Category Archives: Government Affairs

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 www.jcrcboston.org.

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.

Jewish Community at Forefront of Inclusion Advocacy

With February being Jewish Disability Awareness Month (JDAM), we are reminded that the Jewish community continues to be at the forefront of promoting the righteous obligation for inclusion, whether through the high quality of services and programs run by our agencies, the families and people with disabilities who are thriving or the countless volunteers who pitch in their time and resources to create a more open and accessible community.

Yet, for many families and people with disabilities, societal attitudes and limited public resources have created additional obstacles and saddled too many people with financial and emotional barriers where instead opportunity should abound.

JDAM presents us an opportunity to highlight the talents, personalities and sometimes untapped potential of people with disabilities and provides a platform to shine a light on laws and regulations that need to be updated, services that need to be expanded and expectations that need to be readjusted.

The Jewish Community Relations Council (JCRC) works to bring our community’s values, perspectives and expertise to the public square to effect change and promote dialogue. Over the past several years, our Government Affairs team, including our newly formed Disability Advocacy Committee, has played a key role with our state leaders and federal delegation, testifying on behalf of bills, advocating for familial supports and innovative program and working in collaboration with other leading voices.

This year also marks the 25th Anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), and for the young adults of the ADA generation, it has never been a question about their own abilities, but rather the overcoming the expectations and obstacles that others have set.

We urge you to use the opportunity of Jewish Disability Awareness Month to call your elected officials, neighbors, friends, and colleagues and urge them to support efforts to make a more inclusive community and workplace. If you have a disability, speak up and let the world know that you are an important part of the workforce and that you will not be defined nor limited by anyone else’s expectations.

On Thursday, February 26th, JCRC and Massachusetts Association of Jewish Federations will honor the visionary leadership of Paul Bernon and the Ruderman Family Foundation for supporting JCRC's disability policy agenda and to Senator Dan Wolf, Representative Joe Wagner and Rita Noonan from Senate President Stanley Rosenberg's office our 18th Annual Legislative Reception at The Massachusetts State House.

If you are interested in attending or supporting this event, go to http://bit.ly/1L93MOb.

Thank you, Governor Patrick

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As the Commonwealth of Massachusetts prepares for new leadership on Beacon Hill, it is also a time for reflection and appreciation. When Governor Deval Patrick takes his lone walk down the steps of the State House on January 7th, he will be remembered as a great friend and supporter of the Greater Boston Jewish community.

The Governor clearly laid out his principles when he first ran for office: generational responsibility, social justice, and investments in our individual and communal futures. He made it clear that “we do not have to agree on everything to work on anything.” That vision and perspective laid the framework for eight years of successful collaboration between his administration and the Jewish community.

The priorities of the Jewish Community Relations Council (JCRC) and Governor Patrick often complemented each other in the public square. We stood with the Governor as he personally rallied support to defeat efforts finally to put marriage equality on the ballot, thereby enshrining the principle that civil rights would not be put up to a popular vote and that marriage is a right belonging to all of us. We were equally proud to stand shoulder to shoulder with Governor Patrick and other leaders in the faith community to offer temporary sanctuary for migrant children entering the United States without family.

We worked together to expand coverage and reign in the costs of health care in the Commonwealth; to increase the minimum wage; to increase funding for youth jobs; and to create and pass stronger gun violence prevention legislation.

It was also a tremendous source of pride for our community when the Governor made two trips to Israel to build upon the many strong connections between the business and academic communities of Israel and Massachusetts. Due to his leadership, MassChallenge and MassChallenge Israel are working to develop deeper economic ties between the growing healthcare, biotechnology and tech sectors in Israel and Massachusetts, and starting this year, we will finally have direct flights to Israel from Boston.

Governor Patrick exhibited superb governance during times of crisis and there is no better example than his steadfast leadership in the face of the Boston Marathon attack. His steady hand and his compassion guided the City and the Commonwealth. His remarks at the interfaith gathering with President Obama – when the Governor called us all to unite in our shared civic faith – provided the unifying and healing moment we all needed

We share Governor Patrick’s commitment to family, community and social justice. For that, and for all you have achieved, we say thank you for your service so far to the Commonwealth.

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Jeremy Burton
Executive Director, JCRC

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Jill Goldenberg

President, JCRC

Update: Governor Signs New Gun Violence Prevention Bill into Law

Earlier this morning, the JCRC joined with Speaker of the House Robert DeLeo, legislators, advocacy organizations and community leaders as Governor Deval Patrick signed a new piece of gun violence prevention legislation into law. Over the past year and half, JCRC, in partnership with the MA Coalition to Prevent Gun Violence, has advocated for comprehensive gun legislation to address the tremendous social costs of the existing loopholes in gun laws. Given the lack of any viable federal legislation, our advocacy focused on tightening laws in Massachusetts. And while this bill is not perfect, as no bill ever is, it meets many of the goals that the Coalition set out to accomplish, including:

  • Bringing the Commonwealth into compliance with the Federal NICS background check system;
  • Requiring background checks for private gun sales;
  • Giving police chiefs greater discretion in issuing rifle and shotgun licenses;
  • Advancing suicide awareness and prevention in the Commonwealth through a multifaceted approach;
  • Ensuring the collection of important data to inform future policy-making efforts.

“We congratulate the Governor and Legislature for passing meaningful legislation aimed at addressing the impact of gun violence in all of our communities,” said Jeremy Burton, Executive Director of the Jewish Community Relations Council. “We stand with our allies resolute in our commitment to create safe streets, neighborhoods and homes.”

“In 2014, more than 6,700 people have been killed due to gun violence in the United States,” said Jill Goldenberg, President of the Board of JCRC. “We renew our call upon Congress to work together and pass comprehensive federal legislation to put an end to this senseless violence.”

There is still work to be done to ensure effective implementation and the JCRC is committed to continuing the momentum in the coming months and years.