June 29, 2023
Less than three years ago, when we were blissfully unaware of all the pandemic had in store for us, I was working from my in-laws’ ranch in Eastern Oregon and called Bill Mowat. Bill and I had collaborated on advocacy earlier in my tenure at the Federation, but it had been a few years since we had last connected. I told Bill that we had re-created the Jewish Community Relations Council and asked, “Oh, by the way, would you be our first chair?” I was a bit nervous, and I think Bill was definitely surprised! Thankfully, he said, “yes.”
Hindsight is 20/20. I can say for sure that neither Bill nor I knew what the next three years would bring! Even so, knowing what he knows today, I think Bill would still have said, “yes.”
Bill’s term as JCRC chair is ending, but he isn’t going far. He is taking on the role of immediate past chair on the advisory board and vice-chairing the membership committee. I hope he feels proud of leading us these last three years and all we have accomplished together.
Bill has helped the JCRC navigate through all the growing pains of a new entity—helping fill key leadership roles, leading us through our first consensus statement, and helping the JCRC strengthen its core operating documents, to name a few.
While I think Bill fully lives out each of the JCRC’s values, there are two in particular that are worth highlighting.
The first is b’tselem elokim, seeing the holiness, the image of G-d or the humanity in each of us. Bill demonstrates this through his words and his actions. Bill has always been willing to meet with any member of the JCRC or the community. He deeply values his relationships—wanting to know what is important to people as individuals, what drives us, and how we connect to our Jewish community. Bill knows that relationships are everything. He has made building and sustaining them a top priority.
The second value is elu v’elu, or an openness to multiple perspectives. We recognize that there are multiple sides to any given issue. We are open to hearing views that are not our own and to grappling with complexity. Bill models this ethic every day. He dedicates himself to practicing civil discourse, leans in with curiosity, embraces complexity, and never stops learning and growing.
He is unflagging and unwavering in his support of and dedication to the JCRC’s work. As chair, Bill met challenges head-on and was willing to roll up his sleeves and jump in to help. Our professional team always felt supported and empowered with Bill as our leader.
I asked members of the JCRC to list some adjectives that best describe Bill as a leader. Here are a few examples of what they shared: Dedicated. Caring. Sincere. Thoughtful. Generous. Humble. Inclusive. Kind and caring. A mensch.
Now, I’d like to welcome Dr. Audrey Covner as the JCRC’s new Chair. Audrey is an attorney, registered nurse, and has received her doctorate in Nursing Practice in Population Health and Systems Leadership. She is a lifelong educator and community activist, has served as adjunct faculty in the law schools of Stanford University and the University of Santa Clara, was engaged in the early days of the AIDS/HIV epidemic response, established pro bono legal service programs for marginalized communities, and has written and lobbied on behalf of numerous legislative efforts.
Audrey is deeply engaged in the leadership of many Jewish organizations, including Herzl-Ner Tamid and Hadassah. She currently works as a Clinical Associate Professor at the University of Washington’s Department of Health Systems and Public Health and is engaged in the Multi-Faith Criminal Justice Reform Coalition, among other efforts.
Those who know Audrey know she has no shortage of energy, passion, and commitment. She is also a great listener and, like Bill, understands the importance of relationships.
The JCRC is in good hands with an experienced, passionate leader like Audrey taking over the reins from Bill. We look forward to more productive and impactful years ahead for the JCRC.
Enjoy your summer!
Director of JCRC and Government Affairs