JCRC provided written testimony to the state legislature’s Joint Committee on Education for their September 13, 2021 hearing of An Act relative to anti-racism and justice in education (S365, Senator Lewis; H584, Representative Elugardo and Representative Uyterhoeven). JCRC welcomes the opportunity to serve on a commission with the goal of creating a more inclusive curriculum for students in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. However, we have some concerns about the proposed language in its current iteration, including lack of transparency, oversight, and clear definitions.
After months of drafts, redrafts and negotiations, we were heartened when earlier this week, the MA legislature approved a bill focusing on a JCRC priority: police reform. The “Act relative to justice, equity and law enforcement in the Commonwealth” now awaits the governor’s signature. We join with our partners at the Greater Boston Interfaith Organization in thanking Governor Baker for his early leadership in support of several key components contained in this comprehensive legislation, and we will stand with him when he signs it into law. At the same time, we know that this bill does not include all that its advocates hoped for, and is in fact, just a starting point. As Rep. Carlos Gonzalez, chair of the Black and Latino Legislative Caucus and one of the six conference committee members who negotiated the final version said “…one bill is not going to address every issue… there is a lot more work to be done”.
In many ways, this week here in Massachusetts encapsulates the moment we’re in as we approach the end of 2020. While much has happened in the months since this summer when millions of Americans took to the streets in support of racial justice, many of the commitments that came from those weeks of action are still being negotiated, and much remains unresolved. It is for this reason that now is a time to be explicit in recognizing and articulating the unfinished nature of the work of 2020. We do so at a moment where conversations are taking place at every level of society, from what has to happen next in Massachusetts, to the fierce debates and jockeying over priorities on the agenda for the Biden administration and the next Congress.
As was true in the weeks after the murder of George Floyd, we at JCRC are holding ourselves accountable to our partners. We are committed to listening to them and honoring their priorities and, where we can, making their priorities our own. We see ourselves, the organized Jewish community in Boston, as bearing the responsibility of citizenship, working hand in hand with others toward a collective vision for the improvement of our society, and the realization of a commonwealth that benefits us all.
To that end, we invite you, leaders and activists within our Jewish community, to join us on Tuesday, December 15th, 12pm, for the next installment of our Speaker Series. We’re thrilled to be joined by the Rev. Liz Walker of Roxbury Presbyterian Church, and best-selling author and CNN commentator Bakari Sellers. We’ve invited these two partners of JCRC and of the Jewish community to talk with us about the work ahead in pursuit of racial justice in our country. We’ll hear from them about how they understand this moment, and their guidance for their Jewish partners about what we are called to do in meeting it.
The weeks and months after George Floyd’s murder were a profound moment in our nation’s reckoning with our legacy of racism. But moments can be fleeting and windows too often close. It is our responsibility, all of us who stood up for racial justice in June, to make sure that 2020 is remembered as more than a moment. Of course, we, as Jews, understand that work worth doing is also ongoing. As Rabbi Tarfon taught:
It is not our duty to complete the work, nor are we free to desist from it.
(Pirkei Avot 2:16)
We hope that you’ll join us on December 15th and that you’ll be a part of the work ahead, with JCRC, toward an American society that is more just.