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The D.C. Tenants Advocacy Coalition (TENAC) is the only organization in D.C. that claims to represent the rights of all tenants on a variety of issues. While groups like the Latino Economic Development Corporation, Mi Casa, and Housing Counseling Services do direct tenant organizing, education, and policy work, TENAC primarily serves as a megaphone, hosting well-attended candidate forums and testifying at most every hearing that has anything to do with renters rights.
Which is why a recent email blast seemed incongruous:
AN URGENT BIBLICAL MESSAGE
FOR THE ISRAELI GOVERNMENT:
“BLESSED ARE THE PEACEMAKERS, FOR THEY
SHALL BE CALLED THE CHILDREN OF GOD”
The defiant press release describes the work of TENAC’s Israeli webmaster, Kobi Snitz, who runs the site from Israel and has apparently been “shot at, fined, jailed, and constantly harassed” for his peace activism. “TENAC is outraged at these actions,” i reads. “We strongly support his efforts to secure peace there. We also support the outstanding work of the North American Rabbis for Peace in Israel, who are engaged in the same hard, dangerous work.”
What interest does a D.C. tenants rights group have in advocating for peace in the Middle East? TENAC leader Jim McGrath, who is retired from a career working at the Library of Congress, says that he has indeed been getting some flak from members—but that they’re not stopping anytime soon.
“We say too bad,” McGrath told Housing Complex. “If you have your number one person who runs your web, if you can’t go to bat to that person, you better fold up your tent.”
TENAC, which seems to be registered as a tenants association, operates on a shoestring budget of around $2,000 a year. Still, McGrath pushes relentlessly for tenants rights—Councilmember Jim Graham got the idea for the recently-passed Tenant Organization Petition Standing Act at a TENAC meeting—and to strengthen rent control. And McGrath says there’s a direct correlation between affordable housing in the District and bulldozed houses in Gaza.
“We have a loud voice here on tenant rights and the like,” he says. “Tenants rights begs the whole rights question. This is a civil rights question in Israel.”