Author: JCRC

When Antisemitism gets a pass

Nahma Nadich

A message from Deputy Director Nahma Nadich:

There was a joke I sometimes liked to tell when I was a therapist. A man goes to see a psychiatrist and is asked what seems to be the problem. His answer? “Doctor, I’m dead”. The psychiatrist heaves a sigh of relief, thinking, that this will be a simple delusion to correct. “Tell me”, he says to the patient, “do dead people bleed?” “No” says the man. The psychiatrist asks the man to extend his finger, which he proceeds to prick with a needle, producing a trickle of blood. The psychiatrist smiles smugly and asks the man, “Now what do you think?” “I was wrong Doc!” the patient says. “Dead people do bleed!”

I employed that joke to gently poke at to my clients’ confirmation bias, the universal human tendency to absorb new information only when it conforms with previously held views and beliefs. Clients with low self-esteem or catastrophic world views would perceive events around them through those lenses, and their perceptions would then reinforce their beliefs, in an endless loop, preventing them from changing or growing.

Though I left the clinical world over two decades ago, I see confirmation bias playing out in increasingly alarming ways, in our public and political discourse. The sources of information we expose ourselves to are now neatly divided by political leaning. The news outlets we choose, and the social media content we curate, articulate positions we hold dear. We feel affirmed in being correct and are sometimes even righteous about our rightness but are seldom challenged to expand our thinking or consider new ideas. And even more rarely do we recognize what can be problematic rhetoric or action when it comes from the ideological camp with which we identify.

The latest example? Antisemitism arising from the left, and the troubling silence about it from progressives. In recent years, there has been a justified focus on Jew-hatred emanating from the right, with the US government naming white supremacy at the top of the list of current domestic terror threats. But as Jews we are all too aware that this murderous hatred can emerge from opposing and even contradictory political beliefs. Our enemies have portrayed us alternately as evil Socialists and Capitalists, the common thread being that in our “otherness” we represent a collective threat to a cherished world order and way of life.

The peril posed by violent white supremacist extremists is enduring and unmistakable. But if those who identify as progressive insist on only seeing the danger to Jews that originates from that one toxic ideology, they are succumbing to a dangerous confirmation bias, and disregarding blatant warning signs.

In recent weeks, we’ve all seen the horrifying spectacle of Jews being physically assaulted in cities around the country, often scapegoated and targeted by those demonstrating against Israel during the Gaza crisis.

Here in Boston, the signs have been more subtle, but no less insidious. Two cases in point:

When the Cambridge City Council scheduled a last-minute hearing on a troubling BDS resolution, they did so on the first day of Shavuot. We at JCRC along with the Anti-Defamation League, the American Jewish Committee, and the Israeli-American Council, alerted the City Council about this date conflict, which prevented some Jewish residents of Cambridge wanting to offer comments from doing so. We explicitly requested an accommodation – through a one week delay – so that all interested Cambridge residents could participate in the discussion. Councilor Quinton Zondervan, the lead sponsor of the resolution, publicly responded, “I appreciate that it is the Shavuot holiday, but last week it was Eid. That didn’t seem to prevent the Israeli government from bombing and evicting and terrorizing Palestinian people.” As shocking as it was to have a city official blatantly defend disenfranchising local citizens as punishment for the actions of a foreign government, even more disheartening was the silence with which it was met, even when the offense was publicized.

The second incident was more subtle but no less concerning. A member of the Massachusetts Congressional delegation spoke out about the spate of antisemitic attacks, but in tweeting about them, felt the need to call out in one message both antisemitism and Islamophobia, condemning “all forms of bigotry and hate”. Yes of course, Islamophobia must be condemned and eradicated, but why the need to dilute the condemnation of antisemitic violence erupting at this moment across the country, by also mentioning that particular form of bigotry (which thankfully had not seen a recent spike)? Several months ago, when speaking about the egregious wave of assaults against Asian-Americans, there was no similar need to mention another targeted group in the same breath. And when brutal attacks on mosques were rightfully denounced, there was no need to simultaneously condemn antisemitism along with anti-Muslim hate. Why can’t hateful speech and acts directed at Jews be called out as such, and why doesn’t our community demand that moral clarity from our leaders?

This week, I reached out to some close interfaith partners, to tell them about the crisis we are facing. I expressed my frustration at the resistance of some political leaders to unambiguously denounce antisemitism on its own. The response I received from one cherished friend, underscored not only her caring and concern, but also her profound understanding of our community’s experience. “As a Black person, I did not want to hear All Lives Matter when we were the target. All lives didn’t matter when Black Lives were disregarded and I would imagine the Jewish Community would feel the same way.”

We Jews are proud heirs to a legacy of justice and compassion, one which compels us to cry out at the suffering of our neighbors, to fight their oppression and to join forces with them in building a more equitable society. But as my wise friend understood, compassion, empathy and a call for justice must start with a recognition of our own pain and vulnerability, and an insistence on our own safety. In this moment, it must also include acknowledgement of a pernicious antisemitism that is getting a pass in some political circles that many of us are inclined to view as tolerant and open-minded. We must move beyond our own confirmation bias.

Our current political climate and the plethora of issues we face reflect more complexity than our polarized discourse would have us believe. I for one, think we’re up to the challenge.  As beings capable of having complex thoughts and appreciating multiple realities and perspectives, we can resist one- dimensional views that oversimplify, and which present false binaries. We can reject the notion that being engaged citizens acting on our Jewish values has to mean either overlooking our own victimization or being inured to the suffering of others. We can be for ourselves – and for others.

Shabbat Shalom,

Nahma

Statement from JCRC regarding MA State Senator Jamie Eldridge’s Statement on the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict

It is utterly shocking that a member of the Massachusetts Senate would elevate Hamas as a legitimate actor in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. There can be absolutely no moral equivalence between the State of Israel - an American ally, whatever criticisms one may hold about that nation’s government - and Hamas, a designated foreign terror organization, by both the United States and European Union, that is funded and supported by the regime in Iran and whose charter explicitly calls for the elimination of the State of Israel.

The legitimization of a designated terrorist organization by an elected official is irresponsible  and should be a matter of grave concern to all residents of our Commonwealth and to his colleagues. We insist that Senator Eldridge clarify his views.

The Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Boston (JCRC) actively supports efforts to achieve Palestinian national aspirations through peaceful means. We are wholly committed to realizing the full equality of all Israel’s citizens. Conversations about the relationship of “occupation” between the State of Israel and the Palestinian people are important and we embrace those challenging conversations.

JCRC has reached out to Massachusetts State Senator Jamie Eldridge to request an opportunity to discuss our concerns regarding his statement on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Despite our long relationship with Senator Eldridge he has not, at this time, responded to our request, nor did he make any attempt to be in dialogue with us prior to issuing his statement.  

Update – June 10, 2021, 4pm

We welcome Senator Jamie Eldridge’s statement of clarification today, including, specifically, regarding his understanding of the terrorist organization Hamas. We thank the Senator for the discussion we had today, and we look forward to being in continued dialogue with him about how to advance our shared commitment to achieving a secure and peaceful future for Israelis and Palestinians.

Anti-Israel BDS defeated in Cambridge

site-55-logo-1619014336
https://www.jcrcboston.org/wp-content/uploads/cropped-jcrc-logo-footer-1.png

Dear friends,

Last night, the Cambridge City Council overwhelmingly rejected an order that would have singled out Israel by boycotting city purchases of products made by Hewlett Packard, which also sells technology to Israel.

The decision came after more than seven hours of testimony on Monday night. Our community was mobilized and energized to push back against a one-sided narrative presented a week earlier, when the motion was first debated during the Shavuot holiday. After action alerts and social media blasts, more than 150 people argued live (on Zoom) against the measure, while an additional 250 Cambridge residents signed on to provide joint testimony that was read to the City Council. Our Jewish community — including CJP and JCRC volunteers, Israeli Americans, business leaders, interfaith leaders, and many others — ensured that Cambridge would not allow Israel to be delegitimized, marginalized, or maligned by the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) movement that seeks Israel’s destruction.

As many speakers and City Council Members noted, the BDS battle pitted neighbor against neighbor and divided the Cambridge community. Instead of building bridges and creating understanding — the groundwork for peace — BDS “drives a wedge even deeper,” said Council Member Marc McGovern.

We thank the partners who have co-led this effort and worked tirelessly to call out anti-Israel hate and bigotry — the Anti-Defamation League, the American Jewish Committee, the Israeli American Council and StandWithUs — as well as the local organizations and congregations in Cambridge who mobilized their members. This was a collaborative effort and a powerful example of what we can achieve when we work together.

We also commend the members of the Cambridge City Council who tabled the discussion on Shavuot to accommodate the religious needs of some in our community, and who saw through this effort that sought to make Cambridge the first city in the United States to embrace virulently anti-Israel BDS.

The fight against the BDS movement has grown as its proponents have become bolder, more organized, and more sophisticated than ever before. It’s up to us to remain vigilant, to push back against Israel hate, and call out this divisive tactic whenever and wherever we see it.

We have tremendous work ahead — thank you for your support and partnership.

mb
JB

Rabbi Marc Baker

President and CEO, CJP

Jeremy Burton

Executive Director, JCRC

 

Emergency Action Alert

Untitled design - 2021-05-20T110514.580

Dear Friends –

We need your help and your voice to confront a one-sided effort to delegitimize Israel in Cambridge.

This coming Monday, May 24, at 5:30 p.m., the Cambridge City Council is expected to complete debate and vote on a BDS measure.

On Monday, as Jews commemorated Shavuot, the Cambridge City Council held a hearing that would order the city’s purchasing department to, “review corporate contracts and identify any companies that are in violation of Cambridge’s policy on discrimination, including (but not limited to) Hewlett Packard … over their role in abetting apartheid in the Middle East…to ensure that the city embody the values it put on paper.”

The proposal is part of a larger BDS (Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions) movement that is, in significant part and, in their own words, dedicated to Israel’s destruction.

That this proposal is even considered in Cambridge brings up disturbing questions of why Israel – and no other nation in the world – is the target of sanctions and why a hearing, which could have been held any Monday night of the year, was debated during a Jewish holiday.

If you are a Cambridge resident, please consider submitting written testimony or being prepared to testify live during the virtual meeting (see details about testifying and suggested talking points here). If you’re not a resident, and have friends or business interests in the city, please forward this alert and urge them to speak out.

We hope you can make your voice heard and take a stand against BDS in Cambridge. Find more info and talking points here.

Instructions for Speaking at Cambridge City Council:

1. Starting tomorrow, May 21, at 9 a.m., you may register to speak by clicking this link. Instructions including the agenda numbers will be updated on this website as soon as the information is available.
2. Registration to speak closes on Monday, May 24 at 6 p.m. Please register in advance.
3. For more information on signing on to speak or to view the City Council meeting on May 24 at 5:30 p.m. on Zoom, click here.

Helpful Tips

  • You will be allowed only two minutes to speak. Time is strictly limited. You will be cut off by if you go over two minutes. Prepare your comments in advance to ensure that you adhere to the time limit.
  • Participation is by voice only; you will not be on video.
  • Make your comments personal and from the heart.
  • Do not spend too much time focusing on the situation in Israel. Focus on the issue in Cambridge and how it affects you, your business, your family, etc.

Action Items and Talking Points on Cambridge City Council (CCC) Resolution

Background

On May 17th the Cambridge City Council (CCC) held a hearing to advance a BDS initiative. Policy Order 2021 #109 directs the city manager to “review corporate contracts and identify any companies that are in violation of Cambridge’s policy on discrimination, including (but not limited to) Hewlett Packard Enterprise and Hewlett Packard Incorporated over their role in abetting apartheid in the Middle East.”  The target of this resolution is Israel. Here are things to know.

Take Action

  1. Cambridge Residents: In lieu of testifying, you can sign on to this letter detailing your opposition. The letter will be presented to the City Council during the meeting to demonstrate the strong opposition by Cambridge residents to this resolution.
  2. Encourage your friends, neighbors, colleagues, and others in your network who are Cambridge residents to sign this letter by sharing this email with them.
  3. An individual may signup to speak before the Cambridge City Council via telephone to the City Council office on Monday from 9:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m., or on-line via the City’s website, starting at 9:00 a.m. today.
  4. You can also submit written testimony to the entire City Council by way of email
  5. Please make sure to indicate when signing up or emailing that you are addressing POR 2021 #109 on the May 24th

Talking Points

1. The CCC Proceeded with the Hearing with Full Knowledge That Many Jews Would Be Excluded

The Cambridge City Council proceeded with a hearing on the resolution after having been notified, days in advance, that many interested parties would not be able to attend due to observance of the Jewish holiday of Shavuot.   Councilor Zondervan communicated that he supported disenfranchising Jews in stating, “I appreciate that it is the Shavuot holiday, but last week it was Eid. That didn’t seem to prevent the Israeli government from bombing and evicting and terrorizing Palestinian people.”  We are grateful to Councilor Patricia Nolan, who stepped in to ensure that the actual vote would be deferred until Monday May 24th. We hope that others will speak to the apparent readiness to disenfranchise Jews.

2. The CCC Resolution is a Sham

According to the City of Cambridge’s assistant city manager for finance, it has been nearly seven (7) years since Cambridge has had a direct purchase order with Hewlett Packard. In other words, the resolution is addressing “a problem” that does not exist. It is a sham, whose only purpose is to demonize Israel.

3. Singling Out Israel and Holding It to a Unique Ethical Standard Raises Troubling Questions

There are hundreds of American companies that are working overseas and engaged in transactions that could be tied to questionable human rights practices. Examples include energy companies like Aramco in Saudi Arabia (persecution of religious minorities, women, and members of the LGBTQ community) and technology and consumer companies like Apple and Foxconn in China (child and slave labor).  Why is the CCC focused only on a company that does business with Israel? This focus on Israel betrays a deeper and concerning animus to the world’s only Jewish state.

4. CCC Proposes to Hold HP and Israel to a Standard It Does Not Apply to Cambridge Based Companies

If the CCC is intent on disassociating itself from companies that violate human rights then it need not trouble itself with events halfway around the world. A March 2020 report from the Australian Strategic Policy Institute, for example, cited 82 major corporations that have items in their supply chain created by Uyghur slave labor. Some of these are prominent tech and retail companies with large offices and stores in Cambridge (we are glad to provide additional information). Other companies with stores in Cambridge are selling merchandise from companies that reportedly have product made with Uyghur slave labor in their supply chain. Is the City of Cambridge concerned that it may be doing business with these companies?  Might the City of Cambridge be extending benefits to some of these companies? Have members of the CCC paused to ask these questions?

5. The Accusation that Israel Practices Apartheid is False and Malicious

Like with other BDS initiatives, the primary purpose for proceeding with Policy Order 2021 #109 is to advance false and malicious ideas that will serve to delegitimize Israel. BDS has been rejected by everyone from Joe Biden and Barak Obama to Cory Booker, Nancy Pelosi, Joe Kennedy, Jamal Bowman and governors from all 50 states.  Yet, proponents continue to try to advance their claims by cherry picking data to support extreme and unsubstantiated claims.  Here is what they will not tell you.

Israeli policies in the West Bank are primarily motivated by security concerns arising from the sustained violence that has resulted in the murder and maiming of thousands of Israelis.  These policies can be the subject of honest debate, but it is a false and malign distortion to suggest they are racially motivated, much less akin to apartheid.  Resolutions that advance such ideas distort the reality on the ground and provide cover to groups like Hamas, an internationally recognized terrorist group that rejects peace and co-existence with Israel on any terms. This is a dubious role for an American city.

6.  One Sided BDS Narratives Undermine Prospects for Peace

BDS initiatives, such as the one now under consideration, are deceptive and misleading. They spread false malign information about Israel, fuel polarization, and strengthen the hands of those who reject peaceful co-existence. In this time of heightened tensions, we might hope that elected leaders would seek ways to promote engagement and reconciliation.  The CCC, however, is contemplating a different path, one that will further inflame tensions and foster division. The vehicle for this is a resolution that ignores one side’s commitment to violence and its contempt for peace, while conveying a false view of the actions and views of the other. The losers of such hubris are always the Palestinians and Israelis, who hope for a new day where peace is possible. The City of Cambridge can be part of the solution or pour fuel on the fire. Which will it be?

Despair and Hope in Israel

Today, at a time when we’re desperately seeking glimmers of hope, and the possibility of a peaceful future, we’re bringing you on a virtual visit with a few special Israeli and Palestinian friends, part of the Boston Partners for Peace community in this blogpost by Eli Cohn-Postell, JCRC Director of Israel Engagement:

This was an excruciating week. We at JCRC have been heartbroken watching events in Israel, and we mourn the loss of innocent life. We stand by the people of Israel as they are terrorized by rockets launched by Hamas in the Gaza Strip. Many of us have not been able to travel to Israel during the pandemic, and we long to be closer to our friends and family during frightening times. While we cannot be there in person, it is all the more critical to take our cues from those most affected during times of crisis. We spent this week listening to our Israeli and Palestinian partners, re-engaging with their stories and our memories of being together.

Whenever rockets are fired from Gaza I immediately think of Netiv Ha’asarah. Netiv Ha’asarah is a Moshav just to the north of Gaza, even closer to the Strip than Ashkelon or Sderot. They were in the news this week, as Hamas rockets target the area and, tragically, because an IDF soldier was killed there on Wednesday. We visit Netiv Ha’asarah with our JCRC Study Tour groups, and we often meet with residents in a bomb shelter located underneath a playground. There, we usually speak with Raz or his mother, Smadar, who show us what is left of a Qassam rocket and a piece of an Iron Dome missile that landed in the village. They proudly share the history of the community, along with the sense of vulnerability they feel on a regular basis.

But the residents of Netiv Ha’asarah also recognize the vulnerability of the Palestinians living nearby. Many of the Jews living there had relationships with the Palestinians in Gaza before Israel’s 2005 withdrawal and Hamas’ subsequent violent takeover. Some have even started a collective art project, using walls meant to defend against sniper fire as a canvas for a tile mosaic that sends a message of peace to the people in Gaza.

This week I am also thinking of our tour guides and their families. One of our guides, Yishay, posts a photograph every day on social media. Earlier this week he posted about preparing the bomb shelter in his Jerusalem home so that he and his family would be safe from the rockets. I am thinking of our guide Mike, who always brings complexity and helps me to see the gray areas. When I reached out to him, he told me a story about going to get an X-ray recently with a Muslim religious X-ray technician. He wished her a Ramadan Kareem, and he learned that she commutes to Modi’in from her home in Umm-al-Fahm, where she is also studying (via Zoom) at the American University in Ramallah. The reality is so much more complex than we can see from here.

And, of course, we are looking to the peacebuilding community and our Boston Partners for Peace partners. Unsurprisingly, they have been quick to call for an end to the violence and are mobilizing where possible. I was particularly inspired by Roots, a group of Israelis and Palestinians in the West Bank. They held a joint fast and moment of prayer, and these communities and organizations continue to do the critical work of bringing people together, even during this fraught moment, despite their differences. Just yesterday, thousands of Jewish and Arabs citizens came together in cities all over the country to call for a cease fire and an end to violence.

There is no doubt that the current violence is a stress on the grassroots peacebuilding community. Violence perpetrated in the streets of mixed Arab-Jewish cities has been deplorable, and has been rightly condemned by both Arab and Jewish politicians. Some have wondered whether the fighting could have long-term impacts on co-existence efforts. But I know that the peacebuilders will remain steadfast. There has never been a question about whether this movement will be extinguished, the challenge has always been for these organizations to grow and spread their message of hope to more people. I am confident that they will continue to work for peace, and we will continue to support their efforts.

During such a challenging time, it is crucial for us to also share our hopes. I am hoping for a swift end to the violence in Israel. I am hoping that we can return soon to see our friends. I am hoping that people can feel safe in their homes. I am hoping that this can be a transformative moment, and a moment of growth for movements working toward mutual recognition and dignity for all people.

Shabbat Shalom,

Eli

Eli Cohn-Postell
Director of Israel Engagement

Statement from the JCRC of Greater Boston following Council Meeting of April 27, 2021

After a seven-month process culminating in a vote tonight, the membership of the Jewish Community Relations Council (JCRC) of Greater Boston has rejected the petition to remove the Zionist Organization of America (ZOA) from the Council. The vote was 40 to expel, 48 against (with 10 abstentions). In order for the vote to pass, JCRC bylaws required a two-thirds majority of the members present. In a separate vote, the membership adopted a resolution (below) to clarify the bylaws as to what would constitute a member organization being out of alignment with JCRC’s mission.

The vote to expel was in response to a petition filed in September 2020 by some of JCRC’s members and individuals on the Council. After the petition was filed, the Membership Committee began a comprehensive review, including numerous interviews with both the petitioners and ZOA; reviews of documents, social media posts and public comments; and analysis of our membership requirements, all in keeping with our bylaws and stated protocols. Based on the thoughtful and diligent work of the Membership Committee, the JCRC Board endorsed the recommendation of the Membership Committee not to expel ZOA and that recommendation was presented to the Council. However, as required by our bylaws, it was the Council members through the voting process, who ultimately choose the path forward.

By a vote of 66 in favor, and 10 against (with 10 abstentions), the membership voted to adopt a resolution to clarify the bylaws as to what would constitute a member organization being out of alignment with JCRC’s mission to “promote an American society which is democratic, pluralistic, and just.”

Resolution

Resolved, that the JCRC of Greater Boston endorses the definition of White Supremacy utilized by Facing History and Ourselves in their educational work and defines White Supremacy as “Systems that uphold the dominant status of white people over all other people. White supremacists believe in the superiority of white people”; And,

Resolved, that no Member Organization of JCRC, through its programs, activities or practices - or through the public leadership platforms of its executive officers - should legitimize or normalize organizations or individuals who embrace white supremacy, white nationalism or the conspiracy theories which underlie these ideologies;

Such action is not compatible with, and is in conflict with, JCRC’s mission and, from and after the date hereof, could be grounds for condemnation, including removal from the JCRC upon the determination of this Council and in accordance with JCRC’s Bylaws.

Since JCRC’s founding, we have embraced a “big tent” approach to our network – which is comprised of 40 organizations - striving to welcome all voices advancing the interests of the organized Jewish community and have been committed to representing a diversity of viewpoints.  We believe that it is possible for robust support for the US-Israel alliance, including vigorous advocacy, to thrive without embracing white supremacy and bigotry. Plainly said, we reaffirm that there will be no place for white supremacy, white nationalism, or related conspiracy theorists in our organization.

When a similar situation arose in 2019, the JCRC membership did not expel an organization which had engaged in activities many felt to be inconsistent with our mission.  JCRC’s members are committed to coming together to understand the experiences of others and to hear their perspectives, even as they differ from our own. It is only by engaging in these often very difficult dialogues that we can continue our mission of civic engagement, building bridges, and initiating partnerships to strengthen the Jewish community for all of us.

The Board of Directors and the Executive Director thank the Council for adopting the recommendations of the Membership Committee.

Message Upon the Guilty Verdict for Derek Chauvin

The Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Boston joins with our partners in welcoming the accountability that comes with the conviction of Derek Chauvin. No verdict will bring George Floyd back or make his family and friends whole for their loss. There is still much more work to do to confront systemic racism. JCRC will continue to work with our partners to advocate for systemic change including police reform, as well as advocate for changes to address disparities in health care, housing, education and employment—all must be addressed to achieve a just and fair society for all. 

We stand with the Jewish Community Relations Council of Minnesota and the Dakotas and share its statement calling for systemic reform and solidarity. 

A Measure of Justice for George Floyd 

No murder conviction can bring George Floyd back or make his family and friends fully whole for their loss. And there is still much more work to be done to confront systemic racism. 

 April 20, 2021 

 The Jewish Community Relations Council of Minnesota and the Dakotas (JCRC), Minneapolis Jewish Federation, and St. Paul Jewish Federation strongly support the conviction of George Floyd’s killer on all three counts, including murder in the second and third degree.

While no guilty verdict can bring George Floyd back or make his family and friends fully whole for their loss or unwind the trauma inflicted on the broader African American community, we hope that today’s decision brings some measure of justice, healing, and peace to his loved ones and for all Minnesotans.

We know that the problem is not just the murderous misconduct of a few police officers. Systemic failures in law enforcement, as they are in so many areas of society, are real and harm not just communities, but good officers who are committed to doing the job with integrity and fairness.

As such, systemic solutions which include not just police accountability, but also address disparities in housing, education, employment, healthcare, and income are needed now to ensure that Minnesota is a great place to live for all its residents.

We offer our solidarity to the broader African American community, including Black Jews and Jews of color. Additionally, we pledge to be part of the difficult, but necessary work of repairing the relationship between the police and those they are entrusted to protect and serve.

Finally, we thank the members of our Minnesota National Guard for their service in protecting local communities. We do so with full appreciation that the presence of the Guard on our streets is far from ideal and traumatic to many. We hope that our fellow Minnesotans will come to know the Guard as we know them, neighbors who share our commitment to diversity, inclusion, and service.  

Photo: The makeshift memorial and mural outside Cup Foods where George Floyd was murdered by a Minneapolis police officer on Sunday, May 31, 2020 in Minneapolis, Minnesota. (Jason Armond/Los Angeles Times/TNS) 

The Science of Collaboration

This week, a message from
Director of Israel Engagement
Eli Cohn-Postell:

I always enjoyed school growing up, but science was never one of my strong subjects. I never had a handle on how science actually worked. When doing experiments in school, for example, I always had the impression that I was supposed to come up with a pre-determined answer rather than to test a new idea. I knew that a hypothesis was an informed guess about what might happen, but I could never find creativity in the scientific method. Only later did I realize that forming and testing a hypothesis are the fundamental steps to creation and innovation, with opportunities to experiment all around us.

We have been testing a simple hypothesis in recent weeks: that shared problems, even complex issues facing communities separated by thousands of miles, benefit from collaborative solutions. The initial results are positive. Over the past month, we have held two programs that brought together civic leaders in Boston, Israel, and San Francisco to discuss equity during the pandemic. It turns out we have a lot to learn from each other. Even through different circumstances, we face similar questions such as how to address education gaps during remote learning, how to overcome mistrust regarding vaccine distribution, and how to advance equitable solutions to address disparities in our communities

Before we could start this experiment we needed to find people who could address these issues directly. We first turned to City Councilors Andrea Campbell and Justin Hurst of Boston and Springfield, respectively. In addition to having traveled to Israel on our Study Tours, Councilors Campbell and Hurst are longstanding partners of ours, with years of experience building more equitable communities both inside and outside of politics. We partnered with our friends at the Interagency Task Force on Israeli Arab issues—a key resource for many of our Boston Partners for Peace organizations—and the San Francisco JCRC to identify the right leaders to engage in solution-centered conversations.

Our first program featured Councilor Campbell alongside Dr. Nasreen Hadad Haj’Yahya, Director of the Arab-Jewish Relations Program at the Israel Democracy Institute, discussing the impact of the pandemic on existing equity gaps in education. (You can watch the recording here). Councilor Campbell and Dr. Hadad Haj’Yahya talked about their experiences as female members of minority communities, sharing personal examples of how access to education and other resources shaped their own families and impacted their professional journeys. Then, earlier this week, we spoke to Councilor Hurst alongside Haifa District Commissioner Fayez Hanna and San Francisco Supervisor Myrna Melgar (recording here). Together, they discussed how COVID has exacerbated equity gaps in their communities but has also created new opportunities for trust-building between the government and minority populations.

The pandemic has provided us with both obstacles and opportunities to deepen our personal connections and advance our work. Before the pandemic, we might have held these meetings face to face, bringing leadership from Boston to Israel and vice versa. Instead, we are now embracing new opportunities to hold these critical conversations not only across the country and around the world, but with technology that enables hundreds of other people to participate and benefit as well.

Towards the end of our first session, someone asked if we really can learn from each other or if the contexts in Boston and Israel are simply too different for shared solutions. I appreciated Councilor Campbell’s response: despite the starkly different landscapes, she affirmed the value of learning best practices from one another and being in partnership across different settings. Her words rang true, reinforcing the importance of bringing our partners together for these conversations and shared learnings that help to build a more equitable world.

Another thing about science that I used to misunderstand is that you never prove a hypothesis. An experiment can give you evidence to either confirm or refute your guesses, but you never have proof. This month, we didn’t prove that political thinkers in Boston, Israel, and San Francisco can come together to solve the great problems of our day. Yet we did create something: the seed of a new community, dedicated to collaboration and with the potential for further growth and partnership.

If you would like to learn more about our upcoming programing, please click here.

Shabbat Shalom,

Eli

Eli Cohn-Postell
Director of Israel Engagement

JCRC to Present Executive Director Jeremy Burton with Warren B. Kohn Award

For Immediate Release
Contact: Shira Burns
1.12.20

JCRC to Present Executive Director Jeremy Burton
with Warren B. Kohn Award
 

(Boston, MA) The Jewish Community Relations Council is pleased to announce that the JCRC Board of Directors has unanimously voted to present Jeremy Burton with the Warren B. Kohn Award on his ten-year anniversary as Executive Director. The Kohn award is presented by JCRC to an outstanding Jewish community relations professional in memory of Warren B. Kohn, a past president of JCRC. JCRC will present this award as a part of the JCRC Celebrates Gala in September 2021.

Jeremy joined JCRC as Executive Director in October 2011, after playing major leadership roles in many Jewish nonprofits as well as political campaigns. Under Jeremy’s leadership, JCRC has thrived as a national model for community relations.

“Jeremy is a unique Jewish leader who combines head with heart and a deep love of the Jewish People with a passion for American democracy,” said Rabbi Marc Baker, President & CEO of Combined Jewish Philanthropies. “In challenging and divisive times, our community is blessed to have a leader like Jeremy, a voice of conscience and conviction, who helps us all to navigate complexity and competing values with nuance and integrity. Jeremy has earned this honor because of who he is as a leader. I am grateful for his partnership and friendship.”

"Jeremy has dedicated himself to developing deep and enduring relationships within and beyond the Jewish community," said JCRC President Stacey Bloom. "He cherishes his collaborations with our Jewish organizational partners, and his interfaith relationships are based on profound respect, authentic openness, and a generosity of spirit. Jeremy is the rare leader who feels responsibility not to any one segment of our community, but to its totality. He embraces and honors his duty to discern the concerns, hopes and aspirations of the organized Jewish community, to communicate them beyond our community, and to mobilize action on their behalf in the halls of power. Jeremy is a national thought leader in the Jewish community, and a leader the Boston Jewish community looks to again and again."

“Jeremy came to us not only with extraordinary political acumen honed over decades of leadership in the public arena, but with a deep love for and commitment to the Jewish community acting on its most cherished values,” said Deputy Director Nahma Nadich. “Jeremy’s clarity of vision propelled JCRC to distill and amplify its core mission of building a Jewish community that is civically engaged and connected through enduring partnerships beyond our community, in service to Jewish concerns and the collective good.”

Past Recipients of the Warren B. Kohn Award:

  • 2018: Robert Trestan, Anti-Defamation League
  • 2016: Rabbi Barbara Penzner, Temple Hillel B’nai Torah
  • 2012: Nahma M. Nadich, Jewish Community Relations Council
  • 2008: Alan S. Ronkin, Jewish Community Relations Council
  • 2005: Larry Lowenthal, American Jewish Committee
  • 2000: Nancy K. Kaufman, Jewish Community Relations Council
  • 1996: Barbara Gaffin, Jewish Community Relations Council
  • 1992: Sheila Decter, American Jewish Congress
  • 1989: Leonard P. Zakim, Anti-Defamation League
  • 1987: Philip Perlmutter, Jewish Community Relations Council

JCRC Executive Director Jeremy Burton Bio
Jeremy came to the Jewish community from a career in political strategy and public communications, having worked for New York Mayor David N. Dinkins, Manhattan Borough President Ruth Messinger, the 1996 Clinton/Gore Re-Election Campaign, and the New York State Assembly & Attorney General, among others. Previously he was the Senior Vice President of Programs at the Jewish Funds for Justice, and Vice President of Programs at the Jewish Funders Network. Jeremy also served as a board member of Keshet, working for the full inclusion of LGBTQ Jews in Jewish life. Jeremy writes and speaks widely about challenges and opportunities facing the Jewish community. He has been published in the Boston Globe, Times of Israel, New York Jewish Week, the Jewish Forward, and the Washington Post: On Faith. The Jewish Telegraphic Agency included him in their “Twitter 100” list of the most influential Jewish voices on Twitter. You can follow him @BurtonJM.

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 www.jcrcboston.org.

###