addition to discussing the Health Equity and Accountability Act, therefore, this meeting was also an opportunity to strengthen the already-close relationship between our chapter and our state’s senior U.S. Senator.
Four high-points emerged from the meeting, among them the opportunity to discuss the unique and growing economic relationship between the State of Washington and the State of Israel. Among U.S. states, Washington ranks third overall in trade with Israel — $434 million in 2017 alone, and more than $1 billion total since the year 2000. Trade between Washington State institutions and the nation of Israel is growing rapidly; the $434 million-dollar figure from last year represents an 97% increase over the year prior. This year, Israel and Washington institutions also share $6 million in binational grants – including grant projects located at the University of Washington and the Seattle Cancer Care Alliance. As these statistics make clear, a strong U.S./Israel relationship is not only good for Israel, it is good for the State of Washington as well.
Another highlight of the meeting was the opportunity to learn from Kate about the Senator’s priorities for coming the year and for this Congress. Kate shared with us the Senator’s recent success in passing the Opioid Crisis Response Act out of committee, a piece of legislation that the Senator co-sponsored with Senator Lamar Alexander of Tennessee. The legislation emerged from committee with bi-partisan support, and Senator Murray hopes that it will go to a vote in the full Senate this term. Other policy priorities of the Senator include protecting women’s health care, opposing the nomination of Brett Kavanaugh to the U.S. Supreme Court, higher education and addressing the issue of sexual assaults on college campuses, and affordable child care. Kate relayed that Senator Murray does not have great hope that the Child Care Access and Affordability Act will pass this term but hopes that it will soon. The Senator, according to Kate, is also keenly focused on her Congressional oversight role on issues including judicial nominations and the ongoing family separation problem.
The discussion between Kate and Seattle Chapter Member Jacqueline Silver was also a moment of special connection and sharing. Jacqueline, who lived in Israel for several years, has been treated as a patient at both Hadassah hospital locations. She spoke about being operated on by an Arab orthopedic surgeon, as well as about her first-hand experience of the quality of the care at Hadassah and the diversity of its amazing medical staff. Jaqueline’s comments resonated with all parties in the meeting, underscoring the exceptional nature of Hadassah Medical Organization and one of the many reasons our chapter is dedicated to advocacy on behalf of Hadassah.
The final highlight of the meeting involved discussion of the Never Again Education Act, legislation co-authored by Hadassah. The Act seeks to fill a gap in K-12 education nationwide. As of today, only nine U.S. states mandate Holocaust Education in their public-school K-12 education. (Washington, unfortunately, is not among them.) Given that one-in-six Americans is unable to describe what occurred during the Holocaust, the lack of Holocaust education is both alarming and in need of attention. The Never Again Education Act would mandate Holocaust education nationwide and takes the unique approach of funding Holocaust education programming through private donations rather than state or federal government appropriations.
Following the meeting, Jacqueline gifted the Senator a copy of her book, “…And Yet They Learned,” Jacqueline’s nonfiction work on the remarkable education strategies surreptitiously employed to educate Jewish children in concentration camps and under Nazi rule generally. Jacqueline and the book were featured in a Seattle Hadassah Salon this past April.
The Seattle Hadassah Advocacy Committee is thrilled with the success of this recent meeting and looks forward to working with Senator Murray’s office and other members of the Washington State Congressional Delegation in the future – promoting women’s health equity and advocating on behalf of the State of Israel. The committee is open to new members.
Contact Committee Chair Kindra Cooper to learn more or to get involved.