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Jewish leaders meet with Democratic senators

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WASHINGTON (JTA) — Leaders of 18 Jewish organizations met with Democratic U.S. senators on Capitol Hill.

The Jewish leaders on Wednesday outlined their priorities to the 22 senators on hand for at least a portion of the one-hour meeting, which was organized by the Democratic Steering and Outreach Committee and chaired by Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.).

Rabbi Steve Gutow of the Jewish Council for Public Affairs focused on climate change and the environment; Ken Jacobson of the Anti-Defamation League discussed hate-crimes legislation; AIPAC’s Howard Kohr discussed Iran and security progress in the West Bank; and David Harris of  the American Jewish Committee criticized elements of President Obama’s Cairo speech and discussed the U.S.-Israel relationship.

Each prefaced their remarks by saying that Iran was the most critical issue for the community. The senators then called on representatives of other groups, who brought up health care and other matters.

One participant said that Sen. Carl Levin (D-Mich.) told the group that its help was still needed to pass legislation expanding federal government involvement in investigating hate crimes. Both houses of Congress have passed the legislation, but it still faces a conference committee.

Also, the participant said, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) called Israel “our best friend in the world.” The participant said, though, that most of the meeting was devoted to Jewish leaders providing their views instead of hearing the opinions of the senators.

Stabenow’s committee has held similar meetings with Jewish organizations the past two years.

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