I think of myself as one of the luckiest people in the world. I have the amazing privilege of working at an organization that deeply connects with my sense of purpose. It is my conviction that amongst the more urgent tasks we face as a Jewish people is to participate actively in the great public conversations of our time, to connect with other communities, and to build bridges and relationships in order to advance our values and our priorities. As the director of this organization, I get to be seen and acknowledged for this work and for the agenda we drive on behalf of Boston’s Jewish community.
A few weeks ago, I wrote about the gratitude I have for the volunteer leaders with whom we partner. Now, after spending yesterday at a staff retreat to renew our shared commitment to JCRC’s purpose, I want to tell you about just a few of the many unsung and hard-working professionals who make JCRC’s work possible and how their work connects to our common purpose.
At JCRC, we believe that engaging in service as Jews within the broader society not only acknowledges inequality and injustice, but also addresses unmet needs. Shoshana Czik spends long days developing opportunities for teens to do this work through their synagogues as part of our TELEM program. TELEM has connected thousands of teens with service experiences and been a key part of our community’s youth engagement opportunities through synagogues. When Shoshana is done with her work here, she has a second job as a teen educator at her own hometown synagogue in Sharon.
Stephanie Cohen works with public schools around the region to facilitate their partnerships with synagogue based teams working as literacy tutors. The partnerships we’ve built through the Greater Boston Jewish Coalition for Literacy have had a profound impact on thousands of kids in high-needs schools and have been an enduring declaration of the Jewish community’s commitment to all children in the Commonwealth. Stephanie’s passion for language and literacy is firmly grounded in her experience growing up tri-lingual in a family with roots in France and Chile. You may also remember Stephanie’s powerful column last winter when she wrote about her own family in Paris in the wake of the Hyper Cacher attack.
We engage in advocacy and organizing as an expression of Jewish values, to advance our community’s interests, and to build partnership with others on shared priorities. This past month when 17 synagogues and Jewish organizations turned out 400 members of our community as part of a Greater Boston Interfaith Organization assembly with Governor Baker and Mayor Walsh, GBIO recognized the leadership of our organizing staff who work year around with synagogues and churches to develop leaders committed to a public agenda on issues such as preventing gun violence and addressing the affordable housing crisis.
Both of our synagogue organizers are passionate not only about organizing for justice but also about building and participating in vibrant communities based on cherished Jewish values. Talia Laster grew up in the Havurah movement and when not working is often convening her peers in creating their own meaningful Jewish experiences. Rachie Lewis, an alumnus of JOIN for Justice, AVODAH and Yeshivat Hadar, contributes her organizing skills to the Moishe Kavod House, where she serves as a leader.
We’ve made a deep commitment to advocacy on disability issues including access to educational support systems and workforce preparedness, as highlighted at our legislative reception in February. Seth Goldberg and Ariella Hellman are two of the outstanding members of our government affairs team who spend late nights at the State House and in the community, building coalitions and support for our priorities. Ariella, like myself, joined us from New York City (we actually share a status as alumni of the same yeshiva day school). Seth is a Holliston native who cut his teeth in state politics as a legislative aide and, also like me, organizes his fall and winter around Pats games.
These young professionals, along with numerous other program managers, operations staff, as well as our leadership team, make up the backbone of JCRC. As often as not, they are the ones out in the field, slogging away, before I get to show up at the podium. I look forward to telling you about more of them in the future – they all deserve recognition for their hard work and their commitment to serving Boston’s Jewish community and our shared priorities in the public square. If there’s a touch of fondness as I write about them, it’s probably because I see a lot of myself in them; current and emerging leaders who are pursuing their passions and serving the common good. I can imagine someday one of them will be sitting in my chair, getting to be the public face of a lot of this work.