Author: JCRC

#TheTimesWeLiveIn

Yesterday I retweeted this tweet from Dr. Sara Yael Hirschhorn:  

“Lord am I overjoyed to check my phone after Yom Kippur and find no terrible news of an antisemitic incident at a synagogue! #thetimeswelivein”  

I echoed her sentiment and agreed that this was indeed an awful thought to have. Unfortunately, we had spoken too soon, and there came the reports of a German synagogue’s window being shattered during Yom Kippur services. 

These are indeed the times we live in, disturbing and frightening times where it seems like every other day there’s another swastika sighting, age-old antisemitic tropes resurface, or another Jew is attacked on the streets of New York.  

This antisemitism is multi-layered and multi-directional. It comes from the right and from the left, and it is a present and real threat. Our response must therefore also be multi-layered and multi-directional, addressing the root causes and each facet concurrently.  

We at JCRC and our partners have been hard at work on this multi-layered approach. We successfully advocated for a law mandating Genocide Education in our schools and secured $1.5 million for the genocide education trust fund to ensure that the lessons of the Holocaust will be taught to future generations. And as religious institutions and those of our neighbors are threatened, JCRC successfully advocated to secure three million dollars in nonprofit security grants for vulnerable religious institutions. 

Our newest initiative, and the next layer, is grassroots, and leverages our successful advocacy campaign to directly educate the next generation. We are thrilled to be launching Student to Student (STS), a classroom-based experiential program that engages Jewish teens who are trained to demystify Judaism by giving presentations in high schools that have no Jewish presence. These young people authentically share their Jewish identities with their non-Jewish peers, many of whom have never met or interacted with someone from the Jewish community.  

"Can Jewish people celebrate birthdays? What about Thanksgiving?" "Do Jews still do animal sacrifices like in the Bible?" "Can you only go to Jewish colleges?" "What are your feelings about Israel? "Do stereotypes about Jews bother you?" 

These are just a few of the many questions that have been asked during the presentations, which take the form of informal conversations, confronting stereotypes and misinformation. Participants speak openly about their experiences as Jewish teens. They share stories about their lives and bring props to enhance their presentations. When discussing Shabbat, instead of just describing challah, they pass around the Sabbath bread for the students to sample. The non-Jewish students come away with a new understanding of Jewish religious and cultural practices and connect to the presenters on a personal level.  

The program was created 30 years ago by the St. Louis Jewish Community Relations Council, which five years ago began helping other communities launch their own STS programs. Of the non-Jewish students surveyed in D.C.’s Student to Student program during the 2018-2019 school year, 84% reported they had been motivated to share what they learned or take another step to learn more about Judaism and the Jewish people, and 61% shared what they learned with others. 83% of the teachers strongly agreed that the presentations broke down stereotypes, and 78% strongly agreed that the presentations helped counter antisemitism.  

“Student to Student gave me a platform to bring more awareness and understanding about my religion to other students. Without this program, other students would only have a surface level understanding of Judaism which could perpetuate misinformation and negative stereotypes.” 

– Nicole, Jewish Student Presenter 

Your child or a teen in your life can join us for the 2022-2023 school year to help break down stereotypes and foster increased understanding in our community! Nominations and applications are Open for this Year! 

For more information, please contact JCRC Director of Education Initiatives and Special Projects, Emily Reichman. 

We are committed to meeting these challenges together as a community, to working together with our partners, and investing in future generations. 

Shabbat Shalom, 

Jeremy

Join us this Sunday to observe Yizkor

Each year, on the Sunday between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, Jews around the world visit the graves of their family members to honor their memories. For many Holocaust survivors and their families, there are no graves to visit. 

Though this absence of place cannot be filled, JCRC and our partners host a Yizkor Service for our community’s local survivors and their families, a program that includes survivor testimony and the lighting of memorial candles to remember those in the survivor community who have passed away over the last year. We have gathered every year on the Brandeis campus since 1967, when a monument entitled “Job,” was dedicated there to honor the Six Million. 

This is a sacred space for survivors and their families. A place where they come together to mourn and to honor their family. The sculpture is inscribed with a plaque from the Jewish Holocaust survivors in Boston to honor the memory of those who were sacrificed. The table below the sculpture is inscribed with a verse from Lamentations 3:48: “My eyes shed streams of water over the ruin of my poor people.”

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For the past two years, COVID has prevented us from gathering for Yizkor in person. This year, we are finally able to be together again with survivors and their families at the statue. We will hear remarks from survivor Magda Bader (pictured here with Governor Baker), who will tell her story of escaping Auschwitz at age 15.

We will come together to remember those survivors and second-generation survivors we have lost this past year: Harvey Lewin, Alan Kronenberg, Rachael Kot-Lewis, Israel Arbeiter, Lester Izbicki, Nathaniel Jeff Resnick, Fred Manasse, Monique Stern, and Aron Greenfield. May their memories be a blessing.

We hope you’ll join us this Sunday, October 2nd at 11:00am at the Berlin Chapel at the Statue of Job at Brandeis University. The end of the time when we will be able to hear first-hand survivor testimony looms, making ceremonies like these more important now than ever.

JCRC is honored to spearhead this annual event and to continue this important work by re-launching our in-person guided tours at the New England Holocaust Memorial.

Following Yizkor, we’ll be training a new group of 15 docents, including both 2G’s and 3G’s, who will continue to carry on the legacy of our survivors.

As long as there are survivors who walk amongst us, we will continue to make space for their testimony, and honor those we have lost.

Shabbat Shalom and G'mar chatima tovah,

Jeremy

Join ADL on October 30 for presentations from leading experts on antisemitism and skill-building workshops for adults, students, and families. Participants will leave with an actionable toolkit for confronting antisemitism.

Shanah Tovah from JCRC!

Dear Friends,

With so many of us busy making preparations for the High Holidays, I’ll be brief today. 

For those of you who were with us last week as JCRC honored and celebrated some amazing community leaders, thank you. And for those of you who missed it – We are often asked what JCRC is and what we do, or “what is the function of a JCRC?” Well, our team put together a delightful video (if I may say so myself, though I hadn’t seen it in advance) answering that question. We premiered this “JCRC, What’s Your Function?” Schoolhouse Rock-style video at the event. It’s only 3:30 long and I encourage you to check it out. You may even see some fun cameos from our leaders and our partners in civic space.  

Enjoy! 

And, as we begin the High Holidays this weekend, rather than share some reflections of my own, allow me to share a poem by Rabbi Rachel Barenblat (of Congregation Beth Israel of the Berkshires).  

‘A Prayer for Tashlich’ is included in her volume ‘Open My Lips’, from the Jewish Poetry Project. Tashlich is the ritual of casting our sins into the river, which many Jews will perform this coming Monday afternoon.

Here I am again
Ready to let go of my mistakes.

Help me to release myself
From all the ways I’ve missed the mark.

Help me to stop carrying
The karmic baggage of my poor choices.

As I cast this bread upon the waters
Lift my troubles off my shoulders.

Help me to know that last year is over,
Washed away like crumbs on the current.

Open my heart to blessing and gratitude.
Renew my soul as the dew renews the grasses.

And we say together:
Amen

May we be inspired for our renewal in this season.  

Shabbat Shalom, and wishing you a good and sweet year. 

L’shana tovah u’metukah,

Jeremy and the JCRC Team

P.S.: Our fiscal year ends in seven days. Please be a part of securing JCRC's future in 5783 by making a gift.

Shouting our Kindness

In 1654, the first Jews arrived in what would become the United States. Fleeing the persecution of the Inquisition and its long arm in South America, they came from Recife to New Amsterdam.  

Peter Stuyvesant, then governor of the colony, ‘welcomed’ them with bigotry and fear-mongering. He informed the colony’s directors that these new arrivals were “repugnant”. Our ancestors were - he told the community - a “deceitful race” that should “be not allowed further to infect and trouble this new colony.”

Others – including some of Stuyvesant’s bosses back in Holland - saw the merit of welcoming these refugees, organizing to pay for the release of their possessions, to help them on their journey to establishing their community; one that would, of course, go on to become the most vibrant Jewish community in the history of our diaspora. They have been joined by the generations of Jewish refugees over the centuries since, and have given so much more back to the city of New York and to our nation than was ever given to them in those first months.

Since the very dawn of the American Jewish story, we have experienced fear mongering directed at us, directed at the very idea of us, and of others who, like us, arrive here as refugees and asylum seekers.

I’ve been thinking about Governor Stuyvesant as events developed this week here in Massachusetts. On Sunday, as we marked and mourned the attack on our nation 21 years ago, three masked cowards stood on a bridge in Saugus with a sign blaming Jews for 9/11. By mid-week, I was getting calls because the anonymous cowards behind the Mapping Project continue to use their Twitter platform to amplify their hateful website and re-post its content targeting our local Jewish community.

And on Wednesday night we all learned about how some 50 migrants - who arrived in this country seeking the same American opportunity and freedom as our own ancestors – were herded onto a plane by the governor of another state, and cruelly deposited on Martha’s Vineyard without any advance notice or concern for their basic human needs and dignity.

It is easy to sow fear, to tell people who to be afraid of, to treat human beings as an “other”, or to hide behind masks and internet anonymity to spread conspiracies, lies and antisemitism. It is more work, but work worth doing, to build the bridges and partnerships to resist fear, and to act with kindness.

We’ve known that kindness, as well, since our ancestors first arrived in Manhattan. Then, others helped them, creating the space for them to find refuge and to build a better future. We saw kindness, and Jews living without fear, this week when leaders gathered in Saugus – thanks to leadership from Chabad of the North Shore – to stand together against antisemitism and fear-mongering. And we are seeing kindness as the community on Martha’s Vineyard and across the Commonwealth is coming together.

I was reminded on Thursday of something that former-Governor Deval Patrick likes to say:

“We have learned to shout our anger and whisper our kindness, and it's completely upside down.”

This week, and every week, we’re shouting our kindness. Mobilizing to build bridges and partnerships - holding the fears of others and in-turn being held and supported by them in response to rising antisemitism and bigotry. Coming together with hundreds of volunteers across dozens of synagogues, human service agencies, and interfaith partners – who have already welcomed Syrians and Afghans and Ukrainians and other refugees – and will now do what is needed to support our newest arrivals.

Not long after those first Jews arrived in 1654, their descendants in Newport, Rhode Island received a promise from our first President. George Washington assured them that this newborn nation “gives to bigotry no sanction, to persecution no assistance, requires only that they who live under its protection should demean themselves as good citizens, in giving it on all occasions their effectual support.”

This idea is, for us, the greatness of America. And while it is a promise still being fully realized for many Americans, it is one that inspires us and that we remain committed to every day, along with our partners and allies.

If you would like to be part of fulfilling this promise for the people who arrived on Martha’s Vineyard this week, for those migrants who have arrived secondarily from New York and Washington, DC, and for those who might be sent here in the future, please contact Rachie Lewis, our director of synagogue organizing, at .

I thank you for your partnership and for sharing our values and our vision for our great nation. 

Shabbat shalom,

Jeremy  

Celebrations and New Beginnings

With Labor Day behind us and the High Holidays approaching, this is a season of new beginnings. Summer respites are behind us, the city feels vibrant with new arrivals (and a few “Storrowings”), our primaries this week have started to define a change in leadership here in our Commonwealth. For us at JCRC, we’re looking forward to a new season, and also celebrating the year we are wrapping up. 

Next week, for the first time in four years, we’re going to be having our annual JCRC Celebrates gala in-person as a JCRC community. The enthusiasm to be together is palpable – we’re already at capacity for this event; people are eager to be in community anew. We’ll be celebrating two amazing leaders who’ve done so much for our community – Jill Goldenberg and Adam Suttin. Jill and Adam have been a part of JCRC since before I joined this team (in fact, I met them both during my own interview process) and are known to so many of you through the leadership they have given our community across so many of our most important institutions and concerns. I am so grateful to them and to the team who are making this event a success. 

And as we celebrate, I’m also reflecting on this year of changes, challenges, and achievements. You know that long-time and valuable members of our team have moved on, and new and talented additions have been made. There have been challenges – navigating an increasingly polarized world, increasing fractures within our community, rising violence in world, and increased hate and antisemitism; including, specifically, here in Boston targeting the Jewish community.  

And, there have been achievements. With our partners and allies we:  

  • Passed a Genocide Education mandate in Massachusetts and, through the legislature, established a 1.5 million dollar Genocide Education trust fund;  
  • Rallied our community and newly elected Mayor Wu, in the cold of winter, to Shine a Light on antisemitism; 
  • Mobilized a vast network to support Afghan and Ukrainian refugees arriving in our community;
  • Convened partners to begin the long hard work of supporting access to abortion in our new post-Roe world;
  • Mobilized volunteers from 15 synagogues and communities who tutored over 500 students at 15 public schools across the region
  • Brought our community together in response to the Mapping Project – and had the wall-to-wall support of our elected leaders and civic partners;
  • Organized our first delegation of civic leaders to Israel since 2019; and,
  • Secured 9 million dollars in state funding for Jewish human service agencies, and 3 million for non-profit security, double the amount from last year. 

This is just a small part of what we’ve achieved this year.   

We could not have done it without the partnership and support of each of you. To those of you who have partnered with us, mobilized with us, and volunteered for this work – you are JCRC and you are the ones who share this success with us.  

I’m grateful to all of you who’ve supported JCRC financially this past year. We depend on your direct support to do this work on behalf of our community.  

As we begin a new season, we also begin our new fiscal year on October 1. If you still would like to join us for Celebrates on September 15,  please email Erica Daniels-Strater at . And even if you can’t I, and we, would very much appreciate your financial support at this time. 

The year ahead will no doubt continue to be one of challenge and change. But through our community and our collaboration across our network, and with your support, we will have the continued capacity to meet whatever the year ahead will bring. 

Shabbat Shalom,

Jeremy

Greetings from Israel

It’s Thursday evening and I’ve just arrived in Jerusalem, along with a few of my JCRC colleagues and a dozen Christian ministers from around Greater Boston. We’ve been in the north - visiting Haifa, the Galilee, and the Golan Heights - since Monday on a JCRC study tour chaired by Reverend Greg Groover and Rabbi Joel Sisenwine.

While we have, for most of my time at JCRC, regularly brought groups of civic leaders to Israel twice a year, this particular study tour has been a long time awaited. Many of our group - some longtime partners of JCRC, some more recent colleagues in interfaith spaces - had planned to come with us in the summer of 2020. And then…

But we’re finally back and I couldn’t be more joyous as we arrive in Jerusalem. For me this is a blessing; to introduce this land and people that I and our community are so connected to, to our friends and partners. And it’s an opportunity to see Israel through the eyes of our partners, to hear their questions, to engage in deep conversations, that enrich our understanding together of this place that matters to all of us in different ways.

I don’t typically reflect on these trips until we are back home. I look forward to sharing some thoughts with you in the coming weeks when I can convey the totality of who we’ve met and what we’ve heard. We’re not even half way through our journey at this point.


But whether it’s meeting visionaries like Mohammad Darwashe of Givat Haviva earlier today, visiting communities like Yemin Orde, which so many of us in Boston are passionate about, bearing witness to our partners’ baptisms in the Jordan River, or having serious geopolitical conversations standing on Mount Bental,* I, and our relationships, are already being enriched by a dialogue that hasn’t been possible in this way over these difficult two years.

I am looking forward to the rest of our journey with gratitude to our Christian leaders who accepted our invitation, and to those in our community who help make this work possible.

Shabbat shalom,

Jeremy

*P.S. Also, I’ve already introduced them to Kippah Man in Jerusalem, amongst many personal favorite places to go and people to talk to here.

FY23 Budget Wins

Our Commonwealth’s funding priorities are a reflection of our shared values. Together, we successfully advocated for these critical priorities to ensure all Massachusetts residents can live with more social, economic, and personal security:

  • $1.5 million dollars for the Genocide Education Trust Fund to help implement the law
  • $3 million dollars for Non Profit Security Grants
  • $1.75 million dollars for agencies providing employment support services for immigrants and refugees
  • $1 million dollars for Transition to Work supporting job training for adults with disabilities
  • $5.025 million dollars to support the Secure Jobs Initiative for employment support and job  for homeless or previously homeless families
  • $856,000 dollars to support Jewish human service agencies providing naturally occurring retirement community services and programs (NORC)
  • $500,00 dollars to fund the Bridges to College, providing college prep programming that increases the number of low-income,underrepresented, entry-level adult workers who enter and succeed in postsecondary education.

Together we celebrate our advocacy and our continued commitment to a more just and equitable Commonwealth.

How our past informs our future

“To be literally informed about America’s Jewish problem, it is not necessary to know Hebrew or Yiddish. All that is required, initially, is a familiarity with the English alphabet. The following primer of English letters with Jewish meaning will serve for illustration.” 

I read those words last Thursday and I held my breath.  

I was visiting the Wyner Family Jewish Heritage Center, where JCRC’s archives, and so much of the New England Jewish community’s history is preserved. The staff had invited me to check out the collection following JCRC’s recent program with Professor Charles Gallagher. I sat down with him in April to talk about his book, Nazis of Copley Square. If you joined us that day you may recall that he talked about his use of JCRC’s archive, where so much information about right-wing extremism in 1930’s Boston is kept for posterity.  

As I looked through JCRC’s archives, another file, from June 1958, caught my eye. In a collection about our efforts to track and confront “White Citizens” councils and other groups here in Boston, there is a professionally printed pamphlet, The Point, produced in Still River, MA. This 4-page issue is devoted, in its entirety, to a mapping of the Jewish communal institutions of the time. Those words above come from the introduction. The rest of the newsletter is in the same hateful vein.

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(R): From the JCRC archives: The Point, 1958

I’ve been thinking a lot about that document, and our purpose, this past week. 

It was a rough week. I don’t need to tell you. We all follow the news. Last Saturday some 100 white nationalists marched through the streets of Boston. The condemnations and the questions followed. I’m reminded again how grateful we are to our partners at the ADL for their efforts and their their efforts.  

Then, of course, came the horror in Highland Park, Illinois on July 4th. This is one of those weeks when I’m grateful that it is not just Jews, but also leaders like Rev. Cornell Brooks at Harvard, who are connecting the dots for us, naming that antisemitism is a likely factor here, even as the investigation continues.  

It was also the week when antisemitic flyers were distributed in several towns around Massachusetts, including Chatham, Ipswich, and Hamilton.  

We at JCRC have been paying attention to the threat of right-wing extremism for a very long time. In the 1930’s, Jewish leaders and activists in Boston began monitoring Nazis in our city. This initiative led to the formation of JCRC as a shared communal effort to engage with government, the media, and faith partners.  And, as the technology and the expressions of antisemitism have evolved and developed over the years, we’ve continued to focus on this work. But since the beginning, that focus has also included action - organizing our community and our partners to confront this hate; to articulate expectations for our elected officials, local media, and civic partners, and to build bonds of partnership around shared interests and shared threats to our civic fabric.  

Although we know that antisemitism has evolved and is not limited to that which comes from the right (as even the reference, right now, to “mapping” reminds us) it still is not lost on us and our community that a particular and violent threat to Jews and to all Americans, and to the very fabric of our democracy, is very real, as was seen again this week: 

One of the efforts we’ve amplified and supported in recent years was the successful litigation by Integrity First for America against the neo-Nazis in Charlottesville. Robbie Kaplan and Yotam Barkai, two of the attorneys in that effort, said it well in the Boston Globe this week: 

In light of Patriot Front’s actions — in Charlottesville in 2017, in Idaho in June, and in Boston this past weekend — anyone who doesn’t think that the freedom and independence that we celebrate every year is under severe threat is sorely mistaken. We hope that Americans are finally paying attention. 

I hope that we, together, will continue to pay attention, to take this threat as seriously as we must, and that you’ll be a part of that work with us – confronting antisemitism, defending our democracy, and building bridges with all of Boston’s communities in service to our common future.

Shabbat shalom,

Jeremy

P.S. There were many incredible finds at the Wyner Family Center that tell our story and provide other examples of the ways we’ve been grappling with very familiar challenges as a community for a long time. I hope to tell you more in coming posts. And I encourage you to check them out as well. They are an amazing resource for our community. 

JCRC Statement on Polarization, 1970
JCRC Statement on Polarization, 1970

Abortion Access

As the voice of Greater Boston’s organized Jewish community, JCRC has convened a working group to articulate our communal values and offer a roadmap for living them out. Developed in conversation with partners and longstanding leaders, our work is guided by this charter and principles. 

We will continue to work to defend access to abortion care through communal events and convenings, advocacy, and direct support.  

Convening Synagogue Leaders

 JCRC is convening leaders from a variety of synagogues in MA who want to learn from and with one another and coordinate opportunities for education and action. If you and your community would like to learn more, please contact Director of Synagogue Organizing, Rachie Lewis at .  

Direct Support:

Abortion Care Package Drive 

JCRC is collecting care packages to distribute to a variety of local abortion providers to offer to their patients. If you would like to organize a care package drive in your congregation, please contact Rachie Lewis, Director of Synagogue Organizing at .  

Donating Funds 

We encourage people to donate to the National Council of Jewish Women’s Jewish Fund for Abortion Access, in partnership with and support of the National Abortion Federation, and funds travel and abortion support for those across the country who need it. 

MA Legislative Advocacy 

There is so much we can do to protect and strengthen abortion access, even in Massachusetts where our legislature has taken strong action to protect providers and people seeking care. Working in coalition with groups like, Reproductive Equity Now, Planned Parenthood, and ACLU Mass we will continues to advocate on the Beyond ROE Agenda to protect and expand access to care, support patient and providers, and increase education and research. Both in the near term and long term, we will facilitate conversations with elected leaders and members of our community to demonstrate the breadth and depth of our commitment to abortion access in Massachusetts. For more information contact .  

If you have additional questions about how to engage with this work, don’t hesitate to reach out.  

JCRC of Greater Boston Condemns Supreme Court Decision Overturning Roe v. Wade

The Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Boston (JCRC) today joins with the majority of Americans and the vast majority of American Jews - who support the preservation of the constitutional right to personal control of one’s own reproductive decisions – in expressing our anger and dismay regarding the overturning of Roe v. Wade. There can be no equivocating: The decision in Dobbs v. Jackson threatens the freedom, health, and lives of people across the United States, and the heaviest burden falls upon communities of color and low-income communities. 

We lift up, yet again, that Dobbs constitutes a specific infringement on the rights of American Jews and on other faith communities whose approach to the question of when life begins differs from the approaches of the Christian tradition. 

It is impossible to fully articulate the nuances and complexities of thousands of years of Jewish tradition and law in one paragraph. Suffice to say that we approach the fetus as a “potential life” and one that must be considered and weighed in relation to the “existing and actual life” of the person carrying it. Even under the most conservative interpretation, Jewish tradition and law mandates the termination of a pregnancy in certain circumstances involving the life or health of the mother. We respect other people’s beliefs that life begins at conception, but this is not our tradition.  

Accordingly, our nation should be striving toward a society governed by humanistic and universal principles, rather than be limited by those of the one faith tradition. Our failure to do so denies rights for all Americans, will cause genuine harm for many, and, in this case, a severe limitation on the ability of minority communities to live fully in America in accordance with our own traditions. Today’s ruling effectively elevates one religious viewpoint over others and infringes upon Jewish individuals’ right to follow the tenets of our faith. 

JCRC has long advocated for the protection of abortion rights and for unrestricted access to affordable, legal health care for all people. We are proud to have supported efforts here in Massachusetts, including the passage of the ROE Act, that ensures that abortion remains legal and protected in our Commonwealth. 

Jewish tradition exhorts us to not despair at times when the bridge ahead is narrow. We will meet this dark moment with resolve and clarity.

The organized Jewish community of Greater Boston will strongly oppose any effort by Congress to curtail or ban abortions. We will work in coalition to ensure that our state is prepared to welcome and serve the thousands of additional people who will travel here to seek medical care and exercise reproductive rights.  

As we look to a post-Roe future that is unsettling and uncertain at best, and lethally dangerous at worst, JCRC will continue to lead our community in the fight to protect fundamental reproductive rights – and religious freedom - for all Americans. 

Below are resources and events locally and in the Jewish community: