June 10, 2021
It’s hard to believe nearly a year has passed since the Jewish Community Relations Council (JCRC) of the Jewish Federation of Greater was reestablished. But now, we’re all systems go. It’s been an exciting time filled with a whirlwind of accomplishments.
I want to give a big shout-out to all the JCRC lay leaders and the Federation donors who made re-creation and the work of the JCRC possible and take a moment to share highlights of what your JCRC has been up to in this first year.
But first, a quick refresher on why JCRC and why now. The council’s mission is to leverage our diverse community’s many strengths to secure a vibrant Jewish future locally, in Israel, and around the world, and to champion a just, democratic, and pluralistic society. Our community faces many issues and an urgent need for greater understanding and cohesion. The JCRC creates consensus on issues of concern, and builds bridges within and beyond our community.
Let’s focus for a moment on building bridges. At times, the diversity of our community can be a source of tension, but it can be a source of strength. The JCRC value of elu v’elu, valuing an openness to multiple perspectives, prompts us to embrace that diversity, honor contrasting viewpoints, and practice civil discourse. For me, one of the most important and beautiful parts of being a part of the JCRC has been the opportunity to broaden my perspective and build relationships with community members from diverse backgrounds.
A proof point is the broad spectrum of our Jewish community that has helped build the JCRC from the ground up by taking on leadership roles. Thirty local organizations chose to become members of the JCRC, and the JCRC’s Board is made up of 18 individuals, each of whom brings a thoughtful perspective that enhances discussions and leads to crisp decision-making. JCRC leaders understand the importance of the council’s work and the significant impact of their participation. Since JCRC’s startup, the Board has had an average attendance of 86 percent and the council has drawn an average 94 percent attendance.
Thanks to our energetic leadership, the JCRC swiftly developed a policy matrix to guide us through decision-making on issues relevant to the JCRC’s mission. With this, we’ve issued public statements on the Mount Meron tragedy in Israel and the anti-Asian attacks in Atlanta, and sent letters of solidarity and support to local leaders of the Asian American Pacific Islander community. We co-sponsored ADL’s Allyship in Action event, the Cardozo Society’s Continuing Legal Education webinar on the Uyghur genocide, and ADL’s You Are Not Alone, Navigating Antisemitism on Social Media event.
Racial equity is a critically important issue on which our community has much to contribute, stemming from our values and history. A crucial first step to action for the JCRC is crafting a consensus statement articulating our perspective. The statement will serve as a foundation for action on addressing racial equity both within and beyond the Jewish community —advocacy, standing up, speaking out, and strengthening relationships.
Our work on the statement is a shared journey. The JCRC has offered educational opportunities to everyone so our community can learn and grow together. Two webinars—And You Shall Be a Blessing: Transforming Jewish Trauma to Pursue Justice, with Rabbi Tirzah Firestone; and Between Privilege and Peril: Jews and Structural Racism in the U.S., with UW Professor Devin Naar—were attended by a combined total of 337 community members.
Many who attended were gratified by the insights they gained. As one attendee shared, “One of the best presentations on this subject, actually the best presentation on this subject I’ve seen yet and I’ve seen many.”
And yet, racial equity is just one of many issues keeping your JCRC busy. We have a full plate on which the JCRC’s four standing committees are working: 1) Public Advocacy, ensuring that our community’s perspective is heard and acted upon by elected officials; 2) Israel Affairs, creating a safe space for civil discourse, building of trust, and envisioning of ways to move forward together; 3) Intergroup Relations, building bridges to other religious and ethnic groups in our region, and 4) Membership, ensuring that the JCRC is diverse, inclusive, and representative of our amazing community.
It’s only been 11 months, but together, we’ve already made so much happen. It’s been an honor to lead our professional team. I can’t wait to see what the future holds and what is possible.
If you value what the JCRC has contributed to our community in this first year, and want to continue to see us grow and thrive, please consider making a gift to Federation to ensure the continuance of our shared work. Thank you!
Director of JCRC and Government Affairs