Category Archives: Statements

JCRC comment on Membership and BDS

In response to inquiries from some of our member agencies: JCRC is aware of the recent statement released by Jewish Voice for Peace on behalf of several largely fringe groups regarding BDS and anti-Semitism. We are further aware that Boston Workmen’s Circle, a member of the JCRC Council – and through its national body a member of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations – is a signatory to this statement.

JCRC’s bylaws provide that the programs, activities and practices of our member organizations must be compatible and do not conflict with the mission of JCRC. It is the long established view of the JCRC Council – our policy setting body representing our forty-three member organizations and the community at-large – that support for BDS is contrary to our mission of advocating for a safe, secure, Jewish and democratic state of Israel.  The Council can and does, through its standard committee processes, review actions of our members that may reflect that such a compatibility is lacking.

 

Statement from the National Network of JCRCs Expressing Disappointment on Passage of Israel’s Nation-State Bill

New York, NY – The Jewish Council for Public Affairs (JCPA) expresses its profound disappointment in the Knesset passage into law of the Nation-State. We are concerned that this new law undermines Israel’s vibrant democracy comprised of diverse religious and ethnic groups.

JCPA has worked tirelessly to affirm the central value of Jewish unity and the strong bonds that connect us to one another and to the State of Israel. However, over the past year we have become increasingly concerned about strains in the Israeli-Diaspora relationship, which this law further exacerbates.

“We are dismayed at this latest undermining of the Israeli-Diaspora relationship.” stated Cheryl Fishbein, JCPA Board Chair. “It is not Israeli democracy’s finest hour.”

“We are still assessing the implications of the legislation,” stated David Bernstein, JCPA President and CEO. “We urge the government to ensure that the law does not permit discriminatory conduct.”

JCPA urges the government to modify the law so that it aligns with the country’s strong value of equal rights for all Israelis and does not risk damaging the country’s reputation.

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.

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.

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.

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