Tag Archives: Advocacy

Building a more just Commonwealth

When we celebrated JCRC’s 75th anniversary last year, we marveled anew at the forethought of the founding fathers (yes, they were all men at the time) in recognizing the need to form what we now call the “organized Jewish community, by founding an umbrella institution  “for the purpose of acting in unity in matters relating to civic protection” for the community. And every year at our Legislative Reception, we recognize our organized Jewish community’s partners in government who have allied with us to build a more just Commonwealth; one that embodies the most cherished values of our Jewish community. This event, which will be held this year on March 26th, celebrates not only our honorees, but also the power of civil discourse and debate across ideological lines, but also the power of civil discourse and debate across ideological lines, and the investment in coalitions that ensure access to economic opportunity, quality of life, and independence for all in the Commonwealth. Our work is animated by our communal commitment to defending civil rights for all Americans and safeguarding long-fought gains against discrimination, hatred, and bigotry of all forms.

On behalf of JCRC, the Mass Association of Jewish Federations (MAJF), our member organizations, and our partner agencies, we are delighted to be presenting awards to five public servants who help further our shared agenda: standing with immigrants and refugees, advocating for criminal justice reform, fighting for economic justice and education, supporting our Jewish social service agencies, and allocating resources to protect vulnerable communities through the Non Profit Security Grant Program. We work with these and many other public officials to enshrine and execute policies that protect people across the Commonwealth—along with the lives of members of our own community.

On March 26th, we will honor these remarkable public servants:

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Senator Sal DiDomenico (Everett) – From his first term, Senator DiDomenico has been a trusted partner on many of our key priorities, most specifically the charge to provide a ladder to economic opportunity for all people. He was the Senate lead sponsor on the recently enacted “Lift the Cap on Kids” legislation to ensure that families in poverty have access to needed supports and has led efforts to provide job training opportunities for immigrants and refugees.

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Representative Claire Cronin (Easton) – Representative Cronin was the House lead on the ground-breaking Criminal Justice Reform legislation from 2018, pursuing a vision of justice and dignity. Rep Cronin is quickly rising in the ranks of the House and is widely respected as a fierce advocate for her constituents and the advocate community.

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Representative Jeff Roy (Franklin) – Representative Roy is a strong partner in the fight against rising antisemitism and hatred. As a former School Committee member, Rep Roy views education as a crucial tool in fighting bigotry, and has joined the fight with JCRC, ADL, and our partners by filing a Genocide and Holocaust bill for the past three sessions, with the explicit goal of teaching children across the Commonwealth how unchecked prejudice can escalate to atrocity.

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Boston City Council President Kim Janey – Council President Kim Janey is a leader on the City Council on issues of equity, civil rights, and criminal justice. She has helped JCRC bring Boston Partners for Peace organizations, comprised of Israelis and Palestinian peacebuilders, to meet with leadership at City Hall. Councilor Janey is a dedicated advocate for education, housing, and small business development, and works to ensure equitable access to opportunities and resources in her district.

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Brian McKeon (Assistant Chief of Staff for Cabinet Affairs – Office of Governor Baker) – McKeon has played a key role in the funding and implementation of the Non-Profit Security Grant program, coordinating conversations with the policy team, the budget writing team, and the Executive Office of Public Safety. He is a dedicated public servant who works tirelessly behind the scenes as a key point person in the Governor’s office to shape the implementation of critical policies.

A well-functioning society and a responsive government would not be possible without outstanding, public servants like these five individuals, along with the hundreds of elected and appointed officials, staff, and civil servants who honor their duty to the Commonwealth. Our legislative agenda is bound by this common theme of our shared humanity, whether it be standing in solidarity with immigrants and refugees seeking safety and security, ensuring that people with disabilities and seniors live independent lives of dignity, or providing crucial security measures for members of our community.

We look forward to coming together as a network to celebrate these five leaders and to recognize the work of JCRC and our partners.

I invite you to join us.

Shabbat shalom,

Jeremy

An Urgent Agenda

It has been over twenty years since the American Psychiatric Association deemed so-called conversion therapy (attempts to “repair” a person’s sexual orientation) to be harmful. Still, shockingly, 698,000 LGBTQ adults, including about 350,000 people who received treatment as adolescents, have been subjected to this traumatic practice in the U.S. alone.  Last month, after years of effort, the practice was banned for minors in New York, making it the 15th state to do so.

You may be surprised to learn that Massachusetts is not among the states that have banned this practice for minors. JCRC wants that to change.

Boston JCRC has a long and proud record of openly advocating for LGBTQ rights. Many years before I arrived here, Boston was the first Jewish community relations council in the country to fight for marriage equality. JCRC has supported legislation against conversion therapy in the past. And just a few weeks ago our Council’s Public Policy Committee unanimously affirmed that House Bill 2848, a bill to ban conversion therapy for minors in MA, should be one of JCRC’s priorities for this legislative session. I’m proud that we will be working to ensure that teenagers are no longer subjected to this sadistic practice masquerading as “treatment.”

Our advocacy on this bill, along with all our government affairs priorities this legislative season, once again reflects our commitment to defending civil rights and safeguarding long fought gains against discrimination, hatred, and bigotry. We are committed to working with our partners in government to enshrine policies that protect people across the Commonwealth—along with the lives of members of our community.

In 2017, the ADL tracked an 86% increase in anti-Semitic incidents in K-12 schools right here in Massachusetts—with many of these incidents involving Holocaust-related imagery and language. We need to act decisively to stem this disturbing tide. So, we are working with ADL to advocate for passage of An Act Concerning Genocide Education, to mandate Holocaust and genocide education in social studies classes in Massachusetts, enabling students to understand how unchecked prejudice and hatred can escalate to atrocity.

These are just two of seven bills that JCRC supports in our current Legislative Agenda, which includes a bill to protect immigrants being targeted for deportation, and others to help individuals and families overcome obstacles to opportunity and inclusion. Our legislative collaboration includes parties in the private and public sectors: philanthropists, social service agencies, our network of member organizations, and community leaders.

Each year at this time, we take the opportunity to recognize our partners on Beacon Hill who have joined with us to build a more just Commonwealth and a more vibrant democracy. JCRC’s annual Legislative Reception celebrates the importance of building powerful coalitions to improve the quality of life and access to opportunity for all in the Commonwealth. We lift up the work of the organized Jewish community to unite with others and act together for an urgent agenda; from civil rights to human services, economic opportunity to safety and security, supporting the vibrant MA-Israel partnership, and the protection of democratic values.

On March 5th, JCRC will honor four remarkable public servants who exercise their leadership to promote the common good. We will present awards to Governor Charlie Baker, Senator Joan Lovely, Representative Ron Mariano, and Springfield Council President Justin Hurst. These four public servants have answered the call for leadership in a time of great challenge, to address the urgent issues before us.

A well-functioning society and a responsive government would not be possible without outstanding, public servants like these four individuals, who honor their duty to the people of the Commonwealth. We look forward to coming together as a network to celebrate these four leaders and to recognize the work of JCRC and our partners. I invite you to join us.

Shabbat shalom,

Jeremy

Boston Interfaith Leaders Launch Online Campaign to #DeclareInterdependence


 The Boston 12
 is a group of area religious leaders, including JCRC Executive Director Jeremy Burton and JCRC Associate Director Nahma Nadich, which has met regularly for a number of years. We are Jewish, Christian, and Muslim. We are members of cousin religions, descendant of Abraham. We are family.

delcareThe public rhetoric that is borne of the current election season scares us. It is dangerous. It is tearing our nation apart. With this social media campaign we are making an appeal to the better angels of our natures and of our nation. We believe in the American hope and promise of E Pluribus Unum: Out of Many, One (adopted in 1776 as our national motto). But that promise can only be realized with hard work, a lot of listening to each other, a lot trying to understand each other using civil discourse, instead of blaming each other. Instead of everyone yelling their own truth. It feels as if the world around us is spinning out of control as fear causes one group to blame or scapegoat another group. We hope to make a small space for the hard work of listening and learning and finding common ground for the common good.

The Boston 12 has composed five different online messages with one common theme, Declare Interdependence. The first message – to Pledge Respect – went out via Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram on Thursday, June 16, 2016. The following four messages will be released June 23, 30, July 3, and July 4.

To get involved, follow JCRC online via FacebookTwitter, and Instagram. Share the posts. Retweet the posts. Regram the posts. And use #DeclareInterdependence.

 

Massachusetts Jewish Organizations Thank Legislators For Their Support Regarding “An Act Relative to Transgender Anti-Discrimination”

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BOSTON (April 20, 2016) — Yesterday, representatives of KeshetADL, the Jewish Alliance for Law and Social Action, and the Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Boston presented letters thanking Massachusetts Senate President Stan Rosenberg and House Speaker Robert DeLeo for their longstanding support of “An Act Relative to Transgender Anti-Discrimination,” and urging swift action to pass this critical legislation.

Senate President Stan Rosenberg and House Speaker Robert DeLeo were also given a list of Jewish leaders and individuals, from across the Commonwealth and the United States. The signatories believe that the Jewish tradition affirms all people and that respecting all human dignity is the foundation of a just society.

Transgender people in Massachusetts cannot afford to wait any longer to be sure they can access public accommodations without fear of discrimination, harassment, and violence. Opponents of the legislation assert a supposed threat of transgender people in restrooms and locker rooms; however, but the reality in states, municipalities, and schools with similar legislation or policies proves this assertion to be is unfounded.

We thank Senate President Stan Rosenberg, House Speaker Robert DeLeo, and the bill’s sponsors in the House and Senate, for their support of the transgender community in Massachusetts. It is past time that Massachusetts ensures the full dignity and safety of transgender people.

Seventeen school districts serving 600,000 students across the country reported no problems after implementing transgender-inclusive policies. These policies are aligned with the US Department of Education’s guidelines issued in April, 2014, clarifying that transgender students are protected under Title IX.

Conversely, transgender people are at a great risk of violence and harassment in public facilities, including bathrooms and locker rooms. According to recent research published by The Fenway Institute, 65% of transgender people surveyed in Massachusetts experienced discrimination in public accommodations, including verbal and physical harassment or assault.

The petition text is viewable at www.keshetonline.org/work/petition-in-support-of-full-transgender-rights-in-massachusetts/support-transgender-rights-in-ma/. A list of signatories to the petition can be seen atwww.keshetonline.org/work/petition-in-support-of-full-transgender-rights-in-massachusetts/.

Selected photos can be found at www.flickr.com/photos/keshet/albums/72157666821271260.

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Keshet is a national organization that works for full LGBTQ equality and inclusion in Jewish life. Led and supported by LGBTQ Jews and straight allies, Keshet cultivates the spirit and practice of inclusion in all parts of the Jewish community. Our work is guided by a vision of a world in which all Jewish organizations and communities are strengthened by LGBTQ-inclusive policy, programming, culture and leadership, and where Jews of all sexual orientations and gender identities can live fully integrated Jewish lives.

Contact: Joanna Ware, Boston Regional Director
617.524.9227, ext. 109

A Step Forward for Inclusion

By Seth Goldberg, Government Affairs Associate

As you may recall, last July marked the 25th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act. The ADA gave civil rights to people with disabilities, making it illegal to discriminate based on disability in employment, state and local government services, public accommodations, transportation, and telecommunications.

Allow me to borrow the words of Elana Margolis, Associate Director at JCRC, from a blog post she authored to commemorate that anniversary:

“I know that removing barriers is not the same as creating opportunities. Twenty-five years later, across the country, unemployment rates for people with disabilities are disproportionately high; accessible and adequate educational opportunities are hard to find; and, transportation options remain sorely lacking.”

By no means has the ADA resolved all the challenges people with disabilities face daily, but it has certainly changed America’s accessibility, attitude, and awareness.

At JCRC, we advocate for employment services and community supports for our Commonwealth’s residents with disabilities. We  join with so many wonderful organizations – like Gateways, the CJP Synagogue Inclusion Project, the Ruderman Family Foundation and others here in Boston,– working hard for a fully inclusive Jewish community.

Since I am in a borrowing mood, I’ll share the words of Jeremy Burton, JCRC’s Executive Director, from one of his recent weekly blog posts:

“For JCRC as a network of the organized Jewish community, our mission isn’t focused solely on inclusion within our Jewish community. We also look beyond our community, bringing our values into the broader civic discourse. Together with so many of you, we are committed to ensuring that every single person in our Commonwealth has the opportunity to live to his or her fullest potential, with dignity and hope.”

This commitment was clearly visible earlier this month when JCRC worked with our partners and the Massachusetts State Senate to pass two bills aimed at removing barriers for people with disabilities. Senate Bills 1323 and 2142, passed on March 3rd, expand the range of housing and employment opportunities for those living with disabilities throughout the Commonwealth.

Senate Bill 1323, which we are working to ensure is approved by the House of Representatives and signed by the Governor, brings Massachusetts and federal regulations into alignment — creating more accessible housing units and improving access to employee-only areas in the workplace. Thank you to our partners on this initiative - the Massachusetts Independent Living Centers, the MS Society, Disability Policy Consortium and Easter Seals.

Senate Bill 2142 would require the state's Supplier Diversity Office to develop standards to identify and recruit, with the intent to hire, qualified applicants with disabilities for employment in its office. In addition, the bill requires that all state employees involved in hiring decisions be trained and educated to the standards of the Americans with Disabilities Act.

We are thrilled that the Senate also passed these additional bills that positively impact people living with disabilities:

  • Senate Bill 2140, an Act Eliminating Archaic Language Pertaining to Individuals with Disabilities in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.
  • Senate Bill 2413, an Act Eliminating Health Disparities in the Commonwealth.
  • Senate Bill 2141, An Act Updating Terminology and Investigative Practices Related to the Protection of Persons with a Disability.

We are grateful for the leadership of Senator James Timilty, Senator Barbara L’Italien and Chair of Senate Ways and Means, Senator Karen Spilka.  Our efforts now turn to working with members of the House of Representatives to ensure swift action to pass these bills.

The Jewish commitment to advocacy on behalf of people with disabilities runs deep in our tradition and JCRC will continue to work with the disability community as staunch advocates for services, opportunities, and inclusion.