Category Archives: Government Affairs

Racial Justice Priorities

Now is a moment for decisive action from the Jewish community on police reform. In response to calls from our allies in the Black community, including Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley, Boston City Council President Kim Janey, City Councilor Andrea Campbell, and members of the Massachusetts Black and Latino Caucus, JCRC endorsed five points to create meaningful reform. We will continue to engage with our partners at the federal and municipal levels on the other 5 points in the 10-point plan as well as several other interrelated issues. 

We stand with our partners in taking action to:
  1. To Pass Congresswoman Pressley’s resolution condemning police brutality, racial profiling, and the excessive use of force
  2.  Resolve to provide for a “Special Commission on Peace Officer Standards and Training” to study and make recommendations concerning the implementation of a statewide Peace Officers Standards and Training (POST) system that certifies police officers and enable de-certification for misconduct and abuse. (H2146 by Rep. Holmes and Vieira)
  3. Pass H2292 by Rep. Holmes that establishes an Office of Diversity and Equal opportunity to establish guidelines and review for diversity plans for all state agencies, establishes a peace officer exam advisory board to review examinations for appointment and promotion of peace officers.
  4. Pass H1440 by Rep. Holmes that Establishes a commission to study how the systemic presence of institutional racism has created a culture of structural racial inequality which has exacerbated disproportionate minority contact with the criminal justice system in Massachusetts.
  5. Adopt clear statutory limits on police use of force, including choke-holds and other tactics known to have deadly consequences, require independent investigation of officer-related deaths, and require data collection and reporting on race, regarding all arrests and police use of force by every department. (Bill to be filed by Rep Liz Miranda soon)

JCRC Statement on Voting and Elections in a Pandemic

Embedded in JCRC’s mission is the obligation to promote an American society which is democratic, pluralistic and just. In 2019 JCRC of Greater Boston adopted principles to defend democracy, including the support of policies that (1) Identify and remove barriers to and increase voter registration and voter turnout and (2) Ensure the security and sustainability of our election system infrastructure.

The COVID-19 pandemic has further exposed the inadequacies of the American voting system and exacerbated long-standing suppressive tactics in jurisdictions across the country to ensure this fundamental right. Earlier this month, Wisconsin voters and poll workers were forced to choose between their health and their fundamental right to vote. Over a century ago, the United States Supreme Court held in Yick Wo v. Hopkins that the right to vote is “a fundamental political right, because [it is] preservative of all rights.”

Time is running out for our federal, state and local governments to act now to ensure that the rights and health of voters and pollworkers are protected in the upcoming elections and that the necessary robust infrastructure is supported and funded to increase participation. The Covid-19 pandemic demands a response to meet those needs.

JCRC supports federal, state and local policies that:

  • Expand absentee voting including no-excuse absentee voting, permanent absentee voting and other increased vote by mail options;
  • Preserve in-person voting, carefully balancing the safety of poll workers and voters, and minimizing suppressive tactics.
  • Expand early voting options.

In addition, JCRC calls for immediate federal action and funding for needed support of state and local elections, implementation of these reforms, and the United States Postal Service’s capacity and solvency to meet the increased demands from the COVID-19 pandemic.

MA Rabbis Letter in Support of the Safe Communities Act

January 24th, 2020

Senator Michael O. Moore
Chairman, Joint Committee on Public Safety and Homeland Security
State House, Room 109-B
Boston, MA 02113

Representative Harold P. Naughton
Chairman, Joint Committee on Public Safety and Homeland Security
State House, Room 167
Boston, MA 02113

Honorable Chairs and Members of the Joint Committee on the Judiciary:

Thank you for the opportunity to submit testimony in support of the Safe Communities Act (S.1401 and H.3573). We, the undersigned rabbis, urge your support of this vital legislation. This comprehensive bill would end state and local participation in federal immigration enforcement and ensure the wise use of our public resources.

Our communities have become increasingly concerned by the fear we are hearing from our immigrant neighbors and organizational partners. We have heard our neighbors, coworkers, and friends tell us that, amidst the heightened, hateful rhetoric and cruel federal policies, they are afraid to drive, to send their kids to school, to seek healthcare, to stay enrolled in necessary service programs. Even food pantries have seen a drop-off in clients. There is deep fear that any encounter with authorities, any service that requires a name and i.d., will lead to deportation by ICE.  Fear injures, it stunts growth and it isolates. As people of faith, as residents of Massachusetts, as Americans, and as humans, we are not in the business of seeding fear.

Many in our Jewish community have benefited from the blessings of life in America after our parents and grandparents immigrated here in the early 20th Century fleeing persecution. Whether they came with or without documentation, our families moved through this country freely, figuring out how to make lives for themselves and their children out of the ashes of persecution. In so doing, they contributed a great deal of labor, love and creativity to this country.

Immigrants of all stripes, from all countries, in all times, deserve the same chance. For at our core, we are all human beings. And at the very least, we all deserve to live free from fear. As Jews, the commandment we see more than any other in our holy texts is to love and care for the stranger, for wanderers who face immense challenges – to stand in solidarity and make it clear to our neighbors, our loved ones, that they are not alone.

And it is in that spirit we support S. 1401 and H.3573. Our tax dollars should in no way be put toward any kind of local law enforcement collaboration with federal immigration enforcement. We must take action to ensure that our local police and courts are not involved in civil deportations,; and we must take action to guarantee basic rights for immigrants who are detained in our jails or lockups

Policies of local/State and Federal enforcement collaboration deepen distrust between immigrant communities and law enforcement. When police and sheriffs become immigration agents, victims and witnesses of crime, including victims of domestic violence, do not come forward to cooperate with law enforcement. The New York Times reported a sharp downturn in reports of sexual assault and domestic violence among Latinos throughout the country since the presidential election, attributed to fears of deportation. It is unacceptable that people in imminent danger do not feel able to reach out for the support they need.

We support the recent adoption of the Boston Trust Act and other such local provisions which protect our communities, but a patchwork of inconsistent local ordinances and policies is not enough. The Safe Communities Act is based on tried and true community policing policies that cultivate community confidence in law enforcement. Massachusetts needs to send a powerful message to immigrant state residents that our state and local government serves and protects all law-abiding state residents, regardless of their immigration status. We all deserve a chance to contribute to this country and be free from fear.

I urge you to report this bill favorably out of committee for consideration by the full state legislature.


Rabbi Neal Gold, President, Massachusetts Board of Rabbis
Rabbi Michael Rothbaum - Congregation Beth Elohim, Acton
Rabbi Elaine Zecher – Temple Israel, Boston

Rabbi Bernard Mehlman - Temple Israel, Boston
Rabbi Jen Gubitz - Temple Israel, Boston
Rabbi Suzie Jacobson - Temple Israel, Boston
Rabbi Ronne Friedman - Temple Israel, Boston
Rabbi Victor Reinstein - Nehar Shalom Community Synagogue, Boston
Rabbi Shoshana Meira Friedman – Boston
Rabbi Becky Silverstein – Boston
Rabbi Jim Morgan, Hebrew Senior Life, Boston
Rabbi Andrew Vogel - Temple Sinai, Brookline
Rabbi Daniel Schaeffer - Temple Ohabei Shalom, Brookline
Rabbi Shira Shazeer, Metrowest Jewish Day School, Framingham
Rabbi David Lerner – Temple Emunah, Lexington
Rabbi Julie Bressler – Temple Beth Shalom, Needham
Rabbi Shahar Colt – Congregation Dorshei Tzedek, Newton
Rabbi Daniel Berman - Temple Reyim, Newton
Rabbi Michael Shire, Phd. - Hebrew College, Newton
Rabbi Laura Abrasely - Temple Shalom, Newton
Rabbi Ora Weiss- Newton, MA
Rabbi Lev Friedman, Newton, MA
Rabbi Joseph B. Meszler - Temple Sinai, Sharon
Rabbi David Jaffe - Kirva Institute, Sharon
Rabbi Randy Kafka -Temple Kol Tikvah, Sharon
Rabbi Eliana Jacobowitz – Temple B’nai Brith, Somerville
Rabbi Seth Wax – Williamstown

Double your impact: Loud and Clear on Beacon Hill

Your gift to JCRC ensures that the Jewish community’s voice is heard loud and clear as we make an impact on Beacon Hill. We are the organization that builds broad coalitions, advocates for social justice, and protects the social safety net by advocating for a compassionate and forward-thinking state budget.

With increased gun violence, unjust incarceration and high rates of recidivism, and rising hate crimes, JCRC has been working closely with our allies to lobby the Massachusetts state legislature and the Governor to take action on our community values and priorities.

Through our advocacy, we’ve taken steps to protect democracy by passing and signing into law the Automatic Voter Registration (AVR) Bill, and upholding justice by advocating for passage of the comprehensive Criminal Justice Reform Bill. And we’ve advocated with our partners for successful passage of the Extreme Risk Protective Order (ERPO) Bill, which allows loved ones to remove weapons temporarily from people who pose a risk to themselves and others. We also worked closely with our partners to support the ballot initiative to protect human rights for transgender individuals.

This year, in a time of limited resources and in some cases declining budgets, JCRC also has secured government funding for the community and our partners in excess of our organizational budget.

We have achieved an unprecedented level of success in advancing the priorities of our community in the 2019 state budget, securing a total of $3,842,000 in state funding for a broad range of human services. More than $2 million of this funding will support the work of our partner agencies to create pathways to economic opportunity for disadvantaged residents (including job training for immigrants), enable elderly individuals and families to remain in their homes, and ensure safety for our most vulnerable.

When you support JCRC, you’re not only advancing the Jewish community’s shared values, but also ensuring that we can protect our neighbors and increasingly vulnerable populations across MA. Please partner with us to make an even greater impact in the year to come!

Thank you for helping us go from strength to strength,

Margie Ross Decter
Chair, JCRC Public Policy Committee

A Step Forward for Inclusion

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.


Senate Passes Legislations Extending Charitable IRA Rollover Provisions

It’s not too late to make a gift to JCRC - and it’s not too late to make a distribution from your IRA if you are 70.5 years old or over.

Congress has just reinstated the opportunity to make tax-free rollover gifts from IRAs to charity.

By contributing an IRA Charitable Rollover Gift to JCRC, the IRS allows you to give up to $100,000 this calendar year from your individual IRA account.

Your contribution can satisfy your entire required minimum distribution -- and it's tax-free. Even though the money is coming from your IRA, it is excluded from your taxable income!

Also beneficial: by not having to declare the distributions, the IRA funds are kept from being taxed, and you can also avoid other unfavorable effects that could result from increasing one’s adjusted gross income, such as the taxation of social security benefits or a reduction in personal exemptions and allowable itemized deductions.

To qualify for the tax-free option:

  • You must be 70 ½ years old or older.
  • The transfer from your IRA must go directly from your IRA to JCRC.
  • Married couples can each donate $100,000 from their individual IRA accounts.
  •  The gift must be completed by December 31, 2015.
  • The gift must be an outright gift.

Please note that transfers of IRA gifts to donor advised funds, supporting organizations, charitable gift annuities, or charitable remainder trusts do not qualify. The gift is not eligible for an additional charitable income tax deduction.

For more details on this option, please call JCRC 617-457-8600.
We hope you'll take advantage of the Charitable IRA Rollover and help us by visiting

Testimony on An Act Regulating Use of Credit Reports by Employers (as prepared)

Testimony on House Bill 1736 and Senate Bill 123 – An Act Regulating Use of Credit Reports by Employers (as prepared)

Delivered by Aaron Agulnek, July 21, 2015

Good Afternoon Chairman Wolf and Chairman Scibak and members of the Committee. My name is Aaron Agulnek and I am from the Jewish Community Relations Council and I am here to testify in support of House Bill 1736 and Senate Bill 123, which would restrict the ability of employers to run pre employment credit checks on applicants and potential employees.

I do not need to tell you about the significant barriers to employment faced by many people in our communities.  Whether it is the lack of reliable child care, access to affordable transportation, insufficient vocational and skills training opportunities, limited English proficiency, or a disability; the odds are stacked high up against people trying to get back on their feet and into meaningful employment.  As we all know, good-paying jobs with defined career ladder opportunities are an essential path to economic mobility.

However, a trend has emerged where employers are running pre-employment credit checks and rejecting qualified individuals with so called “bad” credit out-of-hand.  This is bad policy and in most cases not even relevant to an individual’s fitness for employment! Our senior Senator Elizabeth Warren filed similar legislation in Congress and she stated that: “It makes no sense to make it harder for people to get jobs because of a system of credit reporting that has no correlation with job performance and can be riddled with inaccuracies." I can’t agree more.  It just makes no sense!

There are a multitude of reasons why an individual can have bad credit, from large medical debt, student loans, foreclosures, and yes, even errors by the credit rating agencies. One of the main reasons, however, is because of unemployment!  Basically, we have employers telling job seekers that because they are unemployed they are not qualified to be employed and therefore must remain unemployed.  So our friends, family, and neighbors are plunged further and further into debt, put more strain on the safety net, are more despondent about their future prospects and so on.  This is a cycle that needs to end.

As a Commonwealth, we have a duty to work together to create policies that support our citizenry and reduce obstacles so all people have the tools to provide for themselves and their families AND to live lives of dignity.  The Jewish community, through the innovative work of JVS, has been honored to work with this esteemed Committee, and our community partners to develop and implement innovative educational, vocational and skills-based programs that get people into jobs, with defined career ladders and opportunities for growth, and turn perceived obstacles into employable strengths. But even the best support and training cannot overcome this pre-employment credit rating threshold.

We have been your partners in efforts to increase the minimum wage, to extend earned sick leave, and to invest in crucial job training efforts. As a Commonwealth, we have come a long way towards focusing on opportunities for shared prosperity and economic opportunity; but we still have a long way to go.  We respectfully request that you report  House Bill 1736 and Senate Bill 123 out favorably and put an end to the arbitrary and unnecessary use of credit history in employment.

I also wanted to note on the record the JCRC’s strong support for An Act to Establish Equal Pay (House Bill 1733 and Senate Bill 983); Resolutions to Encourage Equitable and Diverse Gender Representation on the Boards of Companies in the Commonwealth (Senate 1007); and An Act Establishing the Massachusetts Pregnant Workers Fairness Act (House 1769) and are proud to stand with the Equal Pay Coalition and urge a favorable report out of Committee.

JCRC Highlights FY16 State Budget Conference Committee Report

Late yesterday, the Budget Conference Committee led by Ways and Means Chairs Brian Dempsey (House) and Karen Spilka (Senate) released their compromise FY16 budget proposal after long deliberations.  Even while the state continues to struggle with its budget gap, this report included some signs of hope, other signs of progress, and more room for improvement.

JCRC professionals were joined by many volunteers during this round of budget advocacy and it clearly paid off.  We hope to build upon that progress in the future.

Here are a few highlights upon our very early review:

Earned Income Tax Credit:  We worked with a broad coalition to ensure that the state’s share of the EITC would be increased, including providing testimony at a hearing earlier in the year.  There was broad bi-partisan support for this increase, but major differences in the means to “pay for” the increase.  Ultimately, the final budget increases the state’s share from 15% to 23% in the tax year in 2016.  To pay for the EITC increase, the budget repeals of what is known as the "FAS 109" tax deduction, which applies to the corporate tax returns of certain publicly-traded corporations. (Since the FAS 109 tax deduction has not even been in effect for the past few years, it's not quite clear what effect the repeal would have and how all the numbers add up - we will need to hear more details.)  What a tremendous victory.

Transitions to Work: A public pilot program modeled after the “Transitions to Work” program, a partnership of the Ruderman Family Foundation, CJP and operated by JVS was included at a level of $150,000. This was the same amount that was initially included in last sessions Economic Development bill, but eventually cut by Governor Baker during his attempts to balance the budget.

Naturally Occurring Retirement Communities: This program, to help keep seniors at home and in their communities was included at last year’s amount. The maintenance of funding for NORCs was a really tremendous result for JF&CS, JFS Metrowest and JFS of Western Massachusetts who are providers of this innovative model.

Secure Jobs Initiative: The Secure Jobs Initiative, initially launched as a partnership between the Paul and Phyllis Fireman Foundation and the Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD) was included in the conference report at $750,000, a 50% increase in the budget funding from last year.  In addition, our creative language compromise to encourage DHCD to leverage other public funding was also included.

Bridges to College: Unfortunately, the Conference Committee reduced the funding for this program down from $400,000 to $250,000, the amount appropriated during Fiscal Year 2014. This is a “community college prep” program that was modeled after a JVS program of the same name.  While the end result is disappointing, we are grateful for the strong support of our allies in the Legislature and Administration who we know will continue to push for increases in the future.

With these successes, there is always room for improvement.  Increased funding is essential for senior services across the Commonwealth and for programs to ensure that all people that need a hand up are able to access those supports.  The work does not end here – and we will continue our conversations with the administration to try and ensure that the Governor does not veto any of our priorities.

We echo the quote of our partner Leo Sarkissian, from the ARC of Massachusetts, regarding the conference report and its support of a robust disability agenda: “We should all feel good about the results of our advocacy – always more to do—but this is a very good day.”

JCRC and MAJF Honor Community Leaders and Legislators at State House Reception

(Boston, MA) - The Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Boston (JCRC) and the Massachusetts Association of Jewish Federations (MAJF) hosted their 18th Annual Legislative Reception at the Massachusetts State House (Great Hall) on Thursday, February 26 at 4:00 P.M. This year’s Legislative Reception was chaired by Nancy Kaplan Belsky & Samantha Joseph.

JCRC|MAJF honored Paul Bernon and the Ruderman Family Foundation for their visionary leadership on JCRC's disability policy agenda and Senator Dan Wolf, Representative Joe Wagner and Rita Noonan from Senate President Stanley Rosenberg's office.

“It is a privilege to partner with so many dedicated public servants,” said Jeremy Burton, Executive Director of JCRC. “This year’s honorees set the bar high with their steadfast commitment to building a more equitable and inclusive society.”

“I'm honored to be recognized by JCRC, and I look forward to our continued good work together on behalf of individuals with developmental disabilities,” said honoree Paul Bernon.

“The Ruderman Family Foundation is honored to partner with JCRC in promoting creative programs, which successfully include people with disabilities in our community, to the legislature of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts," said Jay Ruderman, President of the Ruderman Family Foundation. "The professionalism and progressive advocacy of JCRC is unparalleled and we are humbled that they have chosen to recognize our foundation’s leadership in advocating for the rights of people of all abilities.”

State Senator Daniel Wolf, recipient of a Legislative Achievement Award, added, “JCRC continues to inspire us all with their social justice efforts and advocacy around issues that have a lasting impact in our Commonwealth. I thank them for their continued guidance, and encouragement in my role as the Senate Chair of the Labor and Workforce Development Committee, and I look forward to our continued partnership.”

“I am honored and I am grateful to JCRC for this recognition, and for all that they do on behalf of the Commonwealth’s most vulnerable populations,” said State Representative Joseph Wagner. “They are a strong advocate for the Secure Jobs Program, and I am proud to say that my colleagues and I in the Legislature voted to fund that Program in last year’s budget.”

Rita Noonan of the office of Senate President Stanley Rosenberg and recipient of the Legislative Staff Achievement Award, added, “I am honored to be receiving this prestigious recognition. The Jewish Community Relations Council is an outstanding organization, with such high standards, that I am truly humbled.”

Honoree Bios

Senator Daniel A. Wolf, Cape & Islands

Senator Dan Wolf is a third-term Massachusetts State Senator representing the Cape and Islands District. Senator Wolf serves as the Chair of the Labor and Workforce Development Committee. He is also the Founder and Chief Executive Officer for Cape Air in Hyannis, Massachusetts.

Representative Joseph F. Wagner, Eighth Hampden

State Representative Joseph F. Wagner was first elected to the Massachusetts House of Representatives in 1991 and has been a member of House leadership for more than a decade. Representative Wagner currently serves as House chair of the Joint Committee on Economic Development and Emerging Technologies. The committee reviews all legislation relating to state economic development policy and recommends bills to the full legislature.

Rita Noonan, Office of Senate President Stanley C. Rosenberg

Rita is a trained paralegal and holds a Masters’ degree in public policy from UMass Boston. Rita joined Team Rosenberg in 2008 after many years working for former Senators Cheryl Jacques and Robert Antonioni. She welcomes all visitors to the office and manages Senator Rosenberg’s office needs and calendar. Rita will soon be starting her new role as Deputy Director of Civic Engagement.

Paul M. Bernon

Paul Bernon is Co-Founder and Principal of Burn Later Productions. Paul is involved in all aspects in the company’s investments, from identifying material through the sales and marketing of each film. Paul’s film “Results” premiered at the 2015 Sundance Film Festival, where it was acquired by Magnolia Pictures, and will be released in May of 2015. He serves as a Board Member for the Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Boston and as an Overseer for WGBH, a member station of the Public Broadcasting Service, and the Boston Children’s Hospital. Paul is currently serving as Chair of JCRC’s Disability Advocacy Committee.

The Ruderman Family Foundation

The Ruderman Family Foundation believes that inclusion and understanding of all people is essential to a fair and flourishing community. Guided by their Jewish values, they support effective programs, innovative partnerships and a dynamic approach to philanthropy in their core areas of interest: advocating for and advancing the inclusion of people with disabilities throughout the Jewish community; fostering a more nuanced understanding of the American Jewish community among Israeli leaders; and modeling the practice of strategic philanthropy worldwide. The Foundation provides funding, leadership, expertise and insight in both the U.S. and Israel, with offices in both countries.