Category Archives: Statements

Statement on Victory of President-Elect Biden

On behalf of the organized Jewish community of Greater Boston, we join with millions of Americans in congratulating former Vice-President Joseph Biden upon his election as the next President of the United States.

We also congratulate Senator Kamala Harris on her historic election as our next Vice-President. This is a moment that has been generations in the making and is one that will inspire generations to come. This is cause for celebration and recognition by all Americans.

As our nation prepares for a new President, we urge public officials and civic leaders to cooperate to ensure a peaceful and orderly transition of executive power. We pray that our next President will lead with wisdom and empathy as well as a commitment to the welfare of everyone in our great nation. We affirm our continued commitment to work with our elected and appointed officials to advance and protect the values we cherish and that define our nation.

Even as we congratulate our President-Elect and Vice President-Elect and all of our newly elected public servants, we acknowledge that this is a time of great pain and challenge for our nation. A pandemic continues to rage in our midst; more than 230,000 Americans are dead; millions are infected with COVID; and millions of Americans are out of work. These losses and hardships are profound and touch every corner of America—leaving a grief and pain that will not be easily overcome. We at JCRC affirm our commitment to work with our civic and government partners to help end the pandemic and build a recovery that is equitable and just for all Americans.

We will continue to defend and strengthen our democracy by supporting efforts to safeguard voting for all Americans including working for the passage of a new Voting Rights Act. We urge the next Congress to take immediate action to restore and strengthen the guardrails for the ethical behavior of all officials and to restore proper oversight of the Executive Branch.

We must continue to be vigilant in the face of enduring hatreds and bigotries that remain a threat and will not easily fade. We urge all public leaders to use their platform, voice and power to combat antisemitism in all its forms without regard for partisan interests, and to finally and comprehensively address the racial inequities that plague our society.  Now is also the time for comprehensive immigration reform that includes a path to citizenship for our neighbors who are already here. We must restore our nation’s commitment to welcoming refugees fleeing hardship and persecution.

We will continue working with the Massachusetts Congressional delegation in support of a foreign policy that restores the bipartisan principle that the United States is resolute in its historical international commitments and responsibilities around the world.  As a world leader, America must continue to be steadfast in our support for the enduring US-Israel alliance and we must reaffirm our support for a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, to be negotiated between the parties. In support of achieving such a peace, the United States must expand our efforts to invest in the building of a healthy civil society and expanding peace and reconciliation work in the region.

We are now called to begin the difficult work of healing the wounds that have pulled our nation asunder.  We are called to continue promoting and strengthening our nation’s commitment to civil liberties and equality for all people.  We are called to be the beacon of democracy and justice that this moment demands and all Americans deserve.

We lift up, take heed of, and are inspired by the words of President-Elect Biden a few weeks ago:   

“We must free ourselves from the forces of darkness, from the forces of division, and the forces of yesterday, and the forces that pull us apart, hold us down, and hold us back. And if we do so, we’ll once more become one nation under God, indivisible, a nation united, a nation strengthened, a nation healed. That is my goal. That is why I’m running. That is what we must do.”

In this moment, the words of President Lincoln, in his first inaugural address, still resonate:  

“We are not enemies, but friends. We must not be enemies. Though passion may have strained it must not break our bonds of affection. The mystic chords of memory, stretching from every battlefield and patriot grave to every living heart and hearthstone all over this broad land, will yet swell the chorus of the Union, when again touched, as surely they will be, by the better angels of our nature.”

The organized Jewish community of Boston echoes these words and affirms our commitment to stand together with our neighbors to meet the challenges ahead. We must come together as a nation in a spirit of reconciliation and reaffirmation of our common destiny so  we can move forward together.

Jeremy Burton, Executive Director                   

Stacey Bloom, President

JCRC Applauds House Proposal for Crucial Funding in Budget

Earlier today, the Massachusetts House of Representatives released its Fiscal Year 2021 budget blueprint, setting up debate for next week. This budget proposal, typically debated through the Spring, was delayed as state leaders assessed the needs emerging from Covid-19 and the resulting economic crisis. The Jewish Community Relations Council welcomes this budget, which maintains funding for the crucial services and programs long championed by our community. Some highlights include:

  • $856K for Naturally Occurring Retirement Communities (NORCs), designed to bring wellness programs and socialization services directly to seniors, allowing them to remain in their homes and communities.
     
  • $500K for Bridges to Colleges, which provides college preparatory programming to individuals seeking careers with opportunities for advancement and defined career ladders (includes a $250K appropriation for Jewish Vocational Service).
     
  • $250K for Transitions to Work, an innovative job training model for young adults with disabilities.
     
  • $2 million for Secure Jobs Initiative, a silo-busting delivery model conceived by the Fireman Family Foundation, which promotes new partnerships between housing and workforce development agencies, as well as state agencies.
     
  • $1 million for Non Profit Security Grants, which provides vital security enhancements to non-profit communal infrastructure at increased risk of threat.
     
  • $1.25 million for the Employment Service Program for Immigrants and Refugees, which provides English-based job training and placement services for recent immigrants and refugees.
     
  • Crucial authorizing language for the MA Pathways to Economic Advancement initiative, the nation’s first workforce development Pay for Success program. The model is working; nearly 2,000 participants have enrolled, increasing their job skills and take-home earnings, which is increasing revenue for the Commonwealth. This language will insure that contracted funds continue to flow to sustain this initiative.

“We applaud Speaker Robert DeLeo, Chair Aaron Michlewitz and the entire House membership for their leadership in navigating the unprecedented demands on the social safety net, with investments in the types of programs that can help us heal,” said Aaron Agulnek, Director of Government Affairs, JCRC. “This historic budget includes funding that can keep seniors safe in their homes, train job seekers for a more robust recovery and help those who are housing insecure access the supports they need.”

The House will debate this budget next week before the Senate releases its own budget proposal.
 

Election Preparedness Strategies Guide for Houses of Worship

From the Massachusetts Council of Churches, Black Ministerial Alliance, Jewish Community Relations Council and Islamic Society of Boston Cultural Center:

We know this election season is a time of increasing anxiety. Religious leaders in Massachusetts are working with civic leaders to be prepared for safe and secure voting, the free exercise of first amendment rights, and safety for vulnerable communities. We are also planning for potential protests, if the current President wins or loses. We aim to be as wise as serpents and as innocent as doves. We hope these preparations are unnecessary. And, we know that there have been increases in hate crimes against certain targeted communities, including Black churches, immigrants, women, Muslims, Jews and LGBTQIA peoples, as white supremacists have felt emboldened to act out. To ensure the safety of all people in the Commonwealth, and to prioritize the security of vulnerable communities, we recommend religious leaders across the state consider these recommendations:  

1. ENCOURAGE EARLY VOTING:

As religious leaders are often trusted sources in our communities, use your authority to encourage your people to vote early. Early voting by mail is good, early voting in person is better. The deadline to request a mail-in ballot is Tues Oct 28. Early in-person voting helps minimize large crowds on Election Day Tuesday Nov 3. Find your early voting date and location on the MA Secretary of State’s website here. Any questions, call 1-800-462-VOTE (8683). Every Massachusetts resident should be able to cast their ballot. If you experience trouble voting, Common Cause’s non-partisan election protection hotline is 1-866-OUR-VOTE (1-866-687-8683).

2. CREDIBLE COMMUNICATION:

We know that news moves quickly, and false rumors spread easily. Do not share information that you cannot verify from a trusted source. If there is a need for solidarity in body or in prayer, make sure that you are following the directions from trusted leaders. In the event that a particular community is targeted, do not step in unless you are asked to do so. Through the week prior and following the election, the Massachusetts Council of Churches, Black Ministerial Alliance, Jewish Community Relations Council and Islamic Society of Boston Cultural Center will put out requests, if needs arise. Keep an eye on these social media accounts. If you have a need, contact one of these four organizations.

3. PLAN IN THE EVENT OF PROTEST:

We know that not all communities experience increased police presence as a sign of safety. We know that not all clergy are called to, or are able to, place their bodies in the streets if protests arise. We know not all protesters receive clergy presence as a sign of peace. And, we’ve seen that the visible presence of religious leadership can calm down tense and potentially violence escalation.
 
For those who are called to this work, we ask that you prepare yourself. Training for clergy on de-escalation will be offered online on Friday October 30, 10-12pm.
Pre-registration is required here.

BE WISE AND BE CAREFUL

In the days ahead, use good judgement. Keep your eyes open. If you see something suspicious, each municipality generally has a police tip line (In Boston, call 1-800-494-TIPS). Keep your eyes open for anything that looks out of sorts. Report anything that’s not right. If you serve a community that may be targeted, contact your local police department now to establish or re-establish a point of contact. Update your House of Worship’s safety plans, if you have one.
 
This is the terrible reality of increasing antisemitism, anti-Black racism, xenophobia, homophobic and misogynistic white supremacist violence; houses of worship are often targeted. If your house of worship experiences an incident of bias or hate, please also consider reporting to the Anti-Defamation League.
 
We care more for bodies than buildings, and the desecration of sacred spaces is a real possibility.
 
We pray none of this preparation is necessary. We pray for peace and justice in this land. May this plague pass over,
 
Black Ministerial Alliance of Greater Boston & Boston Ten Point Coalition
Islamic Society of Boston Cultural Center
Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Boston
Massachusetts Council of Churches

Statement by Board President Regarding Membership Process

For Release: September 25, 2020
 
Statement by Stacey Bloom, Board President, JCRC of Greater Boston
 
In recent weeks, various parties and community members have reached out to express an opinion to JCRC in both public and private communications, about ZOA’s continued membership on the JCRC Council. On behalf of the Board of Directors and the professional leadership of the JCRC, I want to clarify the status and decision making process regarding the challenge to the ZOA’s continued membership on the Council.
 
Several weeks ago, JCRC received a petition from 25 of the 117 voting members of our Council challenging the continued membership of the Boston chapter of ZOA on the Council - our governing body —whose members represent our 40 member organizations (who each have between 1 and 4 voting representatives) and the community-at-large. Pursuant to our Bylaws, this petition has been referred to JCRC’s Membership Committee for review and for a recommendation. The Membership Committee has a maximum of 180 days to make its recommendation on the petition to the Board. After the Board has reviewed the Membership Committee’s recommendation, the petition will be referred to the Council. Once referred to the Council, the JCRC Bylaws require that the full Council vote on the petition.
 
The decision on the petition challenging the ZOA’s membership on the JCRC Council is a decision that will be made by the JCRC Council, not by the Membership Committee, not by the Board, and not by the JCRC professional leadership. Until such time as the petition is presented to the Council, the JCRC will continue our important work advocating on issues of shared importance for the Jewish community during these challenging times. 
 
When the JCRC Council receives the petition in accordance with the Bylaws, it will be the Council—the 40 organizations and community representatives—and Council alone that will determine who belongs at the Council table.

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.