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December 19, 2003     Heritage Florida Jewish News
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December 19, 2003
 

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PAGE 16 HERITAGE FLORIDA JEWISH NEWS, DECEMBER 19, 2003 By Ron Kampeas WASHINGTON (JTA)---The federation system's new lob- byist in Washington is setting his sights on modest goals. That's because he has no other choice. Charles Konigsberg, who last week started his new job as the United Jewish Commu- nities' vice president of public policy, said that because there is more demand than ever for federal dollars, and those dol- lars are not as abundant as they used to be, federations have to focus on what can be done, not on what they wish could be done. "The two goals of this office are to work closely with fed- erations and the independent Jewish communities around the country to assess their needs and then to use the ex- pertise we have here in this office to think strategically about how, within the con- straints of the current federal budgetary situation, we can try to address those needs," Konigsberg said in an inter- view Tuesday at his Washing- ton office. "It's marrying the assess- ment of needs with the strate- gic possibilities." Federation-administered programs receive between $5 billion and $7 billion per year in federal and state grants, UJC officials said. Once a need is identifed, Konigsberg's job is to work with federations to lobby members of Congress and ad- vise them on how to approach state legislatures. On Tuesday, after just a few days on the job, Konigsberg was still getting his bearings. His office walls were bare and he chugged Diet Moun- tain Dew as he leafed through a stack of Encyclopedia Judaica volumes. A lawyer by training, Konigsberg, 45, said his expe- rience as a congressional staffer will help him identify federation programs most likely to get federal aid. The UJC's involvement in developing the Naturally Oc- curring Retirement Commu- nities program of the U.S. De- partment of Health and Hu- man Services is a typical ex- ample of how the UJC gets federal funding. A few years ago, the UJA- Federation of New York iden- tified aging Jews who we re not ready to leave their Iongtime homes but who increasingly were in need of services. The federation's solution: bring federal and state assistance to their communities. Working'thr0ugh the UJC's Washington office, New York joined with about a dozen other federations to work out pilot programs tailored to each community's needs. The pro- gram has been so successful that it has attracted interest from non-Jewish aging groups, federation officials said. "NORC was a new idea de- veloped by federations who were really thinking strategi- cally about how to increase assistance and develop ap- proaches and ideas," Konigsberg said. photo by Ron Kampeas/JTA Charles Konigsberg, the new top Washington lobby- ist for the United Jewish Com- munities, in his office. "This is especially impor- tant right now, when budget deficits are at an all-time high and the domestic discretion- ary budget is being squeezed and will be very slim for many years to come." "In that kind of environ- ment," he said, "it's extremely important to think strategi- cally and smartly about how to partner with the federal government." Konigsberg said he already is thinking ahead, identifying major pieces of legislation for 2004 that could prove useful to the federations. Among them are a multiyear transportation bill and a set of Homeland Secu- rity bills. The transportation bill pre- sents opportunities for pro- viding seniors with help get- ting to their doctors, to corn- munity centers and to meet with friends. The UJC has taken the lead on senior transporta- tion, Konigsberg said. The Jewish community also is interested in how Home- land Security measures could help fund security for Jewish venues, he said, especially in light of attacks on Jewish tar- gets abroad. Konigsberg said such mod- est goals were better targets than the huge issues, like Medicare, where hundreds of organizations are vying for attention. He said he's can- vassing Jewish communities for other needs and ideas. At times Konigsberg's role will be reactive, said his assis- tant, Robyn Gershenoff Judelsohn. "Congress comes out with something they want to work on or the administration comes out with a policy they want to see forwarded, and we have to do an analysis in this office to determine how in fact that is going to affect our fed- erations," she said. Like his predecessor, Diana Aviv, who left the post in June, Konigsberg said he is worried that the Jewish community too often is pegged to a single is- sue: Israel. "It's unfortunate when the viewpoint is expressed that Jewish voters' allegiance is expressed on only one issue," he said. "Certainly, Israel is a major concern, but it is not the only concern." He said, "Jewish commu- nity federations are living ex- amples that we care about the elderly and newcomers to America and the poor and in the executive branch, as an the sick and everyone in assistant director in the need." Clinton White House's Office Konigsberghastwodecades of Management and Budget, of experience working the and as a director in the Bush Capitol from both sides, as administration's Corporation both a staffer and a lobbyist, for National and Community He started out working for Service, which runs Senior Pete Domenici (R-N.M.) and Service Corps and Ted Stevens (R-Alaska) in the AmeriCorps. Senate. In the 1990s, he went On the lobbying side, hewas to work as general counsel on the executive director of the the staffofthelate Sen. Daniel Parkinson's Action Network Moynihan (D-N.Y.). until last month. Konigsberg's background In dealing with the admin- will serve the Jewish commu- istration, Konigsberg said it nity well, said Reva Price, the was key to show bipartisan Washington lobbyist for the solidarity within the commu- Jewish Council for Public M- nity. fairs, the umbrella body for "When we meet with the Jewish community relations administration, we generally councils, bring to them a delegation "Their job is to focus like a composed of representatives laser on the programs that of the Jewish community bring money into the federa- from both sides of the aisle," tion system," Price said. he said. Price said that JCPA, which Konigsberg has been a high receives UJC funding, deals pro01eJewishvolunteer, help- morewithpolicy, andUJCwith ing to found the Capitol Hill seeking federal funds. Jewish Staff Forum, the first "Our agendas on some of organization of Jewish staff the domestic issues overlap, members on Capitol Hill. we try and coordinate so that He has had leadership posi- we work together," she said. tions in the Association of Re- A major lesson of his years form Zionists of America, the on the Hill, Konigsberg said, New Israel Fund and the is the need for various groups American Jewish Committee, in a community to work on a and he is a former vice presi- single message, dent of Adat Shalom "From the perspective of Reconstructionist Congrega- being on the Hill, if you have tion in Bethesda, Md. two or three or four different "To me, this is an absolutely groups from the same tom- ideal opportunity to combine munity coming in with differ- my professional background entviewpoints, youreallywant and my Jewish community them to work it out before interests," he said. coming inwith their requests," JTA Washingtoncorrespon- he said. dent Matthew E. Berger con- Konigsberg has also served tributed to this report. Y By Matthew E. Berger WASHINGTON (JTA)-- Hearing of Sen. Paul Simon for the first time, many Ame ri- can Jews presumed he was a co-religionist, if only because of his name. Even when they learned he was the son of a Lutheran mis- sionary, most Jews quickly warmed to Simon because they agreed with the late senator's convictions. The Illinois Democrat, who served in the Senate from 1985 to 1997, died Tuesday from complications of heart sur- gery. He was 75. "He was a non-Jew that ev- ery Jew could feel comfortable wit ," said Hyman Book- binder, a former Washington representative for the Ameri- can Jewish Committee. "He came with a Jewish heart and an understanding of Jewish pain." Simon was elected to the Senate in 1985 after defeating the incumbent, Republican Charles Percy, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Percy was consid- ered anti-lsrael and had em- braced Yasser Arafat, at that time widely considered a ter- rorist as leader of the Pales- tine Liberation Organization. Simon's victory, attributed in part to American Jewish activism and finances, created a kinship between the new senator and the sizeable Jew- ish community in Chicago and around Illinois. "He was a folk hero for de- feating Percy," said Ira Forman, executive director of the National Jewish Demo- cratic Council. Bob Asher, a former presi- dent of the American Israel PublicMfairs Committee, says he still has the headline from the Chicago Sun-Times posted on the wall of his Chicago of. rice: "Landslide: Simon Beats Percy." "Paul was very optimistic and always tried to make the best of things," Asher said. "But he was realistic and un- derstood the issues Israel faces." Simon lastvisited Israel ear- lier this year, when he led a Water for Life mission for the Jewish National Fund. On Tuesday, Jewish com- munity officials in Washing- ton and Illinois remembered Simon as a strong friend of Israel who was closely aligned with Jews on domestic policy as well. Tom Dine, former execu- tive director of AIPAC, had din- ner with Simon several months ago. The retired law- maker was "his same spry, probing self," Dine said. "He was a natural political leader for the pro-Israel movement in Illinois and across the coun- try." Michael Kotzin, the execu- tive vice president of the Jew- ish Federation of Metropoli- tan Chicago, said Simon would often talk to Jewish audiences about the importance of ac- cess to fresh water, especially in the Middle East. Simon's 1998 book, "Tapped Out: The Coming World Crisis in Water and What we can do About it," quoted the late Is- raeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin as saying the Middle East would "explode" if the water crisis was not resolved. "Simon was a true friend of Israel, and many in my coun- try will remember him warmly," Danny Ayalon, Israel's ambassador to the United States, said in a state- ment. ,'He was out front on the issue of Soviet Jewry and he was known for his consis- tent ongoing support for the state of Israel." Simon was first elected to Congress in 1974, after a stint as Illinois' lieutenant gover- nor, and he served in the House of Representatives for 10 years before seeking Percy's Senate seat. Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D- Ill.) called Simon her men- tor. "Paul Simon set the stan- dard of integrity and decency for those who seek the public trust," Schakowsky said in a statement. "He always took the principled position, not the popular one, and never wa- vered in his fight on behalf of ordinaryAmericans andwork- ing families." Simon ran for president in 1988 but won only his home state. He wore his signature bow tie in nearly every cam- paign appearance. Steve Rabinowitz, a media consultant for Jewish organi- zations in Washington, trav- eled with Simon as a press aide on that campaign. "what made him stand out "is that he may have actually been the genuine article," Rabinowitz said. "You could see it in the most private mo- ments with him, he was the real thing." JTA Washington bureau chief Ron Kampeas contrib- uted to this report. photo courtesy of JNF Pat, left, and Paul Simon, center, with Scott Gendell, Chairman of JNF's Chicago Region Water Committee, at the marker commemorating Chicago's sponsorship of the Emek Heifer Reservoir in Israel in May 2003. ,1 Aviv photo courtesy of JI~F Paul Simon introduces Shimon Peres during the JNF water for Life Mission in May 2003 in TelAviv.