Category Archives: News and Press

Statement from JCRC on Murder of George Floyd

We at the Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Boston are heartbroken and angered by the murder - as charged by the Hennepin County prosecutor - of George Floyd at the hands of law enforcement in Minneapolis last week. We stand with the African-American community and all communities in mourning the deaths of Mr. Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, and countless others who have lost their lives simply because of the persistent racism that afflicts our nation. Here in Boston, the organized Jewish community is in deep partnership and relationship with leaders in the Black community. We are reaching out to these friends, members of the clergy, and other civic leaders to express to them our solidarity and support and to ask them what they require of us in these difficult days.

In 2017, the JCRC Council embraced a series of principles regarding criminal justice reform, including support for policies that address and confront the racial disparities in our criminal justice system. Today and every day we reaffirm our commitment to those principles and to the urgent work of advancing justice in our country.

We will continue to update here in the coming hours and days regarding events and activities that our partners are requesting our participation and solidarity in.

 

Statement on Benjamin Netanyahu and Benny Gantz Forming a Government

The Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Boston, on behalf of our organized Jewish community, congratulates Benjamin Netanyahu and Benny Gantz on their success in forming a national unity government. It is noteworthy that the coalition includes 73 Members of Knesset, nearly two-thirds of the body. After months of caretaker governments, the new coalition will have greater authority to set national priorities during the COVID-19 crisis.

As we celebrate the vibrancy and strength of Israel’s democracy, JCRC reaffirms its commitment to the two-state solution, and in particular to those Israelis and Palestinians who inspire us by working together for a shared future and peaceful co-existence. JCRC will continue to support, validate, amplify, and celebrate the work of these peacebuilders who are creating the conditions on the ground that facilitate an eventual resolution to the conflict.

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.

CJP, JCRC Mourn Passing of Stephan Ross, NE Holocaust Memorial Founder

Steve Ross (center) with his son Mike

It is with deep sadness we write to inform you about the loss of Steve Ross (z”l) who passed away last night. Steve’s enduring strength, humanity, and commitment to conveying the lessons of his experience in the Holocaust to all who would hear him, were a gift we will cherish always. His legacy will live on through the New England Holocaust Memorial and through the lives of all he touched. May his memory be for a blessing. The funeral will be held tomorrow, Wednesday, February 26th, at 1pm at Temple Emeth in Brookline.

Rick Mann, longtime chair of the Yom HaShoah Program and the New England Holocaust Memorial Committee, wrote this moving tribute for Steve:
 
It is with profound sadness that I write to inform you of the loss of our beloved Steve Ross.

Were it not for Steve, there were would be no NE Holocaust Memorial, pure and simple. The Memorial was Steve’s dream. His indelible, permanent message not just to New England, but to the world. It was his intent to create a sacred place of remembrance for the six million souls murdered by the Nazis, including his parents, brother and five sisters. A place to stand as a beacon of light in the darkness of the horror that was the Holocaust. A place for reflection and for learning.

He pursued his dream with a limitless passion that turned skeptics into believers and converted both secular and religious community leaders into staunch advocates.

Among those advocates was then Boston Mayor Ray Flynn who, with Steve at his side, saw to it that the Memorial would reside in one of Boston’s most visible locations, along the Freedom Trail across from Boston City Hall.

It is here that hundreds if not thousands pass every day through its six gleaming towers and, whether they know it or not, bear witness to the unfathomable perseverance of one man and his dream… Steve Ross. But what else would you expect from a man who, as an eight-year-old boy was imprisoned by the Nazis, endured five years of horror in ten different concentration camps, and survived to build a life of meaning, love and caring for others in his adopted country.

The world is diminished today with the loss of Steve Ross. But Steve’s memory and his legacy live on in his wonderful son and daughter and grandchild and in the Memorial that will serve as an everlasting symbol of remembrance for generations to come.

On a personal level, I will always cherish my years of friendship with this most unique human being. A survivor who built a life from the ashes of the Shoah, coming to this country with nothing, learning a new language, becoming a professional and devoting his career to helping  at-risk youth. But most of all, I will always recall the way he would greet me with the most effusive hug, plant a kiss on my cheek and say, "You’re a beautiful, loving man." Of course, it was Steve who was the beautiful, loving man.

May his memory be a blessing.

Marc Baker, CJP President and CEO
Jeremy Burton, JCRC Executive Director 

With Governor Baker at the rededication of the NE Holocaust Memorial

With Governor Baker at the rededication of the NE Holocaust Memorial

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With Holocaust survivors Anna and Israel Arbeiter

JCRC to Name Scott Gilefsky as First Vice President of Board of Directors

JCRC is pleased to announce that longtime JCRC leader Scott Gilefsky has accepted our Governance Committee’s nomination as the First Vice President of JCRC. We look forward to presenting his nomination to the Council for election this spring.

“I am energized and humbled to serve as First Vice President at JCRC next year," Scott commented. "I am excited to work with Jeremy, the Board, the Council, and our community partners in support of JCRC's mission: to educate and advocate on issues of vital importance to the organized Jewish community based on consensus, civility, and an expanded commitment to living Jewish values of social justice. I look forward to addressing the challenges that our community will face next year and the years to follow. JCRC is well positioned to meet such challenges.”

Pursuant to our bylaws, this nomination anticipates that Scott Gilefsky will be nominated and elected as the next president of JCRC in 2021, succeeding Stacey Bloom.

Scott has served as JCRC treasurer and chair of the Finance committee, as well as on the Israel Engagement, Strategic Planning, and Public Policy committees. He first became involved with JCRC as a community representative on the Council in 2010 and became a board member the following year.

Scott's engagement in the Jewish community goes well beyond JCRC. He serves on Combined Jewish Philanthropies (CJP)'s audit committee and is the former chair of the Young Leadership Division and their Kadimah Leadership Training. He was a co-chair for two CJP missions to Israel and the CJP Lawyers & Accountants Dinner, and he received CJP's 2010 Community of Excellence Award.

“I look forward to welcoming Scott as my successor as JCRC president next June,” said current President Stacey Bloom. “I have had the privilege of working with Scott for the last decade—in his many JCRC roles—as a board member, committee chair, and officer. Scott's commitment to JCRC's work, his ability to build strong relationships, and his insight into the challenges and opportunities ahead make him the leader to bring our community together.”

Jonathan Klein, chair of the Governance Committee, remarked, "Scott is a dedicated leader who has been involved in many of the key decisions within JCRC. His commitment to our community’s values will guide the organization, both lay and professional, over the next several years.”

Scott is a partner in Ernst & Young’s East Region Indirect Tax practice and leads the firm’s Connecticut State and Local Tax Practice. He is on the Advisory Board for the New England State and Local Tax Forum and has been a speaker at many seminars and conferences sponsored by Practising Law Institute, the Tax Executives Institute, and the Boston Bar Association, among others. He has written articles for the Boston Business Journal, Massachusetts Continuing Legal Education and the Massachusetts Bar Association Lawyers Journal.

Scott is a member of Temple Beth Shalom in Needham, and a coach in Needham Youth Soccer. He is on the Stan Arnold Scholarship Fund committee as part of his work with the New England State and Local Tax Forum.

CJP, JCRC on Spate of Violent Antisemitism in New York

We are sickened and horrified by the attack Saturday night on Jews gathered to celebrate the seventh night of Hanukkah at a private home in Monsey, New York, a suburb of New York City.

According to media reports, at approximately 10:00 p.m., a man wielding a large knife attacked celebrants at the home of an Orthodox rabbi. Five people were injured and hospitalized. Shortly thereafter, the New York Police Department arrested a suspect.

This attack is the latest in a string of violence targeting Jews in and around New York City. And it comes on the heels of numerous antisemitic incidents in other parts of the United States and Europe.

This most recent incident occurred less than 24 hours ago; the investigation is ongoing. We do not yet know the motive of the suspect or many other crucial details relating to precisely what took place. We are in touch with federal, state, and local law enforcement, and at this time there is no indication that this incident in Monsey, New York has any direct connection to people or institutions in eastern Massachusetts. However, this is another in a long string of apparently antisemitic events that are cause for grave concern.

These attacks do not fit any one narrative. The perpetrators over the last year have been of different backgrounds and have expressed different politics. But what all these individuals share is their antisemitism; the inclination to blame Jews — and take action against us — for their own troubles and for the evils they ascribe to us.

The latest victims have been Orthodox Jews, those who are “visibly” Jewish to perpetrators of hatred. Make no mistake — these assaults are attacks on all Jews. We are all under attack. Today and always, we stand with our brothers and sisters of all denominations and affiliations. No one should feel intimidated to “hide” their Jewishness.

For the Jews of America, this moment is one in which our country is not living up to its promise, and it is a moment that requires leadership and support. As Jeremy Burton, JCRC’s executive director, wrote recently, antisemitism is not a Jewish problem; antisemitism is an American problem and a global, human problem. We need action — from within and beyond our own Jewish communities — to fight against antisemitism in all of its forms. We need governors, mayors, city councils, faith leaders, and our president to convene and help find solutions.

We refuse to normalize this. We will not become numb to Jewish people being victimized because of their identity.

We also want to remind everyone that security is a collective responsibility. CJP encourages leaders and members of the Jewish community to take proactive steps to improve safety and security at our institutions. Furthering relationships with law enforcement, enhancing physical security, and attending training are key components. The CJP Communal Security Initiative (CSI) continually provides free training and support. Please speak to the leaders at your institution about what they have done to improve safety and security, ask if they have attended or hosted a CJP training recently, and request that they sponsor and attend training. Find out how JCRC, CJP, and partner organizations invest to rid our schools, workplaces, sporting venues, and religious institutions of antisemitism.

If you witness antisemitism or are the victim of an act of antisemitism, report it to the ADL.

As we light our eighth Hanukkah candle tonight, these dark times challenge all of us. We pray for the recovery of the injured in Monsey and across New York City. We demand real, effective solutions to the scourge of antisemitism and hate that plagues our country, and we pray for a time when our holiday celebrations allow us to rejoice in our families, our traditions, and our faith, rather than sending messages of support to the latest victims of hatred and violence.

JCRC Statement on Non Profit Security Grant Program

The organized Jewish community welcomes the action by the Massachusetts legislature to reach an agreement on a supplementary budget for FY19. In particular we take note and express our appreciation that the legislature allocated an additional $1 million toward non-profit security grants as proposed by Governor Baker. This comes after legislative leadership, led by Senate President Karen Spilka, Senator Michael Rodrigues, Senator Eric Lesser and their colleagues in the House and Senate seeded a pilot to provide initial funds over the past three sessions.

“While the Jewish community is still reeling in the wake of what appears to be the third deadly attack on our institutions and places of gathering in this country in less than 14 months, it is commendable that our legislature has acted in support of protecting vulnerable communities,” said Jeremy Burton, executive director of the Jewish Community Relations Council. “This is a time of vulnerability and crisis, and a time for action. Massachusetts is joining other states in protecting non-profits that may be targets of antisemitism and violent extremism. We will continue our work with the Governor and our strong allies in the House and Senate to promote policies that combat hatred in all forms.”

CJP and JCRC Statement on Jersey City Shooting

CJP and JCRC today mourn the loss of four people killed during a prolonged shootout yesterday at the JC Kosher Supermarket in Jersey City. The victims were Leah Minda Ferencz, the store’s owner, Miguel Douglas Rodriguez, a store employee, Moshe Deutsch, who was shopping at the time, and Det. Joseph Seals, a 15-year-veteran of Jersey City’s police department. We acknowledge Detective Seals’ bravery and sacrifice. The two shooters were also killed during the firefight.

We are as devastated as we are horrified. The store is the center of a growing Jewish community in Jersey City, located next to a synagogue and yeshiva. We have reached out to the Jewish Federation of Northern New Jersey to offer our love and support. We pray that the families of the victims find comfort during this unimaginably painful time and we pray for the full recovery of the wounded.

In our close-knit Jewish communal world, many of us have friends and family in Jersey City. These are our brothers and sisters, our friends, our family, and our children.

An investigation into the motives of the shooters is ongoing. At this time, there is no indication that this incident has any direct connection to eastern Massachusetts. More information about CJP’s communal security initiatives can be found here.

May the memories of those who lost their lives be a blessing.

JCRC to Lead MA Legislators on Study Tour of Israel

(BOSTON) – The Jewish Community Relations Council (JCRC) of Greater Boston continues its long history of conducting annual study tours of Israel with Massachusetts community leaders through this month’s study tour, which will provide Massachusetts legislators with an in-depth look into the economic, political, and security challenges and successes facing Israeli society.

From December 5-15, Massachusetts legislators will travel throughout Israel and the Palestinian-controlled areas, learning from government officials and religious, academic, media, labor, and business leaders.

“This trip will allow Massachusetts leaders to deepen their understanding of Israel's politics and culture, and examine some of the economic ties that bring Israel and Massachusetts together,” said Jeremy Burton, Executive Director of JCRC of Greater Boston. “The best way to deepen the MA/Israel connection is through a mutual understanding of our common interests—participants will gain firsthand knowledge about how they can strengthen relationships with their Israeli counterparts."

The Massachusetts labor leaders will:

  • Meet with government officials and other influential leaders from all sectors of Israeli and Palestinian society, developing city-to-city connections and sharing best practices in addressing current labor issues,
  • Visit Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, and border regions,
  • Discover the growing economic and cultural ties between Israel and Massachusetts,
  • Gain new perspectives on modern day Israel, and
  • Develop a nuanced understanding of the complex political and security challenges facing Israel.

The trip is paid for by a grant from the nonprofit Combined Jewish Philanthropies of Greater Boston. Participants pay a registration fee for the trip from their own funds.

The following are the participants in JCRC’s December 2019 Study Tour of Israel:

Senator William Brownsberger
Senate Majority Leader Cynthia Creem
Senator Julian Cyr
Senator Adam Hinds
Senator Eric Lesser
Senator Jason Lewis

About the Jewish Community Relations Council
JCRC defines and advances the values, interests, and priorities of the organized Jewish community of Greater Boston in the public square. Visit us at www.jcrcboston.org.

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