Category Archives: Statements

JCRC Joins JCPA In Urging Israel to Suspend Plan to Deport Eritrean and Sudanese Asylum-Seekers

The Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Boston echoes and shares the sentiments expressed by the Jewish Council for Public Affairs (JCPA), the national network of JCRCs, in this statement today. We join the JCPA in urging Israel to suspend the plan to deport Eritrean and Sudanese asylum seekers:

New York, NY – In response to the Government of Israel’s recent announcement that there are plans underway to deport the approximately 35,000 – 40,000 Eritrean and Sudanese asylum-seekers living in Israel to several African governments, including Uganda and Rwanda, the Jewish Council for Public Affairs (JCPA) issued the following statement:

“JCPA recognizes Israel’s distinguished record of opening its doors to non-Jewish victims of genocide and human rights abuses, as it did with the Vietnamese refugees in the late 1970s, and those from the Balkans decades later. JCPA fully acknowledges Israel’s security concerns, and commends Israel’s efforts to secure its borders, which has significantly reduced rampant human trafficking and unauthorized immigration.  We urge the Government of Israel to balance such concerns with its historic commitment to welcoming the stranger and protecting refugees.

“We urge the government to suspend its plan to deport Eritrean and Sudanese asylum-seekers who entered the country between 2007-12, and develop a comprehensive policy for non-Jewish asylum-seekers that safeguards human dignity and human rights, in compliance with Israel’s obligations under the 1951 Refugee Convention. We believe that such a policy would ensure Israel’s security, and honor Israel’s values as a compassionate, Jewish and democratic state.

“We ask that a refugee and asylum policy include a transparent and efficient system for processing asylum applications so that claims are resolved in a fair and timely manner. Applicants should receive a temporary status that ensures basic safety, stability, and dignity, including the ability to work legally and gainfully. The government should establish minimum standard for education, health, and welfare services. We also request that any resettlement to third countries should only involve those nations where asylum-seekers will be treated with dignity and guaranteed status and safety pursuant to international conventions.”

Urging legislative action

As the Massachusetts legislature begins the second year of its two-year session, there’s been chatter about town about what was accomplished last year and what remains to be done. It is no secret that this year’s budget process may be the “trickiest” in some time. Governor Baker, amongst others, has been outspoken in urging legislative action this year. It behooves us at JCRC to tell our community, our allies, and our friends on Beacon Hill what our priorities are for the remainder of this session.

1. A budget that reflects Massachusetts and Jewish values:
At a time when more and more in our society are pulling away from each other, when a tribal inclination to care only for our own is being amplified, we believe it is more important than ever to be invested in the common good and to care for each other. We support a state budget that works with human service providers in a public/non-profit partnership to ensure a social safety net, provide a ladder of opportunity, and strengthen the civic network that enriches our Commonwealth.

By continuing to invest in a robust partnership among service providers including Jewish human service agencies and our Commonwealth, we marshal our resources together to advance our shared priorities. These include:

  • Building a strong safety net for the most vulnerable, including seniors and those who are at-risk of homelessness.
  • Demonstrating a strong commitment to inclusion and workforce development focused on surmounting persistent and artificially imposed barriers to employment, including for young adults with disabilities, recent immigrants and refugees, and adults who have struggled to get a leg up in this economy, and;
  • Ensuring a vibrant non-profit sector, including implementation and expansion of state supplements to the federal non-profit security grants initiative, benefiting a wide array of vulnerable institutions that bear a heavy security burden.

2. A civil rights agenda that sets Massachusetts as a beacon of hope in troubling times:
We have said, repeatedly, that what has made America a great country for the Jewish community to thrive in is our protection for the rights of all individuals and our defense of the freedoms and opportunity ensured by the rule of law and the advancement of equality for all who live here. To that end:

  • We remain steadfast in our broad communal commitment, expressed last January, that the United States must not close our doors to immigrants and refugees and that our elected and appointed officials at all levels of government to do everything in their legal authority to protect our foreign born neighbors throughout the Commonwealth. To that end we will continue to urge passage of the Safe Communities Act to protect the civil rights, safety and well-being of all residents by drawing a clear line between immigration enforcement and public safety.
  • We continue to prioritize passage of the Act Prohibiting Discrimination in State Contracts. As nearly half of all states have taken related action, it is well past time to close the loophole in state law that allows state contractors to discriminate based on national origin and other immutable traits. As Massachusetts continues to compete in a global economy it serves us poorly that other hubs for international business partnerships – like Rhode Island, Maryland, New York and California – have taken action to prevent discrimination against Israeli (and other) individual owned businesses while Massachusetts remains inactive. We should be a leader in the fight against discrimination in all its forms.
  • We will continue to work for comprehensive criminal justice reform guided by the policy recommendations set by our Council last winter. While the MA House and Senate have each passed a version of this legislation, we will work, in coalition, to ensure that each house passes a final bill that addresses the crisis of criminalization of people of color.

3. Defending our democracy’s norms:
We live in a period of unique challenge for our nation, in which, as David Brooks wrote this week, we’re not just debating current policy but also working to ensure that the norms of our vibrant democracy are preserved for the future. To that end, we are all called to defend the institutions and customs that ensure accountability, transparency, and a healthy, vigorous, and respectful public debate about the issues our nation faces. We therefore will continue to urge passage of An Act Restoring Financial Transparency in Presidential Elections and will consider other legislative means to do our part here in Massachusetts to protect those norms through the establishment of new laws that preserve the fundamentals which make our nation great.

We also are working alongside civil rights and voting rights activists to secure passage of the Automatic Voter Registration (AVR) legislation. We know that when one person is denied access to the equal protection and full enjoyment of our democracy, we all suffer the consequences. Similarly, when one person is ensured that access, we all reap the rewards. AVR could bring hundreds of thousands of new voters to the polls on Election Day.

This agenda, defined by our Council representing our 42 member organizations and the community-at-large, through a deliberative process, reflects the organized Jewish community’s priorities, established over time and evolving to meet this particular moment. We remain steadfast in our determination that through the actions above, Massachusetts can continue to be the ‘City on the Hill,’ a shining island of hope in these challenging times and a model to other states about the way forward.

Shabbat Shalom,

Jeremy

MBR and JCRC Respond to Hate Speech and Misinformation Campaign

We, the Executive Committee of the Massachusetts Board of Rabbis (MBR) and the Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Boston, condemn in the strongest terms the recent attacks on our colleague and former MBR President, Rabbi Howard Jaffe, by Americans for Peace and Tolerance (APT) and its director, Charles Jacobs. This group, whose Orwellian name belies their relentless defamation of Boston-area Muslims along with respected leaders in the Greater Boston Jewish community, has used the most tendentious of arguments to suggest that Rabbi Jaffe is somehow linked to terrorism and Islamic extremism. We are hesitant to even dignify this claim with a response, but the honor of our colleague and our community moves us to issue this statement. Jacobs used a picture of Rabbi Jaffe under the heading, “No one else unmasks clergy who seek to do us harm,” as part of a recent fundraising campaign, the clear implication being that one of the most respected leaders of the Greater Boston community is somehow in league with enemies of the Jewish people.

Despite their claims to be standing up to extremism, Charles Jacobs and APT are the true face of extremism in our community: purveyors of hatred and division, they engage in outrageous attacks on communal institutions and individuals involved in the important work of building relationships among Boston-area Muslims and Jews. They have targeted respected rabbis in our community as well as leaders of our communal institutions, including the Jewish Community Relations Council and Combined Jewish Philanthropies of Greater Boston. Their attacks on Rabbi Jaffe and his congregation are just the latest salvos in an ongoing campaign of misinformation and innuendo meant to spread discord and fear. Not content to simply publish his opinions, Jacobs and APT members gained access to members’ emails in Rabbi Jaffe’s congregation, and subjected both congregants and staff to an onslaught of vile and threatening calls and emails. There is no place in our community for this kind of verbal violence. We call on all Jewish communal news organizations—including The Jewish Advocate and the Times of Israel—to refuse to carry Charles Jacobs’ writings unless and until he ceases his defamation of respected Jewish communal leaders and vicious anti-Muslim propaganda.

Keeping Families Together

Over the past few weeks, many of us gathered with our families and our community to celebrate Hanukkah and, together, bring more light into this dark time. As people across the Commonwealth, and the country, celebrate festivals in their own traditions, we’re mindful of the many families among us who do not have the option of being together this season.

Francisco Rodriguez has been in detention for almost half a year, separated from his wife and children. In that time, he was prevented from being with his wife for the birth of their child. Siham Byeh, detained with no warning by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) while her eight-year-old son was in school, remains in detention, with no end in sight. This past year, many in our community, and across MA, made calls to ICE, and attended rallies to support them – all to no avail -until yesterday.  We were relieved to hear the news that Francisco was released yesterday, as he awaits his asylum claim to be heard. But Siham, and so many others, remain in the clutches of our broken immigration system, separated from their loved ones.

These high stakes have led other undocumented immigrants to take drastic measures to stay together with their families, like the mother in Cambridge who has not left a Harvard Square church for seven months in order to stay here with her two young children, or like the man who sought Sanctuary in a church in Jamaica Plain so he could continue to be near his family.

Through our synagogue organizing work, JCRC has galvanized hundreds of our community members and supported the interfaith community in creating systems of support for these families. In so doing, we have encountered the layers of injustice that plague our immigration system and that wreak havoc on immigrant communities.

We have learned that in 2017, ICE has detained 37% more people than last year – putting millions of tax dollars toward punishing people like Francisco and Siham, who have built lives for their families here amidst difficult challenges. We have learned that undocumented detainees have no right to counsel, and that in fact, the majority of them have no legal representation. This greatly increases their chance of being deported and places them at risk of being returned to countries of origin, rife with violence. We have watched as people who fled horrific disasters in Haiti, Sudan, and Nicaragua years – and in some cases, decades – ago under Temporary Protected Status (TPS) have been deemed unworthy of protection by this administration (with decisions on Salvadorans and Hondurans also pending). These dynamics have thrust entire communities into whirlwinds of chaos and fear, with immigrants terrified to drive, go to work, or take their children to school.

As we marshal our resources to stand in solidarity with people like Francisco and Siyam, we’re acutely aware that many other immigrants are vulnerable to being targeted by ICE. To address that risk, we joined the coalition of organizations supporting the Safe Communities Act, which, if enacted, would prevent local law enforcement from being deputized to act as ICE agents. The civil liberties protected by this bill are now at risk, with mounting opposition being activated by groups spreading misinformation and sowing fear.

Join us in protecting our immigrant neighbors and contact your legislator to advocate for passage of the Safe Communities act.

As we near the end of a full year in this political reality, we must remind ourselves that this devaluing of human life does not reflect the best of Jewish or American values and must never become our norm. As our community statement declares, along with 42 Jewish communal organizations this past January, “we reject any effort to shut our nation’s doors on the most vulnerable. We recommit ourselves to the work of protecting and advancing the dignity of all human beings and to preventing suffering in this world.”

In this time of darkness, we as a community will continue to defend our democratic values, advocate for fairness and decency, and walk side by side with our immigrant neighbors.

Shabbat Shalom,

Jeremy

Statement from JCRC of Greater Boston Regarding the Status of Jerusalem

President Trump announced today that the United States government recognizes Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. It has long been JCRC’s view that the failure by the nations of the world, including the United States, to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel is a historic injustice. Since 1949, when Israel established its capital in those parts of West Jerusalem under its sovereignty, the nations of the world have refused to recognize it. This refusal has singled out Israel amongst all nations, denying Israel the right that every other sovereign nation has to determine the location of its own capital within its sovereign territory. JCRC welcomes progress towards removing this injustice.

And yet, at this moment of pride and joy for so much of our community, we must also acknowledge that many in our community have raised questions and concerns about the timing of this announcement. We support a two-state solution, directly negotiated by the Israelis and Palestinians. We are concerned that today’s action could potentially damage the prospects for achieving — and diminish the ability of the United States to act effectively as a facilitator of — the peace that we all desire. The path to peace is challenging. We have no crystal ball that tells us which steps complicate or smooth the way forward.

We hope that Israeli and Palestinian leaders will act in the best interest of their people and take meaningful steps to ease tensions and advance the cause of peace. We reaffirm our own commitment to support efforts that hasten the realization of peace, security, and prosperity for both Israelis and Palestinians.

Today’s Boston Globe Letters to Editor: Disturbed by portrayal in editorial cartoon

Dear Friends,

Today's Boston Globe features a Letter to the Editor, co-signed with ADL New England, expressing that we are disturbed and offended by the anti-Semitic themes in Friday's cartoon. Here is the letter in full:

 

We were deeply disturbed and offended by Ward Sutton’s editorial cartoon in Friday’s edition of The Boston Globe (“Murder on the tax-cut express,” Opinion).

While the debate over the tax bill in Washington, including the role of political donors and private interests, is important, this cartoon promotes anti-Semitic themes.

The portrayal — singling out, among all the donors and interests who stand to benefit, a prominent Jewish individual, Sheldon Adelson; depicting him with an exaggerated hooked nose; linking him with money; and positioning him as hidden inside the train while others conduct — evokes classic anti-Semitic imagery and reinforces existing stereotypes.

At a time when hatred and bigotry of all forms are seeping into the mainstream, it is critical that the Globe and other responsible media outlets refrain from giving additional aid to those who no doubt will see this cartoon’s publication as further verification of long-established anti-Semitic views.

Robert O. Trestan, Regional director, Anti-Defamation League, New England region

Jeremy Burton, Executive director, Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Boston

I encourage you to read and share the letter, and welcome any comments you post on the Globe website.

Thank you,

Jeremy

CJP, JCRC Statement on the Murder of Sgt. Ron Yitzhak Kokia

We join with our brothers and sisters in Israel in mourning Sgt. Ron Yitzhak Kokia (z”l), 19, stabbed to death by a terrorist while waiting for a bus in Arad last night. Ron, a native of Tel Aviv, served in the Nahal Brigade, a unit based outside the southern Israeli city where he was murdered.

The assailant remains at large, with a widespread manhunt continuing in Israel today. We pray for a time when the people of Israel can live in peace and security. Our hearts go out to Ron’s family, his friends, and the many people who mourn him today. May they find comfort among the mourners of Zion and Jerusalem.