Author: JCRC

JCRC Joins JCPA In Urging Israel to Suspend Plan to Deport Eritrean and Sudanese Asylum-Seekers

The Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Boston echoes and shares the sentiments expressed by the Jewish Council for Public Affairs (JCPA), the national network of JCRCs, in this statement today. We join the JCPA in urging Israel to suspend the plan to deport Eritrean and Sudanese asylum seekers:

New York, NY – In response to the Government of Israel’s recent announcement that there are plans underway to deport the approximately 35,000 – 40,000 Eritrean and Sudanese asylum-seekers living in Israel to several African governments, including Uganda and Rwanda, the Jewish Council for Public Affairs (JCPA) issued the following statement:

“JCPA recognizes Israel’s distinguished record of opening its doors to non-Jewish victims of genocide and human rights abuses, as it did with the Vietnamese refugees in the late 1970s, and those from the Balkans decades later. JCPA fully acknowledges Israel’s security concerns, and commends Israel’s efforts to secure its borders, which has significantly reduced rampant human trafficking and unauthorized immigration.  We urge the Government of Israel to balance such concerns with its historic commitment to welcoming the stranger and protecting refugees.

“We urge the government to suspend its plan to deport Eritrean and Sudanese asylum-seekers who entered the country between 2007-12, and develop a comprehensive policy for non-Jewish asylum-seekers that safeguards human dignity and human rights, in compliance with Israel’s obligations under the 1951 Refugee Convention. We believe that such a policy would ensure Israel’s security, and honor Israel’s values as a compassionate, Jewish and democratic state.

“We ask that a refugee and asylum policy include a transparent and efficient system for processing asylum applications so that claims are resolved in a fair and timely manner. Applicants should receive a temporary status that ensures basic safety, stability, and dignity, including the ability to work legally and gainfully. The government should establish minimum standard for education, health, and welfare services. We also request that any resettlement to third countries should only involve those nations where asylum-seekers will be treated with dignity and guaranteed status and safety pursuant to international conventions.”

MBR and JCRC Respond to Hate Speech and Misinformation Campaign

We, the Executive Committee of the Massachusetts Board of Rabbis (MBR) and the Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Boston, condemn in the strongest terms the recent attacks on our colleague and former MBR President, Rabbi Howard Jaffe, by Americans for Peace and Tolerance (APT) and its director, Charles Jacobs. This group, whose Orwellian name belies their relentless defamation of Boston-area Muslims along with respected leaders in the Greater Boston Jewish community, has used the most tendentious of arguments to suggest that Rabbi Jaffe is somehow linked to terrorism and Islamic extremism. We are hesitant to even dignify this claim with a response, but the honor of our colleague and our community moves us to issue this statement. Jacobs used a picture of Rabbi Jaffe under the heading, “No one else unmasks clergy who seek to do us harm,” as part of a recent fundraising campaign, the clear implication being that one of the most respected leaders of the Greater Boston community is somehow in league with enemies of the Jewish people.

Despite their claims to be standing up to extremism, Charles Jacobs and APT are the true face of extremism in our community: purveyors of hatred and division, they engage in outrageous attacks on communal institutions and individuals involved in the important work of building relationships among Boston-area Muslims and Jews. They have targeted respected rabbis in our community as well as leaders of our communal institutions, including the Jewish Community Relations Council and Combined Jewish Philanthropies of Greater Boston. Their attacks on Rabbi Jaffe and his congregation are just the latest salvos in an ongoing campaign of misinformation and innuendo meant to spread discord and fear. Not content to simply publish his opinions, Jacobs and APT members gained access to members’ emails in Rabbi Jaffe’s congregation, and subjected both congregants and staff to an onslaught of vile and threatening calls and emails. There is no place in our community for this kind of verbal violence. We call on all Jewish communal news organizations—including The Jewish Advocate and the Times of Israel—to refuse to carry Charles Jacobs’ writings unless and until he ceases his defamation of respected Jewish communal leaders and vicious anti-Muslim propaganda.

Statement from JCRC of Greater Boston Regarding the Status of Jerusalem

President Trump announced today that the United States government recognizes Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. It has long been JCRC’s view that the failure by the nations of the world, including the United States, to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel is a historic injustice. Since 1949, when Israel established its capital in those parts of West Jerusalem under its sovereignty, the nations of the world have refused to recognize it. This refusal has singled out Israel amongst all nations, denying Israel the right that every other sovereign nation has to determine the location of its own capital within its sovereign territory. JCRC welcomes progress towards removing this injustice.

And yet, at this moment of pride and joy for so much of our community, we must also acknowledge that many in our community have raised questions and concerns about the timing of this announcement. We support a two-state solution, directly negotiated by the Israelis and Palestinians. We are concerned that today’s action could potentially damage the prospects for achieving — and diminish the ability of the United States to act effectively as a facilitator of — the peace that we all desire. The path to peace is challenging. We have no crystal ball that tells us which steps complicate or smooth the way forward.

We hope that Israeli and Palestinian leaders will act in the best interest of their people and take meaningful steps to ease tensions and advance the cause of peace. We reaffirm our own commitment to support efforts that hasten the realization of peace, security, and prosperity for both Israelis and Palestinians.

CJP, JCRC Statement on the Murder of Sgt. Ron Yitzhak Kokia

We join with our brothers and sisters in Israel in mourning Sgt. Ron Yitzhak Kokia (z”l), 19, stabbed to death by a terrorist while waiting for a bus in Arad last night. Ron, a native of Tel Aviv, served in the Nahal Brigade, a unit based outside the southern Israeli city where he was murdered.

The assailant remains at large, with a widespread manhunt continuing in Israel today. We pray for a time when the people of Israel can live in peace and security. Our hearts go out to Ron’s family, his friends, and the many people who mourn him today. May they find comfort among the mourners of Zion and Jerusalem.

Statement on Presidential Tax Disclosure

The Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Boston (JCRC) announced today that it would support legislation requiring presidential candidates to disclose their tax returns before appearing on the ballot in Massachusetts. JCRC endorses MA S. 365, An Act Restoring Financial Transparency in Presidential Elections.

In a message to the community, the leadership of JCRC said:

“We live in a time when the norms of a healthy constitutional democracy are threatened. While this challenge to the American experiment did not emerge overnight, its intensity has heightened. Throughout American history – when there is an erosion of practices that serve to ensure a healthy check and balance on executive power, or that safeguard the ability  of citizens to be informed about our elected leaders – we, the people, have taken measures to codify the ones we value with new laws to protect our democracy.

“Since the 1970s, candidates for the Presidency – both Republicans and Democrats alike – have voluntarily shared with the public their tax returns and other financial information. These disclosures have allowed citizens to make more informed decisions as we choose our leaders, with insight into their interests and dealings.

“As we look to future elections, it is no longer a given that aspirants for the highest office will voluntarily disclose their taxes, and absent action, there is no real incentive to comply with the norm. Given the significant public benefit of this information, JCRC believes that it is necessary to codify as law that presidential candidates be required to disclose their tax returns in order to appear on the ballot.

“JCRC believes that a vibrant constitutional democracy is the foundation of our nation’s success and has made the United States a haven for Jews and other minorities. As we see our democratic norms threatened, now is the time to come together and take the necessary steps to defend that which makes us great. JCRC compliments Massachusetts State Senator Michael Barrett (Third Middlesex) for his leadership in filing S.365 and JCRC supports efforts to ensure the rights of voters to make informed decisions in future elections.”

Iran and Our Fractured Politics

Last Friday, President Trump announced that he would not certify to Congress that Iran was in compliance with, nor that it was in the United States’ national interest to abide by, the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan on Action (JCPOA), aka the Iran Deal. It is no secret that the American Jewish community was and remains deeply divided over the agreement; we were nearly evenly split between those who supported and opposed this two years ago, with significant and enduring discord over its implementation.

In 2015, while JCRC did not take a position for or against the deal, we advocated that Congress address what we identified as flaws in the agreement, including the quality of the inspection regime and the so-called sunset clause. We were also concerned that  the original agreement was not more expansive, addressing not only Iran’s nuclear program but also their role as a state sponsor of terror and a destabilizing actor in the region. But the deal didn’t address those issues, and by most accounts, the Iranians are abiding by the agreement to which we committed.

I, for one, am hard-pressed to see how unilaterally walking away from the JCPOA now is the best way to bring the other international partners back to the table to deal with the flaws. I suspect that a different, more prudent, president would have certified the deal and begun to lay the groundwork for other nations to come to the table on the non-nuclear issues, and to begin to plan for the future.

But here we are. The President has made his decision and we’re going to need Congress to figure some of this out over the next two months, in accordance with the Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act that we vigorously supported in 2015.  And while – narrowly speaking – we’re still discussing the issues from 2015 about the quality of the agreement and a strategy for ensuring that Iran never has the capability to threaten Israel with nuclear annihilation, we also need to discuss a larger and more urgent national challenge: The reality that American credibility on the world stage is suffering.

This phenomenon didn’t start with the election of President Trump. Our nation has exhibited a seesaw-like vacillation with key foreign policy issues on the world stage over the past few administrations. To name just a few examples:

  • In 2001 President Bush walked away from the Kyoto Protocol, a climate treaty signed by President Clinton.
  • President Obama didn’t keep our commitment to guarantee Ukraine’s territorial sovereignty, a promise made by Clinton in 1994, when that nation gave up its status as the third largest nuclear power on earth.
  • And President Clinton might have made more headway with Israeli and Palestinian leaders at Camp David in 2000 if the parties could have been confident that our next administration would honor his commitments.

The list goes on and on. Suffice to say that our current president – by walking away from the Paris Accord, being dragged kicking and screaming to uphold commitments to NATO’s mutual defense compact – is exacerbating, in the extreme, a problem that is deeper than just him. We are challenged to persuade the world to trust us when we make a 180-degree turn every four to eight years. In the global arena, with regard to the United States, “our word is our bond” is becoming a joke. Our national credibility will take a long time to repair.

This problem starts at home, in our politics on the left and the right, where everything, including foreign policy, has become a place to score points and to advocate – as vociferously as possible – the “opposite” view from those on the other side of the aisle.

We need Congress to come together and value our long-term role as a stabilizing force on the global stage. Our commitments should be our commitments. Our allies should know what broadly-held principles of ours endure. They should be secure in the knowledge that we won’t be breaking our word every time the White House changes hands.

We need a foreign policy that is grounded in a bipartisan center that can and will hold together against challenges from those on both extremes of our politics. We may even need to reduce the power of the presidency to make commitments on the world stage that lack broad congressional support. It is not healthy for democracy when so much power rests in the actions and opinions of the Executive. It is not healthy that – and there’s plenty of blame to go around here – less and less of the big stuff happens without a treaty or codified bipartisan majority support from Congress.

So yes, we need to get serious about the Iranian role in the region and about the particular flaws of the JCPOA. But we also need to get serious about the damage that our domestic fractures have caused for our place on the world stage. Starting right now, our leaders need to come together and put forth a strategy, emerging from and supported by a bipartisan cohort in Congress. We need a way forward on Iran that is rooted in a commitment to steadfast American leadership over time.

We need some new thinking to break through the impasse that has come to define our foreign policy. And the next two months, as Congress deals with the Iran Deal, would be a good place to start.

Shabbat Shalom,

Jeremy

Statement from JCRC on Las Vegas Mass Shooting

For the second time in two years, we awoke to the horrifying news that our nation had endured the worst mass shooting in our history. The news out of Las Vegas this morning is heartbreaking – and enraging.

We extend our heartfelt prayers to all of the victims and to the families in Las Vegas who are only now finding out about the loss of loved ones. And we recognize that thoughts and prayers are not enough; not for us as engaged citizens and most of all, not for our elected leaders charged with the responsibility of ensuring our safety.

We do not yet know the motive for this heinous crime.  What we know is that regardless of the motive - whether in San Bernardino, California or Roseburg, Oregon, at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, at the Pulse Night Club in Tampa, at a Congressional baseball practice in suburban Washington, or now at the Mandalay Bay Resort in Las Vegas – these acts of violence are heinous and must be condemned in the strongest possible terms. We must seek to know the motive and we must have an honest national conversation about these actors.

We do not yet know the toll of those taken from us this morning. What we know is that on an average day, 93 Americans are murdered by gun violence, nearly 12,000 every year, at 25 times the average rate in other developed countries. We know that even as these mass shootings horrify us and capture our attention, thousands more will die by gunfire – in bystander violence, in domestic violence, by suicide or crimes that will disproportionately impact communities of color - without the media attention we see this morning.

We do not yet know how this gunman acquired his weapons. What we know is that common sense gun safety regulation, while safeguarding the ability of law-abiding American to own firearms for personal use, can save lives. The organized Jewish community was a leader in the successful 2014 effort by Mass Coalition to Prevent Gun Violence to adopt reasonable legislation; legislation that has contributed to Massachusetts having one of the lowest gun death rates in the nation.

We renew our commitment to working for comprehensive federal laws to reduce further gun violence and save lives. Such action will come too late for those who were taken from us this morning. We must not wait even one more day to demand action that will save others still with us.