JCRC marks year of activism, advocacy, and achievement

May 31, 2024 | Article, JCRC, Newsletter

When Matt Most, Acting Director of JEWISHcolorado’s Jewish Community Relations Council (JCRC), talks about the past year, he can reference a long list of accomplishments during some of the most difficult times the organization has ever faced.

But the single word that Most repeats most often is “relationships.”

“The work of the JCRC is long-term relationship development,” says Most. “You know you will need those relationships to get things done. You just don’t know when you will need them.”

Visiting hostage families on Colorado State Senate floor

Israeli hostage families on the floor of the Colorado State Senate

Whether Most is talking about the breakfast and lunch that state legislators planned and attended to honor Israeli hostage families in February, or whether he is discussing the statements made by a dozen public officials on behalf of the Jewish community in the wake of October 7, his examples represent the “culmination of years of relationship-building.”

“We are harvesting investments in relationships now because we need them now,” Most says. “The relationship-building we have done is showing tangible results, and the community is watching who is standing up for us.”

JCRC in action after October 7

In the wake of October 7, the work of the JCRC at the Colorado State Capitol became more important than ever. Within a week after Hamas terrorists killed more than 1,200 in Israel and took hundreds of innocent civilians hostage, the JCRC worked in partnership with the Governor’s Office to write a proclamation condemning antisemitism. But that was just the beginning. Most says that the JCRC “went on offense and defense.”

“We made good things happen,” he explains. “And we prevented bad things from happening.”

Testimony in House Finance Committee

Testifying against HB24-1169 in House Finance Committee

The JCRC was a key partner in opposing HB24-1169: Repeal Divest from Companies with Israel Prohibitions Law, acting on its position that the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) Movement, despite its claims of support for Palestinians, ultimately aims to abolish Israel as a Jewish and democratic state, fueling further conflict and division. The JCRC provided and organized testimony, drafted an action alert for community members to send to legislators, and met with each member of the House Finance Committee in opposition. As a result, the bill died in committee with only one yes in support, thereby fighting off the repeal of an anti-BDS bill passed by a bipartisan coalition of Colorado legislators in 2016.

“All this comes back to relationships,” Most says.

Under the heading of “making good things happen,” the JCRC was able to secure nearly $2 million in Nonprofit Security Grants for Colorado organizations. Faith-based nonprofits can apply for a federal grant of up to $150,000 through the Nonprofit Security Grant Program (NSGP). If an organization does not receive the federal grant, it would automatically be considered for a state grant of up to $50,000.

“These grants enable our community facilities to purchase security doors, cameras, reinforced glass, and enhance their security measures,” says Most. “Unfortunately, these are necessities of modern Jewish life.”

JCRC Chair Matt Most speaks to Denver City Council to voice concerns and opposition to their proposed ceasefire resolution

JCRC Acting Director Matt Most speaks to Denver City Council to voice concerns and opposition to the proposed ceasefire resolution

Throughout the past eight months, the JCRC has remained in close communication with Jewish caucus members and House and Senate Majority and Minority leadership at the Colorado State Legislature about how to respond to resolutions and amendments related to the conflict in Israel and Gaza and a ceasefire letter circulated in the Colorado General Assembly. These efforts extended to the Denver City Council, demonstrating that sometimes, the biggest JCRC accomplishment is something that did not happen.

“We were very pleased that Colorado and Denver public officials did not wade into international waters and pass a cease-fire or anti-Israel resolution,” Most says. “These legislators know us and know we are a trusted source of information and an important constituent. We used our voice to make sure that Colorado did not go on the record with an anti-Israel statement.”

JCRC and public officials

While the focus of the JCRC’s work is at the State Capitol, events of the past eight months have meant broadening its reach to include public officials and community events. Attorney General Phil Weiser and Denver Mayor Mike Johnston were present at the October 7th vigil held at Temple Emanuel. The JCRC hosted a post-October 7 Shabbat dinner with 10 current public officials in attendance.

The JCRC also secured the attendance of several public officials at the MEN’S Event, the JCRC Leadership Luncheon, and at Am Yisrael Chai: A Celebrate Israel event.

Public officials at Community Vigil after October 7 attacks

JEWISHcolorado President & CEO Renée Rockford, Denver Mayor Mike Johnston, Colorado Attorney General Phil Weiser, and Congresswoman Diana DeGette at Oct 7 vigil

In June 2023, 9 public officials reunited to relive their mission trip to Israel. While the Public Officials Mission Trip scheduled for October 2023 had to be postponed, Most looks forward to future trips because, he says, “the worst time to make a friend is when you need a friend.”

“By taking these trips every year, we make deep friendships with public officials because they experience Israel in person,” Most says. “Seeing the connections between Colorado and Israel creates a basis for relationships that enable us to work together for years into the future.”

Representative Steven Woodrow and Chief of Staff to the Governor Alec Garnett attend the JCRC Luncheon

Representative Steven Woodrow and Chief of Staff to the Governor Alec Garnett attend the JCRC Luncheon

As Most looks to the future of JCRC, he talks about expanding communications to the public and finding new ways to mobilize community members so that they can, in turn, engage directly with public officials at a more grassroots level.

“Elected officials need to hear directly from people who vote for them,” Most says. “To be as effective as possible, we need actual voters in the mix, so that when anti-Israel voters show up in large numbers at community meetings, our community is there in equal numbers to respond.”

Additional 2023-2024 JCRC accomplishments

  • Supported the draft response, outreach, and 1:1 meetings with 8 legislative members in response to the Black and Latino caucus ceasefire statements, leading to the removal of problematic statements;
  • Supported and joined on the House Floor for the presentation of the 2024 MLK Jr. Resolution;
  • Provided tier three support for both SB24-053: Racial Equity Study and SB24-189: Gender-Related Bias-Motivated Crimes;
  • Worked with the proponents of SB24-131: Prohibiting Carrying Firearms in Sensitive Spaces to add language that firearm safe spaces don’t apply to preschools that are attached to a synagogue;
  • Assisted in the development of the Holocaust Resolution and brought members of the community to the Senate Floor for the presentation of SJR-016: Holocaust Commemoration;
  • Met with the Armenian Community to discuss future partnership on legislation to ensure Holocaust and genocide education is implemented as intended;
  • Hosted a group of Israeli high school students at the capitol including a visit with Senator Michaelson Jenet, Senator Coleman, Representative Weinberg, and a representative from the Governor’s Office.