Boston Strong: Realizing the Vision

With the 117th running of the Boston Marathon this week, I imagine I was not alone in feeling grateful to celebrate Patriots’ Day as a return to a community wide gathering of support for thousands of runners, from elite athletes to average people taking on the Herculean task of completing the 26.2 mile course, this year in the wind and rain.  And yet, as for many of us, the memory of the mayhem and horror of 2013 was fresh in our minds and hearts, as Boston Strong shirts and banners appeared throughout Marathon week.

I found myself recalling the community events in the wake of the bombings during that surreal April week, including the large gathering at the Holy Cross Cathedral, when we joined with our Mayor, Governor, and President to mourn our losses and rededicate ourselves to our most cherished values. But the moment that has stayed with me most profoundly was one on a setting far less grand, with fewer luminaries -  a somewhat impromptu gathering of the Greater Boston Interfaith Organization (GBIO) in a Catholic church in Dorchester where we came together to share reflections on this unprecedented week. Originally planned as a candidate event for the US Senate special election, that night was transformed into a celebration of  the true meaning of ”One Boston” — a community where we hold each other in tragedy, we walk together in facing challenges, and we reach across our differences to find solutions.

When I think of Boston Strong, I see a community that unites across the racial, ethnic, and socio-economic lines that too often divide us, while working to ensure that all of our people have equal access to the immense resources that our world class city has to offer.

GBIO exemplifies the meaning of Boston Strong. This broad based coalition of 50 religious congregations and other local institutions has played a critical role on multiple issues, from securing millions of dollars for the construction of affordable housing, to protecting worker rights, renovating schools and most notably, securing landmark health care reform in the Commonwealth.

 JCRC has been a proud member of GBIO since 1999, and we have trained and supported synagogue leaders to join with other faith communities in waging these powerful campaigns in the public square. The most recent congregation to join GBIO is Temple Sinai in Brookline. Their leaders sought to invigorate their social action work as well as connect with faith communities across Boston’s neighborhoods. As a result of the deep relationships they’ve developed, they’re now playing leadership roles in GBIO’s next major gathering. Sinai’s Bonnie Gilbert will be co-chairing the event, along with Rev. Ray Hammond from Bethel AME and Felice Mendell is lending her expertise in affordable housing to chair a team on that issue.

After more than a dozen years and many victories, it was time to step back and ask where the GBIO community wanted to go next, what challenges our shared community needed to address, what opportunities we could pursue to realize our potential. After conversations with thousands of members, a new platform has emerged. GBIO is recommitting to health care cost containment and gun violence prevention, while also deciding to take on new campaigns to public education in Boston public schools, criminal justice reform and housing affordability and homelessness. But beyond these issues that were selected, the group has also forged one vision for a Boston where the promise of this great city can be realized for all.

On Tuesday May 12, GBIO will hold its Rededication Assembly (Trinity Church in Copley Square, 7:30pm – 9:30pm) to move forward on a shared vision for the future with Boston’s and the Commonwealth’s newly elected public officials. In attendance will be Governor Baker, Speaker DeLeo, Attorney General Healey and Mayor Walsh, along with 1500 GBIO members.  I look forward to being there with our partners– this time not to mourn a collective loss but to embrace a powerful and more just vision of our community. I hope you will join me to reaffirm our commitment to a Boston that is truly strong.

 Shabbat Shalom,
Jeremy