Category Archives: Statements

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.

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