Protecting Our Community

The OU Advocacy Center is the nonpartisan public policy arm of the OU that lobbies on behalf of the Orthodox community nationwide. Through its advocacy in Washington, D.C., and in state capitals, the OU Advocacy Center protects the future of the Jewish people and ensures that Am Yisrael continues to thrive. During the past year, the OU Advocacy Center successfully worked with Congress to maintain high levels of funding to keep synagogues, schools, and other nonprofits safe; fought to preserve nonpublic day school scholarships so that tens of thousands of students have access to Jewish education; and protected rabbis, schools, and synagogues from unprecedented and burdensome new taxes.

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Photo on left: U.S. Senator Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), flanked by OU Executive Vice President Allen Fagin (L) and OU Advocacy Chair Jerry Wolansky, discusses federal advocacy priorities, including funding for Department of Homeland Security grants to protect synagogues, day schools, and other nonprofits. (Courtesy of the Office of Senator Charles Schumer).
Photo on right: OU Advocacy Center Executive Director Nathan Diament with U.S. Representative Elissa Slotkin (D-Mich.) on Capitol Hill.
$60,000,000
secured in 2019 for improved safety at schools, houses of worship, and other nonprofit institutions
4,000+
institutions that have received federal security grants through the Nonprofit Security Grant Program that OU Advocacy Center helped to create in 2005
$329,000,000
security grants allocated to day schools, synagogues and other nonprofits nationwide since 2005

Changing Government Policy

Amending Federal Rules to Protect Schools and Synagogues against Unfair Taxes

The recent overhaul of the federal tax code included new provisions creating first-time tax bills for Jewish day schools, synagogues, and other nonprofit organizations nationwide. The new levies on benefits such as providing employee parking and transportation subsidies would have cost smaller synagogues several thousand dollars each, and day schools tens of thousands of dollars apiece. The OU Advocacy Center led a coalition of faith and other nonprofit groups to fight this unprecedented burden, prompting the U.S. Treasury Department and IRS to remove the new tax. The OU Advocacy Center is working with its allies in Congress to pursue a full repeal of the tax.

Winning Court Ruling to Preserve Economic Well-Being of Rabbis, Other Clergy

For decades, synagogues across the country have relied on a Federal “parsonage” allowance to help recruit and compensate rabbis and other clergy. A Federal court challenge to the constitutionality of this housing allowance threatened this vital exemption, potentially forcing many synagogues to shut down. The OU Advocacy Center joined with other religious organizations in filing a brief in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit to defend the existing tax exemption; the court ruled in favor of maintaining the allowance, helping to protect the economic well-being of rabbis and other clergy nationwide.

OU leaders present an award of appreciation to U.S. Senator Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) for his partnership with the OU on passing legislation last year to ensure disaster-damaged houses of worship are eligible to receive federal aid from FEMA. From left: OU President Mark (Moishe) Bane, Senator Blunt, OU Advocacy Center Executive Director Nathan Diament, and OU Advocacy Center Chairman Jerry Wolasky.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu with OU leadership (l-r): Nathan Diament, executive director, OU Advocacy Center; Rabbi Avi Berman, executive director, OU Israel; Allen Fagin, executive vice president; Tzvi Sand, president, OU Israel; Mark (Moishe) Bane, president; Rabbi Micah Greenland, international director, NCSY. (Courtesy of Eliyahu Yanai)

Securing Federal Funding to Safeguard the Community

Working with Top Legislators on Capitol Hill on Behalf of the Jewish Community

Senior Orthodox Union and community leaders joined the OU Advocacy Center’s annual Leadership Mission to Washington, D.C., on Capitol Hill to meet with key legislators in June to discuss funding for Department of Homeland Security grants to protect synagogues and other houses of worship and other priority issues. Among those the OU leaders met with were Senators Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), Ted Cruz (R-Tex.), Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.), and Representative Eliot Engel (D-N.Y.). The delegation also presented an award of appreciation to Senator Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) for his partnership with the OU on passing legislation to ensure disaster-damaged houses of worship are eligible to receive federal aid from FEMA.

Fifteen years ago, the OU Advocacy Center spearheaded the creation of the Federal Nonprofit Security Grant Program (NSGP) that provides grants for Jewish day schools, synagogues, and other nonprofits to make their buildings safer against potential attacks. To date, OU Advocacy has worked with allies in Congress to secure $329 million that’s been distributed to more than 4,000 institutions across the country, most of them Jewish. In the wake of the deadly attacks on Pittsburgh’s Tree of Life Congregation and Chabad of Poway in California, OU Advocacy successfully worked with Congress to continue funding the NSGP at the highest level ever—$60 million—for the second consecutive year. The OU Advocacy Center is pressing to increase the program’s funding to $90 million for 2020.

Senator Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) meets with leaders of the Orthodox Union on Capitol Hill to discuss the organization’s federal advocacy priorities, including funding for Department of Homeland Security grants to protect synagogues, day schools and other nonprofits. Pictured: (L-R) Orthodox Union‘s Executive Vice President Allen Fagin, President Mark (Moishe) Bane, Senator Ted Cruz (R-Tex.), Advocacy’s Chairman Jerry Wolasky, Advocacy’s Executive Director Nathan Diament, Officer Allen Friedman.
NCSY