Earlier this week I spoke to the Jewish Telegraphic Agency about President-Elect Trump’s ambassador-designate to Israel. I told the reporter that “we’re all trying to figure out how to navigate this administration.” Here, in my final blog post of the calendar year and six weeks after November 8th, I would like to share some thoughts about where JCRC is thus far in handling this navigation.
In the last six weeks, JCRC has spoken out against the appointment of Steve Bannon and raised concerns about David Friedman. JCRC has worked with the ADL to convene our community and the political leadership of Massachusetts in a rally against hate. We worked with our partners in GBIO to bring 2,600 diverse participants from across Greater Boston together as one community. JCRC has initiated a series of meetings with our partners and our congressional delegation to discuss their thoughts and views on the specific challenges ahead and the most strategic opportunities for us to stand together in the coming years. In the next month, JCRC will convene a strategy team within the Jewish community to help us plan for the future.
All of JCRC’s actions during the last six weeks are rooted in the premise that the period ahead has unique and deep challenges for all communities, regardless of how we individually voted. We are entering an era where our duly elected President lacks a popular mandate (or even a plurality of the vote), yet is promising radical and disruptive change. Normally, we would find ways to embrace working with any administration – even when nearly 80% of our own community voted for different candidates – whereas today, we are entering an era of unusual and significant challenges to the norms of our constitutional democracy. As Evan McMullin recently wrote:
“We can no longer assume that all Americans understand the origins of their rights and the importance of liberal democracy. We need a new era of civic engagement that will reawaken us to the cause of liberty and equality. That engagement must extend to ensuring that our elected representatives uphold the Constitution, in deed and discourse — even if doing so puts them at odds with their party.”
In this unprecedented time, JCRC and all of us as individuals are navigating without a road map – without any guidance beyond our values and principles. In meeting after meeting with our member agencies, with national Jewish organizations, and with partners, we have heard the same refrain from our colleagues; they have no precedent to guide their organizations in this moment.
In cases where JCRC is opposing a position or appointment by the new administration, we will sometimes be asserting our institutional voice beyond the norms of traditional Jewish communal politeness. Whatever position we take, JCRC will strive to set an example of civil discourse, even whilst the President-elect sets a new bar for intemperate discourse. We will inevitably make some mistakes along the way and for those we will need to apologize after the fact.
At JCRC, we will take the time to remind ourselves and our community that many of our own members are supportive of some of the positions and actions of the new administration. We believe that as a whole, we play a role in fostering the creation of a ‘new center’ mindset that will help move our country away from the deeply partisan fractures that brought us to this point. To do this, JCRC will aim to support bipartisan efforts on Beacon Hill and Capitol Hill, both of which will contribute to the national discourse.
As we move forward, JCRC will continue to confer with our Council and our network of member agencies to guide our efforts. We are particularly mindful that as we must navigate these uncharted waters, so too, must our member organizations. While the choices and positions of our member organizations in the coming years will be different than those of JCRC, we will reaffirm our respect for their choices. Finally, while the majority of our community did not support the President- elect, JCRC stands firm in our belief that we should not demonize those who voted for this direction.
“Those who can will need to speak out boldly and suffer possible retaliation. Others will need to offer hands of kindness and friendship across the traditional political divide, as well as to those who may become targets because of who they are or what they believe. Those who understand the cause are called to the work, which I hope will unify and bless our nation in time.”
JCRC believes that we must recommit ourselves to those values which we hold dear and to maintaining our vigorous public efforts to defend them. Our community and our nation depend on all of our efforts and all of our continued vigilance. On behalf of all of us, I thank you for your partnership and welcome your participation as we move forward together.
Shabbat Shalom, Happy Chanukah and an early Happy New Year!