Jewish Organizations Applaud Obama’s Speech in State of Union

Obama visiting shooting victims last July

“Last night, the President discussed his policy proposals to pursue justice and build opportunity,” said JCPA president Rabbi Steve Gutow.

Our nation is one of ambition and aspiration, and the President spoke to both these fundamental values. He discussed some of the most intractable issues that face our nation: gun violence that leaves 30,000 Americans dead every year, an immigration system that breaks apart families and forces individuals into the shadows, an energy system that pollutes our planet and changes our climate, and an economy that has left millions without work and millions more with wages insufficient to support their families. Now, after the drama of the election and the pomp of the inauguration, our elected leaders must focus on the hard work of governance.

More after the jump.

In a few short weeks, the ‘sequester’ is poised to eliminate nutrition assistance for 600,000 women and children through cuts to WIC and end early childhood education for 70,000 young students enrolled in Head Start programs. Such policies are wrong, simply wrong. Our national challenges are opportunities to renew our shared commitments to one another and empower our communities. Over the next year, we urge the President and Congress to work in good faith in dealing with the proposals offered tonight. We must maintain focus and work together to strengthen our economy and ensure that nobody who works full time lives in poverty, protect our environment while spawning new green industry, and provide a path for prosperity for all.

“We find ourselves at a critical juncture for both policy and politics, and consensus and cooperation will be central to our success. Bipartisanship has characterized the President and Congress’ support for Israel and we were pleased to hear the President reaffirm his commitment to Israel’s security and against a nuclear armed Iran in tonight’s speech,” said JCPA chair Larry Gold.

A new model for bipartisanship on domestic issues was demonstrated in the fiscal cliff compromise of last year. We are encouraged by the serious proposals on immigration and gun violence put forward by groups of Senators and Representatives from both parties. In just a few short weeks, dramatic spending cuts will threaten important national programs from national security to education, to foreign assistance and medical research. We must make tough choices and we appreciate the President’s candor. In the next few weeks the JCPA and our member agencies will continue to work with members of Congress, community organizations, and civil society groups to develop constructive, consensus policies that protect the most vulnerable and position our nation for growth.

Bnai Brith International has released this statement:

B’nai B’rith International is encouraged President Obama will focus on aging programs, energy independence, immigration reform and reducing gun violence in his second term. His renewed commitments to Israel’s security and to preventing Iran from attaining nuclear weapons are also positive.

We are pleased with the president’s spirited defense of both domestic discretionary spending and the jobs created by these programs. The president spoke of aging programs like Medicare, and we are open to hearing more about his plan. B’nai B’rith is particularly interested in hearing about savings in Medicare from lower prescription drug costs and from encouraging better health care. We remain concerned, however, that unreasonably or arbitrarily high savings targets could force ill-advised measures that weaken the nature of the program by undermining its universality or eroding benefits.

Energy independence received renewed attention from the president during his address. Our current dependence on foreign oil undermines our security, forcing the United States to rely on fossil fuels from countries whose interests are adverse to our own. B’nai B’rith supports the president’s call for investment in alternative energy programs.

B’nai B’rith has long been a supporter of comprehensive immigration reform and we are pleased the administration is making it a priority. Creating a path to citizenship for millions of the country’s undocumented immigrants is important for the well-being of the country.

We commend the president’s insistence that the United States will “do what is necessary” to prevent Iran from “getting nuclear weapons.” Iran, the world’s largest state-sponsor of terror, continues to pursue nuclear weapons, even as an international coalition has instituted tough sanctions.

B’nai B’rith is also encouraged the president outlined a firm commitment to Israel: “And we will stand steadfast with Israel in pursuit of security and a lasting peace.”

We welcome the president’s commitment to reducing gun violence. The president said: “Police chiefs are asking our help to get weapons of war and massive ammunition magazines off our streets, because they are tired of being outgunned.”

Last month, the B’nai B’rith International Executive Committee passed a formal resolution that called for a ban on assault weapons, as well as a limit on ammunition magazine capacity. B’nai B’rith pledges to work with all political parties, interest groups and coalitions to make sure meaningful bipartisan gun regulations become reality.

Of course the president’s annual address to Congress and the nation offers a framework for the president’s priorities. B’nai B’rith will review details as they emerge and work to ensure action on our key priorities.


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