As we gear up for Celebrates, we’re featuring a series of profiles of our honorees. Click here to read about Barry Shrage Community Builder Award recipient, Bill Gabovitch. This week, we profiled Community Legacy Award recipients Risa Shames & Neil Silverston!

What first drew you to JCRC?
Risa was first drawn to the community service work that JCRC organizes for the larger Jewish community. At the time, Bill Gabovitch had just been installed as President and he suggested that she join the TELEM Advisory Committee. Through TELEM, Risa had the opportunity to help synagogues engage teens in service and sparked her continued passion for youth engagement. Neil was drawn to JCRC’s commitment to working across Boston’s diverse faith communities, in a shared mission of social justice.

What work with JCRC are you currently excited about?
While there are many innovative programs at JCRC, we are most energized by two initiatives that are critical in helping the Jewish community to meet this moment in time: 1) JCRC’s leadership in BIJAN – Boston Immigration Justice Accompaniment Network is enabling us to stand up for our immigrant neighbors, and our values; and 2) Boston Partners for Peace, which connects us to grassroots efforts in Israel and locally that are working to further economic cooperation and civic engagement between Israelis and Palestinians.

What’s one thing that you wish more people knew about JCRC?
We wish that people understood the broad mission that JCRC encompasses – advocacy, community service, and promoting Israel, including Boston Partners for Peace. When all we do is talk, the conflict alienates us from Israel and each other. Boston Partners for Peace gives us the opportunity to act, and work directly to strengthen ties between Israelis and Palestinians.

Tell us a fact about yourself!
Risa has had a career in public health and health care and now, inspired by Jewish values and community leadership, she is transitioning to the non-profit sector, helping organizations tell their stories and be sustainable. Neil’s work on social justice is not just through his role as a lay leader. Inspired by the incredible Jewish community here in Boston, he launched SparkShare, an organization that helps young people activate to make change in their communities and beyond.