BWC Response to JCRC January 17 Meeting

Dear BWC Community,

This letter is to share an important update about our relationship with the Boston Jewish Community Relations Council (JCRC).

Boston Workmen's Circle was one of the founding members of the Boston JCRC, which was formed in 1944 with the purpose of confronting, in a unified manner, threats to the Jewish community including anti-Semitism. The Council aims to be a representative voice of the organized Jewish community. The Council includes progressive organizations that we partner with in our social justice work, as well as right-wing organizations with whom we have fundamental philosophical and political differences. 

Over the past decade, Boston Workmen's Circle has taken several positions on issues from racial justice, to combating Islamophobia, to the Israeli occupation of Palestine which has led to some of our fellow Council members to call for BWC's removal from the Council. Over and over again, we have stood firm in our values and advocated for a broad Jewish tent open to a diversity of viewpoints.

Specifically, in the aftermath of the Pittsburgh shooting, BWC organized a vigil against anti-semitism and white supremacy with the Kavod Community, IfNotNow, and Jewish Voice for Peace. Hundreds of people attended, and it was a powerful and much-needed gathering of mourning and solidarity. This brought the long-brewing conflict in the Council to a head around how BWC engages with the issues surrounding Israel/Palestine, the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions movement (BDS), and Zionism. 

Last night, the JCRC held a vote to ratify a set of membership guidelines that conflict with our Jewish values that respect diversity of opinion, and robust, honest, and inclusive dialogue. The motion states "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."
In the weeks leading up to the vote, Boston Workmen's Circle created a sub-committee of members, who along with our Board of Directors and staff worked tirelessly to urge our allies and all Council delegates to reject the proposed guidelines for membership. The motion passed with a vote of 62 ayes and 13 nays, with 8 abstentions.

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. One of our most important values 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.  

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 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. In the meantime, we encourage you to fill out this form to share your thoughts, and remain updated about future community engagement and response. Again, you can read our full statement in response to the JCRC vote, and our next steps here

We will continue our work of building alternative, inclusive, and liberatory Jewish community together.

In solidarity,

Jen Kiok
Executive Director