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

JCRC Congratulates Israel Arbeiter

Local Holocaust survivor and activist to join Presidential Delegation to Poland to commemorate liberation of Auschwitz.

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The Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Boston wishes to congratulate Israel “Izzy” Arbeiter for being chosen by President Obama to be part of a Presidential Delegation to Oświęcim, Poland to attend the 70th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau on January 27, 2015.

For over 60 years, Izzy Arbeiter, an Auschwitz-Birkenau survivor, has dedicated his life to commemorating and educating others about the Holocaust. He has stood up and spoken for the rights of survivors demanding that the world must remember what has happened, to understand why it has happened, and to identify the seeds from which hate grows.

Izzy is one of the founders of the New England Holocaust Memorial and a driving force behind Holocaust education in New England.

We congratulate Izzy on this high honor and look forward to joining him for the re-dedication of the Israel Arbiter Gallery of Understanding at The Gann Academy in Waltham, MA on February 1.

French Jews Do Not Stand Alone

Closing Comments from Jeremy Burton at Community Gathering in Support of French Jewry Held Wednesday, January 14th at Temple Beth Elohim in Wellesley, MA.

jb-podium-supporting-french-jewryWe thank Temple Beth Elohim for welcoming us into their home as we gather to mourn the 17 victims last week and to stand in solidarity with the French Jewish community and all of Europe’s Jews.

We have been reminded eloquently tonight that we came here to say #JeSuisJuif, and also #JeSuisAhmed, #JeSuisCharlie.

We have been reminded of the impossible choice that the French Jewish community faces, between their liberty and their safety, between staying in their homes and the society that they have lived in and embraced, some for generations and centuries, or just being able to go to the supermarket in safety.

We have been reminded of French Prime Minister Manuel Vall’s powerful words this past weekend about the treasured place that France’s Jewish community holds in their nations’ national identity.

I don’t know if Prime Minister Vall was aware that he was evoking an idea written down a thousand years ago by a French scholar in 11th century Troyes.  That man wrote, in discussing a language choice in the Bible about comings and goings:

Scripture wishes to tell [us] that the departure of a righteous person from a place is conspicuous, and makes an impression. Its splendor has turned away; its majesty has turned away; the praise of a city has turned away.

The man who wrote those words was Rashi, one of the greatest minds and teachers in Jewish history.

And finally, we are reminded of our purpose here, as we stand in solidarity with the Jewish community of France. 

It is not our role to tell our French brethren what to do. Rather it is our job to let them know they don't stand alone in whatever choices they make.  

In this the scripture that Rashi was discussing when he wrote those words speaks as well to us tonight. From the Book of Ruth:

And Ruth said to Naomi, "Do not entreat me to leave you, to return from following you, for wherever you go, I will go, and wherever you lodge, I will lodge; your people shall be my people and your God my God.

JCRC Boston and CJP Joint Statement on events in France

We are filled with horror as the people of Paris reel from the events of this past week. We are filled with grief for those who were killed by Islamist terrorists in this latest wave of barbarism and anti-Semitism. We join with the global Jewish community, and the people of France, in condemning the attacks and in offering prayers for the seventeen victims and their families.  

The deadly attack on French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo underscores the threat that the ideology of the attackers makes to our basic democratic freedoms. Sorely underreported is the fact that the terrorist who on Friday murdered Yoav Hattab, Philippe Braham, Yohan Cohen and Francois-Michel Saada z”tl said that he deliberately “was targeting Jews.” This comes amidst a wave of anti-Semitic violence targeting Jews – especially in Europe - in recent years, a result, in part, of demonization of Israel including by some in positions of authority. 

In the face of these horrifying acts we stand with the people of France and all decent people in the struggle against an extremist, supremacist ideology that is filled with hatred and backed by violence. At the same time, as we mourn the loss of Police Officer Ahmed Merabet who gave his life at Charlie Hebdo, and as we honor the heroism of Lassana Bathily who saved many lives at the Hyper Cacher market, 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.  

We call upon all the people of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts to join us in condemning these barbaric attacks and to make their voices heard in defense of freedom and in rejection of Islamist extremism.

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Jeremy Burton
Executive Director, JCRC

Barry Shrage
President, CJP

From the Jewish Council for Public Affairs, the national network of JCRCs across the nation, this statement today

JCPA Stands with Paris

NEW YORK – Just two days after the terrorist attack by Islamic extremists on French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo, a gunman took several people hostage at a kosher supermarket in Paris. The Jewish Council for Public Affairs (JCPA) expresses its support for the French community, horror and anger at these acts of terrorism, and sorrow for all the innocent lives senselessly lost in these attacks.

"Today, as French Jews were preparing for the Jewish Sabbath, our worst fears were realized as a gunman took hostages at a kosher supermarket as another hostage situation unfolded on the outskirts of the city," said JCPA President Rabbi Steve Gutow. "Barbaric acts of violence like those seen in Paris this week affect individuals of all faiths and backgrounds, as seen by the victims of the attack at the Charlie Hebdo offices, which included Muslim, Jewish, and Christian victims. These events underscore an unacceptable worldwide resurgence of anti-Semitism and violent acts against Jews and others. It must stop. There is no place in a civil society for such brutal intimidation and violence. We mourn with all the people of Paris for the victims of these attacks. We stand by the Paris Jewish community and all the inhabitants of France at this difficult moment and offer our prayers for peace and restoration of calm and security for all in the city."

"Our world deserves better than runaway extremism and vicious hate,” said JCPA Chair Susan W. Turnbull. “We must tolerate one another - but we will not tolerate hatred, anti-Semitism, and violence. The situation we witnessed in France is unacceptable anywhere. We pray for all who have been the innocent victims of these crimes against humanity. We call on every responsible civic leader at home and abroad to denounce these acts and take a categorical stand against this runaway extremism and violence - and the anti-Semitism that too often fuels it."

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JCPA, the public affairs arm of the organized Jewish community, serves as the national coordinating and advisory body for the 16 national and 125 local agencies comprising the field of Jewish community relations.

JCRC of Greater Boston Announces 9th Annual Holocaust Essay Contest

Open to Grades 6-12; Honors Holocaust Survivor and Activist
Israel Arbeiter

(BOSTON) - The Jewish Community Relations Council (JCRC) of Greater Boston has announced that entries are being accepted for the 9th annual Israel Arbeiter Holocaust Essay Contest. Deadline for entries is February 23, 2015.

The theme for this year’s contest is Liberation: From Darkness to Light. Students in grades 6 -12 in Greater Boston are invited to write a 400–800 word essay, to be judged on originality, knowledge, style and depth.

Students are asked to reflect on the following quote from Elie Wiesel, Nobel Peace laureate and holocaust survivor:

“I swore never to be silent whenever and wherever human beings endure suffering and humiliation. We must always take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented.”

Essays should address the following: Why do you think it is important not to be silent when humans endure suffering? Do you agree or disagree with Elie Wiesel that we must always take sides in this matter? Why or why not? Discuss a time in your life when you took a side, or you wish you had taken a side, when you witnessed an injustice.

Winners will receive a trip to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington D.C.

Contest entries should be sent to Ellen Kaye at moc.l1422598781iamg@1422598781stnev1422598781e.eya1422598781ke1422598781, or mail to JCRC, 126 High St, Boston, MA 02110, along with name, address, phone number, email, birthdate, school, and grade.

The essay contest is part of JCRC’s broader Holocaust Awareness initiative, which includes a Community Holocaust Commemoration of Yom HaShoah. This year’s commemoration will be held on Sunday, April 12 at Faneuil Hall in Boston.

The contest is being coordinated by the Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Boston, Combined Jewish Philanthropies, Facing History and Ourselves, the American Association of Jewish Holocaust Survivors and Descendants of Greater Boston, and many generous donors.

About Israel “Izzy” Arbeiter

Israel “Izzy” Arbeiter is a Holocaust survivor and lifelong rights activist who lost several family members including both of his parents in the Holocaust. For Izzy, the nightmares – and the struggle for justice - have continued for over 60 years. He has carried his message nationwide and internationally, raising funds for the National Holocaust Museum and the Boston Holocaust Memorial, testified against Nazi war criminals, and on behalf of victims’ families before Congressional committees. As a guest of the German Government, Izzy addressed members of Parliament and spoke at town meetings – often to Germans who had never met a Jew. His commitment to "tikkun olam" (healing the world) on many levels is legendary.

About Jewish Community Relations Council

JCRC defines and advances the values, interests and priorities of the organized Jewish community in greater Boston in the public square. Visit us at www.jcrcboston.org.

Thank you, Governor Patrick

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As the Commonwealth of Massachusetts prepares for new leadership on Beacon Hill, it is also a time for reflection and appreciation. When Governor Deval Patrick takes his lone walk down the steps of the State House on January 7th, he will be remembered as a great friend and supporter of the Greater Boston Jewish community.

The Governor clearly laid out his principles when he first ran for office: generational responsibility, social justice, and investments in our individual and communal futures. He made it clear that “we do not have to agree on everything to work on anything.” That vision and perspective laid the framework for eight years of successful collaboration between his administration and the Jewish community.

The priorities of the Jewish Community Relations Council (JCRC) and Governor Patrick often complemented each other in the public square. We stood with the Governor as he personally rallied support to defeat efforts finally to put marriage equality on the ballot, thereby enshrining the principle that civil rights would not be put up to a popular vote and that marriage is a right belonging to all of us. We were equally proud to stand shoulder to shoulder with Governor Patrick and other leaders in the faith community to offer temporary sanctuary for migrant children entering the United States without family.

We worked together to expand coverage and reign in the costs of health care in the Commonwealth; to increase the minimum wage; to increase funding for youth jobs; and to create and pass stronger gun violence prevention legislation.

It was also a tremendous source of pride for our community when the Governor made two trips to Israel to build upon the many strong connections between the business and academic communities of Israel and Massachusetts. Due to his leadership, MassChallenge and MassChallenge Israel are working to develop deeper economic ties between the growing healthcare, biotechnology and tech sectors in Israel and Massachusetts, and starting this year, we will finally have direct flights to Israel from Boston.

Governor Patrick exhibited superb governance during times of crisis and there is no better example than his steadfast leadership in the face of the Boston Marathon attack. His steady hand and his compassion guided the City and the Commonwealth. His remarks at the interfaith gathering with President Obama – when the Governor called us all to unite in our shared civic faith – provided the unifying and healing moment we all needed

We share Governor Patrick’s commitment to family, community and social justice. For that, and for all you have achieved, we say thank you for your service so far to the Commonwealth.

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Jeremy Burton
Executive Director, JCRC

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Jill Goldenberg

President, JCRC

Boston city councilor sees Israel in a new light

This Op ed originally published in The Jewish Advocate

On Thursday morning Dec. 18, I returned from a very moving and educational trip to Israel that was organized by the Boston Jewish Community Relations Council ( JCRC). Joining me on what was officially called the “Israel Study Trip” were JCRC staff and over a dozen elected officials from across Massachusetts, including fellow city councilors and state representatives. Together we traveled across the country meeting with Members of the Knesset, community leaders, and activists. Some of our most powerful experiences were exploring the Jewish and Christian holy sites. I felt blessed to be able to say Kaddish for my father at the Kotel on his 15th Yahrzeit.

As a group we toured Yad Vashem and heard the stories of Holocaust survivors. Despite my three prior trips to the country, twice with my family, and once on Birthright, this was a truly unique experience. The itinerary that Jeremy Burton and his staff at JCRC created for us provided a broad view of Israel and its current political, cultural, and economic climate.

For my colleagues who had never been to Israel (and I believe I was the only participant who had been before), this was an eye-opening experience – a rare opportunity to get beyond the headlines and learn more about a country and a region that we often see only on the news.

Full Op ed available at www.TheJewishAdvocate.com