By Joseph Fisch
On October 16th at 7:40 A.M. a delegation of eighteen persons traveled from the Scranton JCC to the Pennsylvania State Capitol in Harrisburg to spend a day on Capitol Hill. The group spanned the age and geographic spectrum.
The program was arranged by Hank Butler, Executive Director of the Pennsylvania Jewish Coalition in co-operation with Dassy Ganz, Assistant Executive Director of the Jewish Federation of Northeast Pennsylvania.
The beautiful fall foliage that lined the Route 81 Corridor enhanced the trip.
The travelers were welcomed to the capitol by Kyle Mullins, Legislative Director for Senator John Blake. Kyle served as the group’s leader throughout the day. A Senate hearing room was placed at the group’s disposal and served as the site for meeting legislators and the visit with the Israeli Consul General as well as the luncheon provided by the Federation.
It was an exciting time at the capitol. The legislative session was to be adjourned sine die after two days to avoid mischievous legislation that could be enacted by a lame duck legislature between election and the assumption of office of the new elected representatives. The circumstance was compounded by the funeral of former US Senator Arlen Spector at Temple Har Zion in Penn Valley, which was being attended by many of the current and former Pennsylvania Elected Officials including Governor Tom Corbett and former Governor Rendell.
The assembled were addressed by Senator Mike Stack, Secretary of Aging, Brian Duke, Senator John Blake, and Consul General of Israel to the Mid Atlantic region Yaron Sideman and were visited by Senator Wosniak.
The Senators discussed issues of interest to the community including the progress of legislation relating to Terror Free Procurement (to preclude procurements to invest in Iran). They described the legislative process and the consensus building across the aisle required to pass legislation. Bi-partisanship was common and the philosophic differences adversely affected a very small percentage (estimated at 5%) of the business of the legislature. Unfortunately that 5% gets most of the press.
The Senators described their support and the support of the Pennsylvania State Legislature for issues of interest to the Jewish Community as well as for Israel and exhibited sensitivity to the problems Israel faces gleaned in part from multiple trips to the Jewish State. The Senators’ comments were underscored by the remarks of Hank Butler who deals with the elected officials at the Capitol on a daily basis in his capacity as Executive Director of the Pennsylvania Jewish Coalition.
Secretary of Aging Duke spoke about aging issues, aging in place, and naturally occurring retirement communities (NORC). Secretary Duke also discussed his departments Four Year Plan, The Older Americans Act, the Aging and Disability Center and the Link Program. Hank Butler explained that the NORC concept originated in Israel.
All speakers were generous with their time and invited questions and remained until all questions were answered. They indicated their door is always open when needed and invited suggestions for legislation and requests for assistance. The Senators exhibited collegiality when referring to colleagues across the aisle that might well be emulated on the Federal level.
Lunch was then served during which we visited with Consul General Sideman and his Deputy Consul. The Consul General explained his duties and areas of responsibility as well as the trade co-operation envisioned between the Commonwealth and the State of Israel.