Category Archives: News and Press

MA Jewish Leaders Stand with our Armenian Neighbors; Call for US Humanitarian Intervention

For Immediate Release
Contact: Shira Burns
10.14.20

(Boston, MA) Over 30 Jewish communal leaders in Massachusetts have signed a letter expressing support for the Armenian community during the current crisis in Armenia, based on our shared humanitarian values. The full list of signatories, including Jewish public officials, executive directors, CEOs and Board Chairs of Jewish organizations, and rabbis, can be viewed here.

The Jewish community stands in solidarity with our friends and neighbors in the Armenian-American community and to urge intervention to save the innocent people of Nagorno-Karabakh (Artsakh) amidst a current and growing crisis. The Armenian people have suffered through the genocide once at the hands of the Ottoman Empire. We cannot sit idly by as they face the risk of another extraordinary humanitarian disaster and urge leadership at this critical moment.

“We in Boston have a longstanding relationship with the local Armenian community and have been in touch with them in recent weeks about ways in which we can show our support,” said Jeremy Burton, Executive Director of the Jewish Community Relations Council. “It is important for us to express solidarity with our Armenian neighbors.”

The letter remains open for additional signatures from community leaders.

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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Statement by Board President Regarding Membership Process

For Release: September 25, 2020
 
Statement by Stacey Bloom, Board President, JCRC of Greater Boston
 
In recent weeks, various parties and community members have reached out to express an opinion to JCRC in both public and private communications, about ZOA’s continued membership on the JCRC Council. On behalf of the Board of Directors and the professional leadership of the JCRC, I want to clarify the status and decision making process regarding the challenge to the ZOA’s continued membership on the Council.
 
Several weeks ago, JCRC received a petition from 25 of the 117 voting members of our Council challenging the continued membership of the Boston chapter of ZOA on the Council - our governing body —whose members represent our 40 member organizations (who each have between 1 and 4 voting representatives) and the community-at-large. Pursuant to our Bylaws, this petition has been referred to JCRC’s Membership Committee for review and for a recommendation. The Membership Committee has a maximum of 180 days to make its recommendation on the petition to the Board. After the Board has reviewed the Membership Committee’s recommendation, the petition will be referred to the Council. Once referred to the Council, the JCRC Bylaws require that the full Council vote on the petition.
 
The decision on the petition challenging the ZOA’s membership on the JCRC Council is a decision that will be made by the JCRC Council, not by the Membership Committee, not by the Board, and not by the JCRC professional leadership. Until such time as the petition is presented to the Council, the JCRC will continue our important work advocating on issues of shared importance for the Jewish community during these challenging times. 
 
When the JCRC Council receives the petition in accordance with the Bylaws, it will be the Council—the 40 organizations and community representatives—and Council alone that will determine who belongs at the Council table.

JCRC Policy Statement on Vaccination

Case Statement[1]

The development and use of vaccinations have been one of the most significant achievements in public health in human history. Many diseases that resulted in widespread suffering and death have been eradicated by the regular use and accessibility of vaccines. Vaccines "trick" the immune system into thinking an infection has occurred. The immune system then attacks the vaccine’s harmless pathogen and protects the body from future invasions, thus immunizing the individual.

In addition to inoculating the individual, vaccines contribute to the creation of "community (or herd) immunity." According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, "When a critical portion of a community is immunized against a contagious disease, most members of the community are protected against that disease because there is little opportunity for an outbreak. Even those who are not eligible for certain vaccines—such as infants, pregnant women or immuno-compromised individuals—get some protection because the spread of contagious disease is contained. This is known as ‘community immunity.”[2]

The current law in Massachusetts mandates that all students receive the recommended vaccinations but allows both medical and religious exemptions. The process is wrought with confusion, lack of coordination among various state entities, and absence of standardization. As a result, many communities in Massachusetts have fallen behind recommended herd-immunity levels for various preventable and deadly diseases, and many more lack reliable data needed to inform public health officials. Declining vaccination rates and the loss of herd immunity is creating a public health crisis for immune-compromised individuals, and others who are unable to receive vaccinations.

Jewish tradition teaches that the preservation of life takes precedence over almost every other Jewish law, and that it is an obligation to save the life of someone at risk.

Therefore, the Jewish Community Relations Council supports laws, regulations and policies that:

  • Require mandatory immunization, with the only exemptions being:
    • Medical exemptions; and
    • Religious exemptions, subject to a standardized process and criteria, which religious exemptions can be revoked in the event of a declared public health crisis.
  • Generate a consistent method for creating, maintaining and reporting information and data about immunizations;
  • Educate the public about the scientific benefit of immunizations and the risks associated with the decline in herd immunity for infectious diseases;
  • Encourage efforts to increase vaccination rates in communities with declining numbers.

[1] Source for much of Case Statement: https://urj.org/what-we-believe/resolutions/resolution-mandatory-immunization-laws

[2] https://www.vaccines.gov/basics/work/protection

JCRC Comment Regarding petition Challenging the Zionist Organization of America (ZOA)’s Membership in our Council

August 31, 2020 

JCRC has received a petition signed by representatives of seven member organizations and a total of twenty-one members of our Council proposing the removal of the Zionist Organization of America (ZOA) as a member organization of the JCRC. The letter, in its details, charges that there is “a history of rhetoric” used by the president of the ZOA “that crosses into racist and xenophobic territory” and questions whether the continued membership of ZOA is in JCRC’s interests. 

JCRC’s bylaws provide that the programs, activities and practices of our member organizations must be compatible and not conflict with the mission of JCRC. It is the long-established and recently reaffirmed view of the JCRC Council – our policy setting body representing our forty member organizations and the community at-large – that we are committed to all aspects of our mission statement, including to promote an American society which is democratic, pluralistic, and just.  The Council can and does, through its standard committee processes, review actions of our members that may reflect that such a compatibility is lacking.  

This matter will be referred to the Membership Committee of the JCRC Council for consideration. The ZOA has been informed regarding the letter and JCRC’s process.

JCRC Statement Welcoming Normalization of Ties Between Israel and the United Arab Emirates

The JCRC of Greater Boston welcomes this last week’s announcement that Israel and the United Arab Emirates will move to normalize diplomatic relations. We offer our congratulations and thanks to President Trump, Prime Minister Netanyahu, and Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed al-Nahlan. We hope that this development can serve as a launchpad for further progress toward peace for Israel, the surrounding Arab States, and the Palestinians. We urge Congress and the American people to invest the necessary capital for peacebuilding between Israel and its neighbors, support efforts to reinforce progress toward peaceful coexistence in the region, and encourage similar diplomatic actions in the future.

JCRC Applauds Legislature for Passing Bill to Ban Female Genital Mutilation

Last night, the Massachusetts House and Senate enacted House Bill 4606 “An Act Relative to the Penalties for the crime of Female Genital Mutilation (FGM)”. Governor Baker will have 10 days to sign the bill.

FGM is defined by the World Health Organization as removal of all or part of a girls’ healthy sex organs and surrounding tissue for non-medical reasons, often resulting in serious health consequences, the risk of death in childbirth, and lifelong trauma. There are no health benefits to this practice. According to the Centers for Disease Control, half a million women and girls living in the United States have been cut or are at risk of FGM. Over fourteen thousand such women and girls reside in Massachusetts, which ranks our state as 12th in the nation for at-risk populations.

“We are grateful to Senate President Karen Spilka, Speaker of the House Robert DeLeo and bill sponsors Senator Joe Boncore, Senator Harriette Chandler, House Minority Leader Brad Jones, Representative Natalie Higgins and Representative Jay Livingstone for their leadership on this bill,” said Stacey Bloom, President of the Jewish Community Relations Council. “This new law will protect countless at-risk women and girls from this dangerous practice.”

JCRC Applauds MA Senate for Unanimously Passing New Law Requiring Genocide Education, Bill Moves to House of Representatives

Earlier today, the Massachusetts State Senate voted unanimously to pass a Genocide Education Bill that if passed, will provide all students in Massachusetts public schools the opportunity to learn about the atrocities of the Holocaust and other genocides throughout human history, as well as the factors which led to their being committed. The Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Boston recognizes lead sponsor Senator Michael Rodrigues, Senate President Karen Spilka, Senate Education Committee Chair Jason Lewis and their Senate colleagues for their leadership in passing this bill.

As stewards of the New England Holocaust Memorial, JCRC honors the sacred obligation to lift up the experiences of those who survived the Holocaust in our own Greater Boston community, using their stories as a lesson to future generations about the consequences of unchecked hatred and intolerance. Together with ADL New England, the Armenian National Committee, and over 60 coalition members, JCRC advocated for this legislation, filed by Senator Michael Rodrigues and Representative Jeff Roy, which will give students in the Commonwealth the tools to identify and stand up against hateful, oppressive acts and to speak up in the face of bigotry.

“We congratulate Senate President Spilka, Senate Ways and Means Chair Rodrigues, and our partners in government for coming together to ensure that students in our state will learn invaluable lessons about the consequences of hate and bigotry, from the most painful parts of our history.” said Aaron Agulnek, Director of Government Affairs for the Jewish Community Relations Council. “We cannot simply say ‘Never Again’ if we do not also commit to educating the next generation by giving them the resources they need to recognize and stand up to injustice before it takes root."

"We appreciate the leadership of Senate President Spilka, Senate Ways and Means Chair Rodrigues, and their legislative colleagues for taking a critical step toward ensuring that Massachusetts public school students receive Holocaust and genocide education prior to high school graduation,” said Robert Trestan, ADL New England Regional Director. “The need for Holocaust and genocide education in K-12 schools could not be more urgent. Massachusetts now has an opportunity to use the power of education to address hate through this essential initiative for Holocaust and genocide education in the Commonwealth.”

“75 years after the liberation of the Auschwitz-Birkenau Nazi death camp, we, as a society, continue to grapple with the root causes of hatred and discrimination. With the passage of this bill today, we take a critically important step to ensuring our students are educated on the Holocaust, the grave mistakes of the past, and stand ready to root out the injustices of the future,” said Senator Michael J. Rodrigues (D-Westport), Chair of the Senate Committee on Ways and Means. “As the forces of fake news, division, and ignorance continue to march on, I applaud Senate President Spilka and my colleagues in the Senate for standing up to say that we will never forget the lessons of the past, and I thank my constituent, Dr. Ron Weisberger, and the advocates for their urgent efforts to ensure we use the power of education to address hate, broaden public awareness, and shape our collective future.”

An Act Concerning Genocide Education now moves to the House of Representatives, where a bipartisan group of over 70 members cosponsors signed on in support of the legislation.

JCRC Applauds MA Legislature for Adopting New Law Regarding Election Safety

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE 
Contact: Shira Burns
July 8, 2020

(Boston, MA) - The Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Boston applauds Governor Charlie Baker, Senate President Karen Spilka, Speaker of the House Robert DeLeo, Elections Committee Chairs Senator Barry Finegold and John Lawn, and the Massachusetts legislature for standing together and adopting a sweeping new Elections law, ensuring safe and accessible elections for voters in 2020 across Massachusetts.

JCRC is committed to upholding a robust democratic process and ensuring elections in the Commonwealth reflect the diversity of voices in our community.  Together with Common Cause, the ACLU of Massachusetts, the Election Modernization Coalition and 80+ organizations, JCRC advocated for legislation to address the challenges facing the electoral process during the COVID-19 pandemic and this new law is the culmination of a several months long advocacy campaign.

“We congratulate Governor Baker, Senate President Spilka, Speaker DeLeo and our partners in government and the advocacy community for coming together to quickly address the threat and fallout that COVID-19 has on our electoral process,” said Jeremy Burton, Executive Director for the Jewish Community Relations Council. “No one should fear for their health and safety while exercising their right to vote, and this law is an important step in that direction. We urge swift implementation.”

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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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.