Recently, Agudath Israel issued a statement expressing “deep concern and disappointment over the policy of separating the members of families who have entered the United States illegally” (a policy which the president himself then took steps to reverse). Our director of public affairs, Rabbi Avi Shafran, reflected (here) on the reactions he received to our statement and responded to the question of why the Agudah felt the need to comment on the situation at all. Just a few days later, we “applauded President Donald Trump for his decision to pull the United States out of the United Nations Human Rights Council” due to the abandonment of its mandate to protect human rights around the world.

Guided by Torah ideology, we reach out to candidates from both major political parties. This week, the Republican candidate for US Senate in New York, Chele Farley (pictured above), visited our headquarters to meet with our leadership and learn about and discuss issues important to the Orthodox community. This meeting was part of a series of meetings with New York candidates for statewide office. Similar meetings will be taking place with Agudath Israel leaders and candidates in other states as well.

Rabbi Schnall Goes to Trenton” was the title of the cover article in the Jewish Link of New Jersey – a well-deserved honor for our hardworking New Jersey director. The article reviewed many of the diverse issues addressed by Rabbi Schnall, including funding for nonpublic school students (see below for an update on the budget bill which attempts to restore nonpublic school funding for nursing, technology, busing, and security). Much of the article dealt with issues related to hostile zoning laws and other challenges facing the growing Orthodox population in the state, an issue that was also the focus of the Department of Justice’s new Place to Worship Initiative (see below for our statement about the initiative’s inaugural event and our CEO’s testimony in a potential RLUIPA case in Rockland County, NY).

This week also saw two other positive developments in the area of religious freedom. Religious college students are one step closer to enhanced religious accommodations thanks to a bill passed by the New Jersey Senate and the right to free speech  for religious healthcare facilities in California was protected by a Supreme Court ruling for which we had filed an amicus brief.