Americans woke up this morning to find that the government shutdown was over before it really started. The budget deal including many things, but one issue of particular importance to Agudath Israel was a measure that enhances the ability of houses of worship and religious schools to apply for FEMA-administered disaster aid. Kudos to our man in DC, Rabbi Abba Cohen for working tirelessly on this issue for many years and especially for his work over the last few weeks, leading the effort on changing the religious school language. In his own words, “With this change, they will no longer be unfairly treated as ‘second class citizens’ in regard to disaster relief aid.

In other advocacy-related news, a video of highlights from Rabbi Yeruchim Silber’s testimony in Albany can be viewed here and Rabbi Hillel Anton of St. Louis delivered testimony (his own and that of Rabbi Shlomo Soroka) on a scholarship tax credit funded education savings account bill in Missouri. Agudath Israel’s efforts on expanding state incentives for contributions to 529 plans so that they can be used for K-12 expenses was discussed in this Hamodia story.

Rabbi Zwiebel and I began the week in South Bend following an inspiring weekend (see here) which was one of two “Shabbos of Chizuk” programs we hosted, the other taking place in Atlanta. We then traveled to Florida together with others from our national office to participate in Agudath Israel of Florida’s 20th anniversary dinner. The event celebrated Rabbi Moshe Matz’s many accomplishments including playing a key advocacy role in ensuring that Florida’s Jewish day school families could fully participate in the state’s school choice programs which have generated tens of millions of scholarship dollars for those families.

Finally, our newest branch in Colorado co-hosted  a non-profit tax law seminar this week.