Category Archives: The Friday Blog

The next generation committed to telling our story

The Hebrew month of Tammuz began earlier this week. Later this month we will usher in an intense, three-week mourning period, when I will join many other Jews around the world in fasting and engaging ritual mourning to lament the many calamities in our history, from the destruction of the first Temple through the Holocaust. Commemorating and retelling our history is a sacred obligation, shared from generation to generation. This obligation is acutely necessary today, as we continue to confront the dark elements of history and determine our role in creating positive and lasting change. Educating ourselves and understanding how history can continue to cause harm and injustice are the first crucial steps in this work.

At JCRC, we are proponents of this educational work, from our guided docent tours through the New England Holocaust Memorial, to our advocacy for Genocide Education in Massachusetts schools.

And we promote education through the JCRC Israel Arbeiter Holocaust Essay Contest, giving students from across the Commonwealth, most of whom are not Jewish, the opportunity to confront the unimaginable crimes of the Holocaust and consider their role in standing up to current injustices. The contest, established by Holocaust Survivor Israel (Izzy) Arbeiter, provides students with a platform to share the lessons they have learned and express their commitment to work towards a more equitable world. We challenge our youth not only to remember, but also to reflect on the power of individuals, groups, and nations to effect change.

This year’s winning essay (chosen from among 200 submissions) is written by Livia Goldschmitt, a ninth grader from the German International School of Boston. Livia writes about her role as a German citizen to not just stand up to hatred and bigotry, but to reconcile the devastating impact of a painful legacy, a crucial lesson for all of us today:

Germans were the ones who killed and I am German. But we have to confront our history to understand it ourselves and to be able to learn from it….I am not responsible for what they did. But we do all have the responsibility to not let the lessons of our history be forgotten. Click here to read the full essay.               

Sadly, we could not gather in person this year for our annual Yom HaShoah commemoration where we honor our essay contest winners. Instead, we invite you to please join Izzy in recognizing this year’s Israel Arbeiter Holocaust Essay Contest Winners in this video tribute.

I hope you will join me in congratulating these bright young writers who are standing up against injustice and hate in our world.

Shabbat shalom,

Jeremy

What gave us strength this year

Our spring ritual at JCRC is to elect our new Board and Community Representatives  – as we did at our annual meeting this past Wednesday – and to reflect on the past program year; the challenges we faced and the accomplishments we achieved. What a year this one has been. Though I hesitate to use words that are now included in every sentence of our public discourse, this past year has been one of unprecedented challenges. We’ve seen a continued rise in antisemitic violence in this country, a global pandemic, economic catastrophe, the exposure of the country’s enduring racism, and a national uproar about police violence. Israel went through three elections. Challenges to our own democratic processes and norms here in the US continue to erode the America we cherish.

At JCRC, we draw strength to persevere in the face of these challenges, from our bonds that tie us to each other within our community and to our friends, allies, and partners in Boston’s civic public space. 

We rose to face the challenge of antisemitism and to address concerns about Jewish communal security. This year, in partnership with the Governor and the legislative leadership, we secured an allocation of $1.5 million for non-profit security grants available to house of worship, community centers, and other vulnerable nonprofit institutions. The state also allocated $400,000 for a pilot program providing anti-bias training and resources to communities.

After the attacks in Jersey City and Monsey, prominent Christian leaders in Boston – our longstanding, trusted friends and partners – organized over 1,000 Christian leaders from across Massachusetts to sign a letter decrying antisemitism. And this April, over 300 people joined our Virtual Community Yom HaShoah Remembrance & Reflection program, honoring our local survivors and paying tribute to the six million Jews who were killed during the Holocaust, with a message of solidarity from Governor Baker.

As the threats against our immigrant neighbors increase and the paths toward relief narrow, our Jewish community continues to step up. During the pandemic, JCRC and our partners in the Boston Immigrant Justice Accompaniment Network (BIJAN) are managing to keep our bond fund open while many others around the country have already closed. And as conditions in jails continue to worsen, our network continues to be attentive to the urgent needs of undocumented immigrants during this crisis.  

As divisions over how best to connect with and support Israel became even more pronounced, JCRC’s Boston Partners for Peace initiative launched our initial list of Community Endorsers. This group of over 60 community leaders – elected officials, Christian clergy, rabbis and others – is on record with their public support of our approach.  

As a Jewish community dedicated to living our values in the broader civic space, community service affirms our interconnectedness and responsibility to our neighbors. For our fifth annual Martin Luther King Jr Day of Service in January, we had a total of 1,108 volunteers across 13 community organizations throughout Greater Boston, tripling our numbers from the previous year.

Throughout the pandemic, we’ve brought Jewish leadership to the table where critical decisions are being made about the shutdown and the re-opening. We’ve been in constant communication with our elected officials at the state and local level about myriad issues ranging from expediting the permitting process for a kosher food pantry, to the interests of Houses of Worship in the re-opening process, and advocating for the safety and protection of people who are incarcerated and at greater risk during the pandemic.

Finally, as the persistent racism that afflicts our nation erupts in the form of daily violence, our organized Jewish community is drawing on our deep partnership and relationship with leaders in the Black community. With the guidance of these friends - clergy members, elected officials, and other civic leaders - we are pursuing an action agenda to realize our commitment to criminal justice reform and the urgent work of advancing justice in our country.

Some of the challenges we now confront were not part of our collective imagination one year ago. Others are enduring and will persist long beyond this season. Still, whatever comes, we will face it with resilience and strength forged by the relationships we’ve been creating and weaving for decades. Our success in advancing our values and interests as an organized Jewish community is only possible because of the partnerships we’ve built, the alliances we’ve forged, and the relationships that we honor.

Particular challenges come and go, as do individual leaders, but our deepest values and most trusted relationships continue to inspire and sustain us. They will stand the test of time.

Shabbat Shalom,

Jeremy

A Jewish approach to this moment

Next Friday, JCRC will be closed as Jewish communities around the world celebrate Shavuot. We will retell and re-live the experience of Moses ascending Mount Sinai and receiving the Ten Commandments. The week leading up to Shavuot is the final week of the Omer, the intentional counting of the 49 individual days and the full seven weeks from the Passover Seder until this holy day.

This year, for nearly all of us, these seven weeks (and then some) have been spent sheltering at home. It seems almost impossible that we will now mark our second major Jewish holiday season without congregating in person for Torah reading, or for the recitation of our Yizkor memorial service. Counting the Omer has been very much on my mind this week as I’ve been immersed in the public discourse about physical distancing, government health directives, and personal sacrifices. Governors and mayors are easing restrictions. Here in Massachusetts, we now have guidance on safety protocols for re-opening Houses of Worship. While that guidance that has been criticized by some, we at JCRC recognize the multiple pressures facing our Governor and appreciate his efforts to provide guidelines for our safety.

Across the nation, even as a wide majority of Americans continue to support the difficult sacrifices of physically distancing, there is tension and debate regarding the balancing of constitutional rights, personal freedom, and collective safety. This plays out in ways both large and small as when some people refuse to practice basic measures like mask wearing in public spaces.

These debates about freedom and collective responsibility evoke the connection between our holidays. Passover celebrates our individual freedom, our liberty from the tyranny of slavery in Egypt. Shavuot marks the establishment of a collective law. This weekend, we celebrate the establishment of a social contract between the Divine and the People, but also – and more importantly – among the people. And these holidays are connected because the gift of freedom is incomplete without the gift of law.

Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks, former Chief Rabbi of England, explains it thus:

“If freedom means only that I can do what I want, then my freedom will inevitably conflict with yours. If I am free to steal, you are not free to own...That is why Judaism sees the exodus as the beginning, not the end, of the journey to freedom. The culmination came in the giving of the Law. The biblical vision is of a society in which no one will be at the mercy of others. Its rules and institutions aim at creating a social order of independent human beings linked by bonds of kinship and compassion...The freedom to do what we want creates individuals. It does not create a free society.”

In the connection between Passover and Shavuot, we see values and ideas upheld and articulated, not in opposition to each other, but rather in conversation. These values – freedom and social order –each can be of greater import to us at any given moment. But neither is fully realized without its relationship to the other.

It is within this notion that we have an opportunity to offer a deeply Jewish approach to engaging the complexity of this moment. We must insist on having a society that prizes freedoms – enshrined in our constitution - including of assembly and worship. At the same time, with those freedoms come the responsibility of building a collective social well-being, both through laws and through our individual responsibility.

We can choose, as every Jewish denomination and nearly every synagogue in America has, to see state and local directives as a baseline, not a ceiling, for the precautions we take in gathering and protecting all of us, especially the most vulnerable among us.

We can choose to embrace masks, not just because of local civil directives, but as a way of saying to our neighbors that we are ultimately interconnected, responsible to each other and for each other’s health and well-being.

We can choose to take these steps and others, not as a way of winning a fight between left and right but rather as an articulation that we are, still, one society. We can affirm that citizenship in that society means valuing and living within the dynamic tension between personal freedom and collective social order and responsibility.

The journey in the wilderness formed the Jewish people. So too will we be transformed as a nation, as we journey from what we were before this pandemic to what we will be when it is over. Our Jewish tradition, and the days and weeks we’ve been counting off while sheltering at home, have something to teach us about the kind of society we are striving to shape.

Shabbat Shalom,

Jeremy

What happened to ICE detainees at Bristol?

This week, a message from Executive Director Jeremy Burton and Director of Synagogue Organizing Rachie Lewis:

You may have heard the disconcerting reports emerging from the Bristol County House of Corrections regarding events on Friday night, May 1st. Testimony from immigrant detainees in Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) detention there reports that inmates were assaulted and pepper sprayed, endangering their lives and furthering their vulnerability to COVID-19. Inmates report being told they were going to be tested for COVID-19 and instructed to pack their bags, leading them to fear that they would be thrown in solitary confinement. In this virtual press conference, you can hear the voices of people who have been detained at Bristol and were contacted by family and friends on the night of the violence.

Through our work with the Boston Immigration Justice Accompaniment Network (BIJAN – created by JCRC together with our partners), we have been connected with those detained or previously detained in Bristol and have heard first-hand their stories of ill treatment. Fortunately, our Commonwealth has an active congressional delegation and the MA Senate, members of whom have spoken out about the reports (and our Attorney General, who has started investigating). We add our voices to theirs by calling for an immediate and independent investigation with appropriate consequences.

We have heard Sheriff Hodgson’s side of the story (included in the press clip above), where he has blamed those detained for the violence. Our sources and our consistent contact with people inside detention (and, specifically in Bristol) have reported to us that they are regularly mistreated by ICE. Unfortunately, we continue to hear reports of retaliation from inside the walls of Bristol as detainees try to have their voices heard.

We invite you to join us in adding our names to the list of people amplifying the stories of those detained, who have told us about the many challenges they face in in having their voices heard – from sky-high phone call costs, to high barriers around whom one can call, to threats of retaliation of being put in solitary confinement for advocating for their safety.

We are asking Senator Warren, Senator Markey, and Congressman Kennedy to take the next step and visiting the Bristol County house of Corrections to observe and report on the conditions for themselves. Please call their offices! You can find their contact info here. Here is a sample script: “Thank you _____ for your leadership in calling for an immediate and independent investigation. Through our connections to people under ICE detention at the Bristol House of Corrections, we have heard accounts of cruel behavior by ICE before. We add our voices in support of those detained advocating for their own health and the health of the collective, and we ask that you go visit Bristol to see the conditions for yourselves.”

This moment of urgency is not happening in a vacuum. A recent joint study with research from Brown University's School of Public Health, Brandeis' Heller School, and others showed that based on modeling of transmission rates for people in immigration detention:

72% of individuals are expected to be infected by day 90 under the optimistic scenario, while nearly 100% of individuals are expected to be infected by day 90 under a more pessimistic scenario. The study also determined that, in the most optimistic scenario, coronavirus outbreaks among a minimum of 58 ICE facilities (52%) would overwhelm ICU beds within a 10- mile radius, and outbreaks among a minimum of 3 ICE facilities (3%) would overwhelm local ICU beds within a 50-mile radius over a 90-day period, provided every ICU bed were made available for sick detainees.

For many, detention at this time could become a death sentence. We continue to work toward the release of those detained and jailed through fundraising and paying bonds, through advocating for humanitarian parole, and supporting efforts by others calling for the release of many.

Grateful to be in this work with you, especially in this chaotic time,

Shabbat Shalom,

Jeremy and Rachie

The Jewish community is committed to social distancing

A central part of our work at JCRC, in good times and bad, is to ensure that government and civic leaders are listening to, understanding, and addressing the interests and values of our Jewish community. I emphasize the plural “s” on each of those because rarely are we uniform in defining those priorities and concerns.

This week, I want to lift up one specific area where I am hearing wall-to-wall unity on our community’s voices.

But first, a little bit of background on how we’ve been working to advance our community’s agendas with our government in recent weeks.

Since the earliest days of the stay-at-home order, our government affairs team has been working closely with the Jewish Federations of North America’s Washington office to provide a coordinated voice to our congressional delegation on the needs of the Jewish and non-profit sector. That resulted in the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loans being extended to include non-profits (and an estimated $20 million or more to our local Jewish organizations). And there have been public, national mobilizations to support efforts by our delegation, including Rep. Moulton’s efforts to include non-profit relief in the next package. We’ve also continued to work with our delegation on our local priorities, for example supporting efforts by Senators Warren and Markey and Rep. Kennedy to investigate events last Friday at Bristol County House of Corrections.

We’ve been working with our institutions, as well as our interfaith partners, to put Jewish leadership into the spaces where decisions are being made around the shutdown and the re-opening. We’ve been in constant communication with our elected officials at the state and local level about a range of issues. We’ve coordinated joint efforts by Jewish and general camping providers to be heard as part of a re-opening plan. Our rabbis have been in leadership roles in public and private engagement with Governor Baker, Attorney General Healey, and Mayor Walsh, amongst others.

I have no doubt that if we went down the litany of concerns that have come up in that work, little of it would fall under the “one thing we all agree on” even as all of this work reflects large portions of our community’s concerns.

Which leads me to one thing I want to lift up today: the wall-to-wall unity of our faith institutions, our congregations and rabbis, on social distancing during a pandemic. As some voices in other faith communities have demanded a quick re-opening of house of worship, the Jewish voice has been different. Yes, of course, our synagogues view congregating in faith as an essential need, especially in times of pain and suffering. But across the nation, they’ve taken a strong public stance to support and encourage continued social distancing where possible.

When a few western states never closed, all the synagogues went dark anyway. When some states re-opened hastily, across the denominational spectrum the synagogues chose to remain closed, as in Georgia.

In recent days, rabbis across the denominational spectrum in Missouri issued a public letter saying that voting by mail is a religious imperative. The Rabbinical Assembly of the Conservative Movement made a similar statement (and if Massachusetts doesn’t act to extend vote by mail for this fall’s election, some rabbis here are already talking about following their example).

Yesterday, Rabbi Moshe Hauer, the Orthodox Union’s executive vice president, told Dr. Anthony Fauci that the OU “was advising congregations to wait two weeks past government opening dates to start returning to congregational prayer.”

My point is this: It’s not my place to tell rabbis, synagogues, and denominations what to do. However, it is JCRC’s responsibility to provide them with the information and tools from our government partners, so that they can make informed decisions. It is also our charge to lift up their voices in the civic space.

So when, in other communities, some are representing that faith gatherings are essential and must be opened up immediately, I want to underscore how, within the Jewish congregational leadership, there is near unanimous thinking to move slowly and not reopen our house of worship immediately, even when governments allow it. That’s our message right now to our civic and elected leaders.

I welcome your thoughts and input as we continue to advance the values, interest, and priorities of our community in the public square.

Shabbat Shalom,

Jeremy

Defending democracy during a pandemic

Most people don’t remember that 9/11/2001 was a major primary day in New York City. I cast my vote for a nominee for mayor just minutes before the first tower was struck. After the second tower was hit, the governor rightly suspended the voting for two weeks. The notion of postponing the general election briefly became an issue, when the term-limited incumbent floated the idea of extending his tenure for a few months. But in the end, there was no delay, and the general election was held on its regularly scheduled first Tuesday in November, a celebration, of sorts, of the city’s resiliency, less than two months after the worst day our city had ever endured.

That memory resurfaced for me a few weeks ago when Wisconsin residents were forced to make an impossible choice between protecting their personal health and safety in the face of a deadly pandemic, or as “the People,” protecting their collective right to vote. The long lines in Milwaukee that election day were both an outrage and an inspiration, a profound act of civic duty and an insistent defense of democracy amidst this pandemic.

In times of crisis and in times of calm, there is no more sacred task than voting. It is, quite simply, the most direct tool we have to hold government accountable to those who are the governed. For JCRC, the health of our democracy is so essential to our self-interest as Jews and as Americans, that our mission states that we “promote an American society which is democratic, pluralistic, and just.”

For JCRC, those aren’t just words. They are guiding and enduring values that have informed our policy work and our advocacy for over 75 years. In the spring of 2019, before our current crisis, our Council – through its deliberative process of study and debate – adopted principles for defending democracy. At the time, our Council stated that:

Judaism’s view of human society includes many values that are key to a democracy. In accord with these Jewish values, the hallmark of a well-functioning democracy is the primacy of “We, the People”: an engaged electorate, with robust participation, and elected officials truly representative of home communities, from whom power flows. However, both history and current events are replete with policies and practices that water down the principle of “We, the People” by empowering the elite over the general populace.

This week, our Council met for our first regularly scheduled meeting since the onset of sheltering in Massachusetts. We began by taking the time to check in with and extend care to each other as a community. But we also spent time hearing from partners about the challenges ahead in conducting a free, fair, and safe election this fall in the midst of these daunting challenges.

Yesterday, building on our mission and our principles, we recommitted to comprehensive voting rights and affirmed our support for specific actions, including:

  • Expanding absentee voting including no-excuse absentee voting, permanent absentee voting, and other increased vote by mail options;
  • Preserving in-person voting, carefully balancing the safety of poll workers and voters, and minimizing suppressive tactics.
  • Expanding early voting options.
  • Advocating for immediate federal action and funding to support state and local elections, implementation of these reforms, and the United States Postal Service’s capacity and solvency to meet the increased demands from the COVID-19 pandemic.

Along with urgent priorities in human services, secure institutions, and caring for our neighbors, we’ll be working on these issues in the coming months. When this pandemic is over, we’ll continue to work on reforming and protecting our democracy, as we have for over 75 years now, because, as the Supreme Court held, over a century ago, in Yick Wo v. Hopkins: the right to vote is “a fundamental political right, because [it is] preservative of all rights.”

The strength of our community and the resiliency of our society is protected when we act on our enduring values and principles, even – and especially – in a crisis. Once again, we are called to take affirmative action to defend our rights and the rights of all Americans. Please join us in this work.

Shabbat Shalom,

Jeremy

 

Meeting the Challenge of this Moment

In the early weeks of this sheltering experience, I’d find myself getting a little bit annoyed by some of the posts I was seeing online. There was, and is, a certain amount of “competitive suffering” going on; a sense that the particular circumstances in which I was under lockdown (or not) were worse than yours.

As I sat with these, and in some moments felt unseen in the specific ways that this has been hard for me, I came to recognize and name for myself that everyone is suffering right now, each in our own way (ok, maybe not so much the guy on his yacht trying to find a safe harbor in the Caribbean, but almost everyone). We gain nothing by engaging in competitive suffering. We gain everything by recognizing and affirming everyone’s pain right now, acknowledging what each of us is dealing with, and giving support in whatever ways we are capable.

However, still, this pandemic and our society’s response have in fact exposed cracks in our society that opened gaping chasms amidst COVID-19. 

That “essential” work rest heavily on low-paid workers, many without paid sick leave, lifts up disparities in our economy and in the protections available based on status and class. That this virus has impacted communities of color far in excess to their percentage of the population lifts up the enduring impact of racial disparities and health. Even within the Jewish community, the virus appears to have impacted Haredi communities – many living with larger families in smaller apartments and with fewer economic resources – far harder than some of the rest of us.

Yes, these and other fractures in our society existed before this, but COVID has made their impact far more visible and thrust them more visibly into our public consciousness (with the help of some very skilled organizing and pushing by advocates in impacted communities).

I’ve been thinking about the days and years after Hurricane Katrina, in 2005, another time when disaster exposed the chasms of our society (and may I recommend Floodlines, a fantastic podcast miniseries produced by The Atlantic that dropped just as COVID-19 was shutting us down). About a week after the hurricane, I attended a meeting of some of the nation’s largest Jewish family foundations and leaders from many of the Jewish federations. The Jewish communal system had quickly raised well over $20 million to support recovery and rebuilding, with the goal of ensuring that every synagogue and Jewish camp in the Gulf would have the capacity to do so.

I remember the president of one family foundation – widely known and rightly credited for its visionary and extraordinary investment in creating Birthright Israel and other Jewish identity and education projects – challenging the assembled leaders: “How could we ignore the vast disparities in the impact of Katrina?” he asked. “We will be defined not just by what we do for ourselves, the Jewish community, but also by what we do for others, for all those struggling to recover.”

In the hours that followed, the federation system, led by its national office and a few extraordinary communities, including CJP here in Boston, set aside substantial resources (millions of dollars) to be specifically designated as Jewish support for recovery of other parts of the Gulf community, with the money channeled through the organization I was working for at the time, Jewish Funds for Justice. With Jewish communal capital, followed in coming months by six and seven figure gifts from philanthropists of various political and ideological stripes, we launched the Isaiah Fund. This fund was an interfaith partnership to build homes and support economic recovery in New Orleans. We established a grants fellowship for community organizers from African-American, native tribes, Vietnamese fishing communities, and other hard-hit populations. And we created a range of service programs bringing Jewish college students and young adults to those communities to help.

I look back at that work, and the six years in which I was privileged to lead the Fund’s program team in a Jewish response for all of Katrina’s victims, on behalf of the Jewish federation movement, as one of the proudest moments of my career before coming to Boston.

I hope that, once again, we will meet the challenge of this moment. It’s a different moment of course – far more all-encompassing in the national and global reach of this crisis. Our Jewish community is suffering profoundly. And yet, I know that when we have the will, we have the capacity to remember that everyone is in pain, that we are all suffering and that it is in our collective interest to rededicate our efforts to healing the chasms of our society before they engulf us all.

I hope that you will join us in that work.

Shabbat Shalom,

Jeremy

P.S. Join JCRC's Fund-a-Need Campaign!
We're raising funds to benefit JCRC’s vital programming in our efforts to combat hate, stand with immigrants and our most vulnerable neighbors, promote peace for Israel, and engage our community in service

Our community is taking action

I hope that this finds you managing as best as one can in this challenging time. It is difficult to absorb and process all that is happening in our world, and all that has ceased to happen – at least for now.

We at JCRC, as always, are rooting our response in our understanding of our core purpose. We are advocating to uphold the social safety net and to secure a just society for the most vulnerable populations. The urgency of and need for this work is, as always, heightened in times of crisis. More and more members of our Greater Boston community are struggling to meet their needs on the most basic level.

JCRC’s advocacy and organizing teams are working hard from our homes to advocate for our neighbors, pivoting in our work to secure needed resources for those who need it the most during this time. Our recent advocacy work includes:

  • Leading the charge with our colleagues across the country and our partners at Jewish Federations of North America to urge Congress to expand the Paycheck Protection Loan (PPL) program for vital nonprofits. After our collective initial success in making sure that nonprofits were included in the first round of Small Business Administration (SBA) PPL loans, we are now working to ensure that the next phase of the legislation that calls for an additional $250 billion for the SBA loans is accessible to larger nonprofits. We’re monitoring the process closely and will be advocating for additional funds to further address community needs in subsequent legislative packages.
  • Submitting written testimony to the Joint Committee on Children, Families, and Persons with Disabilities for an online hearing this Monday on H.4622—An Act to Provide Short-term Relief for Families in Deep Poverty.
  • Facilitating final certification and permits from the City of Boston for a kosher food pantry in the city so that the community was able to move quickly to meet new and urgent needs in this time.
  • Leading with our partners in the Greater Boston Interfaith Organization (GBIO) to draft a letter to the Governor, in which we pledged the support of the faith community in fighting COVID-19 and addressing the crisis, while also inviting his partnership on access to health care, rent, and mortgage accommodations, and responding to the perilous situation of those who are incarcerated. The letter now has over 70 signatories from across faith communities, including many area rabbis. A delegation of clergy met with the Governor (virtually) this week.
  • Continuing to bond out those in immigrant detention - including people detained across the country, since many other ICE offices have been closed. As conditions worsen inside jails, and in this season of Passover and freedom, JCRC and our partners have bonded out 62 people over the past month.

Our community is stronger when we speak together in one voice. I hope that you will continue to join us in these efforts, by calling your legislators and engaging in the weekly action items that we are sharing with the community.

As I find myself, like all of us, physically distanced from community, I am also finding strength in the willingness of our community to build social connections by taking action on our moral responsibility to each other and our neighbors in this challenging and uncertain time. Thank you for joining us in this work.

Shabbat Shalom,

Jeremy

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Join JCRC's Fund-a-Need Campaign!
We're raising funds to benefit JCRC’s vital programming in our efforts to combat hate, stand with immigrants and our most vulnerable neighbors, promote peace for Israel, and engage our community in service.

Sharing our 2019 Impact Report

Each week, I use this message to convey a sense of the challenges that face us as a community and share the many ways that we at JCRC address them. This week, as we prepare for Passover, I am delighted to share our 2019 Impact Report with you. Here you can view in one place, the many ways in which your support has enabled us to raise our voices and deepen our partnerships to combat antisemitism, bigotry, and hatred in all forms, stand with immigrants and our most vulnerable neighbors, promote peace for Israel, and engage our community in service.
 
I am grateful to you for your support – by listening to us, providing your wise counsel, sharing what we do, volunteering with us, and donating to us. Because of you, we are able to rise to today's challenges, not only by preparing for crises and ensuring that Jewish institutions have the means to stay secure, but also by engaging our community in myriad opportunities to act on our Jewish values by pursuing justice for our neighbors and ourselves. And in the last few weeks, when faced with the Coronavirus crisis, we were able to pivot quickly, mobilizing our community in response to urgent needs through our #TakingActionStayingConnected campaign, both within our community and beyond.
 
Through years of relationship building, we’ve been able to develop the trust to engage in critically important conversations and leverage our collective power to achieve goals more ambitious than any of us could ever accomplish on our own. We have rolled up our sleeves to tackle the thorniest challenges facing Greater Boston together, be it the ever-growing divisions over how best to connect with and support Israel or the increasing threats against our immigrant neighbors.
 
To continue and expand upon this important work, I hope you will consider participating in our “Fund a Need” campaign. Your sustained generosity enables us all go from strength to strength.
 
Shabbat shalom – and wishing you and yours a healthy and safe Passover,

Jeremy

Jeremy Burton
JCRC Executive Director

Staying Proximate from a Distance

This week, a message from Executive Director Jeremy Burton and Director of Synagogue Organizing Rachie Lewis:

In this unprecedented time, many of us are figuring out what work and community look like from our homes and from safe distances. At JCRC, as we stay connected to our colleagues and partners over zoom—often distracted by a coworker’s bookshelf, or child, or snack—we are constantly discerning: What work can and must we still do—what relationships can and must we maintain—from a distance? From the isolation of our homes? Without ways to physically gather as a collective?

As we apply those questions to our immigration accompaniment work, it has become evident that to stay true to our values, to sustain our essential work, we must also figure out how to remain connected to those detained in immigration jail even as we keep our physical distance. 

In partnership with the Boston Immigration Justice Accompaniment Network (BIJAN), we continue to free people from immigration detention, and to show up when asked. We know that jails are already atrociously unsanitary given that those incarcerated are forced into crowded living quarters and not provided with basic hygienic products. The social distancing that we know is critical to avoid community spread of COVID19 simply is not an option for them. BIJAN has been supporting those detained to publicize the dangerous and worsening conditions that all people who are incarcerated (both in immigration and criminal jails) are facing. We cannot fully stay away, because we know that ICE cannot be relied upon to take the necessary measures to ensure adequate hygienic prevention or health care for anyone who may get infected inside the walls of detention facilities. 

Our challenge is that this work has always required the opposite of hunkering down, isolating ourselves, and passively waiting. It has taken marshalling all of our resources, going everywhere we can safely go, opening doors rather than closing them, and being as proximate as possible to our friends and neighbors. 

This work has always required enormous creativity, along with a constant weighing of risk and priority. That has never been truer than in this moment. In the two weeks prior to Governor Baker’s order to shut down all non-essential business and advisory to remain at home, we succeeded in bonding out 18 people, we continued to raise money for bonds and legal support, and we figured out how to be present in whatever ways we could. Bond payers arrived at emptier ICE offices, and with their own clean pens in tow and paid bonds for those detained across the country, since many other ICE offices had been closed. Generous hosts opened their homes to individuals and families once detained, and strangers quarantined together quickly become family. Court accompaniers showed up, even as judges denied them entry, and they remained in the waiting room keeping family members company.

Now that we are staying put in our homes, we will continue to find ways to be proximate. We will write letters to let people in detention know they are not alone, we will help find legal representation, and we will continue to raise money and bond out the people we can and support for those whose hearings have been postponed. We will advocate for the release of ICE detainees, because we know that as conditions worsen inside jails, as resources are spread thinner and thinner, the situation for the detained and incarcerated will become ever more dire. This work cannot stop. It will evolve and look different, it will require more resolve and creativity, but we cannot step away now.

We hope you will join us in this work.

Shabbat Shalom,

Jeremy & Rachie