Author: JCRC

JCRC to Lead MA Municipal Leaders on Study Tour of Israel

December 7, 2018
Contact: Shira Burns
(617) 457-8673

JCRC to Lead MA Municipal Leaders on Study Tour of Israel
Massachusetts Community Leaders to Explore Economic Ties to Region

(BOSTON) – The Jewish Community Relations Council (JCRC) of Greater Boston continues its long history of leading Massachusetts community leaders on a study tour of Israel, this month providing MA municipal leaders with an in-depth look into the economic, political, and security challenges and successes facing Israeli society.

From December 7-15, Massachusetts municipal leaders will travel throughout Israel, learning from government officials and religious, academic, media, and business leaders.

“This trip will allow Massachusetts leaders to deepen their understanding of Israel's politics and culture, and examine some of the economic ties that bring Israel and Massachusetts together,” said Jeremy Burton, Executive Director of JCRC of Greater Boston. “The best way to deepen the MA/Israel connection is through a mutual understanding of our common interests—participants will gain firsthand knowledge about how they can strengthen relationships with their Israeli counterparts."

The Massachusetts municipal leaders will:

  • Meet with government officials, municipal leaders, and other influential leaders from all sectors of Israeli and Palestinian society, developing city to city connections and sharing best practices in addressing current municipal issues
  • Visit Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, border regions, and the Palestinian Areas.
    Discover the growing economic and cultural ties between Israel and Massachusetts
  • Gain new perspectives on modern day Israel
  • Develop a nuanced understanding of the complex political and security challenges facing Israel
  • Encounter Israel’s innovative economy, including its booming research, development, and tech sector.

The trip is being paid with a grant from the nonprofit Combined Jewish Philanthropies of Greater Boston. Participants pay a registration fee for the trip from their own funds.

Following are the participants in the 2018 Municipal Study Tour of Israel:

Councilor Andrea Campbell (Trip Chair), Boston Councilor Kim Janey, Boston
Councilor Mark Ciommo, Boston Fredie Kay, JCRC Board Member
Marjorie Ross Decter – JCRC Board Member Mayor Nicole LaChapelle, Easthampton
Councilor Edward Flynn, Boston Councilor Nina Liang, Quincy
Select Board Member Heather Hamilton, Brookline Chief of Staff Elizabeth Pimentel, Office of Andrea Campbell
Councilor Katrina Huff-Larmond, Randolph Alderman Mike Zwirko, Melrose
Councilor Justin Hurst, Springfield

About the Jewish Community Relations Council
JCRC defines and advances the values, interests, and priorities of the organized Jewish community of Greater Boston in the public square. Visit us at

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Double your impact: Loud and Clear on Beacon Hill

Your gift to JCRC ensures that the Jewish community’s voice is heard loud and clear as we make an impact on Beacon Hill. We are the organization that builds broad coalitions, advocates for social justice, and protects the social safety net by advocating for a compassionate and forward-thinking state budget.

With increased gun violence, unjust incarceration and high rates of recidivism, and rising hate crimes, JCRC has been working closely with our allies to lobby the Massachusetts state legislature and the Governor to take action on our community values and priorities.

Through our advocacy, we’ve taken steps to protect democracy by passing and signing into law the Automatic Voter Registration (AVR) Bill, and upholding justice by advocating for passage of the comprehensive Criminal Justice Reform Bill. And we’ve advocated with our partners for successful passage of the Extreme Risk Protective Order (ERPO) Bill, which allows loved ones to remove weapons temporarily from people who pose a risk to themselves and others. We also worked closely with our partners to support the ballot initiative to protect human rights for transgender individuals.

This year, in a time of limited resources and in some cases declining budgets, JCRC also has secured government funding for the community and our partners in excess of our organizational budget.

We have achieved an unprecedented level of success in advancing the priorities of our community in the 2019 state budget, securing a total of $3,842,000 in state funding for a broad range of human services. More than $2 million of this funding will support the work of our partner agencies to create pathways to economic opportunity for disadvantaged residents (including job training for immigrants), enable elderly individuals and families to remain in their homes, and ensure safety for our most vulnerable.

When you support JCRC, you’re not only advancing the Jewish community’s shared values, but also ensuring that we can protect our neighbors and increasingly vulnerable populations across MA. Please partner with us to make an even greater impact in the year to come!

Thank you for helping us go from strength to strength,

Margie Ross Decter
Chair, JCRC Public Policy Committee

Our City’s Collective Responsibility

This week: a message from JCRC's Emily Reichman, Director of Service Initiatives (R), and Shira Burns, JCRC Communications Staff.

On Monday, in an auditorium full of high school students visiting the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, Holocaust survivor Esther Starobin asked: “Is there anything specific you’re hoping to see here today?” Sherley Maximin’s hand shot up.

Sherley is this year’s first place winner of JCRC’s annual Israel Arbiter Essay Contest for high school students, and one of over 200 who submitted essays on themes related to the Holocaust. This Monday, she and three other student winners from schools across Greater Boston joined JCRC to spend the day at the museum in Washington, D.C.

In her essay, Sherley, who moved to Boston from Haiti two years ago, reflected on the life-changing encounter she had with local Holocaust survivors during a visit to the New England Holocaust Memorial last summer after it was vandalized by a student from her school. The students came together to let the Jewish community of Boston know that this student from their school did not represent them:

“That experience went beyond all the things that I could ever read in textbooks. I had such a meaningful conversation with Dr. Ornstein, a survivor. Nothing is comparable to listening to a survivor share their experience. I realized that there is much more to pay attention to. Way too often, we forget the causes of historical events like the Holocaust and I think we must commit to point to the signs when they arise. The lessons that one can learn from the history of the Holocaust are endless. This experience definitely strengthened my desire to learn more.”

Sherely (L) and a fellow Malden High School student at the NEHM.

This past week, days before Sherley’s visit to Washington, we marked the 80th anniversary of Kristallnacht. “The Night of Broken Glass” ushered in a time of unparalleled hatred and devastation that led to the loss of six million Jewish lives.

In 1938, we were isolated and alone. Today, the strength of our community is demonstrated through our relationships and our alliances, and through our neighbors’ determined refusal to remain silent in the face of hatred and bigotry.

And in Boston this Tuesday, under a heavy downpour, we gathered at the New England Holocaust Memorial (NEHM) to acknowledge a significant gift made to the Memorial by the Glaziers Union, part of the International Union of Painters and Allied Trades District Council 35. The Glaziers have been involved in the Memorial from the beginning, building and installing the original Memorial in 1995, made up of six iconic glass towers with 132 glass panels.

After the Memorial was vandalized last year, the union felt compelled to stand with the Jewish community and to uphold the integrity of this space that is sacred to so many. “It is our moral obligation to stand up and to speak up,” said Wayne Murphy, Director of Government and Public Affairs for the union. In his remarks, Murphy also noted that his union responded to last year’s vandalism by stepping in to repair the damage, offering to perform the work pro bono.

We were also joined by Boston Mayor Marty Walsh, who has been steadfast in his commitment to the Jewish community, showing up at event after event as we find ourselves under assault. He reflected on the “acts of anti-Semitism happening all over our country,” including the Pittsburgh synagogue massacre of October 27, in which 11 Jewish worshippers were murdered.

At JCRC we don’t take those relationships and alliances, nor the lessons of the Holocaust, for granted. That is why we provide education and engagement, connected with the Memorial, in Boston’s broader civic space beyond the Jewish community.

Displayed on the wall of the United States Holocaust Museum is a quote from Elie Wiesel’s remarks at the Dedication Ceremonies for the Museum on April 22, 1993: “This museum is not an answer. It is a question.” The museum, and the Holocaust itself, is not finite, but rather a living, breathing history that informs our collective responsibility. An enduring communal memory of the Holocaust is crucial.

And what was Sherley Maximin’s answer to that question on Monday about her hopes for the day?

“I’m hoping to see aspects of the exhibit that inspire me to recommit to resilience and hope.”

We hope that we met Sherley’s hopes this week. And her hopes were met for us as well – when we saw Sherley and her high school community, and the Glaziers Union, stand up in the face of acts of hatred this past year. Their actions, and the actions of so many others, remind us of what is good in our city. They inspire us to recommit, with resilience and hope, to ensuring that future generations of Bostonians will do so for years to come.

Shabbat Shalom,

Emily & Shira

Poking Holes in the Darkness


This has been among the darkest weeks we’ve endured as a community. The Jewish community of Pittsburgh buried 11 loved ones, murdered in the worst anti-Semitic attack in American history. We are all reeling.

With the unleashing of this violent hatred on our community came reverberations of too many moments throughout our history when we’ve been targeted; when we’ve had to withstand the onslaught on our own, isolated and marginalized. But on Shabbat, just moments after we all learned of the massacre in the Tree of Life Synagogues, messages of consolation, of solidarity, and of support came pouring out from elected officials and interfaith leadership with whom we at JCRC have nurtured and cultivated relationships over the years. We knew we were not alone.

In the last week, I’ve been thanked by many of you who attended the vigil we planned within 24 hours of the news. You’ve told me that the moving display of support from so many allies was a powerful reassurance that we are part of a collective, one that understands and shares our grief in this moment and that will be with us for the long haul.

I’ve been asked over and over; how did you manage to turn out that impressive array of dignitaries so quickly? The reality is that, although the vigil may have taken place within hours, there was nothing quick or simple about our work that day. Because our allies were already with us. Through our painstaking work day in and day out, we have built deep, enduring relationships with friends and partners in public life — elected officials, clergy, and civic leaders. We have rolled up our sleeves to tackle the thorniest challenges facing Greater Boston together; we’ve developed the trust to engage in difficult conversations and to leverage our collective power to achieve goals more ambitious than any of us could ever accomplish on our own. And we’ve stood together in times of need, forming an immediate circle of love and support for those in pain. On a weekend when an unthinkable act of terror hit the heart of our community, we knew who would be with us — the partners we’ve come to rely on through the years.

The urgent work of community relations has never been more essential; building bonds so deep and trusting, that the support you need in your darkest moment is there without your ever having to ask; uniting us at a time of rancor and division, and celebrating all that binds us together.

Join our efforts. Invest in building and deepening the relationships we need now more than ever.

With deep appreciation,

Jeremy Burton
Executive Director

CJP, JCRC Joint Statement on Tree of Life Synagogue Shooting

Community Vigil Scheduled Tomorrow (Sunday, Oct. 28th) on the Boston Common at 2:00pm.

Today, during a Shabbat service of reflection, prayer, and celebration, 11 people were murdered and another six injured by a suspected anti-Semitic, xenophobic extremist at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh. It was the deadliest attack on the Jewish community in U.S. history.

We are as devastated as we are horrified. We have reached out to the Pittsburgh Jewish community to express our support. We pray that the families of the victims find comfort during this unimaginably painful time and for the full recovery of the wounded. And we offer our gratitude to the brave first responders in Pittsburgh who risked their lives to prevent further bloodshed.

In our close-knit Jewish communal world, many of us have friends and family in Pittsburgh, and know congregants at the Tree of Life Synagogue. These are our brothers and sisters, our friends, our family, and our children.

During this time of great despair and anxiety, CJP and JCRC have been in close contact with local law enforcement, who have been extremely proactive and supportive in their response. We also appreciate the outreach from Governor Baker and the interfaith community, who stand with our Jewish local community and those around the country. There is no indication of any increased threat locally.

Anti-semitism and hatred in its many forms are antithetical to our faith and an affront to humanity. For the victims, we will mourn. For the living, we will continue to fight for a better, more just world.

May the memories of those we lost today be a blessing.

We invite you to join us for a CJP/JCRC/ADL vigil for the victims at the Tree of Life Synagogue. Please join us as we gather on Boston Common at the Parkman Bandstand at 2:00pm

Freedom on the Ballot


Nahma Nadich

This week: a message from Deputy Director Nahma Nadich

Throughout my nineteen years at JCRC, I’ve had many proud moments when we’ve galvanized our community to act on our shared values of equality, justice, and freedom. We’ve participated in efforts to effect change and transform lives. Some of our campaigns have focused on improving the lives of members of our own community; others have been about standing with our brothers and sisters throughout Greater Boston and responding to their needs. One of my proudest moments was when we delivered profound benefits to members of our own community and beyond; when we were part of a successful campaign to secure one of our most fundamental rights – the freedom to marry.

In 2003, we were the first community relations council in the country to advocate for marriage equality, working closely with other Jewish organizations to leverage the influence of our community. Four years earlier, I had joined the staff of JCRC after years of practicing clinical social work in the LGBT community. The challenges my clients faced transcended their own psychological issues; they were up against a society (sometimes including their own families) that all too often denied their basic humanity.  Witnessing the courage and strength they summoned to embrace their identities, build vibrant chosen families and communities, and claim the joy that was rightfully theirs, filled me with awe. And now, I had the rare honor of organizing our community to right historic wrongs and effect systemic change, putting into motion a chain of events that would eventually result in a nationwide freedom to marry.

Successful  movements to effect social change – like the therapeutic work of personal change – begins with stories. We are moved to action, not by facts and figures but by accounts of lived experiences, from people we care about. In 2003, we at JCRC heard such stories, from those among us blocked from public recognition of their loving, committed relationships, and from parents concerned that their children’s dreams would never be realized.  We shared those stories to change hearts and minds, and ultimately, to change the law. And we did so with the broad consensus of the Jewish community and the full support of our Council.

Years later, we heard stories of discrimination, marginalization and assaults, from transgender members of our community and the friends and family who love them. Though the experiences of the trans community is distinct and different, with appallingly high rates of violent victimization, poverty and homelessness, we understood this issue to be resonant with JCRC’s overall commitment to LGBT rights. So once again, with the full endorsement of our Council, we sprang into action. In 2011, collaborating with partners in the Jewish and broader community, we advocated for a state law to add “gender identity” to the state’s non-discrimination laws in housing, employment, and education. And we won. But we knew that more was needed. In 2016 the transgender anti-discrimination bill was signed into law, extending protections for gender identity to any place of public accommodation.

Now those hard-won freedoms are in jeopardy. In just two weeks, we in Massachusetts will be voting on a ballot initiative to protect those freedoms, the first of its kind in the nation. The stakes are high. If the campaign to stoke fears and incite bigotry succeeds, an ominous precedent will be set, likely to unleash similar measures across the country. Putting the rights of a marginalized minority to a popular vote is a dangerous path, one that will inevitably result in a tyranny of the majority.

So we are listening carefully to today’s stories, like this one from a mother fearful for her transgender son’s safety. But change is in the air and thankfully, today’s stories are not only about fear and danger. As our society evolves, we are also starting to see the possibility of a different reality for some of our younger transgender loved ones. In my own congregation, we’re learning together about becoming a truly affirming community, where we welcome our gender non-conforming children and their families and support their joyful participation in the fullness of Jewish life. Protecting the freedoms enshrined into our Commonwealth’s laws is a powerful statement to transgender people and those who love them; ensuring the vibrancy of their futures matters to us all.

How can we ensure that we protect not only our loved ones, but our most cherished values of freedom and dignity? First – vote YES on three. Even before the election, you can join voters across the Commonwealth who are pledging their vote by sending a text message with the phrase “YesOn3” to the phone number 52886, and following the link on your screen (or click here).

Second – tell all your friends to do the same. If the campaign of disinformation opposing this ballot measure gives them pause, ask them to educate themselves on the facts. And join Keshet and Freedom for All Massachusetts for Jewish Community Canvass Day for Trans Rights on Sunday November 4. You’ll be glad that you did.

A final note: Ballot question three is the only one that we at JCRC have endorsed. So we urge you to do your own research on all the others on the ballot.  At a time when our democracy is fraying and voting rights are being challenged, there is no more powerful action we can take as citizens than to exercise our right to be fully informed voters.

Shabbat shalom,


JCRC Dismayed by Elimination of Funds for Israeli-Palestinian Co-existence

JCRC is strongly opposed to the recent Trump Administration decision to eliminate USAID funding for projects in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. We are particularly disturbed by the Administration’s decision to cut off funding for co-existence programs for Israelis and Palestinians. The suspension of all USAID support will harm the chances for peaceful reconciliation between Israelis and Palestinians, and will only serve to punish the Palestinian people for the failures of their leadership and create an opportunity for extremist groups to gain strength in the Palestinian Territories.

Israeli-Palestinian co-existence programs are the best long-term strategy for achieving peace and the two-state solution. The support of co-existence programs allows the United States to exert its global influence to create change that speaks to our deepest values of justice, dignity, and peace. JCRC calls on the Trump Administration to reverse this decision, and to rethink how United States aid can be used to encourage rather than discourage peace for Israelis and Palestinians.

Resisting the temptation to walk away

This week: a message from Deputy Director Nahma Nadich

Earlier this summer, in a sterile and overly air-conditioned Jerusalem hotel conference room, we gathered with our cohort of 13 Boston-area Christian ministers for an early morning meeting, on the final day of our Israel Study Tour. We met representatives of The Parents Circle Families Forum, a group which describes itself as “the only association in the world that does not wish to welcome any new members into its fold.” Founded and sustained by a group of bereaved Israelis and Palestinians, their mission is to stop further acts of violence.

As is their practice, The Parents Circle was represented that morning by two presenters: one Palestinian and one Jewish Israeli. We heard from Bassam Aramin, whose ten-year-old daughter Abir, a bystander to a clash between Palestinian youth and Israeli soldiers, was killed by an Israeli soldier who hit her in the head with a rubber bullet. Robi Damelin’s 28-year-old son David was killed by a Palestinian sniper while he was guarding a checkpoint in the West Bank during his army reserve service. We were struck by the deep and trusting relationship between these two bereaved parents as they supported each other in sharing their excruciating stories to yet one more audience, and as they teased each other lovingly throughout.

An anecdote that Robi shared took our breath away. She described visiting a classroom – one of many she frequents in Israeli and Palestinian schools – in which she spread her message of peace and non-violence. When she told this class of Palestinian students about losing David, one teen-aged girl stood up and shouted, “Your son deserved to die!” Robi paused, while contemplating her response. She said that giving in to her temptation to simply walk out would accomplish nothing. As a survivor, she recognized the deep pain behind the girl’s unthinkably cruel statement, as the mark of someone who was undoubtedly bereaved herself. So, she gently asked the girl about her family. As Robi suspected, the young student had in fact lost family members to violence. As the conversation unfolded, they shared their experience of loss. And the girl apologized for her brutal remark.

Robi posed this simple yet profound question to all of us: “How do you find a way of talking to someone and still leaving them with their dignity?” That question has reverberated for me ever since. How, in the face of deep divisions and emotionally fraught conflicts, do we relate to others not as enemies, but as human beings created in the image of God, whose dignity we cherish? How can we even begin to know how to do that, when we’re relating to people we don’t always understand, whose lives and experiences may be radically different from our own? How do we enact the teachings of our rabbis, in making the honor of others as dear to us as that of our own? And how do we ensure that this sacred principle informs all that we do?

This is a season of reflection not only for us as Jewish individuals, but also for us a Jewish organization, as we prepare for our annual dinner, when we tell the story of our work and invite the community to join us in our efforts in the coming year. There are many ways to describe the various, seemingly disparate avenues through which we involve our community; volunteer service, legislative advocacy, community organizing, and Israel engagement. But the uniting principle behind all of them is the affirmation of human dignity.

When we facilitate volunteers to help children discover the joy of reading, we affirm dignity. When we advocate for adults to attain skills and receive the support they need to obtain jobs with family sustaining wages, we affirm dignity. When we support Israeli and Palestinian peacemakers on the ground, we affirm dignity. When we mobilize our community to provide safe shelter, legal representation, and freedom from detention for our foreign-born neighbors under attack – we are saying that their honor is as dear to us as that of our own.

When we are at our best, cherishing the dignity of others doesn’t only inform what we do – but how we do it. In the complicated and sometimes thorny world of interfaith and community relations, we aspire to make the dignity of our partners paramount as well. When we are hurt by the words or actions of partners with whom we’ve built long term relationships, like Robi, we resist the temptation to vilify them and walk away. Rather, we draw nearer, and invite difficult conversations; ones leading to new understandings and deeper insights, encounters enabling us to appreciate each other’s humanity and reaffirm our shared values.

The ancient rabbis taught that Elul, this month of introspection leading into the High Holidays, is an acronym for the familiar phrase from the Song of Songs, Ani L’dodi Vedodi Lli – I am to my beloved as my beloved is to me. The work of teshuva or repentance demands that we relate to others through loving eyes, and that we value the honor and dignity of all people, as we do our own. As we ready ourselves to enter 5779, let us resist the temptation to walk away, and instead challenge ourselves to affirm the dignity of all those we encounter.

Shabbat Shalom,


JCRC Applauds the Creation of the Massachusetts-Israel Economic Connection

August 13, 2018
Contact: Shira Burns
(617) 457-8673

On August 10, 2018, Governor Baker signed legislation, created by a collaboration between Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Boston and state legislators, authorizing $250,000 for the facilitation and support of the Massachusetts-Israel Economic Connection operated by the New England Israel Business Council, Inc. to continue to pursue economic collaboration between Israel and the Commonwealth.

“JCRC recognizes the rich entrepreneurial and innovative culture of the state of Israel. We are grateful to our partners in the Legislature and Administration for creating the Massachusetts-Israel Economic Connection in order to capitalize off of the vast potential that the country provides,” said Aaron Agulnek, Director of Government Affairs, Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Boston. “Massachusetts possesses a devoted workforce, premier colleges and universities, and cutting-edge life science and hi-tech sectors, making it a natural home for Israeli founded businesses. Other states and municipalities, however, are taking aggressive action to cut into our competitive edge. This initiative will help expand the collaborations and keep Mass at the top.”

“We are grateful that JCRC led the efforts with the Legislature to support the Massachusetts-Israel Economic Connection,” said Dan Trajman, CEO of the New England Israel Business Council, Inc. (NEIBC). “The more than 9000 jobs created by Israeli-related companies in Massachusetts are a testament to NEIBC’s mission. With the legislature and governor’s support, we will expand Israeli business presence, despite the mounting competition, by helping local companies increase their footprint and ensuring that new companies will choose Massachusetts as their US base of operations.”

“There are more than 200 Israeli-founded businesses in the Boston area alone, creating thousands of high-paying jobs in our life sciences and IT industries. These connections also create opportunities for Massachusetts companies to expand their operations to Israel. Strengthening our state’s economic ties with Israel strengthens opportunities for our businesses and our workers, and this is something we wanted to continue to encourage in the Economic Development Bill,” said Senator Eric P. Lesser, Senate Chairman of the Committee on Economic Development and Emerging Technologies, who authored the bill.

As competition for US/Israeli relationships continues to grow, this initiative promotes Massachusetts as the right home for Israeli businesses. A 2016 study showed that Israeli-founded business in the Commonwealth book over $9 billion of revenue and generate over $18 billion in economic benefit in Massachusetts. They also support over 27,000 jobs in Massachusetts.

“It is so important for Massachusetts to encourage the continued economic relationship with Israeli companies,” said Senator Cynthia Stone Creem, Senate Majority Leader. “It will help solidify our state’s reputation in the high tech and biotech fields as we support research and development opportunities.”

The Massachusetts-Israel Economic Connection initiative will focus on deepening ties between Israeli entrepreneurs and the Massachusetts ecosystem through travel, exchange, relationship development, and job creation.

“I am grateful that the Massachusetts Legislature has successfully included the Massachusetts-Israel Economic Connection in the Economic Development Bill,” said Representative Ruth Balser. “Economic collaboration with Israel has proven time and again to be a great resource to both the economy and the people of Massachusetts. The synergy between the Massachusetts and Israeli economy is clear and this initiative will help to develop the jobs of today and tomorrow.”

The Massachusetts-Israel Economic Connection will promote Massachusetts as the right home for Israeli businesses, utilize the NEIBC’s deep roots in the Massachusetts and Israeli business sectors and academic infrastructure to partner with regional public, quasi-public, and private organizations dedicated to economic development in emerging industries.

"Massachusetts' economy has thrived because our state's policy and business leaders have made a strategic effort to foster key global partnerships," said Representative Antonio F. D. Cabral. "This investment in the Massachusetts-Israel Economic Connection will enhance this dynamic and allow for further growth in areas such as cybersecurity and the life sciences industry."