Author: JCRC

Statement from JCRC on Murder of George Floyd

We at the Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Boston are heartbroken and angered by the murder - as charged by the Hennepin County prosecutor - of George Floyd at the hands of law enforcement in Minneapolis last week. We stand with the African-American community and all communities in mourning the deaths of Mr. Floyd, Ahmed Aubery, and countless others who have lost their lives simply because of the persistent racism that afflicts our nation. Here in Boston, the organized Jewish community is in deep partnership and relationship with leaders in the Black community. We are reaching out to these friends, members of the clergy, and other civic leaders to express to them our solidarity and support and to ask them what they require of us in these difficult days.

In 2017, the JCRC Council embraced a series of principles regarding criminal justice reform, including support for policies that address and confront the racial disparities in our criminal justice system. Today and every day we reaffirm our commitment to those principles and to the urgent work of advancing justice in our country.

We will continue to update here in the coming hours and days regarding events and activities that our partners are requesting our participation and solidarity in.

 

Statement on Benjamin Netanyahu and Benny Gantz Forming a Government

The Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Boston, on behalf of our organized Jewish community, congratulates Benjamin Netanyahu and Benny Gantz on their success in forming a national unity government. It is noteworthy that the coalition includes 73 Members of Knesset, nearly two-thirds of the body. After months of caretaker governments, the new coalition will have greater authority to set national priorities during the COVID-19 crisis.

As we celebrate the vibrancy and strength of Israel’s democracy, JCRC reaffirms its commitment to the two-state solution, and in particular to those Israelis and Palestinians who inspire us by working together for a shared future and peaceful co-existence. JCRC will continue to support, validate, amplify, and celebrate the work of these peacebuilders who are creating the conditions on the ground that facilitate an eventual resolution to the conflict.

What happened to ICE detainees at Bristol?

This week, a message from Executive Director Jeremy Burton and Director of Synagogue Organizing Rachie Lewis:

You may have heard the disconcerting reports emerging from the Bristol County House of Corrections regarding events on Friday night, May 1st. Testimony from immigrant detainees in Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) detention there reports that inmates were assaulted and pepper sprayed, endangering their lives and furthering their vulnerability to COVID-19. Inmates report being told they were going to be tested for COVID-19 and instructed to pack their bags, leading them to fear that they would be thrown in solitary confinement. In this virtual press conference, you can hear the voices of people who have been detained at Bristol and were contacted by family and friends on the night of the violence.

Through our work with the Boston Immigration Justice Accompaniment Network (BIJAN – created by JCRC together with our partners), we have been connected with those detained or previously detained in Bristol and have heard first-hand their stories of ill treatment. Fortunately, our Commonwealth has an active congressional delegation and the MA Senate, members of whom have spoken out about the reports (and our Attorney General, who has started investigating). We add our voices to theirs by calling for an immediate and independent investigation with appropriate consequences.

We have heard Sheriff Hodgson’s side of the story (included in the press clip above), where he has blamed those detained for the violence. Our sources and our consistent contact with people inside detention (and, specifically in Bristol) have reported to us that they are regularly mistreated by ICE. Unfortunately, we continue to hear reports of retaliation from inside the walls of Bristol as detainees try to have their voices heard.

We invite you to join us in adding our names to the list of people amplifying the stories of those detained, who have told us about the many challenges they face in in having their voices heard – from sky-high phone call costs, to high barriers around whom one can call, to threats of retaliation of being put in solitary confinement for advocating for their safety.

We are asking Senator Warren, Senator Markey, and Congressman Kennedy to take the next step and visiting the Bristol County house of Corrections to observe and report on the conditions for themselves. Please call their offices! You can find their contact info here. Here is a sample script: “Thank you _____ for your leadership in calling for an immediate and independent investigation. Through our connections to people under ICE detention at the Bristol House of Corrections, we have heard accounts of cruel behavior by ICE before. We add our voices in support of those detained advocating for their own health and the health of the collective, and we ask that you go visit Bristol to see the conditions for yourselves.”

This moment of urgency is not happening in a vacuum. A recent joint study with research from Brown University's School of Public Health, Brandeis' Heller School, and others showed that based on modeling of transmission rates for people in immigration detention:

72% of individuals are expected to be infected by day 90 under the optimistic scenario, while nearly 100% of individuals are expected to be infected by day 90 under a more pessimistic scenario. The study also determined that, in the most optimistic scenario, coronavirus outbreaks among a minimum of 58 ICE facilities (52%) would overwhelm ICU beds within a 10- mile radius, and outbreaks among a minimum of 3 ICE facilities (3%) would overwhelm local ICU beds within a 50-mile radius over a 90-day period, provided every ICU bed were made available for sick detainees.

For many, detention at this time could become a death sentence. We continue to work toward the release of those detained and jailed through fundraising and paying bonds, through advocating for humanitarian parole, and supporting efforts by others calling for the release of many.

Grateful to be in this work with you, especially in this chaotic time,

Shabbat Shalom,

Jeremy and Rachie

JCRC Statement on Voting and Elections in a Pandemic

Embedded in JCRC’s mission is the obligation to promote an American society which is democratic, pluralistic and just. In 2019 JCRC of Greater Boston adopted principles to defend democracy, including the support of policies that (1) Identify and remove barriers to and increase voter registration and voter turnout and (2) Ensure the security and sustainability of our election system infrastructure.

The COVID-19 pandemic has further exposed the inadequacies of the American voting system and exacerbated long-standing suppressive tactics in jurisdictions across the country to ensure this fundamental right. Earlier this month, Wisconsin voters and poll workers were forced to choose between their health and their fundamental right to vote. Over a century ago, the United States Supreme Court held in Yick Wo v. Hopkins that the right to vote is “a fundamental political right, because [it is] preservative of all rights.”

Time is running out for our federal, state and local governments to act now to ensure that the rights and health of voters and pollworkers are protected in the upcoming elections and that the necessary robust infrastructure is supported and funded to increase participation. The Covid-19 pandemic demands a response to meet those needs.

JCRC supports federal, state and local policies that:

  • Expand absentee voting including no-excuse absentee voting, permanent absentee voting and other increased vote by mail options;
  • Preserve in-person voting, carefully balancing the safety of poll workers and voters, and minimizing suppressive tactics.
  • Expand early voting options.

In addition, JCRC calls for immediate federal action and funding for needed support of state and local elections, implementation of these reforms, and the United States Postal Service’s capacity and solvency to meet the increased demands from the COVID-19 pandemic.

Staying Proximate from a Distance

This week, a message from Executive Director Jeremy Burton and Director of Synagogue Organizing Rachie Lewis:

In this unprecedented time, many of us are figuring out what work and community look like from our homes and from safe distances. At JCRC, as we stay connected to our colleagues and partners over zoom—often distracted by a coworker’s bookshelf, or child, or snack—we are constantly discerning: What work can and must we still do—what relationships can and must we maintain—from a distance? From the isolation of our homes? Without ways to physically gather as a collective?

As we apply those questions to our immigration accompaniment work, it has become evident that to stay true to our values, to sustain our essential work, we must also figure out how to remain connected to those detained in immigration jail even as we keep our physical distance. 

In partnership with the Boston Immigration Justice Accompaniment Network (BIJAN), we continue to free people from immigration detention, and to show up when asked. We know that jails are already atrociously unsanitary given that those incarcerated are forced into crowded living quarters and not provided with basic hygienic products. The social distancing that we know is critical to avoid community spread of COVID19 simply is not an option for them. BIJAN has been supporting those detained to publicize the dangerous and worsening conditions that all people who are incarcerated (both in immigration and criminal jails) are facing. We cannot fully stay away, because we know that ICE cannot be relied upon to take the necessary measures to ensure adequate hygienic prevention or health care for anyone who may get infected inside the walls of detention facilities. 

Our challenge is that this work has always required the opposite of hunkering down, isolating ourselves, and passively waiting. It has taken marshalling all of our resources, going everywhere we can safely go, opening doors rather than closing them, and being as proximate as possible to our friends and neighbors. 

This work has always required enormous creativity, along with a constant weighing of risk and priority. That has never been truer than in this moment. In the two weeks prior to Governor Baker’s order to shut down all non-essential business and advisory to remain at home, we succeeded in bonding out 18 people, we continued to raise money for bonds and legal support, and we figured out how to be present in whatever ways we could. Bond payers arrived at emptier ICE offices, and with their own clean pens in tow and paid bonds for those detained across the country, since many other ICE offices had been closed. Generous hosts opened their homes to individuals and families once detained, and strangers quarantined together quickly become family. Court accompaniers showed up, even as judges denied them entry, and they remained in the waiting room keeping family members company.

Now that we are staying put in our homes, we will continue to find ways to be proximate. We will write letters to let people in detention know they are not alone, we will help find legal representation, and we will continue to raise money and bond out the people we can and support for those whose hearings have been postponed. We will advocate for the release of ICE detainees, because we know that as conditions worsen inside jails, as resources are spread thinner and thinner, the situation for the detained and incarcerated will become ever more dire. This work cannot stop. It will evolve and look different, it will require more resolve and creativity, but we cannot step away now.

We hope you will join us in this work.

Shabbat Shalom,

Jeremy & Rachie

 

 

Ways to Volunteer and Take Action During Coronavirus

1. Take our Pathways to Peace Learning Series:
Now more than ever, we need to find ways to connect with our neighbors. We live in a global community where stories from around the world can unite and inspire us. Join us for Pathways to Peace: a six-part series featuring Israelis and Palestinians telling their stories of identity, friendship, and cohesion even during a time of social distance.

2. Make sure our most vulnerable populations can eat:
Food For Free is mobilizing a volunteer team to make sure our most vulnerable populations still get food. Click here if you are willing to assist in a safe way during this challenging time.

3. Help kids continue to get their school lunches:
Click here to volunteer with Boston Public Schools, packing and distributing meals. You can also donate reusable bags for families to use when picking up from meal sites by emailing .

4. Create a “Soup In A Jar” kit for our partner shelters and food pantries:
These soup mixes can be used immediately or at a later date. For more information, contact Grace Farnan, TELEM Coordinator.

5. Virtually visit with a Hebrew SeniorLife resident:
Volunteer to be paired with a resident from either Hebrew SeniorLife or 2Life Communities to chat via phone or video about anything from favorite movies and books to places you have traveled. Click here to volunteer.

6. Take ten minutes to fill out the 2020 Census Form:
You can respond online, by phone, or by mail. Census results help determine how billions of dollars in federal funding flow into states and communities each year, and can shape many different aspects of your community.

7. Father Bill's & MainSpring Homeless Shelters are looking for donations of bagged lunches, prepared meals, and cleaning supplies.

8.  Volunteer at the Greater Boston Food Bank to unpack/repack food deliveries for distribution to GBFB partner food pantries and meals programs.

9. Write a letter to someone in immigrant detention
We continue to support our neighbors in immigration detention who are struggling from a lack of resources and care at this time. If you’d like to write letters to those we are supporting with BIJAN, please contact Rachie Lewis.

10. Help the Harvard Graduate Students Union (HGSU) meet the needs of students, student workers, staff, and the entire university community during this difficult pandemic.

11. Sign this petition to demand an immediate moratorium on all evictions in MA to protect residents with few resources or safety net and to prevent the escalation of the pandemic.

12. Be part of our Fund-a-Need campaign launching next week: 
You can help fund various program efforts by donating now, and your donation will be included in our campaign.

13. Grocery shop for 2Life Community residents:
Residents are looking for people to help them buy groceries. They'll provide you with money and you'll purchase their pre-selected items at the grocery store and drop the groceries at the front door of the building for the residents to pick up. Click here to volunteer.

14. Contact your legislators:
Click here to ask your state legislators to co-sponsor HD 4951, an Act to Provide Short Term Relief to Families in Deep Poverty. HD 4951 would provide immediate one-time supplemental cash assistance to 30,000 families in Massachusetts hit especially hard by the pandemic.

15. Volunteer at Hebrew SeniorLife:
Hebrew SeniorLife needs volunteers to take shifts on their eight different campuses to perform onsite screening temperature checks. The sites are located in Brookline, Roslindale, Revere, Dedham, Canton, and Randolph. Protective gear will be provided, along with appropriate safety training. Prospective, healthy volunteers who are comfortable with physical proximity should contact Lynda Bussgang.

16. Donate blood:
Due to severe blood shortage, donors are urgently needed. For those allowed to do so, make an appointment to donate at Boston Children's Hospital.

17. Donate food to Hayley House:
Donate non-perishable food or sanitizing items, or send them items from their Amazon Charity Lists.

CJP, JCRC Mourn Passing of Stephan Ross, NE Holocaust Memorial Founder

Steve Ross (center) with his son Mike

It is with deep sadness we write to inform you about the loss of Steve Ross (z”l) who passed away last night. Steve’s enduring strength, humanity, and commitment to conveying the lessons of his experience in the Holocaust to all who would hear him, were a gift we will cherish always. His legacy will live on through the New England Holocaust Memorial and through the lives of all he touched. May his memory be for a blessing. The funeral will be held tomorrow, Wednesday, February 26th, at 1pm at Temple Emeth in Brookline.

Rick Mann, longtime chair of the Yom HaShoah Program and the New England Holocaust Memorial Committee, wrote this moving tribute for Steve:
 
It is with profound sadness that I write to inform you of the loss of our beloved Steve Ross.

Were it not for Steve, there were would be no NE Holocaust Memorial, pure and simple. The Memorial was Steve’s dream. His indelible, permanent message not just to New England, but to the world. It was his intent to create a sacred place of remembrance for the six million souls murdered by the Nazis, including his parents, brother and five sisters. A place to stand as a beacon of light in the darkness of the horror that was the Holocaust. A place for reflection and for learning.

He pursued his dream with a limitless passion that turned skeptics into believers and converted both secular and religious community leaders into staunch advocates.

Among those advocates was then Boston Mayor Ray Flynn who, with Steve at his side, saw to it that the Memorial would reside in one of Boston’s most visible locations, along the Freedom Trail across from Boston City Hall.

It is here that hundreds if not thousands pass every day through its six gleaming towers and, whether they know it or not, bear witness to the unfathomable perseverance of one man and his dream… Steve Ross. But what else would you expect from a man who, as an eight-year-old boy was imprisoned by the Nazis, endured five years of horror in ten different concentration camps, and survived to build a life of meaning, love and caring for others in his adopted country.

The world is diminished today with the loss of Steve Ross. But Steve’s memory and his legacy live on in his wonderful son and daughter and grandchild and in the Memorial that will serve as an everlasting symbol of remembrance for generations to come.

On a personal level, I will always cherish my years of friendship with this most unique human being. A survivor who built a life from the ashes of the Shoah, coming to this country with nothing, learning a new language, becoming a professional and devoting his career to helping  at-risk youth. But most of all, I will always recall the way he would greet me with the most effusive hug, plant a kiss on my cheek and say, "You’re a beautiful, loving man." Of course, it was Steve who was the beautiful, loving man.

May his memory be a blessing.

Marc Baker, CJP President and CEO
Jeremy Burton, JCRC Executive Director 

With Governor Baker at the rededication of the NE Holocaust Memorial

With Governor Baker at the rededication of the NE Holocaust Memorial

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With Holocaust survivors Anna and Israel Arbeiter

JCRC to Name Scott Gilefsky as First Vice President of Board of Directors

JCRC is pleased to announce that longtime JCRC leader Scott Gilefsky has accepted our Governance Committee’s nomination as the First Vice President of JCRC. We look forward to presenting his nomination to the Council for election this spring.

“I am energized and humbled to serve as First Vice President at JCRC next year," Scott commented. "I am excited to work with Jeremy, the Board, the Council, and our community partners in support of JCRC's mission: to educate and advocate on issues of vital importance to the organized Jewish community based on consensus, civility, and an expanded commitment to living Jewish values of social justice. I look forward to addressing the challenges that our community will face next year and the years to follow. JCRC is well positioned to meet such challenges.”

Pursuant to our bylaws, this nomination anticipates that Scott Gilefsky will be nominated and elected as the next president of JCRC in 2021, succeeding Stacey Bloom.

Scott has served as JCRC treasurer and chair of the Finance committee, as well as on the Israel Engagement, Strategic Planning, and Public Policy committees. He first became involved with JCRC as a community representative on the Council in 2010 and became a board member the following year.

Scott's engagement in the Jewish community goes well beyond JCRC. He serves on Combined Jewish Philanthropies (CJP)'s audit committee and is the former chair of the Young Leadership Division and their Kadimah Leadership Training. He was a co-chair for two CJP missions to Israel and the CJP Lawyers & Accountants Dinner, and he received CJP's 2010 Community of Excellence Award.

“I look forward to welcoming Scott as my successor as JCRC president next June,” said current President Stacey Bloom. “I have had the privilege of working with Scott for the last decade—in his many JCRC roles—as a board member, committee chair, and officer. Scott's commitment to JCRC's work, his ability to build strong relationships, and his insight into the challenges and opportunities ahead make him the leader to bring our community together.”

Jonathan Klein, chair of the Governance Committee, remarked, "Scott is a dedicated leader who has been involved in many of the key decisions within JCRC. His commitment to our community’s values will guide the organization, both lay and professional, over the next several years.”

Scott is a partner in Ernst & Young’s East Region Indirect Tax practice and leads the firm’s Connecticut State and Local Tax Practice. He is on the Advisory Board for the New England State and Local Tax Forum and has been a speaker at many seminars and conferences sponsored by Practising Law Institute, the Tax Executives Institute, and the Boston Bar Association, among others. He has written articles for the Boston Business Journal, Massachusetts Continuing Legal Education and the Massachusetts Bar Association Lawyers Journal.

Scott is a member of Temple Beth Shalom in Needham, and a coach in Needham Youth Soccer. He is on the Stan Arnold Scholarship Fund committee as part of his work with the New England State and Local Tax Forum.

MA Rabbis Letter in Support of the Safe Communities Act

January 24th, 2020

Senator Michael O. Moore
Chairman, Joint Committee on Public Safety and Homeland Security
State House, Room 109-B
Boston, MA 02113

Representative Harold P. Naughton
Chairman, Joint Committee on Public Safety and Homeland Security
State House, Room 167
Boston, MA 02113

Honorable Chairs and Members of the Joint Committee on the Judiciary:

Thank you for the opportunity to submit testimony in support of the Safe Communities Act (S.1401 and H.3573). We, the undersigned rabbis, urge your support of this vital legislation. This comprehensive bill would end state and local participation in federal immigration enforcement and ensure the wise use of our public resources.

Our communities have become increasingly concerned by the fear we are hearing from our immigrant neighbors and organizational partners. We have heard our neighbors, coworkers, and friends tell us that, amidst the heightened, hateful rhetoric and cruel federal policies, they are afraid to drive, to send their kids to school, to seek healthcare, to stay enrolled in necessary service programs. Even food pantries have seen a drop-off in clients. There is deep fear that any encounter with authorities, any service that requires a name and i.d., will lead to deportation by ICE.  Fear injures, it stunts growth and it isolates. As people of faith, as residents of Massachusetts, as Americans, and as humans, we are not in the business of seeding fear.

Many in our Jewish community have benefited from the blessings of life in America after our parents and grandparents immigrated here in the early 20th Century fleeing persecution. Whether they came with or without documentation, our families moved through this country freely, figuring out how to make lives for themselves and their children out of the ashes of persecution. In so doing, they contributed a great deal of labor, love and creativity to this country.

Immigrants of all stripes, from all countries, in all times, deserve the same chance. For at our core, we are all human beings. And at the very least, we all deserve to live free from fear. As Jews, the commandment we see more than any other in our holy texts is to love and care for the stranger, for wanderers who face immense challenges – to stand in solidarity and make it clear to our neighbors, our loved ones, that they are not alone.

And it is in that spirit we support S. 1401 and H.3573. Our tax dollars should in no way be put toward any kind of local law enforcement collaboration with federal immigration enforcement. We must take action to ensure that our local police and courts are not involved in civil deportations,; and we must take action to guarantee basic rights for immigrants who are detained in our jails or lockups

Policies of local/State and Federal enforcement collaboration deepen distrust between immigrant communities and law enforcement. When police and sheriffs become immigration agents, victims and witnesses of crime, including victims of domestic violence, do not come forward to cooperate with law enforcement. The New York Times reported a sharp downturn in reports of sexual assault and domestic violence among Latinos throughout the country since the presidential election, attributed to fears of deportation. It is unacceptable that people in imminent danger do not feel able to reach out for the support they need.

We support the recent adoption of the Boston Trust Act and other such local provisions which protect our communities, but a patchwork of inconsistent local ordinances and policies is not enough. The Safe Communities Act is based on tried and true community policing policies that cultivate community confidence in law enforcement. Massachusetts needs to send a powerful message to immigrant state residents that our state and local government serves and protects all law-abiding state residents, regardless of their immigration status. We all deserve a chance to contribute to this country and be free from fear.

I urge you to report this bill favorably out of committee for consideration by the full state legislature.

Sincerely,

Rabbi Neal Gold, President, Massachusetts Board of Rabbis
Rabbi Michael Rothbaum - Congregation Beth Elohim, Acton
Rabbi Elaine Zecher – Temple Israel, Boston

Rabbi Bernard Mehlman - Temple Israel, Boston
Rabbi Jen Gubitz - Temple Israel, Boston
Rabbi Suzie Jacobson - Temple Israel, Boston
Rabbi Ronne Friedman - Temple Israel, Boston
Rabbi Victor Reinstein - Nehar Shalom Community Synagogue, Boston
Rabbi Shoshana Meira Friedman – Boston
Rabbi Becky Silverstein – Boston
Rabbi Jim Morgan, Hebrew Senior Life, Boston
Rabbi Andrew Vogel - Temple Sinai, Brookline
Rabbi Daniel Schaeffer - Temple Ohabei Shalom, Brookline
Rabbi Shira Shazeer, Metrowest Jewish Day School, Framingham
Rabbi David Lerner – Temple Emunah, Lexington
Rabbi Julie Bressler – Temple Beth Shalom, Needham
Rabbi Shahar Colt – Congregation Dorshei Tzedek, Newton
Rabbi Daniel Berman - Temple Reyim, Newton
Rabbi Michael Shire, Phd. - Hebrew College, Newton
Rabbi Laura Abrasely - Temple Shalom, Newton
Rabbi Ora Weiss- Newton, MA
Rabbi Lev Friedman, Newton, MA
Rabbi Joseph B. Meszler - Temple Sinai, Sharon
Rabbi David Jaffe - Kirva Institute, Sharon
Rabbi Randy Kafka -Temple Kol Tikvah, Sharon
Rabbi Eliana Jacobowitz – Temple B’nai Brith, Somerville
Rabbi Seth Wax – Williamstown