Our “Founding Fathers”

This Friday, a message from Acting Executive Director Nahma Nadich.

Though Rosh Hashanah falls relatively late in the secular calendar this year, I am probably not alone in still rushing frenetically to greet the holiday. And as in all previous years, I try to focus not only on my holiday menus and plans, but on the main purpose of this Jewish season; reflecting on this past year and resolving to honor new commitments in the new one.  At JCRC, our process of reflection began not in the beginning of Elul, but back in June, when we marked the 75th anniversary of the founding of this organization. Over the last three months, we’ve immersed ourselves in learning about our fascinating and glorious history, poring over archival materials, learning about earlier chapters of our history from spending time with many of our visionary leaders over the years. We did so not only to pay tribute to the extraordinary achievements of the last seven decades, but as a way to inform and inspire the future as we enter 5780.

Our story began on June 14, 1944, just a week after D-Day. Shaken to the core by the devastation of European Jewry and sobered by the realization that America’s Jews lacked the power to prevent this unprecedented tragedy, 16 Jewish organizations came together to create the “Jewish Community Council”. They knew that surmounting the multiple challenges their community faced would take a strong and united body. Desperately worried about the fate of Jewish refugees fleeing their Nazi murderers in Europe, they were also passionately committed to the establishment of a Jewish state in (then) Palestine as a safe haven for the Jewish people. Here in Boston, Jews were confronted by antisemitic rhetoric on the airwaves and violent assaults by gangs who targeted them with impunity. These wise men of the Council (and yes, they were all men) understood that only through building strong connections with people in positions of power and, equally if not more important, investing in relationships across racial and ethnic lines for the betterment of the entire community, could they ensure a vibrant future for Boston’s Jews.

With the end of the war, the Jewish Community Council of Metropolitan Boston (our original name) sent a “Council Message of Friendship” to some 2,500 clergy, state and city officials, labor leaders, heads of service clubs, and others on September 5, 1945:

If only we had been able to sit with these leaders – to hear what it was like to emerge from the darkest chapter in modern history, with one’s belief in a “brilliant chapter of progress” miraculously still intact. If only they could tell us how they were so certain that “mutual understanding and mutual respect” had the power to forever banish “hatred, suspicion and distrust”.

But, all these years later, as we face challenges both familiar and new, their message still resonates for us. As the inheritors of their legacy, we’re heirs to their beliefs, and their commitments. The language may be antiquated; we no longer speak just of “men” or pursue relationship just with Christians, but the underlying values of peace and human dignity endure, as does the certainty that they can be achieved only through developing and sustaining deep community relations.

Shabbat shalom,

Nahma

PS - To pay tribute to our history and past leaders, we’ve compiled a commemorative book outlining our history and achievements over the years. This special book will be included in our gift bags to be delivered next week as a token of appreciation to all our JCRC75 participants. If you’d like to receive your own copy, it's not too late! Click here to participate in JCRC75.

PPS - Be sure to take a moment and peruse our online auction continuing through next week!