Establishing relationships with your elected officials is the most effective way to communicate the depth of support for Israel among their own constituents. As developments in the region pose new questions and challenges, Members of Congress should hear the views of their own pro-Israel constituents. There are multiple ways to put issues on a Member’s radar screen and having an issue raised by different constituents in a range of venues demonstrates local support to Members of Congress and their staff.
There is no substitute for a Member of Congress hearing from constituents who embody local support for strong U.S.-Israel relations. Regular visits when Members are home in their Districts and ongoing contact and engagement make even a small constituency more visible and significant. Prior to each Congressional recess, contact the District Scheduler of your Senators and Representatives to schedule meetings with the Members to discuss current developments.
The literally thousands of town hall meetings convened across the country in each session of Congress provide another vehicle to convey the personal importance of support for Israel in their community. Contact the District Offices of your Congressional Delegation to find out how you can be notified of upcoming town hall, “tele-town hall” or other community meetings in your area. It might facilitate a more in depth and productive discuss if you notify a Member’s staffer in advance if you plan to raise an Israel-related issue. Connect with the Member’s staff at the meeting so that you can follow up with them after the event.
While a face-to-face meeting is most effective, Congressional staff monitor the number of letters received in support of or in opposition to an issue. Letters on policy issues should be sent to the Member’s Washington office. Faxing or emailing a scanned copy of a letter is preferable for contact regarding fast moving legislation since increased security procedures have caused delay in mail delivery to Capitol Hill.
To a Senator:
The Honorable (first and last name)
United States Senate
Washington, DC 20510
Dear Senator ---:
To a Representative:
The Honorable (first and last name)
United States House of Representatives
Washington, DC 20515
Dear Representative ---:
Congressional offices increasingly process and respond to constituent e-mail, especially if it is personalized as opposed to a cookie cutter message. Be sure to include your home address and indicate that you live in the Member’s district and use the same guidelines as you would for crafting a letter.
Calls convey a heightened sense of urgency and are only warranted when legislative action is imminent. Congressional offices keep a tally of calls to gauge public sentiment in their district. Be prepared to supply your address to verify that you live in the district. Call the Capitol switchboard, (202) 225-3121, to connect to your Member’s office.
Members of Congress welcome opportunities to speak at community meetings or other events. Host forums and voter education/ registration initiatives with candidates to educate them about your concerns.
Getting to know the Congressional staff in the district and in Washington is vital in facilitating ongoing communication with the Member of Congress and impacting policy. Congressional aides frequently meet with constituents while Members are called to vote or to attend committee hearings and meetings. Not only are they the Member’s eyes and ears and help shape how a Member votes, but staffers often move on to leadership positions themselves. Staffers provide a vital link in facilitating ongoing communication with the Member of Congress. Take these meetings seriously and communicate your message clearly.
The best relationships with officials are those which began in their early careers in state and local offices. Today's candidate for City Council may be tomorrow's Senator. Although these officials and candidates focus on local issues, they can be important voices in support of Israel in the community and beyond.