Author: JCRC

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,

Nahma

JCRC Applauds the Creation of the Massachusetts-Israel Economic Connection

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
August 13, 2018
Contact: Shira Burns
gro.n1537357733otsob1537357733crcj@1537357733snrub1537357733s1537357733
(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."

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JCRC comment on Membership and BDS

In response to inquiries from some of our member agencies: JCRC is aware of the recent statement released by Jewish Voice for Peace on behalf of several largely fringe groups regarding BDS and anti-Semitism. We are further aware that Boston Workmen’s Circle, a member of the JCRC Council – and through its national body a member of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations – is a signatory to this statement.

JCRC’s bylaws provide that the programs, activities and practices of our member organizations must be compatible and do not conflict with the mission of JCRC. It is the long established view of the JCRC Council – our policy setting body representing our forty-three member organizations and the community at-large – that support for BDS is contrary to our mission of advocating for a safe, secure, Jewish and democratic state of Israel.  The Council can and does, through its standard committee processes, review actions of our members that may reflect that such a compatibility is lacking.

 

Statement from the National Network of JCRCs Expressing Disappointment on Passage of Israel’s Nation-State Bill

New York, NY – The Jewish Council for Public Affairs (JCPA) expresses its profound disappointment in the Knesset passage into law of the Nation-State. We are concerned that this new law undermines Israel’s vibrant democracy comprised of diverse religious and ethnic groups.

JCPA has worked tirelessly to affirm the central value of Jewish unity and the strong bonds that connect us to one another and to the State of Israel. However, over the past year we have become increasingly concerned about strains in the Israeli-Diaspora relationship, which this law further exacerbates.

“We are dismayed at this latest undermining of the Israeli-Diaspora relationship.” stated Cheryl Fishbein, JCPA Board Chair. “It is not Israeli democracy’s finest hour.”

“We are still assessing the implications of the legislation,” stated David Bernstein, JCPA President and CEO. “We urge the government to ensure that the law does not permit discriminatory conduct.”

JCPA urges the government to modify the law so that it aligns with the country’s strong value of equal rights for all Israelis and does not risk damaging the country’s reputation.

JCRC Joins 27 National Orgs in Condemning Family Separation Policy

JCRC has joined with 27 national Jewish organizations to express our strong opposition to the recently expanded “zero-tolerance” policy that includes separating children from their migrant parents when they cross the border. As Jews, we understand the plight of being an immigrant fleeing violence and oppression. Our own people’s history as “strangers” reminds us of the many struggles faced by immigrants today and compels our commitment to an immigration system in this country that is compassionate and just. Separating families is a cruel punishment for children and families simply seeking a better life.

Click here to view the Jewish communal letter to Attorney General Sessions and Secretary Nielsen.

We strongly encourage individuals to sign on to ADL's petition for individuals calling for an end to the policy by clicking here.

We also encourage residents of the Greater Boston area to attend the "Rally to protect immigrant families in Massachusetts" on June 20th at the State House.

To learn more about how to make a difference in supporting immigrants and refugees right here in Massachusetts through JCRC’s work, click here.

Letter to Superintendent of Newton Schools Regarding “Middle East Day”

The letter below was sent to the Superintendent of Newton Schools earlier today by the Anti-Defamation League, New England and the Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Boston regarding questions from our community that have been raised regarding the "Middle East Day" that was held at Newton North High School last month.

Joint Letter to Superintendent David Fleishman from ADL and JCRC

JCRC of Greater Boston to Rededicate New England Holocaust Memorial at Annual Yom HaShoah Commemoration

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
May 30, 2018
Contact: Shira Burns
gro.n1537357733otsob1537357733crcj@1537357733snrub1537357733s1537357733
(617) 457-8673

(Boston, MA) - To honor local survivors of the Holocaust and to pay tribute to those who perished, the Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Boston (JCRC) and its partners will present Rededication to Resiliency, a community commemoration of Yom HaShoah, on Sunday, June 10th, 10:30 am, at Faneuil Hall in Boston. This annual commemoration convenes the Greater Boston community to honor survivors and ensures that future generations remember their stories. This past summer, in two separate acts of vandalism ominously reminiscent of Kristallnacht almost 80 years ago, two of the iconic glass panels of the New England Holocaust Memorial were shattered. “Our entire city was affected,” said Mayor Marty Walsh of the vandalism. “This memorial stands as a symbol of democracy and freedom and that we will not forget what happened during the Holocaust. It’s our duty as a city to spread that message.”

The commemoration will feature a rededication of the New England Holocaust Memorial in a symbolic gesture of our community’s resilience and perseverance, as well as the student winners of the 12th annual Israel Arbeiter Holocaust Essay Contest. Rabbi Alan Turetz of Temple Emeth in Chestnut Hill will speak about his experience as a second-generation Holocaust survivor, and Esther Adler, who survived Kristallnacht, will share her reflections on witnessing the tragic and historic event.

Rededication to Resiliency is presented in partnership with the American Association of Jewish Holocaust Survivors and Descendants of Greater Boston, Combined Jewish Philanthropies, Facing History and Ourselves, and Jewish Family & Children’s Services.

For information, registration or to support the event, visit https://www.jcrcboston.org/events/yomhashoah2018/.

Speaker Bios

Rabbi Alan Turetz, Second-Generation Survivor
Rabbi Turetz has enriched Temple Emeth as its spiritual leader since 1977. Graduating as valedictorian of his class from Adelphi University, he received his master's degree in Hebrew Literature from the Jewish Theological Seminary of America, where his rabbinic ordination was conferred with high honors. He subsequently received an Honorary Doctorate from the Seminary as well. During his more than thirty years on the bimah at Temple Emeth, Rabbi Turetz has been an inspirational and highly esteemed leader of Boston’s Jewish community. He has served as president of both the New England Region of the Rabbinical Assembly and the Massachusetts Board of Rabbis, as Rabbi for the New England Federation of Jewish Men’s Clubs, and has chaired the New England Rabbinic Cabinet for Israel Bonds. His incomparable sermons and mellifluous voice, whether for Shabbat or holiday services, are not to be missed.

Esther Adler, Survivor Testimony
Esther Adler was educated in Germany, Israel, and the United States. She graduated from the Teachers Institute of the Jewish Theological Seminary of New York and taught for many years at the Midway Jewish Center Hebrew School on Long Island. In 1981, she was invited to join the Department of Education of the Jewish National Fund as its Pedagogic Coordinator. She held this position full time until 1987 and until 1997 as part time consultant based in Florida. Esther is the coordinator of the recently established Holocaust Learning Center of Temple Torah and has compiled and published the stories of survivors. In 2014, she published a collection of poems, "Nature Eternal," and in July 2017 she published "Best Friends: A Bond That Survived Hitler," a novel based partly on her life. She is featured in the documentary "We are Jews from Breslau," which was sponsored by the German and Polish Government. Esther Adler enjoys an active life at Orchard Cove, a Hebrew SeniorLife retirement community in Canton, where she continues to write poetry, teach Hebrew and Yiddish classes, and lecture regionally and internationally about the Shoah.

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


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