Tag Archives: TransBill

From Tragedy to Hope

Earlier this week we marked the first yahrzeit (anniversary of the death) of Shira Banki, a 16 year old who was murdered by a Jewish extremist at last summer’s Jerusalem Pride March.

The past few weeks have been very difficult for all of us. Barely a day goes by without another terrorist attack somewhere around the world, a mass shooting, a horrific attack on police, an attempted coup… The shock of it all is overwhelming, and it does something to us – tearing at our sanity and our hope for a better future.

Amidst this despair, I’d like to tell you something that happened in the wake of Shira’s murder. In that first week, members and allies of the LGBTQ community, under the auspices of the Yerushalmit (Jerusalemite) movement, organized a public shiva (week of mourning) in Jerusalem’s Zion Square. As Sara Weil, an American who had made aliyah many years before, recalls:

"Every night I was there with a lot of other gay activists, standing there, being confronted. And you had these circles of confrontation around the square. There were many different levels of intensity and bumping heads."

One man challenged the mourners, asking why they didn’t gather in public mourning for victims of Arab terrorism. This led to a challenging, yet civil conversation, and to an idea – Why not, after the seventh day of the Shiva, continue to come to Zion Square on a weekly basis to carry on the dialogue between Jerusalem's disparate communities?

Thus began Meeting Place: Encounters in Zion Square.

Every Thursday night for the past year, Jews and Arabs, religious and secular, LGBT and straight, left and right, have come to Zion Square to dialogue – with the aide and support of trained facilitators - about controversial issues affecting Israeli society. As Sara, now the co-director of this project, described it this week:

“Over the course of the year, I've spoken to over a thousand people, many homophobic, some violent. I've experienced over and over again the power of empathy for breaking down barriers of fear. I've witnessed heated confrontation with declared homophobes end in a handshake or hug. I've seen activists from Lehava (radical-right organization) soften their anger and hold respectful dialogue, one even becoming a friend. And I've observed myself, exposing my body and soul to the rugged street, participate in a small slow revolution in the City Center of Jerusalem.”

An advocacy campaign has led Mayor Nir Barkat to dedicate Zion Square to the memory of Shira Banki. Yesterday, under tight security, the Pride March - sponsored by the Jerusalem Open House for Pride and Tolerance - returned to the center of Israel’s capital. This year’s 15th annual march brought a reported 25,000 members of the LGBTQ community and its allies out, by far the largest turnout in the history of this event.

Meeting Place was born out of LGBTQ activism in Jerusalem, and grew into a vehicle for engagement and social change through the practice of radical empathy, compassion, and civil discourse.

Conversations for the sake of conversation are rare and valuable. As we watch our historic and disturbing political year unfold here at home, and as we contemplate our inability to have healthy political discourse across our differences in our Jewish community, the goal of these Jerusalemites to build a “community of communities” is inspiring – for our hopes for Israel, and for us to think about what is possible here in the United States if we succeed in creating better conversations.

Of course, conversation alone isn’t everything. That Mayor Barkat can attend the conversation in Zion Square and sit on the ground with the activists, but a few days later announce that he would not attend the pride march out of respect for Ultra-Orthodox sentiment is a humbling reminder that good conversations need to be complemented with political strategy for achieving change.

Still, on this anniversary of Shira’s death, I find hope in the dialogue and engagement that have come from the horror of last summer. As Sara writes:

“My experience in Zion Square this past year has convinced me that empathic and patient grassroots activism, activism lead from the heart, not the head, from forgiveness, not anger, can and will heal our society. We will learn to live together.”

In this, and in so many ways, Shira Banki’s memory is truly for a blessing.

Shabbat Shalom,

Jeremy

JCRC Applauds Governor Baker, Senate President Rosenberg, and Speaker DeLeo on Historic Passage of Transgender Anti-Discrimination Legislation

We look forward to joining leaders of the Commonwealth this morning as they gather on the State House steps, including Attorney General Maura Healey, Senate President Stanley Rosenberg, and House Speaker Robert DeLeo, Boston Mayor Marty Walsh, and state legislators, to celebrate Governor Baker’s signing of the so-called #TransBillMA on Friday.

“On this historic day, we will celebrate a decade long effort to protect transgender residents of the Commonwealth from discrimination in public places,” said Executive Director Jeremy Burton. “We are grateful to the many who took risks to fight for the right of all to feel safe in public.”

As JCRC noted in a statement urging passage of the bill, Massachusetts has a proud history of leading the nation when it comes to extending civil rights protections, in particular for the LGBT Community. We applaud the leaders of our state for keeping this tradition alive.

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
gro.e1568897535nilno1568897535tehse1568897535k@ann1568897535aoj1568897535

Jeremy Burton’s Comments at Keshet’s OUTstanding! Gala

The following are comments as delivered by JCRC Executive Director Jeremy Burton at Keshet's Annual Awards Dinner.

THANK YOU DANA FOR THAT PRESENTATION.
AND THANK YOU KESHET, FOR HONORING JCRC TONIGHT.
PERSONALLY, KESHET IS MY COMMUNITY. MY LIFE HAS BEEN ENRICHED IN THE EIGHT YEARS I’VE BEEN PRIVILGED TO BE ON THIS BOARD WITH INCREDIBLE FRIENDS, INCLUDING DANA.

AND IT’S DEEPLY MEANINGFUL TO ME TO BE UP HERE TONIGHT FOLLOWING IDIT KLEIN, BARRY SHRAGE, AND NANCY KAUFMAN. BECAUSE OF KESHET ‘S WORK, AND CJP’S COMMITMENT TO A FULLY INCLUSIVE COMMUNITY, AND JCRC’S RELENTLESS PURSUIT OF A PUBLIC AGENDA OF EQUALITY – THESE THREE LEADERS HAVE ALL PAVED THE PATH THAT LED TO ME BEING ON THIS STAGE ON BEHALF OF JCRC.

TONIGHT HAS BEEN AN INCREDIBLE CELEBRATION–OF JCRC, AND OF THE KESHET COMMUNITY. BUT AS WE CELEBRATE, THERE’S A DARK CLOUD HANGING OVER OUR FESTIVITIES AND OVER OUR NATION:

A CLOUD OF HATE AND DISCRIMINATION.
PEOPLE ARE TELLING AMERICANS THAT TO DEAL WITH OUR CHALLENGES WE SHOULD TURN AGAINST EACH OTHER; THAT WE SHOULD BLAME MUSLIMS AND IMMIGRANTS. THAT WE SHOULD AVERT OUR EYES FROM THE CRISIS FACING –YOUNG MEN OF COLOR WHO ARE BEING CRIMINALIZED IN MASSIVE NUMBERS.

THAT WE SHOULD CIRCLE THE WAGONS AND FOCUS ONLY ON NARROWLY DEFINED SELF INTERESTS.

AND SOME IN THE JEWISH COMMUNITY ARE SAYING THAT ADDRESSING ANY OF THIS SUFFERING WILL DIMINISH OUR ABILITY TO ADDRESS ANTI-SEMITISM. WE ARE BEING TOLD TO BUILD WALLS BETWEEN COMMUNITIES, RATHER THAN STAND TOGETHER.

AND YES, NOT FOR THE FIRST TIME, THAT WE SHOULD BLAME THE LGBTQ COMMUNITY.

I’VE BEEN ASKED - TOO OFTEN: WHY DOES THE JEWISH COMMUNITY SPEAK OUT WITH SUCH FORCE IN SUPPORT OF OUR MUSLIM NEIGHBORS? AND WHY – AS WE SEE RISING ANTI-SEMITISM IN THE WORLD - ARE WE AT JCRC PRIORITIZING THE ACHIEVEMENT OF FULL TRANSGENDER RIGHTS?

I TELL PEOPLE THAT JCRC’S PURPOSE IS TO ADVANCE THE VALUES, INTERESTS AND PRIORITIES OF BOSTON’S ORGANIZED JEWISH COMMUNITY WITHIN A LARGER CIVIC CONVERSATION. WE’RE BRINGING– TO INTERFAITH SPACES AND TO THE STATE HOUSE – OUR COLLECTIVE VOICE AND OUR DETERMINATION TO ENSURE A STRONGER AND MORE EQUITABLE CIVIL SOCIETY.

OUR COMMITMENT TO ADVOCACY ON BEHALF OF ALL PEOPLE’S DIGNITY RUNS DEEP, ALL THE WAY BACK TO GENESIS. AS WE STRIVE FOR INCLUSION AND ACCESS FOR ALL, WE ARE REMINDED THAT IN OUR CREATION STORY WE ARE TAUGHT THAT EVERY HUMAN BEING IS CREATED B’TZELEM ELOHIM - IN THE DIVINE IMAGE.

AND SO WE ARE COMMITTED TO THE FULL REALIZATION OF EVERY SINGLE HUMAN BEING IN THE IMAGE OF THAT DIVINE CONCEPT.

WE BELIEVE THAT WITHOUT FULL INCLUSION, OUR COMMUNITIES CANNOT BE WHOLE, AND OUR MEMBERS CANNOT BE FREE.

I ALSO TELL THEM THAT THE JEWISH COMMUNITY HAS ALWAYS BEEN BEST SERVED WHEN OUR NATION DELIVERS ON THE PROMISE OF EQUALITY OF OPPORTUNITY FOR ALL PEOPLE.

WE ALL BENEFIT FROM A FREE SOCIETY WHERE THERE IS NO TOLERANCE FOR DISCRIMINATION OF ANY KIND, WHERE WE REMOVE THE OBSTACLES THAT STAND IN THE WAY OF OPPORTUNITY FOR EVERY ONE OF US.

WE KNOW THAT A CULTURE THAT DEMONIZES AND MARGINALIZES OTHERS THREATENS US AS WELL.
WE KNOW THAT A NATION THAT VALUES THE DIGNITY OF ALL PEOPLE IS ONE IN WHICH WE ALL THRIVE.
MARRIAGE EQUALITY WAS A GREAT ACHIEVEMENT FOR ALL OF US.

BUT THE STRUGGLE FOR LGBTQ EQUALITY DIDN’T END ON JUNE 26, 2015. CONVERSION “THERAPY,” IS STILL LEGAL IN MASSACHUSETTS. IN TOO MANY STATES WE CAN GET MARRIED, BUT WE CAN ALSO BE FIRED AND LOSE OUR HOUSING FOR DOING SO.

JCRC WAS PROUD TO STAND WITH OUR ALLIES IN 2011 WHEN GOVERNOR PATRICK SIGNED AN ACT RELATIVE TO GENDER IDENTITY, PROHIBITING DISCRIMINATION AGAINST TRANSGENDER PEOPLE IN EMPLOYMENT, HOUSING, AND VARIOUS SERVICES.

TODAY WE ARE WORKING TO PASS AN ACT RELATIVE TO TRANSGENDER ANTI-DISCRIMINATION, TO PATCH THE HOLES IN PUBLIC ACCOMMODATION PROTECTIONS THAT THE PREVIOUS BILL LEFT OPEN.

SIMPLY PUT, OUR ANSWER TO THIS DARK POLITICAL MOMENT – WHEN WE ARE BEING CALLED TO TURN ON EACH OTHER - IS TO INSTEAD TURN TOWARD ONE ANOTHER.
WE STAND FOR MORE DIGNITY, FOR MORE EQUALITY, FOR A BETTER NATION. AND WE BELIEVE THAT MASSACHUSETTS NEEDS TO LEAD.

THAT IS WHY, AGAIN, TONIGHT, WE CALL UPON GOVERNOR BAKER TO TELL THE PUBLIC WHERE HE STANDS ON THE PUBLIC ACCOMODATIONS BILL. AND WE THANK SENATE PRESIDENT STAN ROSENBERG FOR HIS VOCAL SUPPORT OF SB 735. AND WE CALL, AGAIN, FOR SPEAKER DELEO TO BRING HB 1577 TO A VOTE SO THAT THE GOVERNOR MUST MAKES HIS VIEWS KNOWN.

SIMPLY PUT: IF STATES LIKE NORTH CAROLINA AND MISSISSIPPI CAN RUSH TO ENACT DISCRIMINATION AGAINST THE LGBTQ COMMUNITY IN THIS ELECTION YEAR, THEN SURELY MASSACHUSETTS CAN TAKE ACTION TO FINALLY CLOSE THE HOLES WE LEFT FIVE YEARS AGO.

FINALLY, AGAIN, IT IS AN HONOR TO BE UP HERE ON BEHALF OF THIS ORGANIZATION THAT I AM PRIVILEGED TO LEAD.
BUT THIS AWARD IS NOT JUST FOR THOSE WHO WERE INVITED TO THE STAGE. THIS HONOR IS FOR THE COMMITMENT OF ALL OUR LEADERS – ACROSS A NETWORK OF AGENCIES – INCLUDING ADL AND JALSA WHO ARE ALSO PART OF THIS COALITION FOR TRANSGENDER RIGHTS - SYNAGOGUES, OUR PROFESSIONALS, AND OUR INCREDIBLE COMMUNITY, INCLUDING KESHET – WHO HAVE WORKED TO MAKE THESE VALUES OURS.

SO THANK YOU KESHET FOR HONORING JCRC TONIGHT AND FOR INSPIRING US TO ACTION. THIS AWARD IS AS MUCH FOR YOU AS FOR US.

TOGETHER WE WILL CONTINUE TO WORK AS ONE JEWISH COMMUNITY FOR INCLUSION AND EQUALITY.
THANK YOU.

JCRC Urges Passage of Transgender Legislation

The Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Boston, along with a broad coalition of advocacy organizations, business leaders, and the entire Massachusetts Congressional delegation urges the Massachusetts House and Senate to extend non-discrimination protections in public places to individuals of all gender identities before the Legislature leaves for winter recess on November 19th.

“Massachusetts has a proud history of leading the nation when it comes to extending civil rights protections, in particular for the LGBT community,” said Jeremy Burton, Executive Director, JCRC. “Every day we wait, transgender people face discrimination and humiliation in places of public accommodation. This should not be the case for anyone in the Commonwealth. ”

“In 2011, we worked with the Massachusetts Legislature to explicitly prohibit gender identity-based employment discrimination,” said Adam Suttin, President of the Board, JCRC. “We call on them now to extend those protections to include restaurants, stores and public restrooms.”