Category Archives: Jeremy Burton

Shavuot and “Embracing the holy space”

This weekend we, the “People of the Book,” will mark the giving of said Book. Jews around the world will celebrate Shavuot, as we retell the experience of Moses ascending Mount Sinai and receiving the Ten Commandments.

For me, one of the most powerful aspects of this holiday is that it does not stand alone, but rather, it exists in direct relationship with Passover, exactly seven weeks earlier. And in that relationship comes an idea about the dynamic tension between values that is relevant to our times.

Passover celebrates our individual freedom, our liberty from the tyranny of slavery in Egypt. Shavuot marks the establishment of a collective law. This weekend, we celebrate the presentation of a social contract between the Divine and the People, but also – and more importantly – among the people. And these holidays are connected because the gift of freedom is incomplete without the gift of law.

Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks, former Chief Rabbi of England, explains it thus:

“If freedom means only that I can do what I want, then my freedom will inevitably conflict with yours. If I am free to steal, you are not free to own...That is why Judaism sees the exodus as the beginning, not the end, of the journey to freedom. The culmination came in the giving of the Law. The biblical vision is of a society in which no one will be at the mercy of others. Its rules and institutions aim at creating a social order of independent human beings linked by bonds of kinship and compassion...The freedom to do what we want creates individuals. It does not create a free society.”

The idea of values that are incomplete without each other, and that are enriched in dynamic relationship to each other, is a theme of several books I’ve had the opportunity to read this past year; books that are deeply relevant to the challenges we face. Yascha Mounk, in The People Vs. Democracy, explores the dual threats of undemocratic liberalism and of illiberal democracy. Both tendencies, when implemented to excess, pose a risk to our civil society. Jonathan Haidt’s The Righteous Mind explores another set of tensions – the moral values that compete within us and within societies to inform our politics. He examines the multiple foundations of human morality, and makes the case that by recognizing these foundations, we can become more open to other points of view.

In our Book and these books, as in the connection between Passover and Shavuot, we see values and ideas held and articulated, not in opposition to each other, but rather in conversation. Each value or idea – freedom and order, liberalism and democracy, fairness and loyalty (two of the six values that Haidt enumerates) – may be of greater import to many of us some or all of the time. But none is fully developed without its relationship to the other(s).

And it is within this notion that we have an opportunity to offer a deeply Jewish approach to our ideologically siloed and divided society: To resist the temptation to define competing values as opposing ones. And to refuse to be bullied into rejecting the concerns and beliefs of those with whom we disagree solely because they identify elsewhere on the ideological spectrum.

Rather, we can insist that what are defined as ‘their’ values and ‘our’ values, ‘their’ ideas and ‘our’ ideas, exist in dynamic tension and conversation with each other. We can promote a radical idea – to hold the center and honor the whole – by embracing the holy space between competing ideas, beliefs, and values.

Together, as the People did in the wilderness as they journeyed from the split sea to Sinai, we can do the work of building communities enriched by all our members, informed by all our ideas, walking together on a path through the desert and toward a greater future.

Shabbat Shalom and Chag Sameach,


From a place of love

In Leviticus 19:17, we read: “You shall not hate your kinsfolk in your heart, rebuke your kinsman and do not incur guilt because of him.” Unpacking this verse, Maimonides tells us: “When one person wrongs another, the latter should not remain silent and despise the person… Rather, we are commanded to make the matter known and ask the person: ‘Why did you do this to me?’ ‘Why did you wrong me regarding that matter?’"

Further, he explains: “A person who rebukes a colleague… should rebuke the person privately. S/he should speak to the person patiently and gently, informing them that s/he is only making these statements for their colleague's own welfare.”

I’ve been thinking about those words often of late.

Item A: In recent weeks we’ve been in conversation with one of our partners beyond the Jewish community about a recent action they took that deeply troubled many members of our community. This is not the first time when, in the complexity of intergroup or interfaith relations, we’ve found ourselves raising concerns with partners about their actions (and as they raise concerns about our actions as well). And as in many of these cases, we’ve also been in ongoing consultation with several of our members who are also invested in this relationship. Questions arise: how should we express our objections: publicly or privately? collectively or individually? And to what end; i.e. what answers are we looking for? Will we be satisfied only by a particular action taken or are there times when reaching a new understanding is enough?

Item B: Not a day goes by that we don’t get at least dozens of emails and calls “offering” feedback on something we’ve done or said. Many of those notes are of a “thumbs up” nature,” others are expressions of disappointment, or worse. Often, over time, the same person will send both positive and negative notes that are both interesting and informative. We listen to all of it, we try to acknowledge most of it, and we certainly weigh it as we continue to learn and to improve our efforts.

There are a small number of people – from a variety of ideological points of view – who write often (say 10 times a week or more) using the same cut-and-paste lines in almost every note, practically yelling about only one or two topics, whether or not those topics are the subject of the message they are replying to. Others write less often, but their messages are always laden with vitriolic language, sometimes starting with ALL CAPS headers, that make plain their assumptions about our I.Q.s, our morals, and/or our loyalty to the Jewish community. I for one find myself tuning these out: They all go straight to the circular file; no response required.

Item C: On Monday Ambassador Dermer was asked for his thoughts about American Jewish criticism of Israeli government policies. His response – and I am paraphrasing here – was that when an organization issues 100 press releases and 99 of them criticize Israel, the response is to tune them out. But when Israel’s friends, who’ve stood with them in challenge and celebration, criticize them on a couple of things, they hear that.

All of these are, to my mind, connected to an idea deeply rooted in Jewish wisdom such as from Maimonides; that rebuke (tochachah) is strengthened when it comes from a place of love (ahavah). This thread runs through the work of community relations. Whether, as in the example of the external partner, it is about the context of a trusting relationship in which to engage in authentic rebuke coming from love. Or whether, as with these members of our community, it’s about being effective in giving the rebuke. Or, as in the case of Israel (or all of these cases), it is about being able to be heard.

In our ancient rabbis’ discussion of why Aaron was mourned more broadly than his brother Moses, they tell us that Aaron “also… would prevent Israel from transgressing, however he would do this through words of appeasement and reconciliation.” I find myself thinking about how we give, and receive, constructive criticism. None of us is perfect. But as we strive to be more so, we welcome the wisdom and feedback of those we have come to trust.

May we learn to hear each other, and to be heard.

Shabbat Shalom,


How do we cut through the noise?

There’s a good chance that you actually watched comedian Michelle Wolf at the White House Correspondence Dinner this week. You might have also caught Prime Minister Netanyahu’s dramatic prime time reveal of data taken in a bold nighttime raid in Teheran earlier this year. And I’m guessing that not many of you watched President Abbas’ address to the Palestine National Council. But if you are reading this blog and interested in the same kind of content that I am, you are most certainly aware of all three presentations, along with the multitude of responses that each elicited.

This week, like so many other weeks these days, the original media event took place, and was then followed by a voluminous and raucous debate unpacking the meaning and political import of said remarks. My inbox runneth over time and again, my social media feeds overflowed with comments, the blogs I track had hot take after hot take. And I couldn’t help feeling that most of what I was reading was predictable, and that precious little of it was all that interesting.

By and large, the commentator who was a fan of the President or had interests with the White House (including a lot of correspondents whose careers hinge on West Wing access) excoriated Wolf. And the commentator who cut his or her teeth the past 18 months on portraying President Trump as a monster applauded Wolf’s performance. If someone was opposed to the JCPOA (the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan on Action, aka the Iran Deal) in 2015, the hot take was that Bibi’s remarks were a game changer, and if one supported the Iran Deal at the time, then the Prime Minister’s remarks were seen as validation for keeping the deal. Granted, Abbas’ virulently anti-Semitic remarks drew something close to wall-to-wall condemnation, but even there I saw some fringe-left groups trying to pivot back quickly to their standard “what aboutism” criticism of Israel.

My gut reaction to all of this? I desperately want to tune out all this chatter. Why bother reading another op-ed if I know – based on the source – exactly where they will land before I start reading it? Confirmation biases have taken over and the only facts that seem to matter are the ones that affirm a pre-existing point of view.

My point is this: We live in an era where there’s more yelling going on than ever before, but very few people are actually saying anything.

And that’s a shame. Because, amidst the chatter, there were important things said this week. And there are important discussions we need to have about them. Flint, Michigan still doesn’t have clean water, and yes, cable news has profited tremendously through its role in the rise of President Trump (and in the fostering and feeding of our toxic discourse). There are serious strategic issues to address in preventing Iran from expanding its reach in the region. And we need a bipartisan strategy for the US and our allies to prevent Iran from attaining a nuclear capability. While there may not be partners for peace at the leadership level, there are good people – both Palestinian and Israeli – who want and are working for a better future for themselves and their children.

Those are the conversations I want to have. So how do we cut through all the noise and have them?

I welcome your thoughts.

Shabbat Shalom,


The Israel conversation we’re striving for…

At the risk of repeating a tired trope, I will point out that there is virtually no matter on which the Jewish community is united in our analysis and opinions. That is arguably most true with regard to our concerns for the future of the State of Israel. And there is probably no subject that has invited more angst-ridden pieces in recent Jewish discourse than the current state of the relationship between Israeli and American Jews – the two largest Jewish centers of population in the world. We are seen, increasingly, as akin to Mars and Venus; talking past each other in our religious, social, cultural, and political perspectives.

In the Boston Jewish community, we treasure a range of thought and voices in our community on these matters. We seek to foster respectful discussion; not to achieve agreement amongst us but rather, to build understanding and mutual regard across our diversity.

This is why we at JCRC are proud that our Council – 42 organizations and growing – is amongst the most ideologically diverse deliberative bodies in American Jewish life today. And it is why CJP has invested in the CommUNITY Dialogue on Israel over the past two years. We strive for a rich and vibrant conversation about Israel. We work toward the ability to act together where there is consensus – such as working toward the two-state peace that we believe is essential for Israel’s future – and to act in accordance with our individual viewpoints where there is not.

Among the panoply of voices essential to our collective conversation about Israel is that of Israelis living both here and in Israel, as well as the representatives of the government of the State of Israel. Though we - in parts or in whole – may not always agree with any particular government, we always appreciate its role as the democratically elected leadership and representation of the will of Israel’s majority.

It is therefore our great honor – as JCRC and as the organized Jewish community of Boston – to host the State of Israel’s highest representative to the United States, His Excellency Ambassador Ron Dermer, for the 15th annual Connie Spear Birnbaum Memorial Lecture on Monday May 7th, 7:30pm at Temple Reyim in Newton. This lecture is appropriately named for a woman who, upon her untimely passing from breast cancer at age 48, became a symbol of Jewish unity and the inspiration for an annual program which is intended to gather individuals from across the ideological and religious spectrum of Jewish life.

Ambassador Dermer will address the challenges facing Israel today; a timely topic in this season when we join with Israel in celebrating the 70th anniversary of the re-establishment of the state of the Jewish people in its modern form.

We look forward to hearing from the Ambassador, to him addressing our questions, and to his informing and enriching our conversation as we continue to work together as a diverse and yet unified community.

The event is free. Pre-registration is required. I hope you will join us.

Shabbat Shalom,


“I get it. BDS is wrong, but then what?”

The topic that’s dominated just about every conversation I’ve had this week has been BDS (Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions), the global campaign to deny Israel’s legitimacy. My week began by sitting on a Sunday morning panel at the J Street conference, about countering BDS. And throughout the entire week, I’ve been working intensively with many of our members and partners – within and beyond the Jewish community – to challenge an effort by BDS proponents to secure the support of the Cambridge City Council in advancing their cause.

The topic of BDS is one I’ve grown comfortable discussing. This movement, so often rooted in anti-Semitism, is one we’re committed to confronting whenever it rears its ugly head and in whatever form it takes. But frankly, as a Jewish community activist and as a passionate supporter of the State of Israel, this is not how I would prefer to spend my days.

But there’s one question that keeps emerging from my conversations about BDS, one that I invite and welcome. Over and over again, I keep hearing, “Well, ok, I get it. BDS is wrong, but then what? What do you propose we do to help pave the way to peace and justice for Palestinians and Israelis?”

I truly love this question, and the opportunity it opens up to discuss an aspect of our work of which I’m very proud.

Our view at JCRC has been formed by the considerable time we’ve spent, particularly through our Israel study tours, talking with Palestinians and Israelis both in “pre-1967” Israel and on the West Bank. We have grown in our understanding that the path to a better future needs to come from changemakers on the ground: by creating partnerships and collaborations across all that divides them, recognizing each other’s human dignity, and affirming each other’s narrative and legitimacy in a shared homeland. Most important, our view is that we, sitting here in Boston, need to invest in their social, political, and financial capacity to change the narrative and shape their future.

This is why we were so proud to launch Boston Partners For Peace. It is our way of saying, in partnership with CJP, that we have a responsibility to do something and to make sure that it is productive.

It is why we support people-to-people groups like The Parents Circle – families on both sides who have lost loved ones to the violence and who are promoting reconciliation through educational programs and dialogue circles. It is about us believing in civic engagement of thousands of Israeli and Palestinian women from diverse backgrounds who, through Women Wage Peace, are working to create a groundswell to pressure decision makers to work toward peace. It is about the power of economic cooperation to build the conditions for a better future, through groups like EcoPeace, bringing together Jordanian, Palestinian, and Israeli environmentalists in cooperative efforts to protect the environment and advance sustainable regional development.

And it is about supporting education through a group based right here in Cambridge, MIT MEET, where young Israeli and Palestinian leaders come together to create positive change through technology and entrepreneurship.

Our work in this arena is also about our own advocacy for the creation of an International Fund for Israeli-Palestinian Peace, through the Alliance for Middle East Peace (AllMEP). AllMEP’s efforts resulted in a 20% bump in support for Israeli-Palestinian people-to-people project funding in the recent U.S. Federal omnibus spending bill.

At JCRC, we’re not “solutionists.” We don’t pretend to have a shared analysis of every obstacle on the ground to achieve peace. We don’t presume to offer a comprehensive plan for resolving one of the world’s most enduring and complicated conflicts. But we do believe that it is the people on the ground – who we’ve come to know and believe in – who already are, and have the potential to become, the agents of a more hopeful future.

We believe that the path to a brighter future is not paved with boycotts and other efforts to further divide people and prevent the interactions that cultivate recognition and respect. Rather, we believe the future should be shaped by those who choose to walk together on a path toward mutual understanding, security, and peace.

Together, we can amplify their voices, change the narrative, and shape the future.

Shabbat Shalom,


Reading Buddies and the New Normal

Every Friday at lunch time for the last seven years, a team of volunteers from JCRC and CJP jump into Ubers to dash to the Condon School in South Boston. Along with a volunteer team from the law firm of Nutter McClennen & Fish, they meet with the second graders they've been paired with, to spend an hour together immersed in the joy of reading.

Like the other workplace teams that JCRC’s Greater Boston Jewish Coalition for Literacy (GBJCL) places in local public schools through its “Reading Buddies” program, Team JCRC/CJP has formed enduring bonds with their young friends, along with a deep admiration for the talented and hardworking teachers and administrators at the school they visit. And they marvel at the dedication of their liaison, Condon School Reading Specialist Annellen Lydon, who seems to know each and every student in this large school, and goes to great lengths to provide them with just the support they need to succeed.

A GBJCL volunteer at the Condon School

So we were all dismayed to learn that last Thursday evening, a man was fatally shot just outside the school. Due to the ongoing police investigation, children had to remain indoors during recess the next day, and a bullet and bullet hole were found in a third-grade classroom. Disturbingly, this is not the first time the Condon has been affected by the presence of firearms. The previous June, a gun was found inside a bathroom on a day when police reported nearby gunfire.

When we called to express our concern and check in with our friends, we were not surprised to learn that despite teachers and administrators being on edge, they focused on trying to make it a normal day for the students. Ms. Lydon shared, “Some of the students knew, especially the older ones. We tried to keep things normal; not sure what normal is.”

Though we felt reassured that these cherished students and community were safe, we were also reminded of the sober reality of the “new normal” in our country; where teachers, charged with the academic, emotional, and social wellbeing of their students now also have to worry about the prospect of gun violence erupting at any moment. And we were reminded that despite the understandable shock and horror we all feel in the aftermath of high profile mass shootings like Parkland, the fact remains that many more young lives are claimed through the ongoing scourge of gun violence in the streets of our cities.

Just a few weeks ago, I wrote about our work to prevent gun violence; both our pride in being part of a coalition to pass legislation resulting in Massachusetts having the lowest gun death rate in the country and our ongoing commitment to doing more. An important measure which would further reduce gun violence is The Extreme Risk Protective Order (ERPO), a bill to reduce access to guns for individuals with an elevated risk of harm to themselves or others. Last Friday’s frightening news has only deepened our commitment to pursue all actions to further decrease gun violence, and to persist until all our children are safe.

We will continue to stand with our friends and partners in South Boston and throughout Greater Boston, and to engage our Jewish community in doing so through our multiple avenues for action at JCRC. We will keep showing up at our local schools to help children discover the joy of reading and to celebrate their achievements—and we will keep showing up at the State House, to demand that guns stay out of the hands of those who would cause them harm.

I invite you to join us in our efforts. Contact Public Safety Committee Chairs Representative Naughton and Senator Michael Moore to urge passage of ERPO today. Join our GBJCL family; tutor a child weekly or for special events, donate needed books to under resourced schools. Help us build a healthy and vibrant community, one in which all of our children can flourish.

Stand with Immigrants this Passover: An Action Guide for Your Seder

As you prepare to gather with family and friends to celebrate Passover 5778, we want to wish you a sweet and meaningful holiday – and to share this resource for your seder, informed by our community’s experience of standing with immigrants this year.

We’ve shared with you the many ways in which we at JCRC have engaged our Jewish community in responding to the urgent crisis facing our foreign born neighbors – the lobbying by so many of us for passage of the Safe Communities Act, the 15 synagogues and approximately 400 individuals involved in Sanctuary congregation work, the 40 immigrant detainees we, along with our interfaith partners in the Boston Immigrant Justice Accompaniment Network, are supporting in a variety of ways, including pastoral visits from rabbis, access to legal representation and financial support for bond and legal fees. There is no more fitting way to mark this Festival of Freedom than to remember those in our midst who are currently detained, in fear for their lives should they be deported back to countries rife with violence and trauma...We encourage you to use this resource, created with a team of active synagogue leaders, to stimulate conversation at your Seder table, and learn about action you can take to bring about liberation for those among us, yearning to be free.

Chag Same'ach,

Things that make us uncomfortable and lessons learned

Early one morning this week I received an email from a member of the Boston Jewish community whose counsel I value, though we often disagree on quite a few things. She questioned my decision to promote the voice of a virulently anti-Israel person and also challenged the agenda I was serving by doing so. I was genuinely surprised.

Clearly I needed some context here. So I looked into the matter.

As folks know, I share a lot of content on social media. We’re a diverse community and our collective conversation is informed by a multiplicity of voices. I disagree with many of the folks whose opinions I share, on a wide array of issues, but I’m also curious to hear reactions and takes on these matters – whether or not we at JCRC have a position on them. So I often just say that a piece is “worth reading” or “something to discuss.” In other cases, where we have a particular advocacy position we’re advancing, I’ll expand on a piece to underscore how it supports our view.

And sometimes, when an issue is driving conversation in the Jewish community, I share a lot of comments that can elevate the topic and inform the discussion even when JCRC hasn’t made a formal statement. For example, over the past weeks when our community was rightly outraged over revelations about notorious anti-Semitic minister Louis Farrakhan’s ties to various elected officials and public figures, I shared a lot of content about that.

And when CIA Director Mike Pompeo was nominated this week for Secretary of State, some folks in our community – and beyond – pointed out that he had a history of close affiliation with far-right groups. So, when an activist I respect shared someone else’s tweet specifically noting the ADL description of a group that honored Pompeo as “the largest anti-Muslim group in the US” and one that spreads “hateful propaganda,” I retweeted it with the comment that this was a “thing we need to talk about.”

Little did I know then – as I learned the next morning from that email – that the original tweet was by someone problematic. I was vaguely aware that this person was a commentator on a major cable news channel and had well over 100,000 Twitter followers. But until my own further research, I did not know about her close ties to a prominent anti-Semitic figure on the left and her own public statements.

I did not want to risk being seen as giving aid and comfort to someone I would never knowingly endorse. So, I thanked the person who reached out to me and told them that I didn’t know what I now do about this person. I continued on to say that I believe that the message that I shared is important and relevant for our community, i.e. a “thing we need to talk about.” That’s not an endorsement of this person or her views. It’s a statement on how some of the things that make us most uncomfortable are, in fact, the ones that most merit conversation.

I reaffirmed that if we are to appropriately lambast the left for trucking in bigotry, including anti-Semitism and including by some who are closely associated with figures in high public office, then we also have an obligation and responsibility to similarly talk about bigotry on the right that is being mainstreamed and normalized, including Islamophobia and white supremacy at and near the highest levels of our government.

And yet, I admitted it was important that the voice I chose to elevate was not one that would distract from something that we need to be able to discuss. So I deleted the retweet and found an alternative source so that I could share the findings by the ADL and others about Pompeo’s troubling affiliations.

Once again, let me restate how much I welcome feedback and relish the opportunity for community conversation. And I will reassert my commitment to make that conversation a wide-ranging one that hears and considers a multitude of perspectives. I will continue to amplify the voices of people from across the political spectrum with whom I may disagree on a range of topics, in the service of building a richer and more complex discourse.

But this week, I learned an important lesson: that to ensure diverse perspectives are truly heard, I must take greater care with the sources I look to. Failing to do so can not only distract from the message, but even worse, it can inadvertently validate those who purvey or condone hatred. I’m grateful to those of you who take the time to follow me on social media. I ask you to pay close attention to the totality of what I post and to join me in building a robust and wide-ranging discourse on the issues that matter to our community. And I will count on you to keep holding me accountable to sharing a myriad of perspectives, through sources worthy of our consideration.

Shabbat Shalom,


Our Literacy Heroes: Celebrating 20 Years

All year long, we’ve been celebrating the 20th anniversary of JCRC’s Greater Boston Jewish Coalition for Literacy. We’ve hosted birthday parties at nine public schools, and last spring, held our own grand celebration honoring tutor Mark Friedman (pictured with his tutee, Adam), an extraordinary leader in both GBJCL and JCRC. Last night, we wrapped up the festivities by honoring those at the heart of the program, our volunteers.

Joined by MA Rep. Denise Garlick (Needham, top right photo) and noted author Susan E. Goodman (bottom left photo), we were thrilled to welcome 85 of our literacy volunteers and school partners. Since the inception of the program, GBJCL volunteers have distinguished themselves as real literacy heroes. Every week of the school year – and in some cases, for the full 20 years of the program’s existence – these volunteers show up with teams from their synagogues or workplaces at public schools throughout Greater Boston, to help kids develop tools for success.

Among those we honored was Cindy Lutch, a team leader from Temple Israel, Natick, serving at the Hemenway School in Framingham (left photo, on right, with Pam Weil, a GBJCL team leader from Temple Emanuel, Newton). During her decade of service, Cindy has had the opportunity to work with dozens of students and partnered with multiple teachers to develop a nurturing learning environment. Among those she tutored, one young man in particular stood out. After spending many weeks together, she noticed he was having trouble reading his school work. She brought this to the attention of his teacher, and together, they discovered that the student needed glasses. After he got glasses, he sometimes needed help remembering to bring them to school. Cindy would remind him each week, supporting the student to become a better reader over the year. Cindy’s special relationship with this student and his teacher helped him to grow and thrive.

After years of tutoring, Cindy developed a model for providing closure to her students at the end of the year. Cindy takes a photo of the child and they each take a copy home. GBJCL values closure rituals between student and tutor so they can reflect on their accomplishments and express their feelings about the transition. Cindy’s innovation has now been integrated as a best practice that GBJCL recommends to all tutors. Cindy’s enduring her commitment led her to choose her successor carefully and since then, the Temple Israel team has expanded and become even more robust.

We thank Cindy for her leadership and her continued partnership with JCRC as the program grows. Her commitment to making literacy accessible to students is an inspiration to all of us and exemplifies the connection between Jewish communities and public schools that the founders of GBJCL, including Leonard Fein, envisioned.

As one of those founders, Hans Strauch (see photo), said last night: “GBJCL mobilizes the Jewish community to volunteer and help elementary school children discover the joy of reading and meet their learning goals. To see it flourish and grow is truly amazing and gratifying. GBJCL volunteers are making a tremendous positive difference every day in the life and welfare of the communities it serves. That is why we continue to support this vital program every year.”

Over the past 20 years, GBCJL has impacted nearly 10,000 students and our tutors have read over 36,000 books with these students in our public schools. This is a value of over $200,000 in volunteer hours. More than ever, it is important to continue championing our local schools, supporting the development of young people, and paving the way for them to access the opportunities our country has to offer. With the commitment of our exceptional volunteers and the support of our community, we can only imagine what we’ll be able to achieve in the next 20 years! (Volunteer pictured here at the event with a "We 'heart' our volunteers" bag filled with donated books to bring to her tutees.)

Shabbat Shalom,


Four Questions, Four Actions

Click here to download our Seder Supplement for 2017/5777, featuring action items and Boston-specific stories about immigrants and refugees.


With Passover just over a week away, and many of us already deep into preparations, I ask you to pause with me for just a moment, as we acknowledge some remarkable community-wide efforts addressing issues deeply resonant of themes of the Festival of Freedom.

As you may have read in today’s Boston Globe, CJP - Combined Jewish Philanthropies is teaming up with Catholic Charities of Boston to fund legal services for immigrants in a powerful display of interfaith cooperation in this challenging time. I’m particularly proud that JCRC Board President Adam Suttin is taking the lead amongst donors to the fund. As Adam says in this Boston Globe piece today: "He sees aiding today’s newcomers as a matter of “basic human rights, civil rights, and Jewish values.”

“We were once strangers in this land,” he said. “We have to remember that and provide opportunities for others to enjoy the benefits of this country.”

This new fund is the latest action step in a multi-pronged collective agenda in which our local Jewish community is standing in solidarity with immigrants and refugees. I’m delighted to share more about our actions – those we’ve taken so far, and those we invite you to join us on in the future – which are featured in JCRC’s Seder Supplement for 2017/5777: Standing with Immigrants and Refugees (PDF).

We are very proud to be distributing this in partnership with ADL New England, JALSA, Jewish Family Service and JVS.

But how is this Seder Supplement different from all others, you may ask?

This one is specifically about – and for – Boston’s Jewish community.

  • You will read stories that should be roundly and proudly shared, of the actions that Jewish organizations and synagogues members are taking to support and act in solidarity with our foreign born neighbors.
  • You will also read about the profound way in which these issues resonate with our own experience and history as Jews, including the seldom told story of how many of our people found safety in this country, even without legal access or documentation.
  • Finally, and most important, you will learn how you can take critical action now, to breathe new life into our age old commitment to freedom for all people.

Wishing you a joyous and meaningful Passover!

Shabbat Shalom,