What Are We to Do About It?

Last Friday, I wrote about Boston’s resiliency in the face of this winter. Today I’m thinking about another kind of resiliency – the kind we need in the face of attacks on Jews around the world.

The week began with the horrific attack in Copenhagen and the murder of two Danes, including one Jew, Dan Uzan, of blessed memory, as he guarded a synagogue. In the days that followed, we absorbed news of anti-Semitic desecration of cemeteries in France, Germany and New Zealand and a wave of swastikas on homes in Madison, Wisconsin. Of course, all of this comes after last months’ Hyper Cacher murders in Paris and the torture of Israeli tourists in Argentina.

The pace of this news can be overwhelming and it is all too tempting to throw up our arms and ask ourselves what we are to do about it.

The plain truth is that it is easy to ask this question from the comfort of our lives in Boston. Sure, we are susceptible to targeting and attacks such as those we saw in Madison and in deadly cases like the Kansas City JCC last year but by and large, we don’t live with the perpetual fears and anxieties that our brothers and sisters face elsewhere. We don’t think twice of walking into a kosher market, of standing in front of our synagogue catching up with friends, or wearing obvious indicators of our Jewishness in public.

In the history of the world, no Jewish community has been as safe, privileged, and confident to live our lives fully as citizens as we are today as Americans.

With that privilege comes a responsibility: to speak out when Argentina denies the role of Iran in the AMIA bombing and to speak out when journalists, politicians and human rights activists deny or excuse anti-Semitism by blaming it on Jews or Israel. Or when leaders in our own country – from a noble desire not to demonize nations and faiths as a whole– hedge on naming the targeting of Jews as such.

So how can we make our voices heard?

We can make it impossible to ignore what is happening. We can make our voices heard on behalf of Jews around the world. One JCRC board member tells me she has made a commitment to post every reported incident of anti-Semitism on her Facebook page! We need at least a million American Jews who take actions like this.

There are many great resources for doing this, such as sharing videos like this one from The Israel Project.

We can make sure that the world understands that it matters what American Jews think; that we have influence and do impact the course of our nation’s priorities in the world. We can make sure our elected leaders understand the urgency of this issue and that it matters that they prioritize these issues on our international agenda. We can make sure that foreign embassies and consulates know that the way in which their nations address these issues impacts how they are perceived by the American public.

This Sunday, February 22 at 1pm, The Argentinian Jewish Relief Committee of Greater Boston, JCRC and several of our members invite you to Stand for Justice for the victims of the AMIA bombing. Please join us at Boston University, 8 St. Mary’s Place room 206 and help us tell the world that the targeting of Jews and the absence of justice matters.

Sure, taking actions like these can be uncomfortable and will invite challenging conversations with some of our friends, but given what we’ve seen Jewish communities in other countries deal with this week, feeling uncomfortable is the least we can do for them.

Shabbat Shalom,

Jeremy

Jewish Community at Forefront of Inclusion Advocacy

With February being Jewish Disability Awareness Month (JDAM), we are reminded that the Jewish community continues to be at the forefront of promoting the righteous obligation for inclusion, whether through the high quality of services and programs run by our agencies, the families and people with disabilities who are thriving or the countless volunteers who pitch in their time and resources to create a more open and accessible community.

Yet, for many families and people with disabilities, societal attitudes and limited public resources have created additional obstacles and saddled too many people with financial and emotional barriers where instead opportunity should abound.

JDAM presents us an opportunity to highlight the talents, personalities and sometimes untapped potential of people with disabilities and provides a platform to shine a light on laws and regulations that need to be updated, services that need to be expanded and expectations that need to be readjusted.

The Jewish Community Relations Council (JCRC) works to bring our community’s values, perspectives and expertise to the public square to effect change and promote dialogue. Over the past several years, our Government Affairs team, including our newly formed Disability Advocacy Committee, has played a key role with our state leaders and federal delegation, testifying on behalf of bills, advocating for familial supports and innovative program and working in collaboration with other leading voices.

This year also marks the 25th Anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), and for the young adults of the ADA generation, it has never been a question about their own abilities, but rather the overcoming the expectations and obstacles that others have set.

We urge you to use the opportunity of Jewish Disability Awareness Month to call your elected officials, neighbors, friends, and colleagues and urge them to support efforts to make a more inclusive community and workplace. If you have a disability, speak up and let the world know that you are an important part of the workforce and that you will not be defined nor limited by anyone else’s expectations.

On Thursday, February 26th, JCRC and Massachusetts Association of Jewish Federations will honor the visionary leadership of Paul Bernon and the Ruderman Family Foundation for supporting JCRC's disability policy agenda and to Senator Dan Wolf, Representative Joe Wagner and Rita Noonan from Senate President Stanley Rosenberg's office our 18th Annual Legislative Reception at The Massachusetts State House.

If you are interested in attending or supporting this event, go to http://bit.ly/1L93MOb.

Jeremy Burton Statement on Boston Herald Article

In an article published in today’s (2/18/15) Boston Herald (Elizabeth Warren can raise stature if she stiffs Bibi), a statement was attributed to me that I did not make regarding Prime Minister Netanyahu’s address to Congress. The Herald has since updated the online version of the article to no longer suggest that I said that “[Warren] skipping the event won’t cost her.”

It is deeply unfortunate that this statement was initially attributed to me. I share the anger of those members of our community who see this quote as in any way diminishing the value of their voices in the conversation about whether members of our congressional delegation should attend the speech as an expression of respect and support for the US-Israel relationship.

What I told this reporter and what I have said often in recent weeks is that it is a vital concern of the Boston Jewish community as well as to the people of Israel that the US-Israel partnership - which our congressional delegation has historically and strongly supported – must not become a partisan issue in Washington.

Reasonable people have concerns about the timing of the Prime Minister’s address to Congress. Some will choose to attend and some will not. We are not encouraging or discouraging Senator Warren or the rest of the Massachusetts delegation from attending the speech.

I have had many discussions with Senator Warren about the Iranian nuclear threat and I know she takes these issues seriously and examines them with great thoughtfulness.  Senator’s Warren’s decision to attend or not attend Prime Minister Netanyahu’s speech to Congress next month should not be the defining factor of how her strong and ongoing support for the US-Israel relationship is perceived.

The speech, and who attends it, is not the issue. The real issue is the serious threat of a nuclear capable Iran. We cannot take this threat lightly and we need to have an honest, thoughtful discussion without partisan rhetoric or divisive actions for political gain. Regardless of the decisions individual members of our delegation make in the coming week about attendance, we look forward to working with them to ensure that the US-Israel partnership continues to be a robust one, and to examine the issues related to the Iranian threat in a fair and thoughtful way.

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Jeremy Burton
Executive Director
Jewish Community Relations Council

JCRC Condemns Fatal Attacks in Denmark

We are horrified and heartbroken by yet another act of terrorism in Europe, this time in Copenhagen. This heinous act left two people dead - one at a cafe where a seminar on freedom of expression was taking place and one outside a synagogue where a bat mitzvah was being celebrated - and wounded at least five police officers. We express our condolences to the people of Denmark and our solidarity with the Jewish community who are reeling from yet another anti-Semitic act of terror perpetrated against them. 
 
The global Jewish community will continue to stand with our brothers and sisters in Europe and elsewhere who are under attack. We affirm and demand that Jews must have the right to live freely, openly, and safely as Jews. Governments have the responsibility to protect Jewish communities, and all communities, from hate, violence, and attacks on our freedoms. We commend the government of Denmark for doing exactly this last night, providing police protection at the city’s main synagogue. We mourn the death of Dan Uzan, a volunteer security guard and member of the Danish Jewish community; his actions and those of the two injured police officers prevented a potentially much greater loss of life inside the synagogue.
 
Reports at this hour indicate that this act of terrorism may have been inspired by Islamist propaganda. We stand with all decent people in the struggle against this extremist, supremacist ideology that is filled with hatred and backed by violence. We affirm that this is a struggle against Islamist terrorism, not a struggle against the vast numbers of decent people in the global Muslim community.
 
Europe is experiencing a concerted attack on Western values, including freedom of speech, as we saw again yesterday. Those who are attacking the West are also choosing to single out Jews specifically. Anti-Semitism in all its forms is a challenge that needs to be named without equivocation and confronted directly without hesitation.
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Jeremy Burton
Executive Director, JCRC

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Jill Goldenberg
President, JCRC

What’s the real deal with Iran?

A blog post from our Executive Director, Jeremy Burton

The whole brouhaha over Prime Minister Netanyahu’s planned speech to Congress is a huge distraction. I personally think it is a terrible mistake to engage in activities that turn Israel and the Iranian challenge into a partisan football. The timing of when Congress passes sanctions - that would take effect only if negotiations fail - is a secondary concern; no, Iran won’t walk away if sanctions pass now and yes, everyone knows Congress can pass them within 24 hours if talks fail.
 
The real issue is what the P5+1 talks with Iran will produce. Will it be a deal that - as initially assured by the Obama administration - ends the threat of a nuclear Iran? If so, fantastic. This is why we support these talks; because a diplomatic resolution to this serious threat must be given every opportunity to succeed; because a diplomatic solution is far and away preferable to any other solution.
 
Or, will it be a deal that leaves Iran at or near the breakout threshold to have a nuclear weapon?
 
Will it be a deal that ends this threat, in return for sanctions relief? Or will it be one that leads to the normalization and empowerment of a rogue state that exports terrorism?
 
These are serious questions that require honest, thoughtful discussion and debate. What we don't need is partisan rhetoric and divisive actions for political gain.
 
The Washington Post’s editorial board raises three substantive reasons to be concerned about the direction of the negotiations in today’s paper (2/6/15):

  • The apparent collapse in substantive US demands on Iran.
  • Iran's empowerment by the US on a regional level, presenting a dire challenge and threat to several longtime allies.
  • The administration's move to exclude the Europeans and Congress from the negotiations.

We cannot take these concerns lightly. Let's stop the distractions and focus on the very serious implications of the current situation.

Please share widely this Washington Post editorial. 

JCRC Supports AJRC on events in Argentina

We wish to voice in the clearest terms our disquiet and alarm at the events and public discourse that have dominated Argentina in the wake of the tragic death of Prosecutor Alberto Nisman.

We join our voices to those of individuals, institutions, countries and leaders who call for a full, transparent, and independent investigation of the death of Alberto Nisman. We believe that without the utmost transparency, no vital trust in Argentina’s public institutions may be restored.

Prosecutor Alberto Nisman dedicated the last ten years of his life to the investigation of the unspeakable blast of the AMIA (Argentinean Jewish Assistance Association) building. We consider him to be one more victim of the terror attack that killed 85 innocent people 20 years ago and continues to be unsolved. We support any initiative that might assist or act to enable the judicial system of Argentina to finally bring justice to the AMIA tragedy and to clarify prosecutor Nisman’s passing. The citizens of Argentina demand and deserve to know all the truth, to see all those responsible being put to justice, and to finally resolve and close these dark chapters of their shared lives.

We deplore the state of insecurity and uncertainty that has dominated the lives of Argentineans around Prosecutor Nisman’s announced presentation to Congress and all the more as a result of his, as yet unexplained, tragic death.

Finally, we condemn the increasing number of anti-Semitic pronouncements and acts in Argentina, which lead to an atmosphere of fear and uncertainty for its many thousands of Jewish citizens.  Anti-Semitic acts of any kind should be condemned and punished by the authorities to prevent further occurrences and educate about their devastating effects.

Alberto Limonic
AJRC Founding Chair

Miguel Lessing
AJRC Chair  

Supporting organizations:

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JCRC responds to terrorist attack in Tel Aviv

We are extremely saddened and horrified by today’s terrorist attack on commuters in Tel Aviv.

We condemn Hamas' reaction to the attack—branding it "a heroic operation"—the latest example of their commitment to the path of Islamic fundamentalism and terrorism.

Those who incite terrorism must be held accountable for their actions. We fully support Israel's right to defend itself against these vicious attacks and responsibly protect her citizens from terror.

JCRC’s thoughts and prayers are with today's victims, their families, and all victims of terrorism.

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Jeremy Burton,
Executive Director, JCRC

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Jill Goldenberg,
President, JCRC

JCRC Responds to State of the Union Address

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The Jewish Community Relations Council (JCRC) of Greater Boston applauds President Obama for outlining proposals in the State of the Union that will help strengthen the middle class and invest in our economy’s workforce.

JCRC was a strong supporter of the Massachusetts Earned Sick Time Bill passed last November and we fully support the federal measure outlined last night by the President. Since sick workers who stay at home are less likely to infect their co-workers, paid sick leave creates a healthier work environment and helps prevent further productivity losses.

We share the President’s commitment to education, and to ensuring that Americans have the ability to receive a college degree and learn the skills needed to compete in a 21st century economy. Young people should be able to enter the workforce with skills that prepare them directly for good jobs with identifiable career ladders. Older workers should be able to get retrained so they can compete in an evolving economy. The steps outlined last night by the President will also ensure that more women and minorities are prepared for jobs in fields that have traditionally excluded them, like science technology, engineering and math.

JCRC shares President Obama’s hope for a diplomatic resolution to end the threat of a nuclear Iran that would present a risk to the security of the U.S. and our allies and would further destabilize the region. We welcome his reaffirmation of his commitment to keep all options on the table to achieve this goal. We are concerned by his insistence that we have halted Iran’s nuclear program given that just last week Iran announced plans to build two new reactors. While the President continues to promise a veto on congressional action in support of sanctions should diplomacy fail, we urge him to find a way to partner with Congress and to invite a bipartisan strategy both for the negotiations and in support of any deal. Doing so will ensure that any diplomatic effort is more likely to succeed and will be more durable than an agreement the administration pursues without Congress.

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Jeremy Burton
Executive Director, JCRC

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Jill Goldenberg,
President, JCRC