Category Archives: The Friday Blog

To Tweet or Not to Tweet?

The Friday Message CEO Jeremy Burton (1)

A few years back, a member of the JCRC team told me about a conversation he had while advocating on Beacon Hill. In a conversation with a senior member, he expressed that a particular issue was one that the organized Jewish community was keenly interested and invested in. The legislator’s chief of staff responded, to paraphrase: “Are you sure? Because Jeremy hasn’t been talking about this on Twitter.”

That exchange has been on my mind in recent weeks, as there has been a growing public discussion about ‘leaving Twitter’ and the actions of this platform’s new owner.

I was an early-ish fan of Twitter and the entire social media ecosystem. I had hopes that this space could be an open town hall where I could be exposed to, engage with, and learn from all kinds of people around the world. A lot of that hope was realized, and over the thirteen years since I joined Twitter, I’ve learned a lot from the people I discovered there, and I’ve had fun along the way engaging in all sorts of conversations. It has been a space that has also encouraged me to think expansively about who we are accountable to in our public voice – knowing that anything we say will be seen by a wide and diverse audience.  

However, the growth of Twitter in particular, as well as many other social media platforms, has had some very troubling consequences for our discourse and for our democracy. The normalization of hate speech, the ability to engage in anonymous harassment, to spread disinformation, and the rewarding of the most polarizing voices - have all had a detrimental impact on our society.

People have had very strong and divergent opinions about the recent takeover by Elon Musk. Many are horrified by the unlocking of banned accounts that have, in the past, spread untruths and bigotry. Others have noted that ‘old’ Twitter never deplatformed several dangerous antisemites; notably the Ayatollah Khamenei, who regularly tweets Holocaust denial and threats to eliminate the Jewish state, or Minister Farakhan, who uses the platform to spread antisemitic tropes without consequences. There are other examples, of course – but this is just to observe that pre-Elon Twitter wasn’t exactly all raindrops and gummy bears. 

Still, something has changed.  A space that aspires to be a town square for all discourse now has one sole arbiter of what is allowed in that square. It’s a problem. And when that arbiter  himself starts spreading disinformation and – this week –  actual neo-Nazi antisemitic memes and images, it raises what can only be described as legitimate concerns.

So, to stay or to go?

Truth be told, if I was a private citizen looking for good quality information and perspectives from beyond my own bubble – I’d personally be elsewhere at this point. Too much of where Twitter now seems to be headed sows distrust in the quality of information and user experience.  Trust is an essential part of the fabric of a healthy civic culture – trust in institutions, in leaders, in certified election outcomes. Trust is precious to our function as a society and to our ability to find a way forward, and we need to be cultivating it at every turn, not undermining it in 240 characters or less.

This is a concern I’ve written about before. And to quote Yuval Levin, “What stands out about our era in particular is a distinct kind of institutional dereliction — a failure even to attempt to form trustworthy people, and a tendency to think of institutions not as molds of character and behavior but as platforms for performance and prominence.”  

Old Twitter wasn’t always great. But new Twitter foreshadows a more problematic future. 

Still, I go back to that Beacon Hill story. And to JCRC’s core purpose, which is to represent our community’s values and interests in Boston’s civic square. To an extent, it is our responsibility to go where that square exists, with all its toxicity, to make sure that the political actors in Massachusetts, the faith leaders, and the local media, see and understand how we as a community are thinking about the issues of our time and the challenges of our society.  

There may come a time – very soon – when those civic actors in Massachusetts decide to leave this particular town square and find other venues to discuss and debate in the public arena. It’s very possible that the user experience of other platforms will be very different from Twitter, including a limit on the kinds of crosspollination of audiences and voices that we’ve experienced here – and that will be a loss. But for now, people seem to be staying, and, therefore, so am I.  

But I won’t tell you that you should be, too. I can see the unhealthy impact of platforms like Twitter on our society and our democracy. And I’d certainly invite, as always, your reflections and feedback on this moment and how we ought to show up in public space to best continue to represent the interest and values of our network. 

I look forward to hearing from you. 

Shabbat shalom.  

#YesOn4 is a Victory for Jewish Values 

There were many races and many outcomes on Tuesday. I’ll leave it to the pundits to make sense of it all. For now, we here at JCRC are celebrating the victory of #YesOn4 and the successful defense of Massachusetts’ Work and Family Mobility Law

This campaign will help to ensure safer roads for our Commonwealth and will uphold a common-sense law that has already been enacted in 17 other states and the District of Columbia. Passage of the bill, and the success this week, would not have happened without broad support from law enforcement leaders. Still, it is not lost on anyone that, as Jeff Jacoby observed last weekend, the fact that this law was under attack was about scapegoating immigrants.

The history of our Jewish community in this country has always been in part about the idea of building a nation that should be welcoming to immigrants, and about the hostility that we and others have experienced when coming here. As regular readers of this blog know, when those first Jews arrived in 1654, they were received by a hostile Governor Peter Stuyvesant, who called our ancestors “repugnant” and “vermin.” To this day there are public officials who follow in his footsteps, displaying open hostility to others arriving here, who may not be coming from the same nations their ancestors arrived from.

It is a matter of great pride to many in the Jewish community that, in the 19th century, in order to raise money for the pedestal of the Statue of Liberty, it was the Jewish poetess Emma Lazarus who famously penned The New Colossus and these words:

“Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free”. 

From the earliest years after JCRC's founding and the ‘organizing’ of our Jewish community in Boston in the 1940's, advocacy for refugees has been one of our top legislative priorities. In those first years our efforts were heavily focused on supporting arriving Holocaust refugees – and recognizing that the United States could have saved more of our people had this nation not closed its doors to immigrants like those on the St. Louis, even after the horrors of Kristallnacht (for which we marked the 78th anniversary this week) made evident the dire situation in Germany.

That commitment and advocacy to reflect a deeper and broader understanding of the promise of America to people around the world grew over the years. We and many of our member organizations have been active for decades advocating for pro-immigrant legislation and mobilizing our community in resettlement work for all new arrivals. 

So it was hardly surprising when, in January 2017, at a time of rising anti-immigrant rhetoric and real threats to the safety and security of many who were already here, our community proudly came together with a unified and very public voice to say that "we must not close our doors.” We urged "our elected and appointed officials at all levels of government to do everything in their legal authority to protect our foreign-born neighbors." 

In the years since, together with many of our members, our synagogues, our allies and our interfaith partners, we have built a robust network for action, including resettlement, accompaniment and legislative advocacy. 

We, and I, are proud of that work. We’re proud to be a member of the Massachusetts Immigrant and Refugee Advocacy Coalition (MIRA), and of the Driving Families Forward coalition. We have been proud to mobilize on legislative priorities with them and with leaders on Beacon Hill including Sen. Jamie Eldridge, Rep. Liz Miranda, Rep. Ruth Balser (Safe Communities) and Sen. Brendan Crighton, Rep. Tricia Bouvier and Rep. Christine Barber (Work and Family Mobility). 

We are proud of the role we played in the #YesOn4 effort; canvassing, phone banking, making the case to voters, and hosting educational events within our community.  

This week was a victory. For #YesOn4. For safer roads. For the dignity of our neighbors. For the values we stand for.  

And, there is still plenty more work to do. This week we are reaffirming what we said in 2017:  

"We reject any effort to shut our nation’s doors on the most
vulnerable. We recommit ourselves to the work of protecting and advancing the dignity of all human beings and to preventing suffering in this world." 

I hope that you will continue to be part of this work with us, and we thank you for your generous support. 

Shabbat shalom. 

Kanye, Tree of Life, and the Mapping Project

Yesterday we marked four years since the attack at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh. On that day seared into the memory of every member of our community, eleven Jews were taken from us by a white supremacist who espoused the antisemitic ‘great replacement’ theory; holding the Jewish people to be the nefarious force secretly siphoning white power by supporting non-European immigration to our country.  

This anniversary comes as antisemitism is very much still in the public discourse in recent weeks. This week I spoke with Yvonne Abraham at the Boston Globe about Kanye’s blatant antisemitism and the consequences he is now experiencing (including, belatedly, from Adidas, thanks in no small part to the efforts of the ADL, AJC, and many others).  

We discussed the inherent Catch-22 that occurs when antisemites are held accountable for their words and actions. I told her that “we end up losing, even when there are consequences… Antisemitism is so rooted in a conspiracy theory about Jewish influence and nefariousness that [punishing Ye] validates the antisemitism.” Which is of course not to say that there ought not be consequences, but rather that we need to understand the deep complexity that comes with fighting a conspiracy theory. It becomes, as my friend Yair Rosenberg at The Atlantic has described it, “a self-sustaining circle.”  

It is not lost on me that Kanye has been espousing hateful rhetoric for a long time about many communities, without the consequences of recent days. And that lack of accountability in the past, for him and for those who cynically platformed and amplified him in service to their own white nationalist ends (looking at you, Tucker Carlson), further feeds and validates the antisemitism of those who then say that he was only punished, finally, for going after Jews.  

As my friend Amy Spitalnick - an ally and partner of JCRC through her work leading the fight to hold the Charlottesville organizers accountable, and more recently in her clear and insightful condemnation of the so-called Mapping Project - told Yvonne:  

“Of course Kanye should be held to account. [But unless we hold to account the officials and institutions that] have mainstreamed antisemitism and white supremacy, we are only allowing it to fester and grow.” 

Speaking of clarity in condemnation, allow me to acknowledge and appreciate several Massachusetts leaders who spoke out unequivocally against antisemitism in recent days, including former Governor Deval Patrick and congressional delegation members Ayanna Pressley, Katherine Clark and Seth Moulton.   

And since I mentioned the Mapping Project, let us name the connection between Tree of Life, Mapping, and Kanye. There is an ongoing – and possibly unresolvable - discussion within our community about the relative threat to American Jews that comes from increasingly mainstreamed right-wing antisemitism (wrapped in a larger white nationalist movement) and left-wing antisemitism (given cover by excessive critics of Israeli policies). There is, as well, what is called a ‘horseshoe’ dynamic – in which the far ends of the ideological spectrum come to common cause.  

The Tree of Life attack was fueled by a conspiracy theory of hidden Jewish power. That’s the same conspiracy theory - although it is repackaged as the key to taking down a network of ‘powerful Zionists’ - that underscores the Mapping Project. They share the concept that whatever ‘my’ experience of oppression or loss of power is, it is the Jews who are secretly behind it. The same conspiracy theory fueled the hostage taker in Colleyville, who believed that if he attacked Jews and got America’s ‘chief rabbi’ on the phone, he could free a convicted terrorist.  

And the far right certainly takes advantage of this horseshoe. This summer, we saw the Goyim Defense League using the Mapping Project in a seminar to demonstrate “the domination of these Jews, and how infested they are all over”.  Those are the same folks that hung those “Kanye was right” signs on freeways in LA last week.  

And so, in this week when we remember the Tree of Life shooting, we also must name how these moments are all connected.  We need to collectively fight antisemitism in all its forms, in all its expressions, both rhetorical and violent, and without partisan benefit or agenda. And we need to see that the fight against conspiracy theories is predicated upon how those White supremacist conspiracy theories threaten all marginalized communities as well. We are all in this boat together.   

And, we must remember those taken from us four years ago this week and commit ourselves to not be deterred; we will continue to gather joyously and live vibrant Jewish lives in community with each other, as a tribute to their memory. May the memories of Joyce Fienberg, Richard Gottfried, Rose Mallinger, Jerry Rabinowitz, Cecil Rosenthal, David Rosenthal, Bernice Simon, Sylvan Simon, Daniel Stein, Melvin Wax and Irving Younger be for a blessing. 

Shabbat Shalom,

Jeremy Burton

Under the sukkah with civic leaders

Earlier this week I had the pleasure of being at the Vilna Shul, Boston’s Center for Jewish Culture, as we welcomed five members of the Boston City Council along with several members of Mayor Wu’s cabinet into the sukkah. The visit, organized by the Vilna together with Councilor Kenzie Bok (representing district 8, home to the Vilna) and Council President Ed Flynn (a long-time dear friend and partner to our community and to JCRC), was an opportunity to share and celebrate our holiday tradition, to experience this historic space, and to engage in a discussion about the past and future of the Jewish community in the city of Boston. 

The Vilna was created by Lithuanian immigrants in 1919 as a spiritual center in their new country. In 1995 a massive 10-year restoration project took place, including uncovering and restoring the original Jewish folk art murals. Today the Vilna is the only immigrant era synagogue in Boston, is a registered museum through the Council of American Jewish Museums and serves as a cultural center. 

Caron Tabb, the accomplished visual artist who designed this sukkah installation, explained the symbols and meanings of the sukkah and her interpretation of it. Then Dalit Ballen Horn, executive director of the Vilna, gave a tour of the sanctuary and the restoration work – which is supported, in part, by the city’s community preservation fund.

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Photo Courtesy of Vilna Shul

To be in this space is to experience the layers of Jewish identity. The ark expresses an identification with this country – with its prominent American eagle – and also, more specifically, with New England through carved seashells (an unusual motif for a Jewish space).  The walls have mosaics envisioning the ancient homeland and sacred places of the Jewish people in Bethlehem and Hebron (in a building constructed before there was a State of Israel). The language above the door is Yiddish but uses English words. And of course, the name expresses the most immediate prior land from which the congregation’s founders came to America – Vilnius, (now in) Lithuania.  

I am always inspired when I am here. The councilors and cabinet members clearly were as well.

3

When we sat down for a more intimate conversation about Boston’s Jewish community with Dalit, CJP’s Marc Baker, and myself, folks around the table opened up, sharing heartfelt and personal experiences of their Jewish journeys. We remembered those who’ve inspired and partnered with us over the decades, and discussed the work we’ve done together and our shared hopes for our partnership going forward. It was inspiring and energizing. 

It was a reaffirmation of a long partnership between civic leaders who value the Jewish community in Boston, and a community that values our legacy in this city as well as our commitment to its future.  

The city of Boston, with some 40,000 Jewish residents, continues to be one of the primary population centers of our local Jewish community - roughly equal in numbers to Brookline and Newton (albeit in a city with a much larger overall population). Boston’s Jewish community is also, in many ways, more diverse and diffuse than that of the region as a whole – it includes Orthodox, Russian, queer and Reconstructionist communities; seniors, young adults and empty nesters. And, it is spread out across neighborhoods that include Brighton, JP, West Roxbury and the downtown area. There is no one dominant center of Jewish life in the city, but rather several centers, each with its own flavors, traditions, and richness. Still, all these communities are invested in the future of the city and are participants in the vibrancy of their neighborhoods. 

Community relations – the building of connection, understanding and partnership between Jewish communities and our civic neighbors – isn’t just the work of JCRC. It’s the work of all our network members – the cultural, religious, activist, and social institutions that make up JCRC and who are the fabric of our vital community.  

This week’s visit of the Boston City Council to a sukkah came from the work being done by Vilna to situate itself in the broader Beacon Hill community – including its own heritage connected to that neighborhood’s early African-American legacy and the Baptist church that became Vilna’s first home in the area. Our time together built on the relationships that Vilna leaders have invested in with the public officials representing their neighborhood.  

So, kudos to the Vilna team, to Dalit, and to board chair Bob Thurer (who was also with us) for bringing us all together this week. And congratulations, again, to everyone who has been part of the revitalization of this space as a cultural and civic anchor in the city in recent years (I encourage you to take a tour!). I’m excited to see Vilna prosper, and to build on the relationships we nurtured, together, this week.  

Shabbat Shalom,

Jeremy

Jeremy Burton
CEO, Jewish Community Relations Council

Our legacy in this city

Earlier this week I had the pleasure of being at the Vilna Shul, Boston’s Center for Jewish Culture, as we welcomed five members of the Boston City Council along with several members of Mayor Wu’s cabinet into the sukkah. The visit, organized by the Vilna together with Councilor Kenzie Bok (representing district 8, home to the Vilna) and Council President Ed Flynn (a long-time dear friend and partner to our community and to JCRC), was an opportunity to share and celebrate our holiday tradition, to experience this historic space, and to engage in a discussion about the past and future of the Jewish community in the city of Boston. 

The Vilna was created by Lithuanian immigrants in 1919 as a spiritual center in their new country. In 1995 a massive 10-year restoration project took place, including uncovering and restoring the original Jewish folk art murals. Today the Vilna is the only immigrant era synagogue in Boston, is a registered museum through the Council of American Jewish Museums and serves as a cultural center. 

Caron Tabb, the accomplished visual artist who designed this sukkah installation, explained the symbols and meanings of the sukkah and her interpretation of it. Then Dalit Ballen Horn, executive director of the Vilna, gave a tour of the sanctuary and the restoration work – which is supported, in part, by the city’s community preservation fund.

2

Photo Courtesy of Vilna Shul

To be in this space is to experience the layers of Jewish identity. The ark expresses an identification with this country – with its prominent American eagle – and also, more specifically, with New England through carved seashells (an unusual motif for a Jewish space).  The walls have mosaics envisioning the ancient homeland and sacred places of the Jewish people in Bethlehem and Hebron (in a building constructed before there was a State of Israel). The language above the door is Yiddish but uses English words. And of course, the name expresses the most immediate prior land from which the congregation’s founders came to America – Vilnius, (now in) Lithuania.  

I am always inspired when I am here. The councilors and cabinet members clearly were as well.

3

When we sat down for a more intimate conversation about Boston’s Jewish community with Dalit, CJP’s Marc Baker, and myself, folks around the table opened up, sharing heartfelt and personal experiences of their Jewish journeys. We remembered those who’ve inspired and partnered with us over the decades, and discussed the work we’ve done together and our shared hopes for our partnership going forward. It was inspiring and energizing. 

It was a reaffirmation of a long partnership between civic leaders who value the Jewish community in Boston, and a community that values our legacy in this city as well as our commitment to its future.  

The city of Boston, with some 40,000 Jewish residents, continues to be one of the primary population centers of our local Jewish community - roughly equal in numbers to Brookline and Newton (albeit in a city with a much larger overall population). Boston’s Jewish community is also, in many ways, more diverse and diffuse than that of the region as a whole – it includes Orthodox, Russian, queer and Reconstructionist communities; seniors, young adults and empty nesters. And, it is spread out across neighborhoods that include Brighton, JP, West Roxbury and the downtown area. There is no one dominant center of Jewish life in the city, but rather several centers, each with its own flavors, traditions, and richness. Still, all these communities are invested in the future of the city and are participants in the vibrancy of their neighborhoods. 

Community relations – the building of connection, understanding and partnership between Jewish communities and our civic neighbors – isn’t just the work of JCRC. It’s the work of all our network members – the cultural, religious, activist, and social institutions that make up JCRC and who are the fabric of our vital community.  

This week’s visit of the Boston City Council to a sukkah came from the work being done by Vilna to situate itself in the broader Beacon Hill community – including its own heritage connected to that neighborhood’s early African-American legacy and the Baptist church that became Vilna’s first home in the area. Our time together built on the relationships that Vilna leaders have invested in with the public officials representing their neighborhood.  

So, kudos to the Vilna team, to Dalit, and to board chair Bob Thurer (who was also with us) for bringing us all together this week. And congratulations, again, to everyone who has been part of the revitalization of this space as a cultural and civic anchor in the city in recent years (I encourage you to take a tour!). I’m excited to see Vilna prosper, and to build on the relationships we nurtured, together, this week.  

Shabbat Shalom,

Jeremy

Jeremy Burton
CEO, Jewish Community Relations Council

A tale of two bridges

This week, I had the privilege to spend several hours in Duxbury.

Although it was a short week of work due to Sukkot, we had been busy at JCRC - speaking out to criticize a student newspaper board at Wellesley College and welcoming the strong condemnation of said newspaper’s antisemitism by the school’s president. And, taking note of a very disturbing situation at Tufts University and lifting up our partners at ADL in their call for institutional change there.

So, you’ll be forgiven if your first thought when I say I was in Duxbury is: “Oh no! What else happened?”

And the answer is Something quite lovely.

You see, last year, Duxbury’s state representative, Josh Cutler, reached out to us with an idea: We want to remind and educate our own town and the Commonwealth about Duxbury’s own diverse history. What would you think about naming a bridge here after Cora Wilburn?

Now, I’ll self-own, with some embarrassment, that - though I consider myself a student of Jewish history and a passionate reader of American literature - I didn’t know about Cora Wilburn.  As I soon learned, Wilburn was, according to the Jewish Women’s Archive, “one of the most prolific American Jewish women writers” of the 19th century. And her novel, Cosella Wayne: Or, Will and Destiny - the first novel written and published in English by an American Jewish woman - had recently been republished with an extended introduction by Jonathan Sarna of Brandeis University, the pre-eminent historian of American Judaism.  Wilburn spent her later years living in Duxbury, where she died in 1906.

We quickly responded to Rep. Cutler with an enthusiastic thumbs-up.

So there we were on Wednesday, Professor Sarna and myself, along with MA Representatives Cutler and Kathy LaNatra, and MA Senator Patrick O’Connor, dedicating the Cora Wilburn Bridge. Also joining us was, among others, Phyliss Ellis, president of the Brockton NAACP, as a second bridge was dedicated to honor the Lewis Sisters - Ella, Lillian and Beulah - three Black women who founded a residential camp in Duxbury that was a major center for Black community vacationers in the early 20th century.

As I said at the dedication, a bridge is, in a physical sense, a way of overcoming a separation between two communities, bringing them together across a river or a ravine, fostering contact, exchanges, and community despite that geography that divides them. A bridge can also be a connection between our past and our future; a way of defining which parts of where we came from we want to carry forward with us, to inform and shape where we are going to.

The people of Duxbury, with the leadership of their representatives on Beacon Hill, are making the choice to foster bridges between communities, and to lift up a part of their heritage – and all of our heritage – as a bridge into the idea of who Duxbury wants to be.

It’s a beautiful idea and an inspiring vision. And Professor Sarna surprised and delighted the room by reading a letter that Cora Wilburn had written to Lilly Harris, a 19-year-old Black woman who had lived near her in Duxbury. In doing so, she herself modeled how to be a bridge builder, across a 60-year age difference and two communities in Duxbury over a century ago.

Having the honor to participate in the dedication of these two bridges will continue to inspire me, and JCRC, in our own work as bridge builders between communities in our Commonwealth. I hope that it will also inspire others, as it has for me, to re-engage with the work and the legacy of Cora Wilburn, an important and early voice in the American Jewish story.

Shabbat Shalom,

Jeremy

#TheTimesWeLiveIn

Yesterday I retweeted this tweet from Dr. Sara Yael Hirschhorn:  

“Lord am I overjoyed to check my phone after Yom Kippur and find no terrible news of an antisemitic incident at a synagogue! #thetimeswelivein”  

I echoed her sentiment and agreed that this was indeed an awful thought to have. Unfortunately, we had spoken too soon, and there came the reports of a German synagogue’s window being shattered during Yom Kippur services. 

These are indeed the times we live in, disturbing and frightening times where it seems like every other day there’s another swastika sighting, age-old antisemitic tropes resurface, or another Jew is attacked on the streets of New York.  

This antisemitism is multi-layered and multi-directional. It comes from the right and from the left, and it is a present and real threat. Our response must therefore also be multi-layered and multi-directional, addressing the root causes and each facet concurrently.  

We at JCRC and our partners have been hard at work on this multi-layered approach. We successfully advocated for a law mandating Genocide Education in our schools and secured $1.5 million for the genocide education trust fund to ensure that the lessons of the Holocaust will be taught to future generations. And as religious institutions and those of our neighbors are threatened, JCRC successfully advocated to secure three million dollars in nonprofit security grants for vulnerable religious institutions. 

Our newest initiative, and the next layer, is grassroots, and leverages our successful advocacy campaign to directly educate the next generation. We are thrilled to be launching Student to Student (STS), a classroom-based experiential program that engages Jewish teens who are trained to demystify Judaism by giving presentations in high schools that have no Jewish presence. These young people authentically share their Jewish identities with their non-Jewish peers, many of whom have never met or interacted with someone from the Jewish community.  

"Can Jewish people celebrate birthdays? What about Thanksgiving?" "Do Jews still do animal sacrifices like in the Bible?" "Can you only go to Jewish colleges?" "What are your feelings about Israel? "Do stereotypes about Jews bother you?" 

These are just a few of the many questions that have been asked during the presentations, which take the form of informal conversations, confronting stereotypes and misinformation. Participants speak openly about their experiences as Jewish teens. They share stories about their lives and bring props to enhance their presentations. When discussing Shabbat, instead of just describing challah, they pass around the Sabbath bread for the students to sample. The non-Jewish students come away with a new understanding of Jewish religious and cultural practices and connect to the presenters on a personal level.  

The program was created 30 years ago by the St. Louis Jewish Community Relations Council, which five years ago began helping other communities launch their own STS programs. Of the non-Jewish students surveyed in D.C.’s Student to Student program during the 2018-2019 school year, 84% reported they had been motivated to share what they learned or take another step to learn more about Judaism and the Jewish people, and 61% shared what they learned with others. 83% of the teachers strongly agreed that the presentations broke down stereotypes, and 78% strongly agreed that the presentations helped counter antisemitism.  

“Student to Student gave me a platform to bring more awareness and understanding about my religion to other students. Without this program, other students would only have a surface level understanding of Judaism which could perpetuate misinformation and negative stereotypes.” 

– Nicole, Jewish Student Presenter 

Your child or a teen in your life can join us for the 2022-2023 school year to help break down stereotypes and foster increased understanding in our community! Nominations and applications are Open for this Year! 

For more information, please contact JCRC Director of Education Initiatives and Special Projects, Emily Reichman. 

We are committed to meeting these challenges together as a community, to working together with our partners, and investing in future generations. 

Shabbat Shalom, 

Jeremy

Join us this Sunday to observe Yizkor

Each year, on the Sunday between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, Jews around the world visit the graves of their family members to honor their memories. For many Holocaust survivors and their families, there are no graves to visit. 

Though this absence of place cannot be filled, JCRC and our partners host a Yizkor Service for our community’s local survivors and their families, a program that includes survivor testimony and the lighting of memorial candles to remember those in the survivor community who have passed away over the last year. We have gathered every year on the Brandeis campus since 1967, when a monument entitled “Job,” was dedicated there to honor the Six Million. 

This is a sacred space for survivors and their families. A place where they come together to mourn and to honor their family. The sculpture is inscribed with a plaque from the Jewish Holocaust survivors in Boston to honor the memory of those who were sacrificed. The table below the sculpture is inscribed with a verse from Lamentations 3:48: “My eyes shed streams of water over the ruin of my poor people.”

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For the past two years, COVID has prevented us from gathering for Yizkor in person. This year, we are finally able to be together again with survivors and their families at the statue. We will hear remarks from survivor Magda Bader (pictured here with Governor Baker), who will tell her story of escaping Auschwitz at age 15.

We will come together to remember those survivors and second-generation survivors we have lost this past year: Harvey Lewin, Alan Kronenberg, Rachael Kot-Lewis, Israel Arbeiter, Lester Izbicki, Nathaniel Jeff Resnick, Fred Manasse, Monique Stern, and Aron Greenfield. May their memories be a blessing.

We hope you’ll join us this Sunday, October 2nd at 11:00am at the Berlin Chapel at the Statue of Job at Brandeis University. The end of the time when we will be able to hear first-hand survivor testimony looms, making ceremonies like these more important now than ever.

JCRC is honored to spearhead this annual event and to continue this important work by re-launching our in-person guided tours at the New England Holocaust Memorial.

Following Yizkor, we’ll be training a new group of 15 docents, including both 2G’s and 3G’s, who will continue to carry on the legacy of our survivors.

As long as there are survivors who walk amongst us, we will continue to make space for their testimony, and honor those we have lost.

Shabbat Shalom and G'mar chatima tovah,

Jeremy

Join ADL on October 30 for presentations from leading experts on antisemitism and skill-building workshops for adults, students, and families. Participants will leave with an actionable toolkit for confronting antisemitism.

Shanah Tovah from JCRC!

Dear Friends,

With so many of us busy making preparations for the High Holidays, I’ll be brief today. 

For those of you who were with us last week as JCRC honored and celebrated some amazing community leaders, thank you. And for those of you who missed it – We are often asked what JCRC is and what we do, or “what is the function of a JCRC?” Well, our team put together a delightful video (if I may say so myself, though I hadn’t seen it in advance) answering that question. We premiered this “JCRC, What’s Your Function?” Schoolhouse Rock-style video at the event. It’s only 3:30 long and I encourage you to check it out. You may even see some fun cameos from our leaders and our partners in civic space.  

Enjoy! 

And, as we begin the High Holidays this weekend, rather than share some reflections of my own, allow me to share a poem by Rabbi Rachel Barenblat (of Congregation Beth Israel of the Berkshires).  

‘A Prayer for Tashlich’ is included in her volume ‘Open My Lips’, from the Jewish Poetry Project. Tashlich is the ritual of casting our sins into the river, which many Jews will perform this coming Monday afternoon.

Here I am again
Ready to let go of my mistakes.

Help me to release myself
From all the ways I’ve missed the mark.

Help me to stop carrying
The karmic baggage of my poor choices.

As I cast this bread upon the waters
Lift my troubles off my shoulders.

Help me to know that last year is over,
Washed away like crumbs on the current.

Open my heart to blessing and gratitude.
Renew my soul as the dew renews the grasses.

And we say together:
Amen

May we be inspired for our renewal in this season.  

Shabbat Shalom, and wishing you a good and sweet year. 

L’shana tovah u’metukah,

Jeremy and the JCRC Team

P.S.: Our fiscal year ends in seven days. Please be a part of securing JCRC's future in 5783 by making a gift.

Shouting our Kindness

In 1654, the first Jews arrived in what would become the United States. Fleeing the persecution of the Inquisition and its long arm in South America, they came from Recife to New Amsterdam.  

Peter Stuyvesant, then governor of the colony, ‘welcomed’ them with bigotry and fear-mongering. He informed the colony’s directors that these new arrivals were “repugnant”. Our ancestors were - he told the community - a “deceitful race” that should “be not allowed further to infect and trouble this new colony.”

Others – including some of Stuyvesant’s bosses back in Holland - saw the merit of welcoming these refugees, organizing to pay for the release of their possessions, to help them on their journey to establishing their community; one that would, of course, go on to become the most vibrant Jewish community in the history of our diaspora. They have been joined by the generations of Jewish refugees over the centuries since, and have given so much more back to the city of New York and to our nation than was ever given to them in those first months.

Since the very dawn of the American Jewish story, we have experienced fear mongering directed at us, directed at the very idea of us, and of others who, like us, arrive here as refugees and asylum seekers.

I’ve been thinking about Governor Stuyvesant as events developed this week here in Massachusetts. On Sunday, as we marked and mourned the attack on our nation 21 years ago, three masked cowards stood on a bridge in Saugus with a sign blaming Jews for 9/11. By mid-week, I was getting calls because the anonymous cowards behind the Mapping Project continue to use their Twitter platform to amplify their hateful website and re-post its content targeting our local Jewish community.

And on Wednesday night we all learned about how some 50 migrants - who arrived in this country seeking the same American opportunity and freedom as our own ancestors – were herded onto a plane by the governor of another state, and cruelly deposited on Martha’s Vineyard without any advance notice or concern for their basic human needs and dignity.

It is easy to sow fear, to tell people who to be afraid of, to treat human beings as an “other”, or to hide behind masks and internet anonymity to spread conspiracies, lies and antisemitism. It is more work, but work worth doing, to build the bridges and partnerships to resist fear, and to act with kindness.

We’ve known that kindness, as well, since our ancestors first arrived in Manhattan. Then, others helped them, creating the space for them to find refuge and to build a better future. We saw kindness, and Jews living without fear, this week when leaders gathered in Saugus – thanks to leadership from Chabad of the North Shore – to stand together against antisemitism and fear-mongering. And we are seeing kindness as the community on Martha’s Vineyard and across the Commonwealth is coming together.

I was reminded on Thursday of something that former-Governor Deval Patrick likes to say:

“We have learned to shout our anger and whisper our kindness, and it's completely upside down.”

This week, and every week, we’re shouting our kindness. Mobilizing to build bridges and partnerships - holding the fears of others and in-turn being held and supported by them in response to rising antisemitism and bigotry. Coming together with hundreds of volunteers across dozens of synagogues, human service agencies, and interfaith partners – who have already welcomed Syrians and Afghans and Ukrainians and other refugees – and will now do what is needed to support our newest arrivals.

Not long after those first Jews arrived in 1654, their descendants in Newport, Rhode Island received a promise from our first President. George Washington assured them that this newborn nation “gives to bigotry no sanction, to persecution no assistance, requires only that they who live under its protection should demean themselves as good citizens, in giving it on all occasions their effectual support.”

This idea is, for us, the greatness of America. And while it is a promise still being fully realized for many Americans, it is one that inspires us and that we remain committed to every day, along with our partners and allies.

If you would like to be part of fulfilling this promise for the people who arrived on Martha’s Vineyard this week, for those migrants who have arrived secondarily from New York and Washington, DC, and for those who might be sent here in the future, please contact Rachie Lewis, our director of synagogue organizing, at .

I thank you for your partnership and for sharing our values and our vision for our great nation. 

Shabbat shalom,

Jeremy