Author: JCRC

Tensions of our Jewish Identities and Safety

This article was originally published on the Times of Israel Blogs. 

Why do some Jewish organizations and advocates - who profess fierce loyalty and commitment to the Jewish community - sometimes end up in partnership with individuals that other members of our community see as threats to Jewish security?  

This is a question that, in some form or another, I am asked more and more of late – both by members of our community and by civic partners seeking to understand us. They wonder how champions of Israel and the Jewish future might find common cause with white nationalists. And, in the converse, they ask how others who are deeply committed to building a vibrant Jewish community might end up partnering with those who demonize and delegitimize Israel.  

To answer this question, we need to zoom out and take a broader look at how Jewish identity formation has developed since the Enlightenment period.  

It was only a few centuries ago when, in the wake of a hundred years of war between Catholics and Protestants, European thinkers offered a new form of national identity: one that defined religion as the private and personal sphere, and national identity as a collective one. You could be, they offered, fully German or French all week, and fully Catholic or Protestant on Sundays.  

For Jews, as Leora Batnitzky brilliantly articulated, there existed a new promise: if we adapted our self-identity from belonging to a distinct Jewish ethno-nation into being primarily a Jewish ”religion”’ (as defined by the Christians), then we could finally come out from the ghetto and be fully free and equal Jewish citizens of ”Enlightened” European nations.  

Flash forward to the present: There now exist two primary magnetic poles of modern Jewish identity, and each is an opposite outgrowth of this promise.  

The first, political Zionism and the construction of our own nation state, came from a fairly early recognition by Theodore Herzl and other 19th century thinkers. After observing the Dreyfus show-trial in France, they understood correctly that this Enlightened promise was just plain false. Jews would never be fully accepted as equal participants in these Western nations. Our safety and security would only come through a state of our own.  

The 20th Century validated their prophecy through the devastation and horrors of the Holocaust and other oppressions of our people. This validation underscores the compelling logic of a Jewish identity in which safety is only found outside of the promise of the European Liberal nation-state – and makes this Jewish identity both natural and rational.  

The second modern Jewish identity is rooted in the United States experience - the first new state created out of the Enlightenment. This identity derives from the promise of President Washington to the Jews, the reality of constitutional separation of Church and State, and from our narrative of prosperity in this country. We American Jews live in an Enlightened Liberal nation-state that has never expelled or eliminated its Jews. We engage as a faith community, with full freedom and equality in the workplace, civic space, and in our worship on Saturday.  

This narrative, tied up in a uniquely multi-ethnic and immigrant nation-state, binds our individualized Jewish identity to the very idea of American exceptionalism. It also only makes us more affirmed in carrying all aspects of our identity at once, Jewish and American and any others that we chose to hold.  

And herein the tension: When Jews are under attack, as we are more and more frequently these days, threatened with harm, experiencing discrimination and actual violence, these two equally valid (in the sense that they are both supported by our authentic lived experience) Jewish identities offer distinctly opposite and rational responses.  

The first identity’s voice (let’s call it Israelism) says, “antisemitism will always exist, so the only logical response is a to fight to ensure the safety and security of our own nation state and its ability to handle threats to our people”. “But if antisemitism will always exist,” says the second voice – let's call this identity Americanism – “then the only response is to double down on the freedom of all minority faith and ethnic communities in this nation, to ensure the safety of Jews by ensuring our continued national exceptionalism.”  

Some of the Jewish community’s partners who are committed to Israel’s security are also undermining American Liberal exceptionalism. Some of those working to secure our multi-ethnic gorgeous American mosaic are also threatening the legitimacy and existence of our Israeli nation-state. These facts become (quite rationally) secondary to the promise of the safety – as these Jewish identities each understand it – that those partners offer us right now.  

For me, and for most of the Jewish Americans (I think), these identities are not mutually exclusive. We say ‘elu v’elu (“this and this”).  

Many who identify with Israelism are deeply committed to the Liberal national project and our freedoms in the country that we are citizens of. Many who identity with Americanism see Israel’s security, and the ‘Right of Return’, as the only guarantor of Jewish safety and survival – especially for Jews living in countries that are not as “exceptional” as ours.  

I offer these two identities as a balance and a dynamic tension that I (and we) hold – committed as we Jewish-Americans are to both the American project and to the global Jewish future. I offer them as framing polarities to understand our community’s fracture. We can appreciate that each Jewish identity possesses different beliefs about where Jewish safety is to be found - and will lead members of our community to work with different partners to achieve it. I offer the identities with the hope that we can hold more appreciation of those parts of our community with whom we may disagree, often vehemently.  

And I offer this framework as an idea I am exploring and inviting discussion on. I am open to developing this framework further in order to create a shared, deeper understanding of the varieties of our Jewish identity. Each of these Jewish identities is informed by authentic aspects of our histories and experiences – and the differences we carry within our community. 

I look forward to your feedback. 

Shabbat Shalom. 

 

How the Jewish Community is Honoring MLK

Next weekend we will celebrate Martin Luther King Jr. Day. This is a particularly exciting and historic year in the city of Boston, and I wanted to take this opportunity to share information about some of the ways in which the Jewish community is participating – with sufficient advanced timing so that you can choose to participate in these activities as well. 

Next weekend is exciting because the Boston MLK Memorial Breakfast, the oldest annual celebration, will once again be an in-person event. As in recent years, I’m grateful to CJP for organizing a table so that many of our Jewish community leaders will be present. There is also an online livestream component for those who are interested.  

It is also a historic year because on Friday, January 13th, Boston will unveil The Embrace, our city’s new memorial to Dr. King, located on the Common.  

To celebrate and participate in the dedication, Central Reform Temple and Congregation Mishkan Tefila are leading an interfaith procession – including the carrying of a sefer torah - to join and witness the unveiling (JCRC is proud to co-sponsor). The processional will depart from 15 Newbury Street (Central Reform Temple-Emmanuel Church) at 12pm on Friday, January 13th. The unveiling is at 1pm on Boston Common.  

On Friday Night, Temple Israel in Boston is hosting their annual Shabbat Tzedek. This year’s speaker – online and in-person at 6pm – is Tanisha M. Sullivan, President of the Boston branch of the NAACP and a long-time friend and partner to many in our community (and someone I personally value as a thought partner and ally). This service is open to people of all faiths. 

On Monday, January 16th, the Vilna Shul is teaming up with Repair the World, Hillel Council of New England, and About Fresh to host an MLK Day of Service for young professionals from 1-3pm. They invite you to join them to learn about food injustice. Together they will pack over 100 bags of fresh produce to donate to local communities in need. 

Of course, these activities in the city of Boston are just a small subset of the ways in which our Jewish community across the region will be honoring and participating in commemorations this coming week around the holiday. We’ll post other events on our social platforms in the coming days (you can also check out JewishBoston.com for additional events around the region).  

I hope this is helpful and that you will find ways to participate that are meaningful for you and your family. 

Everybody can be great…because anybody can serve.” - MLK 

Shabbat Shalom,

Jeremy

The Power of Being Fully Visible

By JCRC CEO Jeremy Burton

On Tuesday I had the incredible honor of being invited to the White House for the ceremony as President Biden signed the Respect for Marriage Act into law. It was an awesome, celebratory day and I was proud to be there, on behalf of JCRC and as a member of the LGBTQ community.  

As I stood there bearing witness, fully visible in my Jewish and LGBTQ wholeness, wearing my rainbow kippah, I also stood there conscious of all the shoulders I was standing on.  

I was standing on the shoulders of everyone at JCRC – the professionals, volunteers and members – who, during the leadership of my predecessor Nancy Kaufman, led us to be the first JCRC in the nation to endorse marriage equality back in 2004. I was standing on the shoulders of the Goodridge families (some of whom were present and spoke) whose struggles led to Massachusetts being first in the nation to legalize marriage equality. I was standing on the shoulders of my younger self, a closeted young professional working on the Clinton-Gore re-election campaign in 1996 and having to engage in difficult conversations on behalf of a president who had just enacted DOMA.   

And I was standing with my dear friend and partner in our work in Boston, the Rev. Laura Everett, executive director of the Mass Council of Churches, who joined me on this trip and in this experience. I invite you to read our shared reflections in Religion News Service today. 

I am proud to serve and represent this JCRC and this community which has led with moral clarity in support of LGBTQ rights while also holding true to principles of commitment to the protection of religious liberty. I am grateful for the opportunities that I have been given through this work, including being present on this historic day. And, in a year when so much of our attention has been given to strife and setbacks, it is wonderful to share with you – in my final note before the end-year break - a sense of unmitigated joy for what is possible and the progress that is being made in our nation. 

Shabbat Shalom and Happy New Year,

Jeremy 

p.s. This week I had the additional opportunity, along with some good colleagues, to share with the Huffington Post some thoughts on how to be an ally to the Jewish community amidst rising antisemitism. I hope that you’ll read the article and share it with your networks.  

Marketing and Communications Associate

Overview

JCRC is a coalition of Jewish organizations and individuals that creates relationships and works toward common civic goals within the Greater Boston Community. We are the civic affairs and advocacy arm of the organized Jewish community, with a Council of 40 member organizations from all over Greater Boston. We function at the intersection between the Jewish community and the broader community of citizens, groups and civic entities.

JCRC of Greater Boston is currently seeking a multitalented marketing and communications professional to join their Boston team as Marketing and Communications Associate on a full-time basis. This individual acts as the central focal point for all matters related to communications for the organization. The position oversees JCRC’s website, social media, email marketing, and print media to ensure effective communication to donors, lay leaders, volunteers, and other stakeholders.

Please note that this is a hybrid position, currently working in the office Tuesdays and Wednesdays and remotely Mondays, Thursdays, and Fridays.

Responsibilities

  • Conceptualize, draft, and edit content for a variety of purposes (e.g. written appeals, blog posts, social media posts, flyer text, eblasts, etc.) from creation to completion/ strategy to execution
  • Manage email communications to JCRC email lists via marketing platform (currently iContact), including weekly events or fundraising emails and Friday messages
  • Help draft, edit, and distribute JCRC’s weekly written blog for email and social media
  • Segment lists for targeted communications strategy
  • Manage online platforms including JCRC’s website, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Linked-In accounts to further JCRC’s online presence and messaging as part of overarching social media strategy
  • Regularly track and report on communications metrics (i.e. email open and click rates, social media activity, web page views in Google Analytics, JCRC in the media, etc.)
  • Liaise with designers, printers, photographers, and other vendors as needed for various projects; track price quotes and ensure they are within budget
  • Collaborate with entire staff to understand JCRC’s work, communications needs, and to tell JCRC’s story in a compelling manner.  Prepares staff for media appearances and interviews
  • Conceptualize messaging, design, and production calendar for mailings, appeals, impact report & events
  • Support the COO in the preparation of donor impact reports and stewardship materials
  • Work with COO on Development Committee
  • Database Admin - Manage the department’s reporting needs, including weekly, monthly, and yearly reports and custom Salesforce reports
  • Coordinate and manage all development mailings.
  • Graphics and Video editing
  • Other duties and/or responsibilities as assigned within general scope as described

Qualifications

  • At least two years of professional marketing experience
  • Bachelor’s Degree in marketing, public relations, or communications preferred but not required
  • Experience in a non-profit or other related setting a plus
  • Proficiency in Microsoft Office suite, including Outlook, Word, PowerPoint and Excel
  • Experience with iContact, Salesforce, Canva and social media marketing platforms strongly preferred; experience with related marketing platforms acceptable as a substitute
  • Basic knowledge of website design and/or HTML code preferred
  • Clear and effective communication skills through writing and speaking
  • Organizational and planning skills
  • Ability to multi-task
  • Demonstrated problem-solving ability
  • Creative and analytical thinking
  • Ability to manage time effectively and efficiently
  • Possesses knowledge of effective marketing strategies

Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Boston provides equal employment opportunities to all employees and applicants for employment and prohibits discrimination and harassment of any type without regard to race, color, religion, age, sex, national origin, disability status, genetics, protected veteran status, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, or any other characteristic protected by federal, state or local laws.

Click here to apply.

JCRC: Fighting Antisemitism for 80 years

Are we having an impact in the fight against antisemitism? 

I hear a variation on that question virtually every day. Often, multiple times a day.  

There is, rightly, great concern in our community right now. Even fear. Because it is very clear that both expressions of and acts of antisemitism, including violent acts targeting people and facilities, are on the rise.

Regular readers know that I have a lot to say about antisemitism. For right now, allow me to offer a very finite piece of an answer to that question. It’s an institutional answer, about JCRC’s day-to-day work.

This is not my ‘whole system’ answer. Our whole system answer acknowledges that antisemitism isn’t new. It has been around for at least 1,800 years (since the time of Emperor Constantine) and never really went away – even if the United States experienced a brief dissipation in the last 50 years. Our whole system answer addresses the multilayered and multifaceted aspects of antisemitism that don’t conform to neat left or right politics and world views. Our whole system answer describes our role as Jews as being resilient and thriving and building vibrant Jewish communities despite the threat. Our whole system answer addresses unrealistic expectations and acknowledges that while we can’t eliminate antisemitism, we can push it back into the corners of society where it isn’t normalized by ‘credible’ public actors.

But as one institution that has an important role to play in the fabric of our community, and our aspirations, we should address what we are doing, as JCRC, as part of our community, to address antisemitism.

Simply put, we’re doing what we were founded to do almost eighty years ago. We’re coordinating a network of our (now) forty member agencies – all of whom have a role to play in building civic connections and partnerships. And our specific focus as JCRC is working to ensure that local civic actors – in particular our state and local elected officials, local faith leaders, and local media – are attuned to our concerns and our experience, and that they are stepping up to their responsibility to fight antisemitism and support our community’s safety.

Is that happening? Yes.

This year alone, we worked with our partners on Beacon Hill to allocate $8 million dollars for non-profit security grants. These will have a direct and extraordinary impact on our, and other vulnerable communities – far beyond what our community invests in JCRC’s advocacy work.

Note: The  Commonwealth Nonprofit Security Grant Program  has just opened the grant submission window which  will close on Friday, December 30, at 4:00 p.m. ET. For eligibility and additional information, please visit the  Massachusetts Office of Grants and Research.  Also, CJP is offering support to institutions to defray the costs of a professional grant writer.

Time and again, we’ve worked with local media to encourage their responsiveness to reporting this crisis as it presents in Massachusetts.  We appreciate those who’ve taken time to sit down with us this year and cover these issues. And we also appreciate that – when sometimes a mistake gets made – we can have that conversation with the appropriate people and work together to set the record straight and see revisions made.  

And there’s never been one single moment in recent years where interfaith leaders in Massachusetts haven’t stood with us in moments of crisis and moments of solidarity – sometimes in ways that are unprecedented, powerful and unique to our Commonwealth like no other place in the country.

All of this, and far more, come from the weaving of civic relationship over time; our work providing Holocaust education connected to the New England Holocaust Memorial – increasingly being sought out and utilized by schools across the region who are working with us to educate teens; our work to bring Jewish teens into non-sectarian and public schools as relational educators; and the work we do more quietly, opening doors to civic leaders for our members and helping them to do this work as well.

Can more be done? Always. We have an urgent need to expand our work, with your support and that of our other partners; but always with an eye toward that same purpose with which we began eighty years ago – to engage our community with local government, with civic and faith leadership, and with the local media.

JCRC was founded because there was a time when we, as a community, experienced the terrifying reality of being alone in this work. Recent years are a reminder that though antisemitism is still here all these years later, at least here in Massachusetts, we’re hardly alone in facing it. And that is cause for hope in trying times. 

Shabbat Shalom.  

To Tweet or Not to Tweet?

The Friday Message CEO Jeremy Burton (1)

A few years back, a member of the JCRC team told me about a conversation he had while advocating on Beacon Hill. In a conversation with a senior member, he expressed that a particular issue was one that the organized Jewish community was keenly interested and invested in. The legislator’s chief of staff responded, to paraphrase: “Are you sure? Because Jeremy hasn’t been talking about this on Twitter.”

That exchange has been on my mind in recent weeks, as there has been a growing public discussion about ‘leaving Twitter’ and the actions of this platform’s new owner.

I was an early-ish fan of Twitter and the entire social media ecosystem. I had hopes that this space could be an open town hall where I could be exposed to, engage with, and learn from all kinds of people around the world. A lot of that hope was realized, and over the thirteen years since I joined Twitter, I’ve learned a lot from the people I discovered there, and I’ve had fun along the way engaging in all sorts of conversations. It has been a space that has also encouraged me to think expansively about who we are accountable to in our public voice – knowing that anything we say will be seen by a wide and diverse audience.  

However, the growth of Twitter in particular, as well as many other social media platforms, has had some very troubling consequences for our discourse and for our democracy. The normalization of hate speech, the ability to engage in anonymous harassment, to spread disinformation, and the rewarding of the most polarizing voices - have all had a detrimental impact on our society.

People have had very strong and divergent opinions about the recent takeover by Elon Musk. Many are horrified by the unlocking of banned accounts that have, in the past, spread untruths and bigotry. Others have noted that ‘old’ Twitter never deplatformed several dangerous antisemites; notably the Ayatollah Khamenei, who regularly tweets Holocaust denial and threats to eliminate the Jewish state, or Minister Farakhan, who uses the platform to spread antisemitic tropes without consequences. There are other examples, of course – but this is just to observe that pre-Elon Twitter wasn’t exactly all raindrops and gummy bears. 

Still, something has changed.  A space that aspires to be a town square for all discourse now has one sole arbiter of what is allowed in that square. It’s a problem. And when that arbiter  himself starts spreading disinformation and – this week –  actual neo-Nazi antisemitic memes and images, it raises what can only be described as legitimate concerns.

So, to stay or to go?

Truth be told, if I was a private citizen looking for good quality information and perspectives from beyond my own bubble – I’d personally be elsewhere at this point. Too much of where Twitter now seems to be headed sows distrust in the quality of information and user experience.  Trust is an essential part of the fabric of a healthy civic culture – trust in institutions, in leaders, in certified election outcomes. Trust is precious to our function as a society and to our ability to find a way forward, and we need to be cultivating it at every turn, not undermining it in 240 characters or less.

This is a concern I’ve written about before. And to quote Yuval Levin, “What stands out about our era in particular is a distinct kind of institutional dereliction — a failure even to attempt to form trustworthy people, and a tendency to think of institutions not as molds of character and behavior but as platforms for performance and prominence.”  

Old Twitter wasn’t always great. But new Twitter foreshadows a more problematic future. 

Still, I go back to that Beacon Hill story. And to JCRC’s core purpose, which is to represent our community’s values and interests in Boston’s civic square. To an extent, it is our responsibility to go where that square exists, with all its toxicity, to make sure that the political actors in Massachusetts, the faith leaders, and the local media, see and understand how we as a community are thinking about the issues of our time and the challenges of our society.  

There may come a time – very soon – when those civic actors in Massachusetts decide to leave this particular town square and find other venues to discuss and debate in the public arena. It’s very possible that the user experience of other platforms will be very different from Twitter, including a limit on the kinds of crosspollination of audiences and voices that we’ve experienced here – and that will be a loss. But for now, people seem to be staying, and, therefore, so am I.  

But I won’t tell you that you should be, too. I can see the unhealthy impact of platforms like Twitter on our society and our democracy. And I’d certainly invite, as always, your reflections and feedback on this moment and how we ought to show up in public space to best continue to represent the interest and values of our network. 

I look forward to hearing from you. 

Shabbat shalom.  

Statement on US Representative Katherine Clark’s Election to Minority Whip

“The Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Boston congratulates our long-time friend, US Representative Katherine Clark on being elected Democratic Minority Whip. Since her time as a member of the Massachusetts legislature, Congresswoman Clark has been a strong partner and ally of the Jewish community in word and in action. She has always stood up against discrimination and hate in all forms and matched her conviction for a more equitable country with substantive policy priorities. She has been a steadfast supporter of the U.S.-Israel relationship and an opponent of demonization of the Jewish state. From standing with us against antisemitism, for gun safety, and to protect and expand voting rights and preserving our democracy, Congresswoman Clark has been a clarion voice throughout our Commonwealth and our country. We look forward to her continued leadership and partnership for the benefit of all who live in our great nation.”

JCRC Statement on Economic Development Bill

Governor Baker signed the $3.7 billion dollar economic development bill, which makes significant investments in the Commonwealth’s social infrastructure. The signing of this bill continues to build on the Governor and the Legislature’s commitment to investing in communal security and support for our most vulnerable residents.

We thank Governor Baker, Senate President Spilka, Speaker Mariano, Chairs Michlewitz and Rodrigues for their ongoing partnership and responsiveness to the issues faced within and beyond our community.

As the advocacy organization for the organized Jewish community, we are proud to have secured an additional investment of $5 million dollars for nonprofit security grants to institutions at high risk of terror attacks and an increased investment of $175,000 dollars for providers of programming and services for naturally occurring retirement communities (NORC).

Nonprofit security grant funding is in addition to the $3 million dollars allocated in the FY23 budget. Our lead legislative sponsors, Senator Eric Lesser and Representative Ruth Balser have been a consistent champions through the legislative process as the need for organizations continues to grow. Expanded funding of this program enables increased participation for faith based and nonprofit organizations across the Commonwealth to invest in target hardening and other security measures that help protect communities against continued threats and to remain spaces of community gathering and worship.

NORC providers, which include JF&CS, JFS of Metrowest and JFS of Western Mass deliver an “Aging in Place” model that promotes healthy aging, independence, and community building through a multifaceted approach. We are grateful to lead sponsors, Representative Tommy Vitolo and Senator Cynthia Creem for their leadership in seeking funding for NORC.

We are committed to continuing to be the leading voice on issues impacting our community, to invest in programs and services that enable people to live self-determined lives, free from fear and discrimination.

#YesOn4 is a Victory for Jewish Values 

There were many races and many outcomes on Tuesday. I’ll leave it to the pundits to make sense of it all. For now, we here at JCRC are celebrating the victory of #YesOn4 and the successful defense of Massachusetts’ Work and Family Mobility Law

This campaign will help to ensure safer roads for our Commonwealth and will uphold a common-sense law that has already been enacted in 17 other states and the District of Columbia. Passage of the bill, and the success this week, would not have happened without broad support from law enforcement leaders. Still, it is not lost on anyone that, as Jeff Jacoby observed last weekend, the fact that this law was under attack was about scapegoating immigrants.

The history of our Jewish community in this country has always been in part about the idea of building a nation that should be welcoming to immigrants, and about the hostility that we and others have experienced when coming here. As regular readers of this blog know, when those first Jews arrived in 1654, they were received by a hostile Governor Peter Stuyvesant, who called our ancestors “repugnant” and “vermin.” To this day there are public officials who follow in his footsteps, displaying open hostility to others arriving here, who may not be coming from the same nations their ancestors arrived from.

It is a matter of great pride to many in the Jewish community that, in the 19th century, in order to raise money for the pedestal of the Statue of Liberty, it was the Jewish poetess Emma Lazarus who famously penned The New Colossus and these words:

“Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free”. 

From the earliest years after JCRC's founding and the ‘organizing’ of our Jewish community in Boston in the 1940's, advocacy for refugees has been one of our top legislative priorities. In those first years our efforts were heavily focused on supporting arriving Holocaust refugees – and recognizing that the United States could have saved more of our people had this nation not closed its doors to immigrants like those on the St. Louis, even after the horrors of Kristallnacht (for which we marked the 78th anniversary this week) made evident the dire situation in Germany.

That commitment and advocacy to reflect a deeper and broader understanding of the promise of America to people around the world grew over the years. We and many of our member organizations have been active for decades advocating for pro-immigrant legislation and mobilizing our community in resettlement work for all new arrivals. 

So it was hardly surprising when, in January 2017, at a time of rising anti-immigrant rhetoric and real threats to the safety and security of many who were already here, our community proudly came together with a unified and very public voice to say that "we must not close our doors.” We urged "our elected and appointed officials at all levels of government to do everything in their legal authority to protect our foreign-born neighbors." 

In the years since, together with many of our members, our synagogues, our allies and our interfaith partners, we have built a robust network for action, including resettlement, accompaniment and legislative advocacy. 

We, and I, are proud of that work. We’re proud to be a member of the Massachusetts Immigrant and Refugee Advocacy Coalition (MIRA), and of the Driving Families Forward coalition. We have been proud to mobilize on legislative priorities with them and with leaders on Beacon Hill including Sen. Jamie Eldridge, Rep. Liz Miranda, Rep. Ruth Balser (Safe Communities) and Sen. Brendan Crighton, Rep. Tricia Bouvier and Rep. Christine Barber (Work and Family Mobility). 

We are proud of the role we played in the #YesOn4 effort; canvassing, phone banking, making the case to voters, and hosting educational events within our community.  

This week was a victory. For #YesOn4. For safer roads. For the dignity of our neighbors. For the values we stand for.  

And, there is still plenty more work to do. This week we are reaffirming what we said in 2017:  

"We reject any effort to shut our nation’s doors on the most
vulnerable. We recommit ourselves to the work of protecting and advancing the dignity of all human beings and to preventing suffering in this world." 

I hope that you will continue to be part of this work with us, and we thank you for your generous support. 

Shabbat shalom. 

Statement Following the Elections in Israel

The voters of Israel have spoken in a free and fair election, and it appears that Likud leader Benjamin Netanyahu will, in the coming days, be provided the opportunity to form the next government of the State of Israel.

The organized Jewish community of Greater Boston holds a deep respect for and commitment to the democratic process, both in our country and in Israel. We welcome and support the efforts already underway by the current government to ensure a peaceful transfer of power.

We also take this moment to note that Israel’s electoral system can lead to political results that do not fully reflect the will of all of the people of the nation, not unlike the electoral system in the United States. This week’s election campaign and results suggest a nation that is deeply divided, even as the electoral process will likely provide a distinct mandate to the parties currently in opposition. Those who would celebrate this outcome, and those who will be dismayed by it, should all take heed of this reality as we discuss and interpret the meaning of this election. In the coming years we will continue to strive to engage with curiosity to understand these differences among the Israeli people and with those in our own community who will have differing responses to this outcome.

What remains true, for us, the Jewish Community Relations Council on behalf of the organized Jewish community of Boston, is our deep love for and commitment to the people and the State of Israel. JCRC will continue to work every day to strengthen the US-Israel relationship. JCRC will continue to support all those who live and work there, our friends and partners on the ground who are striving every day to build an inspiring future of equality and opportunity for all of Israel’s citizens. JCRC will continue to work with our friends and partners to advance the conditions for peace and co-existence with Israel’s neighbors. JCRC will continue to confront and challenge those who deny the legitimacy of the Jewish people’s right to statehood and those who hold Israel to standards that they do not apply to any other democratic state.

At the same time, we would be remiss to not take note of the success of the Otzma Yehudit faction in this election. This party was founded by disciples of Meir Kahane and is understood to be a successor to his Kach movement – which was banned by the State of Israel and declared a terrorist organization by both Israel and the United States.

It is the long-held view of JCRC and of a broad sector of the American Jewish community – going back many decades and oft reaffirmed - that the anti-democratic, racist, and violent values of Kach, and now of Otzma Yehudit, are anathema to our Jewish values and to the values expressed in Israel’s declaration of statehood ensuring “complete equality of social and political rights to all of its inhabitants irrespective of religion”. It is because of our continued and unyielding commitment to Israel as a Jewish, secure, and democratic state that JCRC has stated before and we restate now that we abhor any effort to normalize these views and to bring these actors into any governing coalition.

As Israel’s political parties enter a period of negotiations over the form of the next coalition government, we take this moment to express our hope that responsible leaders across the ideological spectrum will recognize and appreciate that the inclusion of an extreme faction like Otzma Yehudit in the coming coalition could have potentially significant consequences: for Israel’s democratic character; for Israel’s relationship with some of its strongest allies in our Congress (who have already expressed concerns); and for Jewish communities like ours that take inspiration from Israel’s declaration of statehood in our continued work in partnership with and support for all its people.

JCRC has communicated to the representatives of the government of Israel and to our partners and friends in Israel our concerns, our commitments, and our hopes for the coming period of negotiations.