Tag Archives: Government Affairs

Protect Girls H2333 and S788

In March of 2017, JCRC’s Public Policy Committee endorsed legislation banning female genital mutilation (FGM) as consistent with our values and policies to protect and promote the health and wellbeing of girls and women in the Commonwealth. House Bill 2333 and Senate Bill 788,  cosponsored by 50% of the legislature, would create a program for education, prevention and outreach for communities that practice FGM, requires mandated reporters to inform the Department of Children and Families (DCF) if a child has suffered from physical or emotional injury resulting from FGM, and criminalizes the acts of committing FGM on a child or taking a child in or out of the Commonwealth to commit FGM or to permit another to commute FGM. JCRC has offered testimony to the chairs of the Judiciary Committee in support of the legislation.

Senator William Brownsberger, Chair
Joint Committee on the Judiciary
24 Beacon Street, Room 504
Boston, MA 02133

 

cc: Representative Claire Cronin, Chair
Joint Committee on the Judiciary
24 Beacon Street, Room 136
Boston, MA 02133

 

Dear Representative Cronin and Senator Brownsberger,

The Jewish Community Relations Council (JCRC) strongly supports An Act to Protect Girls From Genital Mutilation (H2333 and S788) and respectfully urges you to support the bills to ban Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) in Massachusetts.

FGM involves removing part or all of a girl’s healthy sex organs and surrounding tissue for non-medical reasons, often resulting in serious health consequences, the risk of death in childbirth, and lifelong trauma. There are no health benefits to this practice. Girls who are subjected to FGM are commonly between the ages of four and ten years old.  The procedure is typically performed without anesthesia, using a knife or razor.

According to a recent CDC study, half a million women and girls living in the United States have been mutilated or are at risk of FGM. Fourteen thousand such women and girls reside in Massachusetts. Some of these girls are in danger of being mutilated either in this country or back in the country they or their parents emigrated from. In some communities, even if parents do not want to continue the practice of FGM, the social pressures from others in their community can force parents to subject their girls to FGM.

This bill will act as a preventative tool for families who want to end this practice but remain afraid of social pressures to do so. Also, the bill will provide for community-wide education on the harmfulness of FGM. Twenty-four states have laws banning FGM.  Massachusetts is not one of them.  We need this law now to protect our girls and to send a strong message that the practice of FGM is not tolerated in Massachusetts.

Thank you for your attention to this important issue.

Sincerely,

Adam Suttin
President, JCRC

 

JCRC Statement regarding proposed MA Democratic Party Resolution

In response to press inquiries regarding the proposed resolution on peace and security for Israelis and Palestinians, JCRC Executive Director Jeremy Burton has offered the following statement on behalf of JCRC:

"We share the sentiment of the resolution's sponsors that both Israelis and Palestinians deserve to live in peace and security achieved through a two-state solution. However, this resolution presents a simplistic response to a complex conflict. By offering a one-dimensional response to a multi-dimensional problem, the resolution is a failed opportunity to offer constructive guidance on how to achieve peace. We urge people of good will to support those Israelis and Palestinians on the ground who are working together to create the conditions of co-existence and mutual respect that are necessary for achieving the peace we all yearn for.

This is a time of great uncertainty in the world. Serious questions are being raised about our own governments' ability to lead. Given the ongoing humanitarian disaster in Syria, the challenge of North Korea, and the threats to liberal democratic institutions in Europe, among other issues, we are interested to see if the proponents will put forth a comprehensive foreign policy platform articulating American interests in the world and addressing the numerous international challenges we must face.

We share the drafters' sense of urgency that together we must address rising anti-Muslim hate in the wake of the election. We are curious why the resolution does not address the actual policies that are being advanced in Washington, such as limiting visitors to the U.S. from several majority-Muslim countries and closing our doors to immigrants and refugees from the Muslim and Arab world. We would hope that any serious response to rising anti-Muslim sentiment in Washington would address these issues as well as the increase in hate targeting our Muslim neighbors here in Massachusetts and around the country."

Conventions and Conversations

If you are like me you are probably a bit sleep deprived today, having stayed up far too late for most of the last two weeks watching the two party conventions, their speakers, floor drama, and subsequent analysis. Or, maybe you only watched one convention, or maybe some key moments, highlights, or possibly just followed some of the coverage without staying up for the speeches. Either way, most of us are alike in one aspect – by and large we watched with at least some pre-existing notions about who we’d be voting for in November, and by and large what we saw and heard reaffirmed our notions.

To be fair, national party conventions aren’t about the practice of speaking to those already affirmed in their loyalty across the partisan divide. They are intended to establish the candidates and their parties as clear alternatives to each other. The rhetoric is, quite naturally, a mix of inspiration to mobilize a political base and, when effective, to re-introduce candidates and make some headway with those who are on the fence. Frankly, in an election season, it is vitally important to articulate and make known the distinctions between the candidates. We must be clear about the consequences of the choices in front of us, and we must cast our votes with the solemnity of the power that is entrusted to us in doing so.

But we also need to have the conversations that bridge our divides – as a nation, and for that matter as a Jewish community; the conversations that enable us to understand those with whom we deeply disagree, to identify and define shared national aspirations, to dream as one people, and to determine how our leaders should govern for the whole nation. We haven’t been able to have those conversations in recent years when – as Pew has noted – our increasingly negative partisan feelings toward each other have pushed us further away from finding common ground with each other.

One might ask why we must (and even how we can possibly) make an effort to converse with people whose views are opposed to ours or perhaps deeply offensive to us? Reasons are abundant – including the importance of unity to counter the daunting challenges in these difficult times. It is worth evoking David Brooks’ proposition that in a deeply complex world, the better conversation is rooted in “a sense of personal modesty and from the ensuing gratitude for the political process” which improves the mediocre idea or legislation. Brooks' writes that in this system, “others argue with you, correct you and introduce elements you never thought of. Each of these efforts may also be flawed, but together, if the system is working well, they move things gradually forward.”

As smart, passionate, knowledgeable and experienced as each of us and any of our leaders may be, Brooks argues that people should be modest enough to acknowledge that “they are useless without the conversation.” That there is no greater wisdom than the one society acquires through a collective process of sharing, disputing and discussing ideas over time.

I’m reminded of a verse we’re all familiar with from Leviticus 19: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”

We are less familiar with the sentences leading up to this injunction:

“You shall not hate your brother in your heart. You shall surely rebuke your neighbor, and not bear sin because of him. You shall not take vengeance, nor bear any grudge against the children of your people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself. I am the Lord.”

When read in full, the biblical text calls us not only to love our neighbor, and not only to rebuke them when necessary, but do both simultaneously, as equally important social duties. I read this text as a reminder that we need to disagree, and rebuke, but always with love. We can argue, but we must not have malice. We can debate, but we must not divide.

During the 2012 election cycle Rabbi Amy Eilberg, writing about polarized political communication, quoted Martin Buber:

“The human world is today, as never before, split into two camps, each of which understands the other as the embodiment of falsehood and itself as the embodiment of truth. . . . Each side has assumed monopoly of the sunlight and has plunged its antagonist into night, and each side demands that you decide between day and night. . . . ”

Noting that these words, written in 1952, could apply to our modern politics and to Jewish communal disputes, Rabbi Eilberg wrote:

“I can imagine how pained Buber would be to see the dynamics of polarization growing ever more violent with the passage of time, endangering the integrity and cohesiveness of Jewish communities and of democratic societies. But once we recognize the underlying dynamics of polarized communication, we may rediscover our ability to relate to others — even our ideological opponents — as persons created in the image of God, our neighbors and friends.”

Four years later, we are more polarized than ever.

As I head into the weekend ready to catch up on my sleep, I’m glad I watched both conventions. I like being an informed voter, knowing the messages of both parties and both candidates, and – frankly –I am thrilled at the experience of witnessing the historic breaking of a glass ceiling in real time. But I’m also yearning, maybe fantastically, for another convention; the one where we’ll all come together – every American - to listen respectfully and humbly, to rebuke with love, to find understanding, and to remind ourselves that all of us are created in the Divine image.

Shabbat Shalom,

Jeremy

A Day at the State House with Sam and Dave

By Seth Goldberg, Government Affairs Associate

With the House set to debate the Transgender Public Accommodations bill today, I can’t help but recall my time with Sam and Dave….

I’m a registered lobbyist, so I find myself in the State House quite frequently. But on this recent day, I was there with Freedom Massachusetts and individual and organizational activists to push the House to pass this bill after it recently passed the Senate in a very emotionally charged debate. As part of the lobby day, I was with a small group of advocates comprised of the mother of a transgender son, a corrections officer who came out as a trans woman last year, and a father, Dave, with his trans son, Sam.

Sam is a happy, shy, and sweet 8th grader who took the day off from school to tell his story. There, among the historic portraits and marble staircases I frequented, it was Sam and Dave’s story that transformed me from lobbyist to advocate.

Sam first met with his State Senator, Richard Ross. While Senator Ross was familiar with Sam’s story, it was the first time they had met in person. Ready to leap into action, Sam became even more enthused when he heard Senator Ross explain why he cast his historic and deciding vote for Marriage Equality 10 years ago, and why he supported the Transgender Public Accommodations bill. He told Sam about how both his daughter and son came out to him as gay after his vote on Marriage Equality. He went on, saying that he was proud to cast both votes and was happy to do his part in helping Sam and the Trans community have the freedom to be who they are as individuals. After expressing his deep gratitude to Senator Ross, Sam set off on his next mission: find an opponent to the bill and enlighten them. This kid clearly has a future in lobbying!

And, then there was Dave – Sam’s dad, who spoke in each meeting about how accepting Sam’s friends had been, how the school system has made accommodations, and about how despite this, he is still very concerned for his son. He worries about what will happen when Sam goes to college, or even when he goes to the local pizza parlor, or enters any number of other public spaces where he doesn’t have the legal protections he does while in the K-12 system. He told legislators that this bill is so important because, like any other parent, he worries about his child. Dave told them that people often marvel at his support of his son, to which he replies, “Of course I support him, he’s my child.”

As we wrapped up our meetings, those words continued to echo in my ears and fuel my message of support. My ordinary day at the State House became so extraordinary and I wanted Sam and Dave to know that they had a deep impact through their advocacy. After getting them a VIP, all-access tour of the House Chamber, a picture on the rostrum, and a private tour from a member of the House, I shared with them that they were now the inspiration for my work. I felt like Sam and Dave’s personal advocate, working to make Sam’s life better and safer, and creating a better place to live for the other kids that I haven’t met yet.

So, it is with Sam and Dave in mind, that I thank Governor Baker for stating that he will sign the bill if passed with the language being debated in the House today, and I call upon the House to speedily do so today…for Sam and Dave’s sake.

Dilemmas in a Dark Moment

In 2012, when Barney Frank decided to leave Congress, JCRC organized a candidates’ forum with the Democratic and Republican candidates running to succeed him. We heard from a few people in our community who objected to our engagement with one of the candidates who held strong views on a range of issues in opposition to stances taken by JCRC.
 
We took that opportunity to remind our Council that as a 501 (c)(3) organization, the IRS code allows us to advocate for our priorities but bars us from showing preference to a particular candidate. And we pointed out that although the likelihood of this particular candidate being elected was low, it was still a possibility, so we had an obligation to our community to find a way to be in a relationship with him should he win.
 
I’m reminded of this exchange as we and many of our member organizations are facing the far more significant dilemmas posed by this year’s presidential election.
 
This weekend I will be at the AIPAC Policy Conference, where most major candidates are confirmed to speak and all have been invited. The inclusion of the Republican front-runner has brought reactions, including the Reform Movement’s vow to “engage” him, while there, “in a way that affirms our nation's democracy and our most cherished Jewish values.” ADL’s national director this week published an op-ed calling the candidate’s ideas “bigoted, revolting and simply un-American,” and expressing the hope that it is this behavior that “all people regardless of their political affiliation call out at every instance.”
 
Regardless of how troubling many of us find the rhetoric and behavior of this candidate, by inviting him to its conference, AIPAC is simply doing its job.
Those who tell you today that there is no way that this candidate could become President are the same people who were saying six months ago that he could not possibly come as far as he already has. As a focused, single-issue organization, AIPAC has a responsibility to engage the next President of the United States and clarify that person’s view on the U.S.-Israel relationship without indicating any bias or preference. We need to fully hear his views on this matter in more than debate one-liners.
 
It is also true that this is a profoundly troubling moment in our history.  Never have we seen such a degradation of this nation’s political discourse. The qualities that have made this country great for Jews and in fact, for all Americans – robust liberal democracy, constitutional freedom, a commitment to civil liberties and the protection of minority rights – are under direct challenge. Our nation without these qualities would become a more dangerous place for all of us. Beyond our shores, America would become further diminished in the world (including, for what it is worth, as an effective advocate for Israel in international arenas). Let’s not kid ourselves — those who said we could afford to ignore a candidate’s comments six months ago are no longer laughing at them.
 
It is within this context that I have profound admiration for leaders who are speaking to this political moment. I deeply appreciate those in our community who are not limited by their responsibility to particular institutional roles and who are giving voice to a robust critique of some candidates. I honor the way in which the URJ is approaching a moral calling without diminishing the importance of AIPAC’s obligation to the pro-Israel community.
 
I don’t know what will happen during this coming week or over the course of the campaign. I do know that when I show up at AIPAC on Sunday, I will be there as the director of this institution. As such, I will honor the responsibility placed on me by our community to steward our public voice in all its breadth and diversity without partisan bias or preference for any candidate. I’ll also honor being entrusted to articulate our values and interests with as much clarity as circumstances allow.
 
Even in this dark moment – when I’m continually asked, “What should we do? What can we do?” - I take some heart in the respectful ways in which our various member organizations are navigating a difficult dilemma without demeaning and denigrating each other and in the seriousness of thought with which our community is confronting the moment.
 
I draw strength in the unity of purpose that I see emerging. We are renewing our shared commitment to an American idea that has served us so well and that, if we fight to ensure its survival, will continue to renew our nation in the years to come. In that, and in the knowledge that we as a nation have faced dark political moments before and are today stronger for them, I have hope for a better future.

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. 

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.

Hey JCRC, How Did You Decide To Do That?!

Last week we publicly celebrated the Massachusetts legislature’s agreement to increase the state’s share of the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) (a refundable tax credit to help low-income workers, particularly those with children) in the Fiscal Year 2016 budget.  Upon seeing that news, you may have wondered, how did JCRC decide to make a statement recognizing this accomplishment, and more generally, how does JCRC decide when and how to make public pronouncements?

JCRC is a network of 42 Greater Boston Jewish organizations.  Our Council is comprised of some 120 members, representatives from these member organizations along with other individual community leaders. They debate resolutions and statements of principle that provide the framework for our further interpretation and implementation.

Our policy areas originate in three ways: top-down through the Jewish Council for Public Affairs (JCPA) resolutions system, a national process for articulating and defining a Jewish community relations agenda; bottom-up through our member organizations, partner agencies, and community members; and, outside-in through listening to the pulse of Beacon Hill and Capitol Hill. Often these streams combine and amplify our position and message.

Our work on the EITC is a prime example of those three sources of information working in concert. Through the JCPA process, our Council has spoken on multiple occasions about the need for policies which help lift people out of poverty; our partnership with JVS showed the clear nexus between the clients they serve and the benefit of the EITC; and finally, our conversations with our allies on Beacon Hill, including Governor Charlie Baker, Speaker Robert DeLeo and Senator Stanley Rosenberg, indicated a political willingness to address the issue.  With these three sources clearly aligned, we were able to move with alacrity, joining with a coalition of advocates, testifying at the legislative hearing, drafting letters to the editors and finally publicly celebrating its eventual increase.

Sometimes, especially outside of the confines of our domestic policy, the stars do not always align so clearly and a decision about what voice we should offer is more art than science. That art includes consulting more voices in our own community, keeping an eye on what our national member organizations are doing on those issues, and being particularly conscious of who our audience is – as one local community - on a national stage, all while being cognizant that we are often being called to speak to issues where we lack technical expertise.

With regard to issues impacting Israel, we believe that the global Jewish community plays a key role in realizing the vision of Israel as a Jewish democracy and that we have the responsibility to advocate, agitate, and support Israelis in achieving that vision. We also believe in a healthy respect for Israel’s decisions, through her democratically elected government, on matters of security. A healthy respect doesn’t mean they have a veto, but when Israel is united on a matter of security, even if we disagree, we won’t work publicly against them – and, of course, the question of what is a security issue for Israel is sometimes up for debate.

At the end of the day, every day, we seek to find and define the center of Boston’s organized Jewish community, and then articulate that center point to the world around us. In moments of conflict, we turn inwards for that enlightenment. We are informed by what we hear from you, the leaders – at JCRC and amongst our member agencies. We need you to tell us what you think our community ought to be speaking up on, and where it is in our community’s interest for JCRC’s voice to be heard. We won’t always do what any one person thinks – in fact there are many issues where we don’t advocate what I personally support – but your voices and your insights enrich the conversation about this collective space that we all own together.

As we move together into a time of questions and issues of great significance, I hope you will find this helpful in both understanding how JCRC operates, and how your voice can be part of the discussion.

Shabbat Shalom,

Jeremy

Independence for All? A Message from Our Associate Director

Just as our Executive Director Jeremy Burton left for his much-deserved vacation, we had a full taste of summer in the form of July 4th celebrations, back yard barbeques, fireworks, and almost-warm swims in the lake. After all, what better time to celebrate summer than Independence Day weekend?

This year, as we gathered around the fire pit to make s’mores and watch the local fireworks, I couldn’t help but think about my mom and wonder how Independence Day must have felt for her. My mother, of blessed memory, was disabled. When I was turning five and gaining more independence daily, my mom began using a wheelchair and seemed to be losing hers. From that point on, she faced constant challenges and barriers to independent living, and largely relied on my dad to help her live a full life.

I don’t usually have such significant thoughts as I relax with friends, but this July will also mark the 25th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act – the ADA. 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.

There was no ADA when I was a young child growing up with a mom with disabilities. Then, 25 years ago, 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. Later, as a teenager, I saw the world slowly transform for my mother as curb cuts appeared on sidewalks, elevators and lifts were installed, public transportation became a more viable option, and parking spaces were available in every almost lot.

Now, as an adult, 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.

In 1990, advocates fought for change and achieved tremendous success in the form of the ADA. Now, in 2015, during the month in which we celebrate our country’s independence, let’s join together to recommit as advocates for access to true independence for people with disabilities. I am so proud to be part of a team at JCRC that is doing just that. Thanks to passionate and visionary supporters (including several individuals and the Ruderman Family Foundation), JCRC is advocating for employment services and community supports for our Commonwealth’s residents with disabilities and will continue to work with the disability community as staunch advocates for services, opportunities, and inclusion.

Before we get much further past the pomp and circumstance of July 4th, join me in taking a moment to think about the true meaning of independence and what it will take to make it more attainable for all. As we celebrate the 25th Anniversary of the ADA, let’s create a new vision for independence that we’ll be celebrating 25 years from now, and let’s get to work to make it a reality!

Shabbat Shalom,

Elana H. Margolis
Associate Director