The Jewish community relations field has been around for a long time. JCRCs across the nation were by and large founded in the mid 1940’s. The notion was that if the volunteer leaders and executives of a diverse network of organizations could unite and speak as one with high public officials, publishers, heads of churches, etc… then we as a Jewish communal enterprise could advance our shared public agenda. The good men of the town – and it was and still is, unfortunately, largely men – would act effectively, and usually quietly and behind the scenes, on our collective behalf.
Things have changed over the years and those JCRCs that have adapted with the times have thrived. Here in Boston one major shift, some 18 years ago, was our decision to invest in interfaith multi-issue, congregation-based community organizing. Our leadership at the time rightly saw this as an opportunity and a vehicle; to broaden Jewish action on a public agenda by mobilizing the power of the masses in synagogues, while strengthening community relations by forging deep connections among those congregations and other communities, clergy, and public officials. We saw those connections bear fruit as we stood side by side with our partners in the fights to secure healthcare and marriage rights for all in Massachusetts. Congregational organizing became and continues to be a key method and “technology” in our approach to community relations work and broader impact in Boston, our commonwealth, and our country.
Today we need to adapt once more – to identify and embrace new methods and technologies that respond powerfully to the changes in our communities and in our world. Most of us are no longer “members” of traditional “brick-and-mortar” Jewish institutions, including synagogues. Identifying and “doing” Jewish is still incredibly important to folks, but we need new models and tools for involving them in collective expressions of our shared voice. Further, we’re now in a time in which public action is proliferating in new ways, including online.
So once again, JCRC is adapting.
This March, we were privileged to receive a grant from the Boston Foundation as part of their response to the current political and social environment. They focused their support on organizations working to protect the rights of immigrants and other vulnerable communities. At that time, I said that this support “will have a direct and profound impact on the participation of the Jewish community in Greater Boston at this critical time.”
As a result of that grant, this week, we launched Alert2Action, our new, easy-to-use platform that allows you to get involved in the range of campaigns we’re working on by quickly sending e-mails, calling your legislators, and speaking out on social media; all right from your smart phone. We have already built a few Alert2Action campaigns related to key dimensions of our current work and reflecting the diverse interests of our community.
- If you want to stand with our immigrant and Muslim neighbors, including taking action today in support of the Safe Communities Act which is having its legislative hearing as you receive this, click here or text IMMIGRANTS to 52886.
- If you want to stand up to discrimination against Israelis and all people, and support state legislation that would prohibit discrimination in state contracts, click here or text STAND-UP to 52866
- And if you want to advocate for smart criminal justice reform, including legislation that would reform our use of mandatory minimum sentencing, click here or text SMART REFORM to 52866
When you send a text, you will receive an immediate response with a link, allowing you to send individual emails to your elected officials. You’ll also be signed up to stay up-to-date on these campaigns and future ones, with more opportunities to take action in the weeks and months ahead.
This is a time that calls for innovation in our field. At JCRC of Greater Boston, we embrace the need for change. We have to stay nimble and responsive in a political environment that is making new and unexpected demands of all of us. And yet, some things remain constant, like advancing our collective values in the public square with one united and powerful voice. We remain committed to providing the technology that amplifies the individual voices of our community through collective action, enabling us to have more impact as we stand with our vulnerable neighbors under attack. Together, we will protect our precious democracy. All of us, together, can be a strong, connected, and empowered Jewish community. We can effectively meet the challenges of our times as we build on the foundation that the good men of Boston envisioned some 70 years ago.