Tag Archives: Community Relations

#TDOR: The Cost of Being Other

 

As I write to you from Germany, I’m reflecting on one of the lessons we draw from our own experience; that we all benefit and thrive in a free society where all are protected, and that it is vital for us to  speak out against all forms of fear and discrimination.  I look forward to sharing my learnings and observations when I return, but for today, as we recognize Transgender Day of Remembrance, we must continue to fight for and with those who are persecuted. As Keshet’s Boston Regional Director, Joanna Ware, said, “As Jews, we know all too well the cost of being marked as other. We know the collective pain of injustice and loss, and we know the necessity of marking and remembering that pain and mourning, in order to move forward into the more just, whole world we are all partners in creating.”

At their Biennial earlier this month, The Union for Reform Judaism passed a sweeping resolution affirming the rights of transgender people, citing its “commitment to defend any individual from the discrimination that arises from ignorance, fear, insensitivity, or hatred.” The resolution went on to assert that “ Knowing that members of the transgender and gender non-conforming communities are often singled out for discrimination and even violence, we are reminded of the Torah's injunction, "Do not stand idly while your neighbor bleeds." 
 
One of those people is Alex, of Brookline, MA.
 
“Eventually, [my job] became unbearable because the senior staff were making my life miserable because I was open about being transgender. So even somebody like myself, with all these credentials and all this training and all this experience—still gets discriminated against. I can’t reach my full potential, because of other people’s discrimination against me. [Judaism] connects me throughout the generations, with people all over the world. …Being Jewish has helped me in dealing with being transgender.”
 
Last week, JCRC urged the Massachusetts House and Senate to extend non-discrimination protections in public places to transgender individuals. Of the many reasons I am proud to be a resident of this Commonwealth, is our proud history of leading the nation when it comes to extending civil rights protections, in particular for the LGBT community. It is troubling that four years ago a compromise was made that still left some freedoms unprotected, including accessing facilities based on one’s gender identity.  We are proud of the broad spectrum of advocacy organizations, business leaders, and the entire membership of the Massachusetts Congressional delegation who are standing up to ensure that happens – because, for each day without these protections, transgender people face discrimination and humiliation, and are at greater risk of being victims of transphobic violence.

It is clear that times are changing and that history is shifting direction, as we reflected in the Union of Reform Judaism recent resolution.  But, we are far from done in our work to ensure full inclusion. We still need more education and understanding. Together we must aspire to be a community that embraces people of all gender identities.

Even when all transgender people are truly free, we must never forget the pain and sacrifices of those who gave so much – including losing their lives, due to violence rooted in ignorance that continues even today in our country.  This is why, in addition to our advocacy, we honor beloved members of OUR transgender community this weekend and commit ourselves to pursuing justice in their honor. May their memory truly be a blessing upon the freedoms of those of us who walk in their path.
 
With that, I will offer some resources so that we may learn together:

 

Shabbat Shalom,

Jeremy

 

You Are Not Alone

One of the many beautiful characteristics that defines the Boston Jewish community is our commitment to be in partnership and solidarity with other Jewish communities around the world. Amidst very difficult times for too many communities, it bears repeating that a fundamental value that informs that commitment is the notion that, when it comes to the security and community safety needs of others, we don’t tell them what to do.

Unfortunately we’ve had a lot of opportunities to say this lately.

Last January, following the vicious attacks in Paris on Charlie Hedbo and the Hyper Cacher kosher supermarket, there was much talk about what the future entails for the Jewish community of France. We did not have any right to tell French Jews what to do. Who are we to tell a mother that she must remain somewhere if she worries every day that she is endangering the lives of her children just by sending them to the market? Who are we to tell someone who has a job, treasured community and deep roots that they should give up on their country and leave it?

In Ukraine we have been committed for nearly a quarter century to a partnership with the Jewish community of Dnepropetrovsk. Together we have reinvigorated Jewish life in that city in ways that have enriched our own as well. As part of their country is under Russian occupation, as they live near the frontlines of the area of terrorist operations, and as they struggle with a downturn in the national economy, it’s still not our place to tell them what to do. Who are we to tell our friends, who made the commitment to stay after the fall of the Soviet Union, that they should now leave after all that they have built? And who are we to tell them to stay if they believe that this crisis is ‘one too many’ to endure?

In Sweden, where astoundingly Jews were excluded from participating in a Kristallnacht commemoration this week, we share their outrage. In Argentina, when the community expresses vulnerability after the death of Alberto Nisman and continues to seek answers regarding the AMIA bombing after 20 years, we share their concern and join them in their demands.

In all these relationships we come to the table with a commitment of solidarity. Our message to all these Jewish communities around the world is simple: Atem Lo L’vad. You are not alone. We will offer our advice and insight. We will tell you how your decisions impact us – as Jews and as Americans. But we will respect your decisions and we will stand with you when you make them, in any way we can. For Jews in these countries our message is clear: If you stay, we will bring our advocacy and resources to bear on your behalf. If you leave, you will do so with our support as you build new lives in Israel or elsewhere.

Part of understanding and supporting our brothers and sisters is to engage directly with them, to listen to them, and to understand theirs hopes and aspirations, along with their concerns, for their communities. That’s why I’m excited and honored that I’ll be spending the next week – together with a group of Jewish leaders from across North America - in Berlin and Munich as a guest of the German Foreign Office to learn about Jewish life in Germany today. Because only by being in relationship with our family around the world can we truly understand and be in solidarity with them. I look forward to telling you about my experience when we return.

Shabbat Shalom,

Jeremy

P.S. In related news, this coming week the Jewish Community Centers of Greater Boston will host a ‘Hot Buttons, Cool Conversations’ discussion “Anti-Semitism today in Europe - Is it safe for the Jews?” It’s a great lineup of thought leaders and JCRC is proud to co-sponsor. I encourage you to check it out.

Thousands of People are Waiting | A Message from our Director of Service Initiatives

Martin Luther King Jr said, “Everybody can be great because everybody can serve.”  Most of us are familiar with this quote and similar expressions of the importance of volunteerism.  Words like this have inspired generations of people to participate in community service.  This notion of making the world a better place through individual acts is deeply rooted in American culture, dating back to the colonial era with the first volunteer fire departments, and groups of volunteers who supported the revolution.  The pursuit of justice is at the core of Judaism as well. 

Today, volunteerism is widespread and serves as a common link between the for-profit, government, and non-profit sectors. The national conversation on this was front and center last week when I attended the Points of Light Conference on Volunteering and Service. The breadth of industries represented was extensive, from big name fashion corporations to municipal government groups to grassroots advocacy organizations, all with an investment in community service. It was clear that service is not only important in the non-profit world, but is crucial to the functioning of every sector. 

While there was a lot to take in from four days of conversation about all facets of the volunteer engagement world, a few lessons stood out. The United States is witnessing a unique and important moment in time for volunteerism. More than ever, millennials are looking for meaningful service work where they can roll up their sleeves and get their hands dirty. Bill Basl, Director of AmeriCorps, a featured speaker at the conference, cited that 70% of millennials have the desire to make a difference but only 3% volunteer. At the same time, the baby boomer generation is retiring and they want to use the skills they have cultivated over the years to serve a good cause. 

This is an exciting prospect for those of us thinking about how to include more people in volunteer service. There are thousands of people waiting for the right kind of opportunity. It was startling to learn that while 65 million Americans volunteer, 20 million do not return to serve again.  We clearly have our work cut out for us.

What are the implications for JCRC as a service organization and the Boston Jewish community?  We are extremely well positioned for this new pivot to community service. JCRC has a current portfolio of service programs that provides opportunities for people of all ages, millennials and baby boomers alike. Our hope for the future is to expand on these initiatives and provide a range of ways for the Jewish community to become involved in service. We are committed to recruiting, supporting and sustaining energetic groups of well trained volunteers who truly make a difference, by addressing needs identified and prioritized by our partners; community based organizations on the ground throughout Greater Boston.

Our volunteers are deeply passionate about the organizations with which they work. Our service sites drive the experience so the impact is real and meaningful. Sustained community service fosters genuine relationships between people that keep our volunteers coming back, sometimes for as much as eighteen years. 

Our sense of community derives from our shared Jewish values. A commitment to chessed and gimilut chasadim, acts of loving-kindness, is what keeps us grounded together in this work.  This winter, we will have another opportunity to come together, as representatives of the Jewish community, and in collaboration with volunteers throughout Greater Boston in the name of service. For the first time, JCRC will be organizing volunteers from the Jewish community to participate in the Martin Luther King Jr national day of service on January 18th, 2016. We will work together with our partners at City Mission to identify real community need, and engage our volunteers in a meaningful way. 

I invite you to join us in this movement, to learn more about our service programs, and to discover the right volunteer opportunity for you. 

Shabbat Shalom,

Emily Reichman
Director of Service Initiatives

On Israel Crisis Statements: Clarity and Complexity

When Israel is in crisis and violence flares, like many of you, my inbox is filled with messages from various organizations. I also hear a lot of questions from you about various organizations’ statements, including our own — Why does this one focus on this aspect of the violence? Why does that one only address A but not B?  Why did you choose to mention X but not Y?
 
My sense is that the elusive “perfect statement” is like the hunt for the great white whale; to effectively address every nuance, represent every concern of all members of our community, and say everything that should be said to every audience would require a massive novel every day. That’s not plausible and so, inevitably, no statement or comment is ever perfect.
 
What I’ve come to perceive is that we – the organized mainstream of the Jewish community - have a great deal of unity regarding our condemnation of the terrifying outbreak of violence against the Israeli people. However, we find it far more challenging to speak with one voice about the larger atmosphere in which the current crisis unfolds.
 
We have clarity about our solidarity with the Israeli people, our denunciation of acts of violence targeting civilians – and those who incite it, and our frustration with media bias.
 
We struggle however with the larger complexity — do we talk about how to manage this particular moment or do we speak about how to prevent future outbreaks of violence? We don’t agree amongst ourselves about what aspects of the larger environment are important to the narrative — continued Israeli control of Palestinians? Settlements (and which ones)? Arab rejection of a Jewish state, Jewish peoplehood, and even denial of any historical Jewish connection to the land? – to name just a few.
 
We are united in our resolve to ensure the future of a secure, democratic and Jewish state of Israel.  This is an integral piece of our shared vision of the Jewish people. When Israelis are under the threat of violence, we make our voice heard so that they do not experience this fear alone. Israel cannot be left isolated in the world.
 
As difficult and painful as this chapter is, the reality is that it is not an existential threat to the future of the Jewish state. Israel will, once again, find a way to protect its citizens, with or without international support. 
 
The far more serious threat to the future of Israel is isolation.  
 
It is infuriating that we need to wage this struggle against the isolation of Israel. I don’t need to reiterate for you the efforts of some, particularly but not limited to the global BDS movement, to demonize Israel.  But I will say that as violence flares and Israel grapples with dilemmas of response, what I worry about is that moment when people stop believing this: that the right of the Jewish people to a state of our own in our homeland is compatible with the right of the Palestinian people to their own national self-determination.  
 
These two national rights are and must remain compatible, if not necessarily easily achieved or even – for many of us – plausible in the near-term, given the current conditions. If we and, more importantly, others who are influential in this nation stop believing this to be true; if we and they begin to believe that Jewish and Palestinian rights are irreconcilable and incompatible, then Israel will truly be in a crisis as challenges to her legitimacy take root in more mainstream audiences.
 
So in moments like this, we will keep speaking with clarity about the immediate events, their proximate causes, and the justness of Israel’s response. But with equal urgency, we must keep engaging people with the larger complexity. We will continue to raise up the larger issues, the possibility of a better future, our belief in its necessity and our commitment to achieving it.  Without that, we will fail in our responsibility to the Israel we all love and care for.

Shabbat Shalom,

Jeremy

Stop Waiting for Congress on Gun Violence

"Clergy and Citizens to President Obama: Stop Whining, Start Working to Curb Gun Deaths.”

That was the message at a Metro Industrial Areas Foundation (IAF) press conference in Washington yesterday.

While last week’s mass shooting in Roseburg, Oregon should have fully captured our nation’s attention, we have, in truth, become numb. A shooting of this nature happens on average once every two weeks and even the slaughter of 20 children in Sandy Hook, CT didn’t lead to immediate national change. While this alone is mind-boggling, it doesn’t begin to express the scope of the plague of gun violence that takes some thirty-three thousand American lives each year.
 
It is little consolation to us that Massachusetts, once again, is found to be leading the nation. In ranking done by the Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence we have the lowest rate of gun deaths and some of the strongest gun violence prevention laws. This includes last year’s forward thinking legislation that JCRC, along with our member organization JALSA, and so many of our synagogues, took a leading role in working to enact.

In the wake of that victory, we have not been idle. We’ve been vigilant and persistent in ensuring that the new state law is fully implemented, an effort that is ongoing. But the prospect of enacting federal legislation is much more daunting, despite the support of our own delegation in Congress. The repetitive, nightmarish scenes of carnage we have both come to dread and expect, have yielded no new laws, or even the possibility of legislative action.
 
So it is important to know that amidst all the crass politics and cynical obstructionism, there is far more that can be done right now. 
 
We are participating in the Do Not Stand Idly By campaign - a national effort led by Metro IAF to leverage taxpayers’ purchasing power to compel gun manufacturers to adopt safer practices and invest in smart gun technology.
 
The public sector purchases 40 percent of all guns in the United States - 25% for military use and an additional 15% by law enforcement.  That’s a lot of leverage – enough to build demand for products and standards that promote safety and lawful, responsible gun use.
 
The campaign is building a Gun Buyers’ Research Group of public officials committed to purchasing guns from manufacturers who are accountable for the safety of their products. They are asking tough questions about their investment in smart gun technology and their vetting of the dealers with whom they work. Together we have built a sizable coalition of mayors, police chiefs and governors representing 77 jurisdictions, including MA Attorney General Maura Healey, Boston Mayor Marty Walsh, and Newton Mayor Setti Warren.  
 
And this campaign led to yesterday’s press conference. Because we should expect and demand more of all our public officials, including the President, who – with his command authority over the largest single gun purchasing power in the nation - could be doing so much more right now.

Please read about this work and yesterday’s message in this excellent Washington Post column by E.J. Dionne.

The next major action will take place later this month at an international law enforcement gathering. JCRC will join faith leaders and police chiefs to demand answers from gun manufacturers, who will be in attendance, selling their products. In the wake of the constant mass shootings and unending epidemic of gun violence, the manufacturers’ continued silence is unacceptable.
 
Leviticus teaches us, “Do not stand idly by while your neighbor’s blood is shed.”
 
We, and our partners, will not be idle so long as one life can be saved through our efforts. I hope you will join us in this effort.

Shabbat Shalom,

Jeremy

Note: At the time this message was posted, news was breaking of a shooting earlier today at North Arizona University that left 1 dead and 3 wounded in the latest eruption of gun violence. 

Why Service?

Last night, JCRC was very proud to host JCRC Celebrates: Generations of Service, where we recognized JCRC’s community service programs and the generations of leaders who’ve made them possible. Through the generosity of our community, our inaugural live auction raised nearly $45,000 to benefit our service programs, and we are extremely appreciative to all.

Why, some have asked, do we put service programs at the heart of our work as a community relations agency along with our advocacy and interfaith agenda?

I’m certain that you will begin to understand why after you view our new video, Generations of Service, which we premiered last night. Please take a few minutes now to watch HERE. I hope you’ll be as inspired by our volunteers as I am.

JCRC exists so that we can express our Jewish community’s values in the broader public square of Boston. There is no clearer way of expressing our values than through action, through the doing of service. 

As I sat in synagogue on Rosh Hashanah I was reminded again that in our prayers this week we express contrition - not for our beliefs but for our actions; and we express contrition for these actions not in a singular “I,” but in the plural responsibility of “We.”

We do not live our Judaism through shared beliefs - though we do share a few of those - but rather by what we do.  And so much of what we do is to act upon our responsibility to others around us.

When we provide meals and share a conversation with those who are struggling; when we sit with children and help them learn to read; when we connect joyfully with seniors; we are acting on our respect for the dignity of others and demonstrating our responsibility for those around us.

In celebrating JCRC’s community service programs and the generations of leaders who’ve made them possible we honored three families – the Lynda and Jeff Bussgang family, Amanda and Campe Goodman, and Rachel and Joel Reck - who have, through their leadership, allowed us to build robust service opportunities in our community, and acted as role models for others.  We also honored my friend and mentor, Barry Shrage. I can think of no better way for us at JCRC to celebrate his legacy than to establish an award in his name and to carry forward the idea that he has consistently taught us for 30 years: To act on our values, to fulfill our responsibility to the people around us, and to relate to others with love and compassion.

This is what service is about. This is what JCRC is about. This is what our community is about.

I hope that you’ll take a few minutes to read our new annual report to learn about opportunities to join us in service, organizing, and advocacy during the coming year.

I’m grateful to all of those who’ve worked so hard to bring us together last night, especially our fabulous event chair Mark Friedman and his co-chair Ben Pearlman along with the JCRC event team who together envisioned this evening and made it a labor of love.

Thank you all for being part of our community and our work.

Shabbat Shalom,

Jeremy

Our Labor Day Obligation | A Message from our Government Affairs Director

On June 28, 1894, the federal government enacted a law “Making Labor Day a Legal Holiday,” setting aside the first Monday of September to honor the social and economic achievements of organized American workers. For the casual observer, Labor Day typically marks the end of summer, the return to school and the end of the generally acceptable period to wear white (or the summer dress code at JCRC). But the true underpinning of the day is in recognition of the achievements of the labor movement and the creation of an infrastructure by our predecessors to address current workplace inequities.
 
The history of the labor movement runs concurrent with that of the American Jewish experience; from the fight for safer working conditions, hour and wage laws, and individual empowerment. This is not merely a recent development; our great sages have long maintained that we have an obligation to ensure that workers are compensated fairly with the opportunity to sustain their families. This proud tradition has continued from generation to generation, and across great economic and geographic divides.
 
It is almost unfathomable today to envision an American economy prior to the protections that came out of the early Labor movement, through the Progressive Era, and the New Deal including the elimination of sweatshops, the implementation of labor and wage laws, and occupational protections.  To envision a society where locked doors and unsanitary conditions could produce the tragedy of the Triangle Shirtwaist Fire, killing 146 people (mostly recently immigrated Jewish women) is incomprehensible. Overall working conditions have improved drastically from the turn of the 20th Century, but the struggle for dignity and economic justice persists.
 
Today, JCRC, along with our communal partners, including the Jewish Labor Committee, the Boston Workmen’s Circle, and JVS, and many others are at the forefront of efforts to help people enter the workplace, with decent wages, workplace protections and the opportunity for economic mobility.  We are engaged in a multitude of efforts to support workers, including  increasing the state’s Minimum Wage, Earned Sick Time, the Earned Income Tax Credit, Regulating the Use of Credit Checks, Gender Pay Equity, the Pregnant Worker’s Fairness Act, and a Resolution Increasing Diversity on Corporate Boards.  We will continue to be vigilant, vocal and innovative partners with our friends on Beacon Hill and beyond to ensure that workers are protected and treated fairly.
 
So, this Monday, as you pack away your swim suits, put away your summer whites and go about your day, take a moment to peruse the Jewish Women’s Archive  or the Jewish Labor Committee and JALSA websites to take a deeper dive into the history of the movement; think about your neighbors with two full time jobs who still cannot meet the most basic needs of their families, consider the workers  who pick your vegetables and fruits, or toil in the underground economy without the dignity they deserve, remember the recent immigrants and refugees seeking the same dream of our parents, grandparents and great grandparents and then finally, think about what we can do together to fulfill our most basic Jewish values.

Shabbat Shalom,

Aaron Agulnek
Director of Government Affairs

 

Creating Space

This Sunday we will observe the fast of Tisha B’Av, the 9th day of the lunar month of Av, on which we commemorate the destruction of the Jewish Temple in Jerusalem almost 2,000 years ago.  I have no doubt, especially this year, that you will be inundated with various messages concerning this day, the tradition that “the Temple was destroyed because of Sin’at Chinam (gratuitous hatred among Jews),” and, with the Iran nuclear deal on the table, messages bemoaning the threat of destruction – once again – that our beloved Jewish State faces in these difficult times.
 
Allow me to take a slightly different approach.
 
An Orthodox friend of mine tells me that Tisha B’Av has become meaningless to him because crying for a destroyed Temple suggests that we are a powerless people when, in fact, it is the political choice of a powerful modern Jewish state not to rebuild the Temple. Many of us – me included – have no burning desire to restore the Temple or animal sacrifices, even as we say “Next year in Jerusalem” at our Passover Seders.
 
Tisha B’Av today has become but one more point of interpretive and ideological division amongst the Jewish people.
 
So rather than push upon you the tropes of Sin’at Chinam and an empowered Jewish commonwealth, let us seize this moment to confront the difficulty before us:
 
I find that legitimate divisions and debates over the Iran deal are too frequently being manipulated in a greater effort to advance agendas about who is, or is not, in our communal tent.  Rather than assess a significant international agreement for what it is, for its potential success and for its flaws, too many people are looking at it as a Rorschach for whether you meet some pre-defined notion of what it means to be “pro-Israel.”
 
I find that for too many of us, we came to this discussion with predetermined political positions, without curiosity about why others aren’t where we are – pro or con – what their concerns are, and what makes them so certain of their positions.
 
Whatever the outcome of the debate is in the coming weeks, I fear that we’re doing lasting damage to our sense of being a Jewish community. We’re exacerbating the difficulties amongst ourselves, and come September 18th or thereabouts we’ll be left to pick up the pieces or – even worse – no longer even trying to do so.
 
I don’t seek to stifle this important debate. I too come to it with some ideas about where I and JCRC stand (and where we are not yet standing). But I want to challenge myself and all of us to come to this debate with some burning overarching principles:

  • Can each of us, in every moment, practice an open-hearted curiosity toward each other; and seek to understand each others’ fears and hopes, our concerns and questions, resisting the impulse to persuade or convince but rather to just understand and perceive?
  • Can each of us challenge ourselves to debate “for the sake of heaven” taking care not to create unbridgeable rifts? Can we say “how can I share my point of view with this person without judging them, without conveying that their perspective is an imperfect Zionism, a lesser form of loyalty to the Jewish people?
  • As important as the outcome of this debate is, can we commit ourselves to be One People the day after it is concluded?

For me, the most inspiring vision of the Temple era comes from the Midrash, our own national “mythology.” It tells us that despite its physical limitations of space, the Temple Mount mystically expanded its space to accommodate all of the people of Israel who came from our disparate communities and tribes to celebrate the high festivals together.
 
If we can commit to these things together, if we can hold each other accountable to this intention, to truly engage this debate with open-hearted curiosity toward each other, then we can accomplish something together on this Tisha B’Av. We can yearn for and work to restore an idea of a Temple experience: To be an expansive people, creating space, wide open and welcoming for us all, wherever we are right now, in this moment, in this difficult time.
 
Our survival – as a people and as a nation– depends far more on how we treat each other than it does on any agreement, any deal, and the protection of any ally.

Shabbat Shalom,

Jeremy

Testimony on An Act Regulating Use of Credit Reports by Employers (as prepared)

Testimony on House Bill 1736 and Senate Bill 123 – An Act Regulating Use of Credit Reports by Employers (as prepared)

Delivered by Aaron Agulnek, July 21, 2015

Good Afternoon Chairman Wolf and Chairman Scibak and members of the Committee. My name is Aaron Agulnek and I am from the Jewish Community Relations Council and I am here to testify in support of House Bill 1736 and Senate Bill 123, which would restrict the ability of employers to run pre employment credit checks on applicants and potential employees.

I do not need to tell you about the significant barriers to employment faced by many people in our communities.  Whether it is the lack of reliable child care, access to affordable transportation, insufficient vocational and skills training opportunities, limited English proficiency, or a disability; the odds are stacked high up against people trying to get back on their feet and into meaningful employment.  As we all know, good-paying jobs with defined career ladder opportunities are an essential path to economic mobility.

However, a trend has emerged where employers are running pre-employment credit checks and rejecting qualified individuals with so called “bad” credit out-of-hand.  This is bad policy and in most cases not even relevant to an individual’s fitness for employment! Our senior Senator Elizabeth Warren filed similar legislation in Congress and she stated that: “It makes no sense to make it harder for people to get jobs because of a system of credit reporting that has no correlation with job performance and can be riddled with inaccuracies." I can’t agree more.  It just makes no sense!

There are a multitude of reasons why an individual can have bad credit, from large medical debt, student loans, foreclosures, and yes, even errors by the credit rating agencies. One of the main reasons, however, is because of unemployment!  Basically, we have employers telling job seekers that because they are unemployed they are not qualified to be employed and therefore must remain unemployed.  So our friends, family, and neighbors are plunged further and further into debt, put more strain on the safety net, are more despondent about their future prospects and so on.  This is a cycle that needs to end.

As a Commonwealth, we have a duty to work together to create policies that support our citizenry and reduce obstacles so all people have the tools to provide for themselves and their families AND to live lives of dignity.  The Jewish community, through the innovative work of JVS, has been honored to work with this esteemed Committee, and our community partners to develop and implement innovative educational, vocational and skills-based programs that get people into jobs, with defined career ladders and opportunities for growth, and turn perceived obstacles into employable strengths. But even the best support and training cannot overcome this pre-employment credit rating threshold.

We have been your partners in efforts to increase the minimum wage, to extend earned sick leave, and to invest in crucial job training efforts. As a Commonwealth, we have come a long way towards focusing on opportunities for shared prosperity and economic opportunity; but we still have a long way to go.  We respectfully request that you report  House Bill 1736 and Senate Bill 123 out favorably and put an end to the arbitrary and unnecessary use of credit history in employment.

I also wanted to note on the record the JCRC’s strong support for An Act to Establish Equal Pay (House Bill 1733 and Senate Bill 983); Resolutions to Encourage Equitable and Diverse Gender Representation on the Boards of Companies in the Commonwealth (Senate 1007); and An Act Establishing the Massachusetts Pregnant Workers Fairness Act (House 1769) and are proud to stand with the Equal Pay Coalition and urge a favorable report out of Committee.