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.
By Seth Goldberg, Government Affairs Associate
As you may recall, last July marked the 25th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act. The ADA gave civil rights to people with disabilities, making it illegal to discriminate based on disability in employment, state and local government services, public accommodations, transportation, and telecommunications.
Allow me to borrow the words of Elana Margolis, Associate Director at JCRC, from a blog post she authored to commemorate that anniversary:
“I know that removing barriers is not the same as creating opportunities. Twenty-five years later, across the country, unemployment rates for people with disabilities are disproportionately high; accessible and adequate educational opportunities are hard to find; and, transportation options remain sorely lacking.”
By no means has the ADA resolved all the challenges people with disabilities face daily, but it has certainly changed America’s accessibility, attitude, and awareness.
At JCRC, we advocate for employment services and community supports for our Commonwealth’s residents with disabilities. We join with so many wonderful organizations – like Gateways, the CJP Synagogue Inclusion Project, the Ruderman Family Foundation and others here in Boston,– working hard for a fully inclusive Jewish community.
Since I am in a borrowing mood, I’ll share the words of Jeremy Burton, JCRC’s Executive Director, from one of his recent weekly blog posts:
“For JCRC as a network of the organized Jewish community, our mission isn’t focused solely on inclusion within our Jewish community. We also look beyond our community, bringing our values into the broader civic discourse. Together with so many of you, we are committed to ensuring that every single person in our Commonwealth has the opportunity to live to his or her fullest potential, with dignity and hope.”
This commitment was clearly visible earlier this month when JCRC worked with our partners and the Massachusetts State Senate to pass two bills aimed at removing barriers for people with disabilities. Senate Bills 1323 and 2142, passed on March 3rd, expand the range of housing and employment opportunities for those living with disabilities throughout the Commonwealth.
Senate Bill 1323, which we are working to ensure is approved by the House of Representatives and signed by the Governor, brings Massachusetts and federal regulations into alignment — creating more accessible housing units and improving access to employee-only areas in the workplace. Thank you to our partners on this initiative - the Massachusetts Independent Living Centers, the MS Society, Disability Policy Consortium and Easter Seals.
Senate Bill 2142 would require the state's Supplier Diversity Office to develop standards to identify and recruit, with the intent to hire, qualified applicants with disabilities for employment in its office. In addition, the bill requires that all state employees involved in hiring decisions be trained and educated to the standards of the Americans with Disabilities Act.
We are thrilled that the Senate also passed these additional bills that positively impact people living with disabilities:
- Senate Bill 2140, an Act Eliminating Archaic Language Pertaining to Individuals with Disabilities in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.
- Senate Bill 2413, an Act Eliminating Health Disparities in the Commonwealth.
- Senate Bill 2141, An Act Updating Terminology and Investigative Practices Related to the Protection of Persons with a Disability.
We are grateful for the leadership of Senator James Timilty, Senator Barbara L’Italien and Chair of Senate Ways and Means, Senator Karen Spilka. Our efforts now turn to working with members of the House of Representatives to ensure swift action to pass these bills.
The Jewish commitment to advocacy on behalf of people with disabilities runs deep in our tradition and JCRC will continue to work with the disability community as staunch advocates for services, opportunities, and inclusion.
By Seth Goldberg, Government Affairs Associate
Last month, hundreds of activists from around the country came together in Washington D.C. for the Jewish Community Town Hall, sponsored by the Jewish Council for Public Affairs (JCPA), to shape the policy agenda for the organized Jewish community. I had the pleasure of attending, along with JCRC’s Executive Director Jeremy Burton and Public Policy Committee Chair Chuck Koplik.
Issues on the agenda included anti-Semitism in Europe and around the world; the Syrian refugee crisis; race relations; criminal justice; early childhood education; family and medical leave; and American recognition of the Armenian genocide.
At the end of the three day conference, five resolutions were passed and have all been added to the JCPA Compendium which provides guidance to JCRCs across the country. Of the five non-emergency resolutions, JCRC of Greater Boston was proud to sponsor two of them. The first was a Resolution on Paid Sick Leave, calling for support for legislation that guarantees employees reasonable paid sick leave to attend to their own health and the health of their families. The other, a Resolution on the Armenian Genocide, called for Jewish community groups to consult and work with national Armenian organizations to further the goal of U.S. recognition of the Armenian Genocide. Both of these amendments reflect longstanding values held in Boston and are now reflected in the national umbrella organization’s governing documents.
JCPA Board Chair Susan W. Turnbull commented, “We delved into contemporary issues and reached consensus positions that will lead our community towards action. We were informed, we discussed, and we debated, over three days. We then took concrete steps to create policy in our shared pursuit of justice.”
The additional three resolutions were: a call for criminal justice and drug reform; expanding access to early education for the poor; and further actions to combat anti-Semitism. These resolutions were enacted to allow all members of the JCPA the latitude to work on important issues of the day and to be a leader in our respective communities.
With regard to anti-Semitism, the JCPA adopted a policy calling for guidelines “regarding the line between criticism of Israel’s policies and anti-Semitism, and when that line is crossed.”
“We live in a dangerous world, not just for ourselves, but many who are at risk because of who they are, where they live, or how others perceive them,” said Ethan Felson, JCPA Senior Vice President. “We are all created in the divine image, so an injustice to anyone is an injustice to all of us – and so we take action.”
After a late night session, an emergency resolution framing concrete steps to address the crisis of Syrian refugees was passed. This resolution was penned in large part by our own Executive Director Jeremy Burton.