JCRC: Fighting Antisemitism for 80 years

Are we having an impact in the fight against antisemitism? 

I hear a variation on that question virtually every day. Often, multiple times a day.  

There is, rightly, great concern in our community right now. Even fear. Because it is very clear that both expressions of and acts of antisemitism, including violent acts targeting people and facilities, are on the rise.

Regular readers know that I have a lot to say about antisemitism. For right now, allow me to offer a very finite piece of an answer to that question. It’s an institutional answer, about JCRC’s day-to-day work.

This is not my ‘whole system’ answer. Our whole system answer acknowledges that antisemitism isn’t new. It has been around for at least 1,800 years (since the time of Emperor Constantine) and never really went away – even if the United States experienced a brief dissipation in the last 50 years. Our whole system answer addresses the multilayered and multifaceted aspects of antisemitism that don’t conform to neat left or right politics and world views. Our whole system answer describes our role as Jews as being resilient and thriving and building vibrant Jewish communities despite the threat. Our whole system answer addresses unrealistic expectations and acknowledges that while we can’t eliminate antisemitism, we can push it back into the corners of society where it isn’t normalized by ‘credible’ public actors.

But as one institution that has an important role to play in the fabric of our community, and our aspirations, we should address what we are doing, as JCRC, as part of our community, to address antisemitism.

Simply put, we’re doing what we were founded to do almost eighty years ago. We’re coordinating a network of our (now) forty member agencies – all of whom have a role to play in building civic connections and partnerships. And our specific focus as JCRC is working to ensure that local civic actors – in particular our state and local elected officials, local faith leaders, and local media – are attuned to our concerns and our experience, and that they are stepping up to their responsibility to fight antisemitism and support our community’s safety.

Is that happening? Yes.

This year alone, we worked with our partners on Beacon Hill to allocate $8 million dollars for non-profit security grants. These will have a direct and extraordinary impact on our, and other vulnerable communities – far beyond what our community invests in JCRC’s advocacy work.

Note: The  Commonwealth Nonprofit Security Grant Program  has just opened the grant submission window which  will close on Friday, December 30, at 4:00 p.m. ET. For eligibility and additional information, please visit the  Massachusetts Office of Grants and Research.  Also, CJP is offering support to institutions to defray the costs of a professional grant writer.

Time and again, we’ve worked with local media to encourage their responsiveness to reporting this crisis as it presents in Massachusetts.  We appreciate those who’ve taken time to sit down with us this year and cover these issues. And we also appreciate that – when sometimes a mistake gets made – we can have that conversation with the appropriate people and work together to set the record straight and see revisions made.  

And there’s never been one single moment in recent years where interfaith leaders in Massachusetts haven’t stood with us in moments of crisis and moments of solidarity – sometimes in ways that are unprecedented, powerful and unique to our Commonwealth like no other place in the country.

All of this, and far more, come from the weaving of civic relationship over time; our work providing Holocaust education connected to the New England Holocaust Memorial – increasingly being sought out and utilized by schools across the region who are working with us to educate teens; our work to bring Jewish teens into non-sectarian and public schools as relational educators; and the work we do more quietly, opening doors to civic leaders for our members and helping them to do this work as well.

Can more be done? Always. We have an urgent need to expand our work, with your support and that of our other partners; but always with an eye toward that same purpose with which we began eighty years ago – to engage our community with local government, with civic and faith leadership, and with the local media.

JCRC was founded because there was a time when we, as a community, experienced the terrifying reality of being alone in this work. Recent years are a reminder that though antisemitism is still here all these years later, at least here in Massachusetts, we’re hardly alone in facing it. And that is cause for hope in trying times. 

Shabbat Shalom.