April 13, 2021
The strength of our Jewish community depends on building strong relationships through collaboration. When we work together toward common purposes, we can leverage each other’s strengths to make a powerful and lasting impact. As we know from the Book of Ecclesiastes, “A threefold cord is not easily broken.”
This principle applies toward working collaboratively with both the Jewish and broader communities. An important reason for the founding of the Jewish Community Relations Council in 2020 was to build strong relationships within and beyond our Jewish community, enabling us to more effectively secure a vibrant Jewish future locally, in Israel, and around the world, and champion a just, democratic, and pluralistic society.
Collaboration is hard work, but the strength, partnerships, and rewards it yields are well worth the effort of coalition-building, civil discourse, consensus-building, and compromise. Collaboration pays off in meaningful and tangible ways. I’d like to share with you three recent stories that exemplify the power and benefits of collaboration for both the Jewish community and our broader society:
Camping: Jewish overnight camp is foundational for helping children gain a strong sense of Jewish identity and form lasting friendships that deeply connect them to our community. When the pandemic struck last year, overnight camps were forced to cancel their summer seasons to protect the health of children and camp staff. It was a necessary decision but heartbreaking. The pandemic has taken a significant toll on the mental health of adolescents—the number of self-harm incidents has increased dramatically. Knowing the importance of camp to Jewish identity and to the mental and physical health of our children, another lost summer was unthinkable. Camp Solomon Schechter Executive Director Zach Duitch pulled together a statewide coalition of overnight camps, both Jewish and non-Jewish, to advocate for state health guidance that would allow camps to reopen safely. From the beginning, the Jewish Federation of Greater Seattle worked closely with Zach and the coalition—providing strategic advice and hands-on advocacy support, ensuring their voice was heard by the state and improving chances for success. On March 23, the state issued the necessary health guidance that will enable camps to reopen this summer. It was a huge victory that showed what can be accomplished through collaboration.
Legislative Seder: Every other year, the Federation holds a Passover Seder for state elected officials, staff, advocacy partners, and Jewish communal leaders. The Seder provides a meaningful opportunity to take a break from the hustle and bustle of the legislative session, come together in community, and spend quality time with diverse individuals. We share the traditions of our people, shed light on the Jewish values that support our legislative agenda, and strengthen the relationships with legislators that are so crucial for enacting our community’s priorities into law. Rabbis Seth Goldstein and Samuel Klein collaborated to curate and lead the Seder. Musician Chava Mirel graced the group with her beautiful contributions. And this year, our special guest speaker, Vivan Song-Maritz, a local parent and member of the Asian American Pacific Islander and Jewish communities, shared a timely and poignant personal story about her experiences with anti-Asian and anti-Jewish hate. The Seder is another example of a powerful and moving experience created through collaboration and partnerships.
Religious Accommodation in Public Schools: When we learned that Seattle Public Schools had, yet again, scheduled the first day of kindergarten on Rosh Hashanah, our JCRC team brought together rabbis, parents, and non-Jewish faith leaders to effectively advocate and make change. Through our combined efforts and networks, we secured over 1,200 signatures on a letter to Seattle Public Schools leadership outlining the current problem, its impact, and long-term strategies to address it. The district listened and changed the date. That was the first step. Our JCRC team and partners in other minority faith communities are reaching out to districts across the Puget Sound region to ensure that school calendar planning takes into account culturally sensitive dates. The goal is to avoid conflicts between religious holidays and major school events whenever possible. Our teamwork on this issue is another testament to how much we can achieve by coming together.
Collaboration is a positive feedback loop. Improved relationships that develop from collaboration create more opportunities for partnerships that further amplify our impact. At the JCRC, we are seeing this dynamic play out as we work together to create a racial equity consensus statement. Today, the JCRC has 30 institutional members from across our community’s spectrum. Applications for institutional membership are open until May 7. Your organization can find out more here. Please, consider joining the JCRC. Together, we can secure a vibrant Jewish future locally, in Israel, and around the world, and champion a just, democratic, and pluralistic society.
Director of JCRC and Government Affairs