Category Archives: Statements

This Anti-Semitism. And This Anti-Semitism. And Us.

The next two statements will each annoy, at various levels, some part of the organized Jewish community that is represented within JCRC:

  1. Rising anti-Semitism and its increasing mainstream toleration on the left in the United States and around the world is a serious concern that we need to name and address as a community.
  2. Rising anti-Semitism and its increasing mainstream toleration on the right in the United States and around the world is a serious concern that we need to name and address as a community.

Barely a day goes by that someone within our community isn’t raising one of these concerns to me. I share them both.

Rarely does that same person raise the other concern. More often than not, that person tends to identify themselves with a world-view sitting in partisan opposition to where they articulate the problem coming from. Simply put, we are a community divided; not in our concern about rising anti-Semitism but in our lack of shared understanding about which forms of it are of consequence and concern for us.

And too often, rather than agreeing on the multiple threats facing us and collectively heeding the call to address them, we allow ourselves to be splintered as we argue amongst ourselves about which anti-Semitism is worse.

Like many of us who sit at the center of our communal politics and debates, I tend to come down on the side of Elu, v’Elu, This and This (to poorly re-purpose the rabbis of the Talmud). Cannot both be true? Cannot both forms of rising anti-Semitism be a threat at the same time?

It ought not to be a partisan nor controversial statement within our Jewish community to say that we face an existential threat if left-wing denial of our national identity as a Jewish people is normalized.  Or that dismissing the fact of our people’s historical origins in and enduring connection to our homeland is inherently anti-Semitic. And yes, that this ideology and the conclusions it draws threaten the safety and the future of the world’s largest Jewish community.

It ought not to be a partisan nor controversial statement within our Jewish community to say that there is an existential threat if right-wing denial of the equality of individuals and ours as Jews is normalized. Or that the advance of a politics of white supremacy and racial nationalism, of “blood and soil,” that places blame on the international and cosmopolitan Jew, puts at risk everything we’ve achieved through enlightened liberal democracy. And yes, that we’ve seen this before.

We, who strive to reflect the broad center of our community, must commit ourselves to confronting the existential threat from both extremes of the political spectrum. We can and should debate strategies for confronting them, and even weigh the best use of our finite resources in doing so, but we dare not diminish either as a real and significant threat.

The need to bridge our differences and uphold our responsibility for confronting both these threats is all the more urgent precisely because our fractured communal conversation results in our being less effective than we need to be in combating both. My own sense is that the most effective members of our community to confront the left-wing threat would be those who themselves authentically sit within the progressive world. And, conversely, the most effective voices against the right-wing threat are those of us who sit comfortably in conservative spaces. I tend to think that those speaking out against anti-Semitism from across a political aisle aren’t terribly effective speaking to an audience that they don’t particularly respect or understand on other matters. But those who’ve acted courageously in holding their own ideological peers accountable – and often enduring inordinate online abuse as a result – have inspired awe and admiration.

At times like this I think of that Nazi propaganda poster displaying “the Jew as centipede” crawling over the globe. One eye of this caricatured “international Jew” has a dollar sign; the Jew as capitalist. The other eye has a hammer and sickle; the Jew as communist. If the worst of the worst could paint us, in one fell swoop, as a threat from the left and the right, then surely we can name the threat to us today from both the left and the right.

This and this. Both must be fought. And we must all be in this together.

Shabbat Shalom,

Jeremy

Statement on Presidential Tax Disclosure

The Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Boston (JCRC) announced today that it would support legislation requiring presidential candidates to disclose their tax returns before appearing on the ballot in Massachusetts. JCRC endorses MA S. 365, An Act Restoring Financial Transparency in Presidential Elections.

In a message to the community, the leadership of JCRC said:

“We live in a time when the norms of a healthy constitutional democracy are threatened. While this challenge to the American experiment did not emerge overnight, its intensity has heightened. Throughout American history – when there is an erosion of practices that serve to ensure a healthy check and balance on executive power, or that safeguard the ability  of citizens to be informed about our elected leaders – we, the people, have taken measures to codify the ones we value with new laws to protect our democracy.

“Since the 1970s, candidates for the Presidency – both Republicans and Democrats alike – have voluntarily shared with the public their tax returns and other financial information. These disclosures have allowed citizens to make more informed decisions as we choose our leaders, with insight into their interests and dealings.

“As we look to future elections, it is no longer a given that aspirants for the highest office will voluntarily disclose their taxes, and absent action, there is no real incentive to comply with the norm. Given the significant public benefit of this information, JCRC believes that it is necessary to codify as law that presidential candidates be required to disclose their tax returns in order to appear on the ballot.

“JCRC believes that a vibrant constitutional democracy is the foundation of our nation’s success and has made the United States a haven for Jews and other minorities. As we see our democratic norms threatened, now is the time to come together and take the necessary steps to defend that which makes us great. JCRC compliments Massachusetts State Senator Michael Barrett (Third Middlesex) for his leadership in filing S.365 and JCRC supports efforts to ensure the rights of voters to make informed decisions in future elections.”

Iran and Our Fractured Politics

Last Friday, President Trump announced that he would not certify to Congress that Iran was in compliance with, nor that it was in the United States’ national interest to abide by, the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan on Action (JCPOA), aka the Iran Deal. It is no secret that the American Jewish community was and remains deeply divided over the agreement; we were nearly evenly split between those who supported and opposed this two years ago, with significant and enduring discord over its implementation.

In 2015, while JCRC did not take a position for or against the deal, we advocated that Congress address what we identified as flaws in the agreement, including the quality of the inspection regime and the so-called sunset clause. We were also concerned that  the original agreement was not more expansive, addressing not only Iran’s nuclear program but also their role as a state sponsor of terror and a destabilizing actor in the region. But the deal didn’t address those issues, and by most accounts, the Iranians are abiding by the agreement to which we committed.

I, for one, am hard-pressed to see how unilaterally walking away from the JCPOA now is the best way to bring the other international partners back to the table to deal with the flaws. I suspect that a different, more prudent, president would have certified the deal and begun to lay the groundwork for other nations to come to the table on the non-nuclear issues, and to begin to plan for the future.

But here we are. The President has made his decision and we’re going to need Congress to figure some of this out over the next two months, in accordance with the Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act that we vigorously supported in 2015.  And while – narrowly speaking – we’re still discussing the issues from 2015 about the quality of the agreement and a strategy for ensuring that Iran never has the capability to threaten Israel with nuclear annihilation, we also need to discuss a larger and more urgent national challenge: The reality that American credibility on the world stage is suffering.

This phenomenon didn’t start with the election of President Trump. Our nation has exhibited a seesaw-like vacillation with key foreign policy issues on the world stage over the past few administrations. To name just a few examples:

  • In 2001 President Bush walked away from the Kyoto Protocol, a climate treaty signed by President Clinton.
  • President Obama didn’t keep our commitment to guarantee Ukraine’s territorial sovereignty, a promise made by Clinton in 1994, when that nation gave up its status as the third largest nuclear power on earth.
  • And President Clinton might have made more headway with Israeli and Palestinian leaders at Camp David in 2000 if the parties could have been confident that our next administration would honor his commitments.

The list goes on and on. Suffice to say that our current president – by walking away from the Paris Accord, being dragged kicking and screaming to uphold commitments to NATO’s mutual defense compact – is exacerbating, in the extreme, a problem that is deeper than just him. We are challenged to persuade the world to trust us when we make a 180-degree turn every four to eight years. In the global arena, with regard to the United States, “our word is our bond” is becoming a joke. Our national credibility will take a long time to repair.

This problem starts at home, in our politics on the left and the right, where everything, including foreign policy, has become a place to score points and to advocate – as vociferously as possible – the “opposite” view from those on the other side of the aisle.

We need Congress to come together and value our long-term role as a stabilizing force on the global stage. Our commitments should be our commitments. Our allies should know what broadly-held principles of ours endure. They should be secure in the knowledge that we won’t be breaking our word every time the White House changes hands.

We need a foreign policy that is grounded in a bipartisan center that can and will hold together against challenges from those on both extremes of our politics. We may even need to reduce the power of the presidency to make commitments on the world stage that lack broad congressional support. It is not healthy for democracy when so much power rests in the actions and opinions of the Executive. It is not healthy that – and there’s plenty of blame to go around here – less and less of the big stuff happens without a treaty or codified bipartisan majority support from Congress.

So yes, we need to get serious about the Iranian role in the region and about the particular flaws of the JCPOA. But we also need to get serious about the damage that our domestic fractures have caused for our place on the world stage. Starting right now, our leaders need to come together and put forth a strategy, emerging from and supported by a bipartisan cohort in Congress. We need a way forward on Iran that is rooted in a commitment to steadfast American leadership over time.

We need some new thinking to break through the impasse that has come to define our foreign policy. And the next two months, as Congress deals with the Iran Deal, would be a good place to start.

Shabbat Shalom,

Jeremy

Statement from JCRC on Las Vegas Mass Shooting

For the second time in two years, we awoke to the horrifying news that our nation had endured the worst mass shooting in our history. The news out of Las Vegas this morning is heartbreaking – and enraging.

We extend our heartfelt prayers to all of the victims and to the families in Las Vegas who are only now finding out about the loss of loved ones. And we recognize that thoughts and prayers are not enough; not for us as engaged citizens and most of all, not for our elected leaders charged with the responsibility of ensuring our safety.

We do not yet know the motive for this heinous crime.  What we know is that regardless of the motive - whether in San Bernardino, California or Roseburg, Oregon, at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, at the Pulse Night Club in Tampa, at a Congressional baseball practice in suburban Washington, or now at the Mandalay Bay Resort in Las Vegas – these acts of violence are heinous and must be condemned in the strongest possible terms. We must seek to know the motive and we must have an honest national conversation about these actors.

We do not yet know the toll of those taken from us this morning. What we know is that on an average day, 93 Americans are murdered by gun violence, nearly 12,000 every year, at 25 times the average rate in other developed countries. We know that even as these mass shootings horrify us and capture our attention, thousands more will die by gunfire – in bystander violence, in domestic violence, by suicide or crimes that will disproportionately impact communities of color - without the media attention we see this morning.

We do not yet know how this gunman acquired his weapons. What we know is that common sense gun safety regulation, while safeguarding the ability of law-abiding American to own firearms for personal use, can save lives. The organized Jewish community was a leader in the successful 2014 effort by Mass Coalition to Prevent Gun Violence to adopt reasonable legislation; legislation that has contributed to Massachusetts having one of the lowest gun death rates in the nation.

We renew our commitment to working for comprehensive federal laws to reduce further gun violence and save lives. Such action will come too late for those who were taken from us this morning. We must not wait even one more day to demand action that will save others still with us.

JCRC and CJP Statement on Har Adar Terror Attack

This morning we awoke to the heartbreaking news of a terror attack on Israelis. The attack took place in Har Adar, a Jewish community northwest of Jerusalem when a terrorist opened fire on a group of Israeli security officers as they were opening the settlement entrance to Palestinian workers.

The three murdered Israelis are border policeman Solomon Gavriyah, age 20, from Be'er Yaakov, Youssef Ottman, age 25, from Abu Ghosh and Or Arish, age 25, a resident of Har Adar. A fourth man was seriously injured in the attack and underwent surgery at the Hadassah Hospital Ein Kerem in Jerusalem.

The terrorist from the nearby Palestinian village of Bayt Surik, was shot and killed by security forces at the scene. Hamas praised the attack and called for others to carry out similar ones. United Nations Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, Nickolay Mladenov responded with a statement, “It is deplorable that Hamas and others continue to glorify such attacks, which undermine the possibility of a peaceful future for both Palestinians and Israelis. I urge all to condemn violence and stand up to terror.”


Sgt. Solomon Gaviriya, Youssef Ottman, and Or Arish.

Our hearts go out to the bereaved families of the victims, and we pray for a full and speedy recovery of the wounded. In these Days of Awe between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, we pray for peace and security for our brothers and sisters in Israel. May all of us be inscribed and sealed in the Book of Life.

JCRC Statement on Roger Waters concerts in Boston

Roger Waters, lead singer and co-founder of Pink Floyd, is coming to Boston as part of 20-city North American tour. He will be performing here on September 27th and 28th, just prior to Yom Kippur.

In addition to his music, Waters is known for political activism and has been a vocal supporter of the Boycott-Divestment-Sanctions movement (BDS), designed to isolate Israel in the international community. Waters has made many harsh accusations against Israel and has publicly called on other artists and musicians to support BDS. This summer, he engaged in a public argument with the band Radiohead and encouraged them to cancel a scheduled concert in Tel Aviv. Despite Waters' pressure, Radiohead went forward with their concert.

While we encourage discussion and debate about Israeli and Palestinian policies, we reject conduct and language that demonizes, delegitimizes, or challenges Israel’s right to exist.

Waters has regularly violated the terms of constructive dialogue, delegitimizing Israel by:

  1. Actively seeking to undermine recognition of the Jewish people to self-determination;
  2. Denying Israel the right of self-defense possessed by every other nation;
  3. Equating contemporary Israeli policies with those of the Nazis, a comparison that has been defined as anti-Semitic by the U.S. State Department;
  4. Characterizing Israel as an apartheid state;
  5. Advocating boycotts of Israeli goods, academic, or cultural activities intended as punitive measures against Israel;
  6. Singling out Israel for international sanction that asks Israel to behave in ways not asked of other nations;
  7. Employing long-standing anti-Jewish motifs, such as those that assert Jewish control or conspiracy to control financial institutions, media, or government.

It is clear that BDS is a failed tactic because it complicates the peace process by focusing the blame on one party and ignoring incitement and violence perpetuated by some Palestinians against Israelis. While music and the arts can be used as tools to promote mutual recognition and understanding, Waters has instead decided to use his platform to promote divisiveness and Israeli isolation. The only way to reach a just and lasting peace between Israelis and Palestinians is through the two-state solution, directly negotiated by the two parties. This goal has long been supported by the American and Israeli governments and the Palestinian Authority. The BDS movement offers no constructive path to peace, instead attempting to make Israelis feel so isolated and under so much pressure that they will demand an end to the occupation without regard for valid security concerns. This only makes negotiation between the parties more difficult.

Rather than undertaking actions that isolate and assign blame to only one side in a complex conflict, we who live outside of Israel should engage in processes that help create conditions conducive to the two-state solution. We must support Israelis and Palestinians building co-existence and mutual recognition through people-to-people initiatives, urge both parties to refrain from behaviors that move us farther from a just and lasting peace, and ultimately encourage the parties to resume direct negotiations leading to a comprehensive end of conflict agreement. We hope that when Waters appears in Boston he will focus on his music instead of attacking Israel and its supporters.

CJP/JCRC Statement on August 14 Vandalism of New England Holocaust Memorial

We are appalled and saddened that the New England Holocaust Memorial was vandalized Monday night for the second time in just 6 weeks. The images of Nazis marching in the streets of America over the weekend in Charlottesville and now shattered glass once again at this sacred space in Boston are an affront to our Jewish community and to all those who stand-up against bigotry, hatred and anti-Semitism. We thank the Boston Police and the Public Works Department for their rapid response and for their continuing support during this difficult time. We will remain resilient and will have a timeline for rebuilding the memorial once we have assessed the damage.

For information about the New England Holocaust Memorial or to make a donation, visit www.nehm.org/donate.



 

The Memorial consists of six towers representing the six million Jews killed in the Holocaust; the six years from 1939-1945 during which the “final solution” took place, and; the six main death camps where the majority of Europe’s Jews – men, women, and children – were murdered. The Memorial, which was created by Holocaust survivors who made a new life in the Boston area, is open 24-7.

The New England Holocaust Memorial, located on Congress Street across from City Hall, is managed by CJP in partnership with JCRC.

CJP and JCRC Statement on Violence and Bigotry in Charlottesville

We are heartbroken and outraged by the events in Charlottesville, VA this weekend. We join with the many of our member organizations who have already condemned both the violence perpetrated, and the message of racism, anti-semitism and other xenophobic views we heard today.

We are dismayed by the response of the President. This is, as the American Jewish Committee said today, "a time for moral clarity." Condemning "hatred, bigotry and violence on many sides" blurs the truth and gives a pass to neo-Nazi perpetrators. We join with our national network, the Jewish Council for Public Affairs, in calling on President Trump to unequivocally condemn the white nationalist marchers and their movement.

We pray that calm will be restored, and that all people of good will can come together in confronting hate and bigotry in all its forms. We mourn the loss of life and we pray for those injured today.

We can and must be better than this.

CJP and JCRC Statement on the Murder of the Salomon Family

We are reeling from news of the murder of three members of the Salomon family in the West Bank community of Halamish.

On Friday night, Yosef and Tova Salomon sat down to Shabbat dinner with two of their children and five grandchildren. The family had gathered to celebrate the birth of a new grandson.

As the family waited for guests to join the celebration, a 19-year-old Palestinian from a nearby village entered the home armed with a knife and attacked the family members. He stabbed to death Yosef (70), his daughter Chaya Salomon (46), son Elad (36), and seriously wounded Yosef’s wife, Tova. A neighbor, an off-duty soldier, heard the screams, and rushed to the home, shooting and wounding the attacker.

Photographs of the Salomon home released by the army show the shocking savagery of the attack. Tova Salomon underwent surgery on Saturday morning and awoke to learn that her husband and two of their children were dead.

The mother of the terrorist released a video in which she says that she is “proud of her son.” Sadly, this is an all too common response; one born from the rampant anti-Israel incitement that poisons generation after generation of Palestinian children. The Salomon family, like the Fogel family and Hallel Yaffe Ariel, and Dafna Meir, and so many other innocent Israeli men and women, have paid for this hatred with their lives.

Our heart breaks knowing another Israeli family is destroyed, another community is ripped apart, and a country and its people are in mourning. As always, the people of Israel are in our hearts, our hopes, and our prayers.

On Friday, CJP issued a statement about the ongoing unrest in Israel. Since then the situation has remained volatile with four Palestinians killed in clashes with Israeli forces, and another killed when a petrol bomb he was planning to throw exploded prematurely.

We are devastated by the loss of innocent lives and pray for reason and calm to prevail. We ask God to make true the words in Psalms, “May the Almighty grant strength to God's people; May the Almighty bless God’s people with peace.”

 

Barry Shrage                   Jeremy Burton
President, CJP               Executive Director, JCRC

CJP/JCRC Statement on New England Holocaust Memorial Vandalism

We are deeply saddened to learn this morning of an act of vandalism that damaged the New England Holocaust Memorial in downtown Boston overnight.

Early today one of the Memorial’s 132 glass panels was shattered in an act of vandalism. Each panel is etched with thousands of numbers representing the infamous tattoos inflected on the arms of many of the six million Jews murdered by the Nazis in the Holocaust.

Even as we are angered by this act of desecration against a Memorial remembering the darkest chapter in human history, we are grateful for the rapid response of the Boston Police Department.  Based on what we currently know, they have a suspect in custody and that he will be charged with willful malicious destruction of property as well as a civil rights violation. CJP maintains 24-hour video surveillance of the Memorial and is providing the video of this event to Boston Police Department.

We are heartened by the outpouring of concern we have already seen by members of all communities as a result of this sickening crime.

The Memorial consists of six towers representing the six million Jews killed in the Holocaust; the six years from 1939-1945 during which the “final solution” took place, and; the six main death camps where the majority of Europe’s Jews – men, women, and children – were murdered. The Memorial, which was created by Holocaust survivors who made a new life in the Boston area, is open 24-7.

The New England Holocaust Memorial, located on Congress Street across from City Hall, is managed by CJP in partnership with JCRC.

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