BWC Statement in Response to JCRC January 17 Meeting

 

Statement on Jewish Community Relations Council (JCRC) January 17 Meeting

Last night, members of the Boston JCRC voted on a motion stating “That no member organization of JCRC, through its programs, activities and practices, shall partner with – in particular by co-sponsoring events primarily led or co-led by or by signing on to statements primarily organized or co-organized by – a self-identified Jewish organization that declares itself to be anti-Zionist. Such action is not compatible with, and is in conflict with, JCRC’s mission, and could be grounds for removal from the JCRC upon the determination of and through the procedures of this Council and its bylaws.” The motion passed with a vote of 62 ayes and 13 nays, with 8 abstentions.

This motion conflicts with our Jewish values that respect diversity of opinion and encourage robust, honest and inclusive dialogue.  It sets a dangerous precedent of condemnation by association, by placing a political litmus test on Council membership based on partnerships. In the weeks leading up to the vote, Boston Workmen’s Circle urged our allies and all Council delegates to reject the proposed guidelines for membership, through one-on-one conversations, and in our comments to the full Council at the meeting last night.

As a member-led organization, we know that our power is in our people, and we are accountable to you and to our shared values. Since our founding, our members have held a range of views, deeply-rooted beliefs, and lived experiences regarding Israel/Palestine and Zionism. Our most important value is to make room for this diversity of opinions and Jewish experiences, and ensure that all Jews have a home at BWC and in the Jewish community. We will continue our work of building alternative, inclusive, and liberatory Jewish community together.

We will be holding a meeting in the coming weeks for BWC members to decide as a community how we choose to proceed from here. If you aren’t a dues-paying member, click here to join today, to be part of this conversation and add to the power of our base. Fill out this form to share your thoughts and be updated about future community engagement and response.

 

As a founding member of the JCRC, and one of the oldest Jewish institutions in the region, we have valued the JCRC’s role in building bridges across diverse viewpoints in the Jewish community. Boston’s JCRC has been a national leader and model of political pluralism on a host of issues. We’re proud of the Boston JCRC for being the first JCRC in the country to take a stand on marriage equality and for being a leading policy advocate to protect transgender rights.

But we firmly believe that the JCRC does not effectively show support for Israel, or for the well-being of the Jewish people, by silencing the voices of those with whom it disagrees. Unfortunately, this motion explicitly undermines the JCRC’s stated support for pluralism.

The JCRC claims to represent the voice of Boston’s Jewish community. But the reality is that the Boston Jewish community does not speak with a monolithic voice. The JCRC cannot claim to authentically represent the breadth of the Jewish community if it simultaneously passes and enforces policy designed to eliminate voices from the table. We are particularly concerned about Jews who have long been marginalized within mainstream community and with Jews who are feeling increasingly isolated from Jewish institutions because of red lines like the one approved last night.

As a growing, vibrant, intergenerational 100+ year old legacy Jewish institution with over 550 dues- paying members, representing toddlers to millenials to young families to boomers, the Boston Workmen’s Circle plays a valuable role in the JCRC and in the broader Jewish community. We have worked hard to build bridges across generations, and our community, which is steeped in a rich history of secular Jewish culture, is thriving.

This issue is much larger than BWC and the JCRC. It’s reflective of the national conversation about who is and is not part of the “Jewish tent” and the resulting negative impact this has on our collective work against anti-semitism, racism and white supremacy.

We must continue to keep our hearts, our arms and our doors open. Instead of seeking ideological purity and silencing dissent, we need to be fighting together as a united Jewish community against threats to democracy in America, reinvigorated white supremacy and anti-semitism throughout the world.  In the words of our ancestors, we will continue to create a besere velt, a better world, together.

In solidarity,

Boston Workmen’s Circle Board of Directors