Tag Archives: JCRC Celebrates

Because All Children are Our Responsibility 

As we celebrate the twentieth year of the Greater Boston Jewish Coalition for Literacy, we also celebrate the values that inspire our work. Values such as:

Tikvah – creating hope, including for youth and their future.

Tzelem Elohim – believing that all our children are created equally in the divine image, and;

Areyvut – our sense of mutual responsibility, including to all our neighbors’ children.

These values have inspired us to connect volunteer tutors to kids, and they inspire all the work that we at JCRC are proud to do every day.

They inform the three abiding imperatives that drive our commitment to the relationship building, partnerships and advocacy that define community relations work:

  1. We believe in the promise of America, in the hope and potential of our nation, despite our challenges, and in the idea that our nation is at its best when we are creating opportunity and equality for all who live here.
  2. We believe in the national hopes and aspirations of the Jewish people, in our collective future and the contributions we have made and will make to the world.  And those aspirations include a vibrant future for the state of the Jewish people, Israel.
  3. And we believe that, despite whatever differences we have within our own community, we have to work together; because we cannot achieve our hopes alone. And, we have to work in the public square of civil society to build support for our priorities and our shared values.

This is why JCRC, as a broad network including 42 organizations, partnering with synagogues, rabbis and community leaders, each leading in their own way reflecting their unique skills and passions – comes together as one community, working for the brightest possible future, including for our own children and the children of our neighbors.


Clockwise from top left: JCRC Celebrates Honoree Mark Friedman with Barry Shrage, CJP President; Mark’s tutee, Ohrenberger School 4th grader Adam, speaks at JCRC Celebrates; JCRC Executive Director Jeremy Burton; Event Chair and Co-Chair Stacey Bloom (left) and Debbie Isaacson

Because every child has the potential to contribute to the strength of our nation. That is why earlier this year we brought together seventeen of the most influential Jewish organizations in Boston to say that we must keep our doors open to immigrants and refugees, and that we will protect and support our neighbors regardless of their immigration status.

Because every child, every girl - and boys too - should know that if they study hard and work an honest day they’ll be treated fairly. That is why we worked to pass the Equal Pay Law last summer.

Because every child should be able to go to their synagogue, their mosque or to a JCC without fear. That is why we advocate that our government provide the resources necessary to ensure the safety and security of non-profit institutions.

Because every child should be able to follow their passions – sports, arts, whatever - and be able to go to public venues knowing that they will be welcome. That is why we fought to pass the Transgender Public Accommodation Law and we will defend it if challenged on the ballot next year.

And because the children of Israel should have a future of peace in a Jewish and democratic state. They should be able to live in co-existence with their neighbors, and with the security that all people deserve.

That is why we engage civic and religious leaders in support of Israel. Over the past five years we’ve taken over fifty Christian clergy and civic leaders and fully one-third of the Massachusetts legislature to Israel to deepen their appreciation of the Israel we love and the people we believe in.

That is why we work to prevent the demonization of Israel in Boston and around the world. And it is why we build support for Israelis and Palestinians who are coming together on the ground to create the conditions for a future of two-states living side by side in peace.

We do all this rooted in the same values that inspire us to reach out to young adults, to synagogues, to student groups and others, inviting them to do service – in soup kitchens and youth programs, with seniors and with kids needing tutoring.

Because every child deserves a quality education and the chance to acquire the skills needed for success. And we believe it is our responsibility to help those children realize their dreams. That is why, twenty years ago, with the leadership of so many of you, JCRC established the Greater Boston Jewish Coalition for Literacy, and it is why we are so proud to celebrate this and all of our work.

Thank you to all of you for your partnership. You make this work possible.

And thank you for allowing JCRC to be an effective vehicle to offer an inspiring vision of our Jewish community’s values in the public square every single day.

Shabbat Shalom,


p.s. I’ll be off next week. On behalf of everyone at JCRC I wish you a wonderful Memorial Day Weekend and Chag Shavuot Sameach.

p.s.s. See photos and more photos from JCRC Celebrates on Facebook!

Honoring 20 Years of the Greater Boston Jewish Coalition for Literacy

This coming Wednesday, JCRC will celebrate the 20th anniversary of our Greater Boston Jewish Coalition for Literacy (GBJCL). As we honor some very special leaders who helped us reach this momentous occasion, we also reflect on the thousands of community members who’ve made such a difference in children’s lives through this initiative.

The GBJCL team leaders are largely unsung heroes within our volunteer pool. These hardworking and dedicated volunteers are at the nexus of relationships between each synagogue and its partner school. They go above and beyond to cultivate the partnerships, laying the groundwork for fulfilling volunteer experiences for all of our tutors.

Two of their stories:

For seventeen years, Joan Beer of Temple Emanuel in Newton has been a volunteer and GBJCL team leader. In that capacity, Joan has worked closely with school liaison Joan Dill at the Beethoven-Ohrenberger School in Boston, to match over 30 tutors with young students. In addition to ensuring that each tutor is supported in providing ongoing individual attention to their students, “the Joans” launched the school’s first book club, spurring spirited conversations about each special book selection, and inspiring the love of reading.

“What brought me to tutoring was a basic love of children. I always wanted to be a teacher,” Joan Beer said. “Just knowing you can have an impact on one person by assisting them and taking an interest in them I think is very important.” Communications Joan receives from former students confirm the positive and enduring influence she has had on them. One former student recently wrote:

“I hope the year has been treating you well.  I am now in my sophomore year at Boston Latin Academy and when looking back, you are one of the people that has brought me to where I am now.”

Joan will be stepping down as team leader at the end of this year. Her dedication and commitment to the school, the students, and GBJCL has inspired a new generation of team leaders who not only feel compelled to give back to their community through service but have the energy and passion to inspire their peers to do the same.

One of these up and coming team leaders is Liza Hadley, who began tutoring while an intern at the law firm of Nutter McClennen & Fish. Their team uses their lunch hour to volunteer one on one with students at the Condon School in South Boston. Liza was so impacted by the experience that she decided to work with us to bring the program to her community at Boston University Law School.

Liza has strong ties to Boston through her grandparents who immigrated here after surviving the Holocaust. Liza reflects that “a lot of things hit home” for her as she considered her involvement in the program. Her grandparents instilled in her a love of reading as well as a deep appreciation for education, since they themselves were denied that opportunity. Through GBJCL, Liza is able to ensure that their legacy lives on.

The next chapter of Liza’s involvement in GBJCL has just begun. Liza has engaged the Jewish Law Students Association, the Women's Law Association, and the Public Interest Project at Boston University to begin mobilizing volunteers. GBJCL has paired them up with the Curley School in Jamaica Plain and with second grade teacher Emily Beck. Liza and Emily will be working closely together over the next several months and aim to have a team of volunteers with Liza leading the way for next year.

GBJCL embodies a Jewish tradition of taking responsibility mi dor l’dor, from one generation to the next – volunteers passing on reading skills to students, and volunteers passing on leadership to volunteers - like links in a chain, becoming stronger as we move forward.  The expertise and commitment of those who have gone before have laid a strong foundation, one which will continue to flourish in the years ahead.

As we begin the next 20 years for GBJCL, we are grateful to the new generation of team leaders who are stepping up not only to ensure the continued vitality of our program, but also to collaborate with us to expand our model and extend this unique opportunity to more volunteers. To reach community members interested in volunteering who may not be able to commit to a full year of service, we are now partnering with universities, corporations and other non-profits to design new models of tutoring.

I hope you will join us on Wednesday, May 24th at JCRC Celebrates to learn more about our incredible volunteers and to honor one special volunteer, Mark Friedman, whose dedication and commitment knows no bounds. With your support, we can engage more leaders like Joan, Liza, and Mark to make an impact on our community.

Shabbat Shalom,


A Not-So-Hostile Takeover | A Message from the Chairs of JCRC Celebrates

As members of the Board of JCRC, we have the utmost respect for Jeremy Burton and hold him in the highest esteem, but even he deserves a break from his weekly message! So, while you may have opened this email looking for biblical parallels in current events or an analysis of how your favorite superhero’s story reflects society’s values, we are pleased to report that Jeremy is in Israel on JCRC’s Community Leaders Study Tour and we are staging a not-so-hostile takeover of the Friday message to tell you about JCRC Celebrates: The Strength of Community, and why you’ll want to be there with us on September 15th.

We are proud to be chairs of an event that promises to be like no other in JCRC’s history. In a time when our country is so divided in its political landscape, on Thursday, September 15th, we’ll pause to enjoy each other’s company and put the unity back in community. Yes, we know that’s kind of corny, but you’ll feel it in the room as we hear our friend Josh Kraft, President and CEO of the Boys and Girls Clubs of Boston, speak about the strength of a diverse community. We’ll challenge friends new and old to friendly and fun table games, like billiards, air hockey, and more; we’ll toast our community and our shared values; and we’ll present you with extraordinary auction, raffle, and other prizes. Stay tuned for teasers, but watch our corporate sponsor list grow for clues!

We both feel so fortunate to be a part of our diverse Jewish kehilllah. The multitude of viewpoints and experiences we bring to the table are often dramatically divergent; yet, time and again we leave our differences behind to come together for the causes of shared concern, pride, and celebration. After all, we accomplish so much as a community that we deserve to celebrate!

Because we are truly passionate about JCRC’s mission, it’s especially important to us that this event is a roaring success. In the spirit of coming together, the early bird rate has been extended until August 15th. We hope to see you there

Shabbat Shalom,

Ben Pearlman, Chair                             Georgi Vogel Rosen, Co-chair

Unity in Diversity | A Message from Our Associate Director

Last year, I visited the Baha’i Gardens in Haifa for the first time. As my family gazed down the seemingly endless staircase and around us at the Galilee Hills and the Mediterranean Sea, we were astounded by the beauty and comforted by the serenity of this majestic place. We stood amongst tourists from many lands and many backgrounds, and felt unity in our diversity. This concept stuck with me throughout our time in Haifa, a place where Jews, Muslims, and Christians raise families; where many languages are spoken and many cultures intertwine; and, a place that gives hope to a reality of coexistence.

With a mantra in my head of unity in diversity, I took to my favorite source of information to research the concept. After Googling it, I learned that this concept has many ancient roots and many modern day applications; and, I learned that it is the backbone of the Baha’i faith. Aha! It was all coming together for me.

Fast forward one year, and we are in the midst of an historic Presidential campaign, watching members of our community tear each other down because of their differing views. We are certainly experiencing the extremes of political diversity, but we are far from finding unity within our debates.

With this on my mind as we worked to plan JCRC Celebrates, scheduled for two months before the general election, I set out to find a way to bring our community together. I began to explore whether this concept has a place in Jewish learning, and all roads led me to Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks. As a religion, Rabbi Sacks professes, “Judaism is the only [one] I know, all of whose canonical texts are anthologies of arguments: arguments between G-d and humans, humans and G-d, humans and one another.” “So,” he continues, “difference, argument, clashes of style and substance, are signs not of unhealthy division but of health.” We are essentially taught from a young age to develop an opinion and share it. But, we are also taught that regardless of that opinion, we are one Jewish community, with a shared history fighting to remain an “indivisible people.”

Just as we began to think about who in our Greater Boston community could best speak about this at JCRC Celebrates, an op-ed appeared in my inbox: The strength of a diverse community by Josh Kraft, president and CEO of the Boys & Girls Club of Boston. In it, Josh said, “…during a time when we should be focused on our unity as a people, we tend instead to fixate on our differences, oversimplifying them into narrow, reductive labels.” He reminded us that “differing opinions and disagreement can be constructive; when we do not allow them to cloud issues and segregate us completely, they can lead to positive change.”

So, we will gather in unity on September 15th, in a room full of diverse and strong political views, as one people. We will celebrate the strength of our community, we will hear words of inspiration from our friend Josh Kraft, and we will share the many things that bring us together, rather than tear us apart. And, we will have fun doing it! Please don’t miss the opportunity to support this event and be there to celebrate with us; after all, hinei ma tov u mah-nayim, shevet achim gam yachad – it is beautiful when people come together in unity! (Psalm 133:1)

Shabbat Shalom,

Elana H. Margolis
Associate Director