Author: JCRC

Statement by Board President Regarding Membership Process

For Release: September 25, 2020
 
Statement by Stacey Bloom, Board President, JCRC of Greater Boston
 
In recent weeks, various parties and community members have reached out to express an opinion to JCRC in both public and private communications, about ZOA’s continued membership on the JCRC Council. On behalf of the Board of Directors and the professional leadership of the JCRC, I want to clarify the status and decision making process regarding the challenge to the ZOA’s continued membership on the Council.
 
Several weeks ago, JCRC received a petition from 25 of the 117 voting members of our Council challenging the continued membership of the Boston chapter of ZOA on the Council - our governing body —whose members represent our 40 member organizations (who each have between 1 and 4 voting representatives) and the community-at-large. Pursuant to our Bylaws, this petition has been referred to JCRC’s Membership Committee for review and for a recommendation. The Membership Committee has a maximum of 180 days to make its recommendation on the petition to the Board. After the Board has reviewed the Membership Committee’s recommendation, the petition will be referred to the Council. Once referred to the Council, the JCRC Bylaws require that the full Council vote on the petition.
 
The decision on the petition challenging the ZOA’s membership on the JCRC Council is a decision that will be made by the JCRC Council, not by the Membership Committee, not by the Board, and not by the JCRC professional leadership. Until such time as the petition is presented to the Council, the JCRC will continue our important work advocating on issues of shared importance for the Jewish community during these challenging times. 
 
When the JCRC Council receives the petition in accordance with the Bylaws, it will be the Council—the 40 organizations and community representatives—and Council alone that will determine who belongs at the Council table.

Criminal Justice Reform Principles

  • With just 4.4% of the world’s population, the U.S. houses roughly 25% of the world’s prisoners--over 2.2 million individuals. We house 30% of the world's population of incarcerated women.  
  • 1 in 15 black men and 1 in 36 Latino men is incarcerated, compared with 1 in 106 white men.  
  • Over 2.7 million children have at least one parent in prison.  
  • Nearly half of all state prisoners are nonviolent offenders and 16% are drug offenders.  
  • Despite similar levels of usage, 2/3 of drug offenders are black and Latino—that’s roughly 10X the rate of white users.  
  • In Massachusetts, our recidivism rate is close to 40%. 

It is imperative for our society to build a criminal justice infrastructure that balances the needs of public safety, the rights of victims, and also establishes a meaningful rehabilitative system to ensure that people have the opportunity to succeed after incarceration.  The inequities faced by people of color in the justice system constitute one of the most pressing civil rights crises of our time. Racial disparities are a pernicious and, ultimately, unacceptable reality of our criminal justice system. In particular, progressive approaches to nonviolent offenders are an essential means towards reducing the devastating impact that incarceration and its aftermath has on our communities.  America can and must do better, and the organized Jewish community can play an indispensable role, consonant with our tradition, in moving this agenda forward. Widespread, transformative change will require a groundswell of energy at the state and local levels, the kind of work to which local community relations organizations are ideally suited.  

WHY NOW? 

The Jewish community has a distinguished track record dating back to the early 1930s in fighting for racial equality and civil rights throughout the United States. Such fights included advancing racial equity in education, ending segregation, and, in more recent years, ensuring enforcement of the Voting Rights Act. The civil rights movement of the 1960s transformed America and advanced the principle of equality for all under the law.  

We recognize that our community’s presence in these fights has not been as felt in the following decades. There remains much work to be done, which calls for the involvement of the community at large. Beginning in the 1970s the U.S. prison population grew dramatically and, along with the rate of incarceration, this phenomenon is referred to as mass incarceration. Studies have shown that mass incarceration is a significant contributing factor to poverty, income inequality, and family instability. Mass incarceration compounded with the erosion of the Voting Rights Act, and prevalence of institutional bias perpetuate structural inequality that keeps low-income and communities of color at a disadvantage. 

The Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Boston Supports: 

  • Policies that reduce the rates of incarceration and recidivism.  
  • Policies that address and confront the racial disparities in our criminal justice system; 
  • The reform of mandatory minimum sentences to reduce injustice in its effects and application; 
  • Policies that challenge our state’s unconscionably high recidivism rate, including but not limited to increasing access to pre-incarceration diversionary paths, re-entry programs, mental health and substance abuse services, and job-training and stabilization supports for individuals upon release; 
  • Work that addresses the communal impacts of high incarceration rates, particularly on family members of those incarcerated; 
  • Efforts that reform our juvenile justice system to reduce the school to prison pipeline. 
  • Actions to address the economic impact of fines and fees associated with all aspects of the criminal justice system, from pre-trail bail reform to fees associated with probation and parole; 
  • Outreach to local groups for support and wisdom, coalition building, particularly with those most directly affected by the criminal justice system. 

JCRC Criminal Justice Reform Principles

  • With just 4.4% of the world’s population, the U.S. houses roughly 25% of the world’s prisoners--over 2.2 million individuals. We house 30% of the world's population of incarcerated women.  
  • 1 in 15 black men and 1 in 36 Latino men is incarcerated, compared with 1 in 106 white men.  
  • Over 2.7 million children have at least one parent in prison.  
  • Nearly half of all state prisoners are nonviolent offenders and 16% are drug offenders.  
  • Despite similar levels of usage, 2/3 of drug offenders are black and Latino—that’s roughly 10X the rate of white users.  
  • In Massachusetts, our recidivism rate is close to 40%. 

It is imperative for our society to build a criminal justice infrastructure that balances the needs of public safety, the rights of victims, and also establishes a meaningful rehabilitative system to ensure that people have the opportunity to succeed after incarceration.  The inequities faced by people of color in the justice system constitute one of the most pressing civil rights crises of our time. Racial disparities are a pernicious and, ultimately, unacceptable reality of our criminal justice system. In particular, progressive approaches to nonviolent offenders are an essential means towards reducing the devastating impact that incarceration and its aftermath has on our communities.  America can and must do better, and the organized Jewish community can play an indispensable role, consonant with our tradition, in moving this agenda forward. Widespread, transformative change will require a groundswell of energy at the state and local levels, the kind of work to which local community relations organizations are ideally suited.  

WHY NOW? 

The Jewish community has a distinguished track record dating back to the early 1930s in fighting for racial equality and civil rights throughout the United States. Such fights included advancing racial equity in education, ending segregation, and, in more recent years, ensuring enforcement of the Voting Rights Act. The civil rights movement of the 1960s transformed America and advanced the principle of equality for all under the law.  

We recognize that our community’s presence in these fights has not been as felt in the following decades. There remains much work to be done, which calls for the involvement of the community at large. Beginning in the 1970s the U.S. prison population grew dramatically and, along with the rate of incarceration, this phenomenon is referred to as mass incarceration. Studies have shown that mass incarceration is a significant contributing factor to poverty, income inequality, and family instability. Mass incarceration compounded with the erosion of the Voting Rights Act, and prevalence of institutional bias perpetuate structural inequality that keeps low-income and communities of color at a disadvantage. 

The Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Boston Supports: 

  • Policies that reduce the rates of incarceration and recidivism.  
  • Policies that address and confront the racial disparities in our criminal justice system; 
  • The reform of mandatory minimum sentences to reduce injustice in its effects and application; 
  • Policies that challenge our state’s unconscionably high recidivism rate, including but not limited to increasing access to pre-incarceration diversionary paths, re-entry programs, mental health and substance abuse services, and job-training and stabilization supports for individuals upon release; 
  • Work that addresses the communal impacts of high incarceration rates, particularly on family members of those incarcerated; 
  • Efforts that reform our juvenile justice system to reduce the school to prison pipeline. 
  • Actions to address the economic impact of fines and fees associated with all aspects of the criminal justice system, from pre-trail bail reform to fees associated with probation and parole; 
  • Outreach to local groups for support and wisdom, coalition building, particularly with those most directly affected by the criminal justice system. 

Caring for Elders and Adults with Disabilities

Multiple factors influenced the decision to focus on elders and people with disabilities. Among the most common reasons are:

  • The Jewish population is older than the national average;
  • Our Jewish values to care for the vulnerable populations;
  • Increased calls from caregivers and those needing services, including need for emergency food and shelter;
  • This population is experiencing significant loss of pension and savings;
  • The impact that supports for elders and adults with disabilities have on those receiving care and their caregivers, most often adult children;
  • The crisis in state funding for elder and disability services;
  • Information indicating that many elders and individuals with disabilities are living below the poverty level and financial security standards;
  • The existence of advocates and coalitions supporting additional resources and creative policy for these populations; and,
  • The need to prevent short-sighted policy made during crisis.

We are working with partners throughout the Jewish community and in the elder and disability advocacy arenas. We believe our advocacy efforts are best directed toward helping elders and people with disabilities to live as independently as possible and with dignity, by seeking resources and creative policy change and by preventing further reduction of program funding and establishment of crisis-time policies.

Proposed Public Policy Priority 2011-2012 Legislative Session Economic Recovery

The country is recovering from the worst and longest recession since the 1930s. States have seen a significant reduction in tax receipts and have had to make drastic cuts to make up for the lost revenue. The Federal government has implemented a number of programs to aid states, but many have been delayed, reduced, or have already been expended.

Recognizing state and federal government’s role in economic recovery, the Public Policy Committee of the Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Boston proposes to support legislative policies that lead to economic recovery.

The Jewish Federations of North America have also identified “Responding to the Economic Crisis” as one of their major priorities (see JFNA 2010 Public Policy Priorities at http://www.jewishfederations.org/local_includes/downloads/34344.pdf). Like JCRC, they seek to ensure that the social service network has the necessary resources to meet the needs of the most vulnerable during times of economic hardship, including housing, food, and employment training.  Further, the Jewish Council for Public Affairs’ (JCPA) has passed multiple anti-poverty resolutions aimed at personal economic recovery, such as: Poverty and Welfare Reform; Living Wage; Budget and Tax Policy; Housing, Hunger and Homelessness; Affordable Housing; Predatory Lending; Strengthening the Assets of Low Income Households; Alleviating Hunger and Food Insufficiency; Reform of Federal Poverty Measure; and Usury. (See JCPA Policy Compendium at www.jewishpublicaffairs.org).

Strengthening national, state and individual economies will take time, development of new policies, and job generation and training. As such, as a public policy priority for 2011, the Public Policy Committee of the Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Boston proposes:

To support policies that lead to personal economic recovery and security, including safety-net services, sustainable housing, and job expansion, training, and placement services.

To support state and national economic recovery in order to improve personal and family well-being and financial stability.

JCRC Policy Statement on Vaccination

Case Statement[1]

The development and use of vaccinations have been one of the most significant achievements in public health in human history. Many diseases that resulted in widespread suffering and death have been eradicated by the regular use and accessibility of vaccines. Vaccines "trick" the immune system into thinking an infection has occurred. The immune system then attacks the vaccine’s harmless pathogen and protects the body from future invasions, thus immunizing the individual.

In addition to inoculating the individual, vaccines contribute to the creation of "community (or herd) immunity." According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, "When a critical portion of a community is immunized against a contagious disease, most members of the community are protected against that disease because there is little opportunity for an outbreak. Even those who are not eligible for certain vaccines—such as infants, pregnant women or immuno-compromised individuals—get some protection because the spread of contagious disease is contained. This is known as ‘community immunity.”[2]

The current law in Massachusetts mandates that all students receive the recommended vaccinations but allows both medical and religious exemptions. The process is wrought with confusion, lack of coordination among various state entities, and absence of standardization. As a result, many communities in Massachusetts have fallen behind recommended herd-immunity levels for various preventable and deadly diseases, and many more lack reliable data needed to inform public health officials. Declining vaccination rates and the loss of herd immunity is creating a public health crisis for immune-compromised individuals, and others who are unable to receive vaccinations.

Jewish tradition teaches that the preservation of life takes precedence over almost every other Jewish law, and that it is an obligation to save the life of someone at risk.

Therefore, the Jewish Community Relations Council supports laws, regulations and policies that:

  • Require mandatory immunization, with the only exemptions being:
    • Medical exemptions; and
    • Religious exemptions, subject to a standardized process and criteria, which religious exemptions can be revoked in the event of a declared public health crisis.
  • Generate a consistent method for creating, maintaining and reporting information and data about immunizations;
  • Educate the public about the scientific benefit of immunizations and the risks associated with the decline in herd immunity for infectious diseases;
  • Encourage efforts to increase vaccination rates in communities with declining numbers.

[1] Source for much of Case Statement: https://urj.org/what-we-believe/resolutions/resolution-mandatory-immunization-laws

[2] https://www.vaccines.gov/basics/work/protection

JCRC Comment Regarding petition Challenging the Zionist Organization of America (ZOA)’s Membership in our Council

August 31, 2020 

JCRC has received a petition signed by representatives of seven member organizations and a total of twenty-one members of our Council proposing the removal of the Zionist Organization of America (ZOA) as a member organization of the JCRC. The letter, in its details, charges that there is “a history of rhetoric” used by the president of the ZOA “that crosses into racist and xenophobic territory” and questions whether the continued membership of ZOA is in JCRC’s interests. 

JCRC’s bylaws provide that the programs, activities and practices of our member organizations must be compatible and not conflict with the mission of JCRC. It is the long-established and recently reaffirmed view of the JCRC Council – our policy setting body representing our forty member organizations and the community at-large – that we are committed to all aspects of our mission statement, including to promote an American society which is democratic, pluralistic, and just.  The Council can and does, through its standard committee processes, review actions of our members that may reflect that such a compatibility is lacking.  

This matter will be referred to the Membership Committee of the JCRC Council for consideration. The ZOA has been informed regarding the letter and JCRC’s process.

JCRC Statement Welcoming Normalization of Ties Between Israel and the United Arab Emirates

The JCRC of Greater Boston welcomes this last week’s announcement that Israel and the United Arab Emirates will move to normalize diplomatic relations. We offer our congratulations and thanks to President Trump, Prime Minister Netanyahu, and Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed al-Nahlan. We hope that this development can serve as a launchpad for further progress toward peace for Israel, the surrounding Arab States, and the Palestinians. We urge Congress and the American people to invest the necessary capital for peacebuilding between Israel and its neighbors, support efforts to reinforce progress toward peaceful coexistence in the region, and encourage similar diplomatic actions in the future.

JCRC Applauds Legislature for Passing Bill to Ban Female Genital Mutilation

Last night, the Massachusetts House and Senate enacted House Bill 4606 “An Act Relative to the Penalties for the crime of Female Genital Mutilation (FGM)”. Governor Baker will have 10 days to sign the bill.

FGM is defined by the World Health Organization as removal of all or part of a girls’ healthy sex organs and surrounding tissue for non-medical reasons, often resulting in serious health consequences, the risk of death in childbirth, and lifelong trauma. There are no health benefits to this practice. According to the Centers for Disease Control, half a million women and girls living in the United States have been cut or are at risk of FGM. Over fourteen thousand such women and girls reside in Massachusetts, which ranks our state as 12th in the nation for at-risk populations.

“We are grateful to Senate President Karen Spilka, Speaker of the House Robert DeLeo and bill sponsors Senator Joe Boncore, Senator Harriette Chandler, House Minority Leader Brad Jones, Representative Natalie Higgins and Representative Jay Livingstone for their leadership on this bill,” said Stacey Bloom, President of the Jewish Community Relations Council. “This new law will protect countless at-risk women and girls from this dangerous practice.”

JCRC Applauds MA Senate for Unanimously Passing New Law Requiring Genocide Education, Bill Moves to House of Representatives

Earlier today, the Massachusetts State Senate voted unanimously to pass a Genocide Education Bill that if passed, will provide all students in Massachusetts public schools the opportunity to learn about the atrocities of the Holocaust and other genocides throughout human history, as well as the factors which led to their being committed. The Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Boston recognizes lead sponsor Senator Michael Rodrigues, Senate President Karen Spilka, Senate Education Committee Chair Jason Lewis and their Senate colleagues for their leadership in passing this bill.

As stewards of the New England Holocaust Memorial, JCRC honors the sacred obligation to lift up the experiences of those who survived the Holocaust in our own Greater Boston community, using their stories as a lesson to future generations about the consequences of unchecked hatred and intolerance. Together with ADL New England, the Armenian National Committee, and over 60 coalition members, JCRC advocated for this legislation, filed by Senator Michael Rodrigues and Representative Jeff Roy, which will give students in the Commonwealth the tools to identify and stand up against hateful, oppressive acts and to speak up in the face of bigotry.

“We congratulate Senate President Spilka, Senate Ways and Means Chair Rodrigues, and our partners in government for coming together to ensure that students in our state will learn invaluable lessons about the consequences of hate and bigotry, from the most painful parts of our history.” said Aaron Agulnek, Director of Government Affairs for the Jewish Community Relations Council. “We cannot simply say ‘Never Again’ if we do not also commit to educating the next generation by giving them the resources they need to recognize and stand up to injustice before it takes root."

"We appreciate the leadership of Senate President Spilka, Senate Ways and Means Chair Rodrigues, and their legislative colleagues for taking a critical step toward ensuring that Massachusetts public school students receive Holocaust and genocide education prior to high school graduation,” said Robert Trestan, ADL New England Regional Director. “The need for Holocaust and genocide education in K-12 schools could not be more urgent. Massachusetts now has an opportunity to use the power of education to address hate through this essential initiative for Holocaust and genocide education in the Commonwealth.”

“75 years after the liberation of the Auschwitz-Birkenau Nazi death camp, we, as a society, continue to grapple with the root causes of hatred and discrimination. With the passage of this bill today, we take a critically important step to ensuring our students are educated on the Holocaust, the grave mistakes of the past, and stand ready to root out the injustices of the future,” said Senator Michael J. Rodrigues (D-Westport), Chair of the Senate Committee on Ways and Means. “As the forces of fake news, division, and ignorance continue to march on, I applaud Senate President Spilka and my colleagues in the Senate for standing up to say that we will never forget the lessons of the past, and I thank my constituent, Dr. Ron Weisberger, and the advocates for their urgent efforts to ensure we use the power of education to address hate, broaden public awareness, and shape our collective future.”

An Act Concerning Genocide Education now moves to the House of Representatives, where a bipartisan group of over 70 members cosponsors signed on in support of the legislation.