The work of every Jewish Community Relations Committee varies from community to community. But in most communities, there are some key consistencies regarding the role of the JCRC.
Rabbi Doug Kahn, the former executive director of the JCRC of San Francisco (and the dean of JCRC professional field) frequently describes the different functions of a JCRC using an analogy. He explains a JCRC is like a big tent and our job is to create room in that tent for as many folks as we can – without stretching the figurative walls of the tent beyond the point of collapse.
He acknowledges there are positions “outside the tent.” In our community, for example, promotion of an anti-Israel position, support for racism, or denial of religious freedom would place one outside the tent. Yet within the tent, there is a lot of room.
This is challenging enough work on an easy day. In today’s political climate, where course language has permeated discourse at federal, state and local levels that work is even more challenging. Yet the work of dialoguing with our neighbors and building partnerships and even coalitions where possible is as critical as it’s ever been. It is arguably more critical now than in the past several decades.
Hyperbole doesn’t help. Crassness doesn’t help. Jewish values help.
Increasingly we witness the polarization of our society. Let us counter that polarization in a Jewish manner. As we build community, let’s engage in dialogue with those we with whom we disagree.
The Mishna asks, “Why do we record the non-accepted opinions of the schools of Hillel and Shamai? To teach future generations that one need not demand that only one’s own way is correct, for our forebears did not do so. Why then do we record the minority opinion of one as opposed to the majority opinion of all the rest, given that the majority decides? So that a future court might have reference to them, and rule thereby…” (Eduyot 1:4-5)
Just as Jewish Federations nationally work with the Jewish Federations of North America, JCRCs nationally work with the Jewish Council for Public Affairs. JCPA is the hub of 16 national Jewish agencies and more than 125 local JCRCs. They provide resources and guidance on community building, education and mobilization.
From April 21-24, 2018, the Jewish Council for Public Affairs hold their annual conference in New York City. If JCPA2018 is of interest to you, visit JewishPublicAffairs.org for more information and to register.
Daniel “Doni” Fogel, director of Jewish community relations and Israel and overseas programming, is reached at DFogel@JewishRichmond.org or (804) 545-8626.