Tag Archives: ukraine

Supporting Ukrainian Refugees

As soon as the Russian invasion of Ukraine began, we knew that, as a Jewish community here in Boston, we needed to act in support of the Ukrainian people. Some aspects of that response were obvious and immediate – such as the huge philanthropic mobilization by CJP in support of the community in Dnipro that we have so much history with. And, for our member organization Action for Post-Soviet Jewry, it was a massive mobilization of urgently needed supplies. For JCRC, it was providing immediate leadership to successfully advocate for Massachusetts to divest state funds from Russian assets.

But despite our many years of experience mobilizing our community in support of immigrants and refugees arriving here, due to the lack of a uniform resettlement structure for Ukrainians, our mobilization for them was not as immediate. No family’s situation or requests for support have been the same. And while, now, hundreds have arrived here, the vast majority of the refugees remain in Europe. But for those who are here, many are requesting help with finding housing, accessing funds, getting connected to local resources and in some cases, a more comprehensive communal sponsorship. And our phenomenal community is stepping up to the moment, as we have done time and time again, steeped in relationships and connection.

Several weeks back, our Director of Synagogue Organizing, Rachie Lewis, received a call from an Afghan woman who had been serving as a translator for one of the community teams supporting a recently resettled Afghan family. She was working at a hotel in the area and had just checked in a recently arrived Ukrainian mom and her two kids who had nowhere else to go.

A few weeks after that, we heard from our partner, JFS of MetroWest, about a local Jewish Ukrainian woman who was trying to bring her great grandchildren - currently in limbo in Europe - to Massachusetts.  Last week we were approached about a Ukrainian family that has been in the area for several months hosted by relatives, and who now needed a longer-term place to call home in this continuing uncertain time.

These moments are just snapshots of the needed aid that we and our partners are being called to provide to the growing number of Ukrainians who have arrived in Massachusetts and are in need of local resources. Still others are trying to figure out how to get here and will need comprehensive support to make that hope a reality.

In this evolving moment, JCRC continues to work with our partners, Jewish Family Service of MetroWest, Catholic Charities and The Shapiro Foundation to leverage the resources we have organized throughout our community and beyond to answer these different and varying calls. Together, we are taking steps to make the best use of our communal infrastructure, as we also try to balance the needs of other immigrant and refugee populations. We are, first and foremost, building support systems on top of the already-formed foundation of 35 congregational support teams well-versed in resettlement through the work of supporting Afghan families and individuals. Those are the leaders we sought out when we got the aforementioned calls.

We know that the interest in this work runs deep; both within the existing teams and beyond them as well. If you are not already, now is the time to get engaged in this work. If you or your synagogue, community, or network, is interested in offering support of some kind, please fill out this survey. We will be calling upon you as this work develops. You can also reach out directly to Rachie Lewis at with specific questions.  

We are a community that knows how to show up and knows how to say yes. We are compelled to action by our long and deep relationship with the Ukrainian people, and also by the ideals we hold for America as a place that must be a refuge for those fleeing harm from around the world. Our ideals connect us to one another and guide us in building networks, enabling us to respond to others in need. This collective community infrastructure is the heart of who we are at JCRC and are proud that you are a part of it. 

We will continue to support Ukrainians and other immigrants and refugees seeking safety here. We invite all of you to be a part of this important work. We are grateful for this incredible community and the opportunity to live our values through this important work. 

Shabbat Shalom,

Jeremy

Our Legislative Work: Nonprofit Security, Aid for Ukraine, and more

It’s been a busy week for us on Beacon Hill, as most are. And as is often the case, unless you follow our social media closely, important updates can easily slip by. So as we come off of our JCRC/Mass. Association of Jewish Federations legislative reception just last night, allow me to draw your attention, briefly, to a few other items of interest this week. 

As you probably recall, in 2017 we worked with Senator Eric Lesser, along with Senators Cindy Creem, Harriet Chandler and many others, to establish a pilot Commonwealth Nonprofit Security Grant program to supplement and complement the federal Department of Homeland Security pool. What began as a $75,000 pilot, has – with active support from the legislative leadership and the governor – grown to a $1.5 million annual pool. This past week, the latest cycle of grantees received notifications. 

This week, 22 Jewish organizations across Massachusetts – synagogues, schools and a cemetery association – received a combined $732,238.29 in funding. 

I joined Senator Lesser in welcoming this latest round of support for our community and others who are targets of hate and violence. As he said in our statement together:  

Hate does not discriminate. It happens in Springfield, it happens in Quincy, and it happens in Boston where Chabad-Lubavitch Rabbi Shlomo Noginski was stabbed eight times in broad daylight this summer. 

In this time of vulnerability, we welcome efforts by the Commonwealth to protect non-profit institutions that may be targets of antisemitism and violent extremism. These grants will make a meaningful impact for our community. I am grateful to Senator Lesser, all of our partners on Beacon Hill, and the coalition we’ve built of Jewish federations, JCCs, synagogues and other Jewish communities that have worked together in recent years to get here.  

This year, federations across the Commonwealth are calling for a doubling of this grant pool.  

On another, equally critical note, last week I wrote to you about things you could do to take immediate action to support the people of Ukraine as they struggle against the continuing onslaught of the unprovoked Russian aggression. Included in that note was information about how to urge our Congressional delegation to secure federal military and humanitarian aid. I’m pleased to report that this aid was included this week in a Congressional emergency package.   

Also this week, after consulting with MA Treasurer Deborah Goldberg, we’re supporting state legislative action requiring the Massachusetts Pension Reserve Management Fund (PRIM) to identify and divest from companies doing business with the Russia state. This comes days after we welcomed action by Governor Baker directing state agencies to terminate any contracts they have with Russian state-owned companies.  

As we wrote in our letter endorsing this legislation:  

Any money invested in Russia or companies doing business with the Russian state is tacit approval of the reprehensible actions taken by Russian President Vladimir Putin and those who prop up his regime.  

Finally, if you missed it last night, you can check out this year’s Legislative Reception on our YouTube channel.  We celebrated the work being done by our network of agencies to welcome refugees from Afghanistan. We expressed, again, our support for the Work & Family Mobility Act – which we hope will be sent to the governor for his signature very soon. We honored a fantastic group of legislative leaders on Beacon Hill, some of the staffers who’ve been key partners in advancing our shared priorities, and one amazing Cambridge City Councilor who we’ve come to respect and admire for her leadership combatting BDS there. This being the final year of the Baker-Polito administration, we also took time to thank the outgoing governor for all the ways he’s been a partner and friend to our community over the years.  

(By the way – In case you missed them, you can also see most of the programs we’ve hosted in recent years, our ever-growing library of speakers series, on our website and YouTube page). 

Its been a busy week, covering a diverse range of issues of concern – and not even close to all of the priorities we’re working on up on Beacon Hill. It’s a testament to our community that we can hold this diverse range of concerns – reflecting the values, interests and priorities of our community – and be effective on so many fronts. That’s thanks to all of you; our members, our partners, our network. 

For that, we’re grateful, and we look forward to our continued work together. 

Shabbat Shalom,

Jeremy

  

JCRC and MAJF Call for Russian Divestment from State Pension Funds

For Immediate Release
March 8, 2022     

Contact: Shira Burns

JCRC and MAJF Call for Russian Divestment from State Pension Funds

(Boston, MA) The Jewish Community Relations Council and the Mass. Association of Jewish Federations sent a letter today calling on the MA House and Senate to take up and pass proposed legislation requiring the Massachusetts Pension Reserve Management Fund (PRIM) to identify and divest from companies doing business with Russia.

“Since 1990, the Boston Jewish community has had a deep and lasting partnership with the Jewish community of Dnipro, Ukraine, home to over 40,000 members of the Jewish community,” the letter states. “Any money invested in Russia or companies doing business with the Russian state is tacit approval of the reprehensible actions taken by Russian President Vladimir Putin and those who prop up his regime.”

About JCRC
JCRC defines and advances the values, interests, and priorities of the organized Jewish community of Greater Boston in the public square. Visit us at www.jcrcboston.org.

About MAJF
MAJF: The Massachusetts Association of Jewish Federations is a statewide government affairs office that strengthens the relationship between the Jewish community and elected officials and personnel in key government departments, advocates for issues of concern to the community, and helps its members access public funding to provide services to its clients.

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Working Together to Confront Antisemitism

Before I discuss some local events this past week, allow me to express that – like so many of you – my heart and my mind are very much with Ukraine as I write this. Our Jewish community in Boston has deep connections there; I’ve been privileged to visit our sister Jewish community in Dnipro three times, including twice on solidarity missions after the Russian invasion of Crimea. Our partners at CJP continue to be engaged and supportive, making emergency grants in recent weeks. You can learn more about their work and the partnership here

Here in the Boston area, these have been disturbing and frightening days of a different sort. Last week we learned that the perpetrator of the 2019 arson attacks against Chabad centers in Arlington and Needham, and a Jewish owned business in Chelsea, was an actual Nazi from Quincy. The other night we watched as some 20 people, carrying a Nazi flag, disrupted a book reading in Providence. And, it seems like every other day there’s another swastika found at Curry College in Milton.  

All of this has me thinking about JCRC’s founding in the early 1940’s, as another wave of antisemitism was ripping through Boston. Our Jewish community came together to create this Council to provide a coordinated response for engaging with government, local media, and the faith community (particularly, then, the Catholic church). The JCRC was, quite literally, established to deal with an organized Nazi effort in our city (as documented most recently in Nazis of Copley Square by Professor Charles R. Gallagher, S.J. of Boston College). 

Some eighty years later, it can feel like we’ve come full circle, with a present and real threat from home grown Nazis in our region. 

Of course, there are things that are different about the challenges we face in confronting antisemitism here in Boston in 2022. For example, we must openly address – as I did a few weeks ago when we worked with CJP and ADL to convene the community after Colleyville – that not all violent attacks on our community are coming from white supremacists and neo-Nazis; as we saw in Brighton last summer, where the attacker was an Egyptian Muslim.  And not all challenges are violent, such as the effort last fall by some on the left to tarnish now-Mayor Michelle Wu by claiming she was being influenced by “sinister” “Zionist” donors. 

This multi-layered and multi-directional antisemitism is how I found myself talking to the Boston Globe twice this week. On Sunday, I talked to Linda K. Wertheimer about how some on the left, as we’ve seen in California, are obsessed with inserting a “Liberated Ethnic Studies” agenda into classroom curriculums. This agenda singles out Israel for excessive condemnation, and denies the Jewish historical experience as being one of an oppressed minority in Western Civilization 

Then, on Thursday, I spoke with Yvonne Abraham about white supremacy and these violent Nazi attacks on our community here in Boston, how we got here, and why we at JCRC take it personally.  

Of course, there are other ways in which the current crisis is different for us, here in Boston, than the one eighty years ago. Most particularly and obviously, we have allies – in government, local media, and the faith community.  

Allies like U.S. Attorney Rachael Rollins, who as Suffolk DA pursued the Brighton case as a hate crime and promised to hold people accountable for antisemitic attacks; and then, this last week, arrested - in Stockholm, Sweden - the brother of the Quincy Nazi for his role in covering up what she characterized as an act of domestic terrorism.  

Allies like Governor Baker, Lt. Governor Polito, and Secretary of the Commonwealth Galvin, who, last Friday, issued a proclamation formally endorsing the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) working definition of antisemitism as “a clear, comprehensive, and non-legally binding definition.” JCRC has, for many years, supported and encouraged the use of this definition and we welcomed this leadership here in Massachusetts.  

Allies you’ve seen if you’ve been to any of our community gatherings in recent years – most recently in December when we gathered to “Shine a Light on Antisemitism”. You’ve experienced the powerful support and allyship of leaders in the faith community and amongst other elected officials.  

There’s a lot of work we need to do. The challenges are immense. But nearly eighty years later, we at JCRC remain committed to meeting the challenge as a community, to working together with these allies, and to forging others, as, together, we pursue a path forward. 

I hope you will be part of this work with us. 

Shabbat Shalom,

Jeremy