Author: JCRC

Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Boston Names FayeRuth Fisher as Director of Government Affairs; David Cohen as Director of Community Affairs

For Immediate Release
February 10, 2022                                                                              

Contact: Shira Burns

Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Boston Names FayeRuth Fisher as Director of Government Affairs; David Cohen as Director of Community Affairs

(Boston, MA) – The Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Boston (JCRC) today announced two new members of its senior leadership team: FayeRuth Fisher, Director of Government Affairs and David Cohen, Director of Community Affairs. As directors, Fisher and Cohen will work collaboratively with the JCRC staff and board, its member organizations, and outside partners to further advances the values, interests, and priorities of the organized Jewish community in Greater Boston.

“In FayeRuth and David we have two professionals who have dedicated their careers to elevating conversations on some very complex, emotional, and important issues,” said Jeremy Burton, Executive Director of JCRC. “I look forward to them joining the JCRC team and helping further our mission of building a vibrant Jewish community that lives our values and advances them in the world.”

Fisher has over 20 years of experience in federal, state, and municipal government affairs. She joins JCRC from 1199SEIU United Healthcare Workers East where she serves as Massachusetts Political Director, overseeing the political department on behalf of over 70,000 healthcare workers from across the Commonwealth. Fisher holds a bachelor’s degree from Hampshire College and a master’s degree in social work from Simmons University. She is involved with several community organizations.

“To me, this work is deeply personal and urgent,” said Fisher. “The JCRC of Greater Boston is an effective and well-respected voice on Beacon Hill and I am looking forward to joining the team to further amplify JCRC’s voice as we all strive for a more just and equitable Commonwealth.”

Cohen has spent over 25 years as a Jewish community relations specialist and Jewish educator. He joins JCRC after serving as the JCRC Director for the Richmond Jewish Federation. He previously served as Associate Director for ADL’s office in Boston and as Director of Israel Advocacy for the Jewish Federation in Greater Philadelphia. Cohen holds a bachelor’s degree from Brandeis University, a master’s degree in American political history from Boston University, and a master’s degree in Jewish education and organizational leadership from Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion.

“There is no more important work in the Jewish community right now than the work JCRC does to build relationships, provide educational opportunities, and advocate on behalf of the core interests of the entire Jewish community,” said Cohen. “I am excited to start working with my colleagues at JCRC as it continues to play a vital role in the local and national Jewish communal landscape."

Fisher and Cohen will join the JCRC team in March 2022.

About JCRC

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.

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Jewish Community Asks Governor to Double Security Funding in Wake of Texas Synagogue Hostage Taking

For Immediate Release
Contact: Shira Burns
1.31.22

Jewish Community Asks Governor to Double Security Funding in Wake of Texas Synagogue Hostage Taking

(Boston, MA): As the Jewish community grapples with the emotional aftermath of the recent Texas synagogue hostage-taking situation, the Jewish Community Relations Council (JCRC) this week sent a letter to Governor Baker asking that Massachusetts double state funding for the state’s Nonprofit Security Grant program. Thanks to the Governor’s past leadership in prioritizing the safety of the Jewish community and with funding from the NSG Program, Jewish institutions have been able to put some measures in place to protect their members. Unfortunately, the current funding level is insufficient to address all the requests and many institutions continue to have unmet security needs.

The letter, which was organized by the Jewish Community Relations Council of Great Boston and signed by all six of the Jewish Federations in Massachusetts states, “Unfortunately, the situation in Texas was no isolated incident. Antisemitism threatens the safety of Jewish communities who wish to gather and find community. The communities in Massachusetts have seen arson attacks at centers in Arlington and Needham, an attempt to bomb an assisted-living center in Longmeadow, and this past June, the stabbing of a rabbi outside a childcare facility in Brighton. This is not a new phenomenon, but there has been a concerning rise in intensity in recent years that has led the JCRC to try and increase security provision funding.”

They continue, “Though we were shocked by the act of terror, we were not surprised. Every Jew attending synagogue, sending children to Jewish schools, or participating in Jewish institutions, does so with a sense of unease.”

The JCRC is requesting that the Governor increase the grant program from $1.5M to $3M to reflect the increased security needs of institutions around the Commonwealth.

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.

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Texas synagogue incident and community briefing this Tuesday

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Dear Friends,

Yesterday Jews around the world watched in horror the unfolding situation at Congregation Beth Israel in Colleyville, Texas where Rabbi Charlie Cytron-Walker and three other congregants were held hostage while taking part in Shabbat services. Thankfully, due to the diligent work of law enforcement, the hostages were able to return to their homes safely last night. We join the leaders and institutions of all faiths across our community and the world who have sent prayers, love, and strength to the freed hostages and to the Congregation Beth Israel community and we thank all the law enforcement in Texas who ensured the safe outcome.

Yet, again, the Jewish community finds itself facing the reality that hateful, violent antisemitism is real, and that we cannot worship peacefully in our synagogues without fear for our safety. This is a story that hits all too close to home for all of us. It has been just six months since Rabbi Noginski was stabbed in Brighton. It is critical that we do not become desensitized or that we allow fear to become a part of being Jewish in America. This is a painful reminder that the American Jewish community continues to be the target of antisemitic attacks fueled by extremism.

CJP, JCRC, and ADL work closely with our local, state law enforcement and national partners, including the Secure Community Network (SCN) to ensure the safety and security of our community. In the past 24 hours we have reached out to the 250 partner organizations that we routinely assist with security guidance and will continue to do so in the days ahead.

For information and resources relating to communal safety and security visit the Communal Security Initiative web page. At this time, we are not aware of any specific, credible threats to our Greater Boston Jewish community.

Finally, we invite you to join us for a virtual community briefing: Convening on Texas Incident: What you Need to Know on Tuesday, January 18, at 5:00 p.m. ET. You’ll hear directly from law enforcement and our security professionals about the incident, what we are doing, and what we can all do to keep our community safe.

Thank you for your ongoing partnership and support. Together, we will keep our community vibrant, safe, and strong.

Rabbi Marc Baker, Combined Jewish Philanthropies

Jeremy Burton, Jewish Community Relations Council

Robert Trestan, Anti-Defamation League

ADL and JCRC Welcome Passage of Genocide Education Legislation

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ADL and JCRC Welcome Passage of Genocide Education Legislation

(Boston, MA):  ADL (the Anti-Defamation League) and the Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Boston (JCRC) welcome the passage by the House of Representatives today of S.2557, An Act concerning genocide education. When signed into law, Massachusetts will become the 20th state to have adopted mandatory Holocaust and genocide education.  We thank Speaker Mariano and Chairman Michlewitz for their leadership and vision in passing this critical legislation. We are deeply grateful also to the bill’s sponsor, Rep. Jeff Roy, for his long commitment to championing this bill and for Rep. Alice Peisch’s support as Chair of the Joint Committee on Education. 

This legislation demonstrates our commitment to providing schools across the Commonwealth with access to resources to implement genocide education programs. Through lessons about the Holocaust, the Armenian Genocide, and other instances of genocide, such programs will serve to ensure that students learn to recognize and fight hate in their communities.

“Genocide education affords us a powerful tool in combatting hate and antisemitism while honoring the memories of all who suffered in genocide” noted ADL New England Regional Director, Robert Trestan.  “Sadly, grim reminders of hate continue to fester in our schools and athletic fields while the Holocaust itself has been alternately denied or weaponized for political soundbites.  We now have an opportunity to influence the present by drawing on the lessons of the past as we move towards implementation of this important legislation in Massachusetts’ schools.”

“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.” Jeremy Burton, Executive Director of the Jewish Community Relations Council, stated. “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 all students across the Commonwealth the tools to identify and stand up against hateful, oppressive acts and to speak up in the face of bigotry.”

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About ADL 

ADL is a leading anti-hate organization. Founded in 1913 in response to an escalating climate of antisemitism and bigotry, its timeless mission is to protect the Jewish people and to secure justice and fair treatment for all. More at www.adl.org.  

About JCRC

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.

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What’s on my nightstand

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It’s been a while since I’ve shared what I’m reading. I’m still on pace for my annual goal of 100 books each year. These are the books that are bringing me pleasure as a reader and challenging me in my perceptions, right now, and I’m excited to share them with you. 

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People Love Dead Jews, by Dara Horn 

Dara Horn writes amazing novels, deeply rooted in Jewish images and ideas. I’m consumed by them. This, however, is her first work of non-fiction, and it does not disappoint. Some of these essays may be familiar to you; as Horn herself notes, after events like Pittsburgh, Poway, or Jersey City, she’s become something of the go-to writer for op-eds in national papers to lend clarity and a Jewish voice, about what is happening to our world. Through her travels around the world, to places where we once lived and are now memorialized – like Harbin, China – or in the stories, we tell ourselves – say, about how we came to have Americanized names – Horn grapples with memory; of Jews and of those who persecuted us. It’s a remarkable collection, that challenges us to think and talk with new eyes about our own narratives. 

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Heartbeats: The Insider's Guide to Israel, by Yishay Shavit, Ya’acov Friend & Gilad Peleg 

How did you spend your pandemic? Well, JCRC friend and study tour educator Yishay Shavit got together with some colleagues and wrote an anthology. For those of you who’ve been on the bus with us, these are the voices of Israel’s most talented experiential educators, sharing the perspectives, narratives, dilemmas, and questions they invite us to consider when we are with them. At a time when fewer of us can travel, this is an invitation to see a place through the diversity of its own people’s experiences. In addition to Yishay’s editing and contributions, we also get to hear from Michael Hollander, JCRC’s other (and equally beloved) tour educator. 

p.s. I’m delighted to announce that we’ll be hosting a book talk with Yishay on November 17th at 12pm!

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Nazis of Copley Square: The Forgotten Story of the Christian Front, by Charles Gallagher 

Father Charles Gallagher, S.J., teaches history at Boston College, with a focus on the Catholic Church and the Holocaust. His new book examines the history and legacy of the Christian Front, a far-right group active from 1938-1940 in Boston. When rave reviews started appearing a few weeks ago, I commented on Twitter that I was excited for this book, but that I wouldn’t characterize this history as entirely “forgotten.” In fact, it was part of my onboarding ten years ago, when, upon arriving here, community elders told me about this dark period in our city’s past. The bigotry they experienced in the 1940’s informed the creation of JCRC, as a catalyst for the Jewish community to compel government, media, and the church to address antisemitism in Boston. I soon heard from friends who recounted stories of Boston’s antisemitic history they heard from their own Jewish family members who had grown up in our city. For the victims of this era, the memory lives on, in how we organized our community. It’s great that this period is now being documented and presented to a broader audience.  

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American Poets Project: Selected Poems, by Kenneth Koch 

By now you may know my passion for poetry, and for reading at least a few selections every morning. Kenneth Koch was part of the New York School, publishing from the 1950’s until his death in 2002, while also teaching at Columbia University. His witty and surreal work is part of a great tradition of Jewish-American poetry. In his own words: “The comic element is just something that, it seems to me, enables me to be lyrical." His work invites us to reimagine the way in which we see the world around us. This short anthology is part of the Library of America’s American Poets Project (full disclosure, I am a patron of this organization). It includes his piece “To Jewishness”, a modern classic. 

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All the Marvels, by Douglas Wolk  

The Forward promoted their interview with this author by saying: “He read every Marvel comic so you don’t have to.” Wolk took on the project of reading all 27,000 Marvel comic books printed over the last sixty years, a vast epic story in a world often like our own – and examining the themes and characters, and what they say about the moments in which they were published, and about us. It is a portrait of America in the modern era, a feat of cultural analysis, and a treat for us Marvel fans). Somewhere out there in the Marvel multiverse, there’s a version of me that ends up being like him. 

These are the books I’m enjoying and appreciating right now. What are you recommending to readers these days? 

Shabbat Shalom!

Jeremy

Statement from JCRCs on Congressional Funding of the Iron Dome Missile Defense System

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Statement from Jewish Community Relations Councils on Congressional
Funding of the Iron Dome Missile Defense System

September 23, 2021

As Jewish Community Relations Councils deeply committed to a peaceful resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, we thank the 420 Members of Congress who voted to fully fund the replenishment of Israel’s Iron Dome missile defense system. This overwhelming bipartisan vote demonstrates the commitment of the United States to upholding the special relationship with Israel and reaffirming Israel’s right to defend itself. We are deeply disappointed with those Members from our own delegations who failed to support this uniquely bipartisan vote.

The Iron Dome determines which rockets are likely to hit civilian areas and attempts to destroy them mid-air, thus saving lives. Without the Iron Dome, rockets launched by Hamas, Palestinian Islamic Jihad, Hezbollah, and other terror organizations would surely maim and murder countless additional Israeli Jews, Muslims, and Christians, as well as Palestinians. Simply put, Iron Dome limits severe escalation of the conflict on a near-daily basis.

Objecting to funding this purely defensive technology reveals an attempt to further isolate and delegitimize Israel. We are proud that the overwhelming majority of Democrats and Republicans are committed to funding the Iron Dome.

Signed:

Jewish Community Relations Council of Chicago 
Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Boston 
Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Indianapolis 
Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Phoenix 
Jewish Community Relations Council of Louisville 
Jewish Community Relations Council of Minnesota and the Dakotas 
Jewish Community Relations Council of New York 
Jewish Community Relations Council of St. Louis 
Jewish Community Relations Council/American Jewish Committee of Detroit

When “Holocaust” was trending on social media this week

Our work includes priorities that we work on for months and even years at a time. We don’t let go of these concerns and we never lose our focus on them, even as we work on several things at any one time. Then there are days when something in the news reminds us why we cannot and do not lose our focus. And sometimes, there are days when serendipity causes the head to spin, as such news unfolds side by side with progress on our efforts.

Yesterday was one of those days.

In the afternoon, the alerts started popping about a story broken by NBC, that a top administrator with a Southlake, Texas school district “advised teachers last week that if they have a book about the Holocaust in their classroom, they should also offer students access to a book from an ‘opposing’ perspective.”

You read that right. This official was positing that there is an “opposing” view to the fact of the genocide perpetrated by the Nazis against our people. Justified outrage and calls for retractions and apologies were being voiced. It was a vivid reminder of a problem  my colleagues and I have discussed repeatedly: in this space rising antisemitism along with a failure to know and understand the history of the Holocaust and other genocides and the lessons of that history. The result of that problem is that we have an American generation being raised with chasmic moral blind spots as we here in Massachusetts were reminded so vividly this spring in Duxbury.

(Reports this morning indicate that the situation in Texas may be more complex than originally reported and that the administrator wasn’t trying to “both-sides” Holocaust education, but rather is struggling to comply with a new state law barring certain educational methodologies)

And, yesterday, nearly simultaneously to the news out of Texas, came news that the Massachusetts Senate Committee on Ways and Means had reported out S.2557, An Act concerning genocide education, that we support. As we and ADL said together last night (you can read our full statement here):

This strong bill achieves key objectives in providing schools across the Commonwealth with access to resources to implement genocide education programs. Through lessons about the Holocaust, the Armenian Genocide, and other instances of genocide, such programs will serve to ensure that students learn to recognize and fight hate in their communities.

Genocide education is key to combating hate by helping students understand how seemingly benign stereotypes and prejudice can turn into atrocity. Over the last several years, we have seen a significant rise in hateful incidents in our communities, paired with a dangerous downturn in knowledge about the Holocaust and other genocides. We appreciate the support of the House and Senate Chairs of the Joint Committee on Education in moving this legislation forward early in session and hope to see it make its way to Governor Baker’s desk as swiftly as possible.

And so, this morning, and every day, we at JCRC, along with our partners, are fired up to keep working on this specific effort. And we’re reminded anew of the urgency and importance of ensuring that the memory of the Holocaust does not fade, and that every possible effort is being made to confront and combat rising antisemitism.

I’m grateful to you all for your partnership in this urgent and important work.

Shabbat Shalom,

Jeremy Burton 

Joint ADL/JCRC Statement regarding Genocide Education Bill

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ADL (the Anti-Defamation League) and the Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Boston (JCRC) are pleased to support S2557, An Act concerning genocide education, as reported by the Senate Committee on Ways and Means this afternoon. We are grateful to Chair Rodrigues and his team for their leadership on this strong bill that achieves key objectives in providing schools across the Commonwealth with access to resources to implement genocide education programs. Through lessons about the Holocaust, the Armenian Genocide, and other instances of genocide, such programs will serve to ensure that students learn to recognize and fight hate in their communities.

Genocide education is key to combating hate by helping students understand how seemingly benign stereotypes and prejudice can turn into atrocity. Over the last several years, we have seen a significant rise in hateful incidents in our communities, paired with a dangerous downturn in knowledge about the Holocaust and other genocides. We appreciate the support of the House and Senate Chairs of the Joint Committee on Education in moving this legislation forward early in session and hope to see it make its way to Governor Baker’s desk as swiftly as possible.

An Act relative to anti-racism and justice in education

JCRC provided written testimony to the state legislature’s Joint Committee on Education for their September 13, 2021 hearing of An Act relative to anti-racism and justice in education (S365, Senator Lewis; H584, Representative Elugardo and Representative Uyterhoeven). JCRC welcomes the opportunity to serve on a commission with the goal of creating a more inclusive curriculum for students in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. However, we have some concerns about the proposed language in its current iteration, including lack of transparency, oversight, and clear definitions.

Read JCRC's Testimony

Statement from JCRCs on Congressional Funding of the Iron Dome Missile Defense System

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Statement from Jewish Community Relations Councils on Congressional
Funding of the Iron Dome Missile Defense System

September 23, 2021

As Jewish Community Relations Councils deeply committed to a peaceful resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, we thank the 420 Members of Congress who voted to fully fund the replenishment of Israel’s Iron Dome missile defense system. This overwhelming bipartisan vote demonstrates the commitment of the United States to upholding the special relationship with Israel and reaffirming Israel’s right to defend itself. We are deeply disappointed with those Members from our own delegations who failed to support this uniquely bipartisan vote.

The Iron Dome determines which rockets are likely to hit civilian areas and attempts to destroy them mid-air, thus saving lives. Without the Iron Dome, rockets launched by Hamas, Palestinian Islamic Jihad, Hezbollah, and other terror organizations would surely maim and murder countless additional Israeli Jews, Muslims, and Christians, as well as Palestinians. Simply put, Iron Dome limits severe escalation of the conflict on a near-daily basis.

Objecting to funding this purely defensive technology reveals an attempt to further isolate and delegitimize Israel. We are proud that the overwhelming majority of Democrats and Republicans are committed to funding the Iron Dome.

Signed:

Jewish Community Relations Council of Chicago 
Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Boston 
Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Indianapolis 
Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Phoenix 
Jewish Community Relations Council of Louisville 
Jewish Community Relations Council of Minnesota and the Dakotas 
Jewish Community Relations Council of New York 
Jewish Community Relations Council of St. Louis 
Jewish Community Relations Council/American Jewish Committee of Detroit