Agudath Israel of Illinois Executes Successful Springfield Mission

In the pre-dawn hours on Wednesday May 8th, Agudath Israel of Illinois embarked on its annual full-day mission to the Illinois State Capitol.

With almost 50 participants, this year’s mission led by Rabbi Shlomo Soroka, Director of Government Affairs, was one of the largest ever. The mission’s delegates reflected a broad cross section of Illinois’ Orthodox Jewish population: community and lay leaders, rabbis, and representatives of the various Jewish organizations and day schools. The group included both men and women of varying ages and backgrounds.

Skokie ResidentsWest Rogers Park & Lincolnwood ResidentsPeterson Park & Albany Park ResidentsEvanston Residents

“Being involved in these missions makes a real difference,” explains Rabbi Sammy Joseph. “It's difficult for people to understand how much goes on behind the scenes of lawmaking, but seeing everything come to life in Springfield is incredible." First-time mission attendee Mr. Adam Rosenberg describes, “Getting a front row seat and witnessing the discourse between Rabbi Soroka and our elected officials left me inspired to seek out ways to get more involved with Agudah's political work and shtadlanus on behalf of the Klal. I hope to return in the future.”

The group spent the day between concurrent meetings with many legislators while also joining together for key meetings with Governor JB Pritzker, Senate Minority Leader John Curran, House Minority Leader Tony McCombie and Illinois Emergency Management Agency Director Alicia Tate-Nadeau.

The legislative agenda this year included four main items: The Invest in Kids Act (STC), school transportation, security grants, and a bill requiring religious dietary accommodations in schools that Agudah has been instrumental in lobbying for, known as “Faith by the Plate”.

While the Invest in Kids Act does not get fully repealed until January 1st, 2025, the funding mechanism for the coming school year has already expired. This leaves 15,000 children who currently not only benefit from the program, but rely on it, in a state of limbo and potentially even crisis.  

The delegation enjoyed a very productive meeting with Governor Pritzker in which they discussed ways to protect children that rely on this program and reinforced the hope that a deal could come to fruition before the end of session. Governor Pritzker was also open and eager to discuss AIOI’s other legislative agenda issues, including the disturbing global and local rise in antisemitism and security grant funding. He also expressed his support for the school transportation grant.  

The group’s lunch reception with the Illinois Emergency Management Agency (IEMA) was productive in discussing both the federal and state Non-Profit Security Grant Programs (NSGP, IL-NSGP). Director Alicia Tate-Nadeau and her colleague Bob Evans shared helpful information and guidance for organizations to obtain and utilize the funding more effectively.  

It was a long but fulfilling day for all those who participated. Many participants commented on how impactful and influential the mission was, especially when viewed from behind the scenes. One first-time mission participant commented, “The way AIOI has its finger on the pulse of such a large range of legislative representatives and matters, and so skillfully navigates the personalities, agendas, and the overall environment, is a work of art.”

Agudath Israel welcomes individuals who wish to volunteer and get more involved, especially as the pressing need to speak up for our communal needs during challenging times grows.

By: Beth Perkel