Our Shared Voice

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JCRC Council member Emily Levine receives the Nancy K. Kaufman award, presented by board member Kathy Weinman

A Message from CEO Jeremy Burton:

Last Thursday night, JCRC held our annual meeting of the Council. But as often happens when the struggle against antisemitism is top of mind for our community, I didn’t have the opportunity to share this celebration with you the next day. And so, while response and reaction to the so-called ‘mapping’ project continues this week (I invite you to read this coverage in yesterday’s Boston Globe and my interview with GBH this morning I’d like to back up and talk about some of what’s making me and us happy right now.   

The annual meeting was the Council’s first in-person gathering in two years. For months, we’ve been looking forward to gathering together, at last (some folks did attend by Zoom), to elect the JCRC Board and community representatives for the coming year. I’m always so appreciative of all the volunteers who bring their talent and time to our collective table and work across differences to form our shared voice. This year, at our meeting, someone else expressed that sentiment far better than I could.   

JCRC was proud to honor our outgoing Public Policy Committee Chair, Emily Levine, with our volunteer leadership award - named in honor of my predecessor, Nancy K. Kaufman. Emily has led the Council through the process of forming and then taking action on our domestic agenda over the past three years. Personally, I’ve been in awe of her patience. I want to share just a bit of what she said to the Council when she received the award:  

“JCRC represents for me this intentional community which functions to live in the nuance and live in the messy, and the deeply personal. And it helps me to see that there are ways to find my own way into Jewishness, and to do it at my own pace.   

JCRC brings members of the Jewish community, ones who might never otherwise find themselves in the same physical or proverbial space, because they have fundamentally opposing positions at the core that are very personal and deep-seated. And despite that, they show up and you show up.   

That JCRC exists, that we find a way to coalesce as a Jewish voice, grounding our advocacy in our principles of economic justice, combating racism, civil rights, and defending our democracy, it’s what makes it feel so meaningful. JCRC represents a commitment to sit in that messy, in that nuance, and to deeply think about and sit with the commitment that we have to show up for communities who do indeed deserve and need it most.”

I’m reminded again this past week, as we came together as a unified body to deal with the mapping project, that our ability to coalesce as one community is about far more than confronting antisemitism.   

We’ve had a lot of victories and celebrations in the year since the 2021 annual meeting. We celebrated the passage of the genocide education mandate in Massachusetts (and the commitment by the House and Senate to fund the trust for its implementation). JCRC also successfully led the advocacy for our state to divest from Russia after the invasion of Ukraine. 

This month, we’re celebrating the work of coalitions we’ve been in for years that have finally enacted legislation. We were thrilled to see the passage of the Work and Family Mobility Act enabling undocumented immigrants to obtain drivers licenses. The bill follows in the path of 16 other states and was supported by many in law enforcement who know that this will make our roads safer for everyone.  We’re also proud to have been part of the Votes Act coalition, which celebrated agreement on a package this week that will expand voter participation at a time when the very fabric of our democracy continues to be challenged.  (We were also part of the Drawing Democracy coalition last fall, where we brought the organized Jewish community’s voice to the redistricting process).    

When it comes to our Israel engagement work, we’re excited to see that the Nita Lowey Middle East Partnership for Peace fund has begun making grants, including to groups that we are so passionate about and seek to amplify through our Boston Partners for Peace initiatives. We’re proud to have platformed many groups of Israelis and Palestinians weaving relationships rooted in mutual recognition and dignity; and we’re excited to start visiting them in person again this summer as we return to hosting study tours.    

Last Sunday, I had the honor of speaking at the launch of the Religious Action Center – MA, the new local branch of the Reform movement’s national advocacy arm. I told them that I’d been looking forward to this event for a long time. And, in the wake of what we as a community have been confronting with the mapping, I couldn’t imagine a more joyous way to spend a Sunday than to be reaffirming all the ways that our community, and its many facets, remain committed to our collective participation in the Greater Boston civic space.   

I’m grateful for all these reminders of who we are as a community, and how we are refusing to hide behind locked doors and to be defined by those who wish to do us harm. 

I hope that you are inspired as well by whatever parts of our amazing Jewish community are meaningful to you, and by the ways in which we work together and support each other. 

Shabbat shalom,

Jeremy