Two weeks ago, the Colorado General Assembly concluded its 2021 regular session, and last week, the JCRC held its last meeting for the 2020-21 working year. While it was disappointing to not be able to meet in person, I am so proud of how our programmatic and legislative accomplishments demonstrate what we can do… even while physically separated.
Through the Speakers Series, the JCRC gave the Colorado Jewish community the opportunity to explore complex issues around systemic racism that were pushed to the fore as protests arose around the country following the murder of George Floyd by Minneapolis police. Our speakers, both members of the Jewish community and friends of it, were candid about their experience of systemic racism, the serious issues arising in the education system that have been magnified by the pandemic, the Jewish community’s embrace of—and struggle with—diversity, and reparations as a mechanism for coming to terms with historical injustices and ending economic inequality. The Speaker Series helped us contextualize the protests and find meaningful ways to take supportive action.
This year, our legislative advocacy focused on supporting faith, ethnic, and other stakeholder partners in meaningful ways in order to strengthen our relationships with them. We supported ten bills geared towards welcoming and supporting new immigrants, supporting the American Indian community, supporting early childhood education, supporting families affected by the pandemic, and helping high school students better prepare for successful careers. The ten bills passed, and all will serve Coloradans as we navigate the emergence from the COVID-19 pandemic.
Our 38 member organizations and 12 at-large members all contributed to this positive impact, but there is one person in particular who was a driving force: our JCRC Chair Diana Zeff Anderson. Diana is a tireless advocate for the Jewish community and for Israel. She and I started in our respective lay and professional positions at the same time, just after she completed her term as chair of JEWISHcolorado’s Board of Directors. After leading the board through the implementation of a strategic plan and the hiring of current President & CEO Rabbi Jay Strear, Diana began guiding the JCRC through its own strategic planning process. During the initial, extremely busy three months of my tenure, Diana provided counsel that was integral to understanding the JCRC and how I could best support its work.
As we advocated for legislation to strengthen standards for Holocaust and genocide studies in public schools, COVID-19 changed everything. In March 2020, we converted to all-virtual programming. Diana played a key role in guiding our work and, when the General Assembly reconvened, led our effort to get the Holocaust and Genocide Studies in Public Schools Bill passed and signed into law.
In the aftermath of George Floyd’s murder, Diana also led our effort to organize the Speakers Series and that, in turn, helped our community better understand the toll of systemic racism and, perhaps even more importantly, identify ways we can support the Black community.
As Diana concludes her term as our chair, I cannot thank her enough for her leadership, vision, and collaboration. Her leadership has been integral to two successful years for the Council. I am grateful that she will continue to be a part of the JCRC, supporting our efforts to ensure that the Colorado Jewish community’s voice is heard on the issues that matter most.
Join me in thanking Diana for her leadership during this unprecedented time; please consider making a donation in her honor to support the JCRC today.