Category Archives: Statements

JCRC Joins 27 National Orgs in Condemning Family Separation Policy

JCRC has joined with 27 national Jewish organizations to express our strong opposition to the recently expanded “zero-tolerance” policy that includes separating children from their migrant parents when they cross the border. As Jews, we understand the plight of being an immigrant fleeing violence and oppression. Our own people’s history as “strangers” reminds us of the many struggles faced by immigrants today and compels our commitment to an immigration system in this country that is compassionate and just. Separating families is a cruel punishment for children and families simply seeking a better life.

Click here to view the Jewish communal letter to Attorney General Sessions and Secretary Nielsen.

We strongly encourage individuals to sign on to ADL's petition for individuals calling for an end to the policy by clicking here.

We also encourage residents of the Greater Boston area to attend the "Rally to protect immigrant families in Massachusetts" on June 20th at the State House.

To learn more about how to make a difference in supporting immigrants and refugees right here in Massachusetts through JCRC’s work, click here.

Letter to Superintendent of Newton Schools Regarding “Middle East Day”

The letter below was sent to the Superintendent of Newton Schools earlier today by the Anti-Defamation League, New England and the Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Boston regarding questions from our community that have been raised regarding the "Middle East Day" that was held at Newton North High School last month.

Joint Letter to Superintendent David Fleishman from ADL and JCRC

Statement Regarding President Trump’s Announcement on the JCPOA

It is well known that Greater Boston’s organized Jewish community was deeply divided over the approval of the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (the JCPOA, or the Iran Deal). Today, too, we are not of one mind as we receive the news of President Trump’s decision to withdraw the United States from the JCPOA. Regardless of our views about the JCPOA, both then and now, our community is united in our understanding that an Iranian nuclear weapons program poses a direct threat to the security of Israel and the stability of the region.

Whether or not one agrees with today’s decision, we must come together to prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon and to address other regional threats from Iran, particularly its support of Hezbollah and Hamas. We need a responsible, wise and bipartisan approach from the United States. We need a multilateral approach that includes our allies and others on the world stage. We need to look forward with a shared sense of purpose so that our worst fears are not realized, and that our hopes for a peaceful and secure future are achieved.

Cambridge BDS Hearing Postponed — But Must Sustain Respectful Advocacy

         


Update #3

For the last week an intensive effort has been underway to consult with members of the Cambridge City Council about a resolution that invites a boycott of Hewlett Packard (HP) because of business done with Israel. The initiative is being proposed by Mass Against HP (MAHP), a working group of “Jewish Voice for Peace,” an organization that is part of the international BDS (Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions) movement, which, in the words of its leaders, is dedicated to Israel’s destruction.

Hundreds of people have responded by reaching out to Cambridge City Councilors to explain why the proposed resolution is morally and politically bankrupt. We have been gratified to learn that some of the City Councilors have heard us, and the resolution to boycott HP will not be put to vote on April 23rd. An effort is now underway to fashion an alternative resolution that affirms a commitment to the protection of human rights, but steers clear of bigoted attempts to single out Israel or any other country. We are hopeful that the result will be legislation that we can support. However, we are not there yet. It is important that we RESPECTFULLY continue to press our case and encourage a responsible resolution.

Please note: We will not be attending the meeting on Monday April 23rd, and testifying on this matter will not be possible since it is not included on the agenda. We will keep you informed in the days to come as the new hearing date -- likely to be in the next two weeks -- is finalized. Notification will be on a Thursday afternoon in advance of the regular Monday Cambridge City Council meeting.

Until then, it is important to keep up your respectful outreach and advocacy:

  • Inform ourselves by reviewing this fact sheet and these more detailed talking points.
  • Contact all 9 city council members to send our letter, or create your own and contact the council members individually to RESPECTFULLY share your concern about this resolution. Remember that many council members have been working hard on this issue for the past week or more.
  • Reach out to friends and neighbors. Forward this email and urge them to join you.
  • Contact your Rabbi or other organizational leaders and ask them to mobilize their membership.
  • Attend the hearing on April 30th and bring concerned friends whether or not you choose to speak.
  • For information on signing up to speak at the April 30th hearing (non-residents eligible), please contact the Cambridge City Council at 617-349-4280. We will provide additional information regarding online registration when it becomes available (likely next Thursday afternoon).

A Shameless Undemocratic Abdication to the Global BDS Movement?

         


 

On April 23rd, the City Council of Cambridge, MA is scheduled to consider a resolution that invites a boycott of Hewlett-Packard (HP) for business done with Israel. The initiative is supported by Our Revolution Cambridge, Democratic Socialists of America, and Students for Justice in Palestine. It is being proposed by Mass Against HP (MAHP), a working group of Jewish Voice for Peace. These organizations actively cooperate with the international BDS (Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions) movement, which, in the words of its leaders, is dedicated to Israel’s destruction.

  1. National and Massachusetts Leaders of the Left, Right and Center Reject BDS Initiatives
    BDS initiatives fuel polarization and strengthen those who reject co-existence. National leaders from the left, right and center reject BDS. They include Barack Obama, Bernie Sanders, Keith Ellison, Cory Booker, John Kerry, Ed Markey, Elizabeth Warren, Michael Capuano, Joe Kennedy, Deval Patrick, and all 50 governors.

  2. The Cambridge City Council (CCC) Has Cynically Suppressed Open Public Debate
    Members of the CCC have collaborated with MAHP to introduce this highly politicized anti-Israel resolution. They have not reached out to interested community members to inform themselves and refused to share the resolution when asked. It will be released late Thursday afternoon, only two full business days before the council meets.

  3. Allegations That Justify the Reported Resolution Rest on Half Truths and Falsehoods
    MAHP argues that Israeli security measures, introduced after thousands of Israeli civilians were murdered and maimed by terrorists, are equivalent to apartheid. It is a hateful logic that undermines those who seek conciliation.

  4. Singling Out Israel Would Raise Troubling Questions About the Cambridge City Council’s Motives
    There are hundreds of American companies working overseas and engaged in transactions that could be tied to questionable human rights practices. Even were we to assume (and we don’t) that everything Israel’s detractors say is true, why would the CCC choose to single out Israel? As New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman explains, “Criticizing Israel is not anti-Semitic … But singling out Israel for opprobrium and international sanction out of all proportion to any other party in the Middle East is anti-Semitic, and not saying so is dishonest.”

  5. The Cambridge City Council Would Hold Israel to a Standard That It Does Not Apply to Itself
    In 2017, the CCC established a special relationship with Dongguan, China. Dongguan is a toy manufacturing center for Disney, Mattel and others. Human rights abuses against laborers in the Dongguan toy industry are well-documented. Yet, the CCC has said nothing about this. Should the CCC vote to boycott itself?

TAKE ACTION….This is a Numbers Game. To win this fight, we need a thousand voices to:

  • Inform ourselves by reviewing this fact sheet and the more detailed talking points.
  • Contact all 9 city council members and share your concern about this resolution.
  • Reach out to friends and neighbors. Forward this email and urge them to join you.
  • Contact your Rabbi or other organizational leaders and ask them to mobilize their membership.
  • Attend the hearing and bring concerned friends whether or not you choose to speak.
  • For information on signing up to speak at the April 23rd hearing (non-residents eligible), please contact the Cambridge City Council at 617-349-4280. We will provide additional information regarding online registration when it becomes available (likely late Thursday afternoon).

Community Alert: Cambridge City Council Hearing on Israel Boycott – Monday, April 23rd

    

 

 

On April 23rd, the Cambridge Massachusetts City Council is expected to consider a resolution that calls for the City “to end its contracts” with Hewlett-Packard (HP) until, according to the organizers, HP “ends their support for violence against and oppression of Palestinians, deportations and surveillance of immigrants in the U.S., and oppression and surveillance of those currently and formerly incarcerated in the U.S.”

This initiative is part of a larger global BDS (boycotts, divestment and sanctions) movement that is, in significant part, dedicated to Israel’s delegitimization as the Jewish state. Groups backing this resolution have offered other justifications for the HP boycott, but it remains clear that this effort is designed primarily to target and delegitimize Israel.

As of today we have not seen a copy of the resolution. The rules of the Cambridge City Council do not require them to publish the resolution until 3pm Thursday, April 19th. While some members of the Council have seen a draft resolution, the proponent organizers have – we are told – shared it with them on the condition that it not be made public. This seems to us to be a cynical effort to prevent an honest and open public debate prior to a significant action by a public body.

We call upon our community to mobilize and take action.

For both residents and non-residents of Cambridge:

  • Mark your calendar: Make a commitment to be at Cambridge City Hall on Monday, April 23rd at 5:30pm to demonstrate your opposition to this resolution and to testify against it before the City Council. Your presence is important, even if you do not testify.

  • Anyone can testify; advance online registration is recommended. To receive notification (from us) when the Council’s online sign-up is live, and for other updates in the week ahead, let us know here.

  • Contact your friends – especially those in Cambridge. Share this alert and ask them to take action as well.

If you are a resident of Cambridge:

  • Contact the City Council and urge them to reject this effort to single out Israel for demonization. Please communicate to them respectfully but firmly and let them know that as someone who is concerned about the city you live in and its public image, this resolution will have implications beyond Hewlett-Packard and, if adopted, would tarnish the reputation of your city. You can find a comprehensive list of talking points here.

Now is the time to make your voice heard. We cannot underscore how important it is the members of the Cambridge City Council hear from our community about this. Together we can send the message: This action would be wrong for Cambridge and does not advance the prospects for achieving a lasting peace.

JCRC Statement on Events Along Gaza Border

We see the events along the Gaza-Israel border this weekend as the continuation of one of the great tragedies of our time. This is a situation where many are at fault, leaving individuals in impossible situations with impossible choices.

It is a tragedy for the people of Gaza that, 12 years after the complete withdrawal of Israel from the Gaza Strip, they live under such difficult conditions. It is a tragedy for the Palestinians that Gaza was taken over by Hamas, an internationally designated terrorist organization that rules in a brutal dictatorship. It is a tragedy that Hamas has chosen to direct its resources to the building of tunnels and rockets, rather than building hospitals, schools, housing, and factories that would create prosperity and opportunity for the Palestinian people. It is a tragedy that, by squandering the opportunity to build a better future for the Palestinian people, Hamas has forced Israel and Egypt to secure their own borders with a blockade to prevent the further weaponization of Gaza.

It is a tragedy that the Palestinian people of Gaza have no recourse against their leaders, living without elections or even the ability to protest those in power openly on pain of death. It is a tragedy that they are deceived by their own leaders with the unrealistic promise of a destructive victory over the State of Israel – a victory that will never come. It is a tragedy that their own government chooses to use them as human shields, perpetuating their suffering for nefarious self-interest.

It is a tragedy that the Israeli people look at Gaza and see the end of a dream; to live in peace with their neighbors. It is a tragedy that Israelis living near the border are terrorized by threats coming from tunnels under their homes and rockets over their schools. It is a tragedy that when Israelis do what any other nation in the world would do – protect their border from being overrun – that they endure a condemnation that no other nation would receive. It is a tragedy that Israelis experience this singling out as a further example of an isolation, their status as “the Jew amongst the nations,” with only themselves to protect their inalienable rights to live in security.

It is a tragedy because this weekend, young men and women of the Israel Defense Forces stared down the sights of their rifles and learned violence at a time when they should have been at home with their families celebrating freedom at the Passover table. It is a tragedy because Palestinians need some way to express their frustrations  at Israel and at their own government after years of wasted opportunities to build a better life for the people of Gaza. Instead they experienced more manipulation, and more loss.

We see this weekend as the continuation of a tragedy that has not brought the people of Israel and Gaza any closer to a future of peace and hope for all of their children. As the Boston Jewish community continues to celebrate the Passover holiday this week, we are mindful of the lessons learned at our seders, that we do not rejoice over the tragedy of others and we are ever hopeful for peace and stability for all people.

JCRC is Deeply Disappointed by Decision to Refer S.1689/H.1685 “To Study”

JCRC is deeply disappointed by the decision of the Massachusetts Legislature’s State Administration and Regulatory Oversight (SARO) Committee to refer S.1689/H.1685 “to study.” This bipartisan legislation, An Act Prohibiting Discrimination in State Contracts, is intended to ensure that those seeking to do business with the state affirm that they are in compliance with all Massachusetts anti-discrimination laws and that they do not refuse to do business with others based on immutable characteristics such as race, color, creed, religion, sex, national origin, gender identity, or sexual orientation.

Much of the debate around this bill has taken place in the shadow of a national and state-by-state debate over so-called “anti-BDS” bills. Such bills are a vehicle for states to reject efforts to deny Israel’s right to exist. This noxious campaign uses economic, cultural, and academic warfare in an attempt to isolate Israelis and challenge the legitimacy of Israel’s existence. Even as JCRC supports efforts to reject the unjust assault on Israel’s legitimacy, we take note and emphasize again that the bill, as filed here in Massachusetts, does not shut down all boycott activity. Still, we understand from our allies that the national debate on this matter, along with a recent federal court ruling in Kansas, has had a chilling effect on the ability of people here in Massachusetts to consider this bill based on its face-value merits and impact.

S.1689/H.1685 merely allows the state to choose business partners who are in line with its own values. While opponents of the bill are entitled to their own views and are free to engage in boycotts based on national origin, race, or sexual orientation, the state, when acting as a market participant, does not have to subsidize those views. The Commonwealth is free to use its economic influence to send a message of its own disagreement. The so-called Boycott Divestment Sanctions (BDS) campaign, when applied to Israeli nationals based solely on their national origin, is illustrative of the danger that groups can cloak themselves in the guise of a political boycott to unfairly target others simply based on who they are.

We take note that only days ago New York Governor Cuomo announced an executive order, largely paralleling the language of the Massachusetts bill, to prevent New York state from doing business with companies that promote or tolerate discrimination based on immutable characteristics. That order was embraced by many of the same actors who have opposed the Massachusetts bill. It does not escape our attention that some of the same people who vigorously urge government action to protect individuals based on immutable characteristics when those individuals are transgender (a view that we affirmatively support) are so vigorously opposed to the same action when some of those - such as us - promoting it are expressly concerned about discrimination against Israeli-Americans. We are left, once again, to wonder why an incremental step to fight discrimination in all its forms should draw such vociferous opposition by some on the radical fringe here in our Commonwealth.

Over the past two years, legislatures around the country and the world have taken up a range of approaches for rejecting BDS and those who wish to engage in discriminatory economic warfare against Israelis and Israeli-Americans.  JCRC again applauds the Massachusetts legislature for their unanimous expression, in October 2015, for the U.S.-Israel relationship and also for their rejection at that time of this campaign of delegitimization. That action, along with numerous others over the past several years, convey a clear message of support from our legislative leadership and reflects a deep bipartisan coalition in both houses. Our legislators have stated with one voice that effective engagement is the key to positive outcomes in the region.

At this time we want to particularly thank Senator Cynthia Creem and Representatives Paul McMurtry and Steven Howitt for their leadership in sponsoring S.1689/H.1685, as well as Senate Committee Chairman Walter Timilty, the many co-sponsors including nearly one-third of the legislature, and the members of the coalition in support of this bill. Despite the noise and the mischaracterizations, these individuals stood steadfast in support of the notion that the Commonwealth should reject discriminatory conduct in all its forms. To them, we are grateful.

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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