JCRC luncheon celebrates leadership and looks to the future

Mar 20, 2024 | Article, JCRC, Newsletter

“We have survived because people like you have showed up in every generation—because people like you recognize the importance of Jewish community.”

With those words, Jules Kramer, Vice Chair of the JEWISHcolorado Jewish Community Relations Council (JCRC), made his case for why now, more than ever, the JCRC must exist and grow.

His audience included more than 300 civic, political, business, and religious leaders who filled the Sturm Grand Pavilion at the Denver Art Museum, all there to show their support for both JEWISHcolorado and Israel, today and in the future.

The annual JCRC luncheon, “A Leadership Celebration,” featured remarks from Eric Fingerhut, President and CEO of Jewish Federations of North America (JFNA) and Jacki Cooper Melmed, Chief Legal Officer for UCHealth, who was honored with the 2024 Community Leadership Award.

David Farahi and Ben Lusher present Jacki Cooper Melmed with the 2024 Community Leadership Award

In a videotaped tribute, Governor Jared Polis paid tribute to Cooper Melmed. “Jacki’s tireless commitment to service and justice has made our community and state a better place,” Gov. Polis said. “Jacki is not only a friend, but she is one of the greatest minds I have had the pleasure to work with. She is so dedicated to a stronger, better, brighter future for all Coloradans,”

The JCRC advances the priorities of the organized Jewish community within the larger community.

“We need the JCRC fighting on the frontlines against antisemitic attacks, against deceptive political attacks, and against the coordinated war of misinformation,” Kramer told the crowd.

“We need it engaging in school boards and city councils, state legislatures and university campuses. We need it raising a voice in the media to ensure that the narratives do not fall even further afield. We need it fighting for security funding for our Jewish institutions. We need it to help bring back the hostages. We need the JCRC today even more than yesterday.”

Renée Rockford

JEWISHcolorado President & CEO Renée Rockford reminded the audience that JEWISHcolorado provides the infrastructure for the work of the JCRC. She introduced a video spotlighting JCRC accomplishments.

Renee Rockford at 2024 JCRC Luncheon

“The important work of the JCRC reminds us every day that when one community is threatened, all communities are threatened,” Rockford said. “That moment is now. Never before has it felt so vital that we as a community lift each other up so that we are building broad resilience. Never before has the work of the JCRC been more important.”

Matt Most

Matt Most, Chair of the JCRC, detailed the many ways the organization has pivoted and strengthened its capabilities since October 7, including:

• Sharpening the JCRC narrative with key audiences;
• Recruiting Jewish and non-Jewish community advocates;
• Engaging in community organizing to train and deploy volunteers to share the JCRC narrative in key venues;
• Building a social media presence;
• Improving geographic representation throughout the state;
• Continuing public official advocacy.

Matt Most at 2024 JCRC Luncheon

“Educating leaders to understand the sensitivity and the fear that has pervaded the Jewish community has been central to our strategy so that they can advocate for us at the Capitol,” Most said. “Today, I want to thank every legislator who has done just that, stood up for the Jewish community in our time of need.” 

Most also reminded listeners that the 20-year-old JCRC Public Officials Mission Trip which was delayed because of the October 7 attack will resume in May 2024.

Eric Fingerhut

JEWISHcolorado is a proud member of the 146 local federations in the United States and Canada operating under the umbrella of JFNA. JFNA President and CEO Eric Fingerhut has served as President and CEO of Hillel International, as Chancellor of the Ohio Board of Regents, as an Ohio State Senator and as a member of the U.S. House of Representatives.

In his remarks, Fingerhut focused on the power of community, whether it is a small group joining for a traditional meal or the nearly 300,000 people who gathered on the National Mall in front of the U.S. Capitol on November 14 to show their support for Israel, to call for the release of the hostages, and to fight back against the rise of antisemitism.

Eric Fingerhut at 2024 JCRC Luncheon

“We came to the National Mall, our nation’s front porch,” Fingerhut said. “The chosen location was a statement. It was the statement that this is our country. We helped build it. We serve it. We love it. And we will not allow it to be overtaken by forces of hate.

“I am so proud to stand here today with the great Jewish community in Colorado. This is no ordinary time and how this community responds will set the example from the Rockies to the oceans and beyond. Community is indeed the cornerstone. If you want a community to respond in a time of crisis, you must build and nurture and tend to the community, and that’s what this JCRC and this JEWISHcolorado and this great civic community have been doing every day, every month, every year.”

Jacki Cooper Melmed

Jacki Cooper Melmed was honored for her work chairing the JCRC and serving as a top-level advisor to two Colorado governors. Since October 7, she has been working closely with Jewish community agencies to ensure that local action to support Israel’s needs is timely, responsive, and effective.

Jacki Cooper Melmed at 2024 JCRC Luncheon

“We are not alone,” Cooper Melmed said. “As Jews, we learn together, pray together, and mourn together. We are also not alone in a larger sense. Consider who is in this room today. I’m willing to bet not everyone in here is getting ready for Passover in a few weeks. Many of you are here because you were invited to join a Public Officials Mission or attended a JCRC Candidates’ Forum, or participated in a day at the Capitol. That is evidence that the years of friendships cultivated by the JCRC are lasting and real.”