JCRC State of the Organization 2023
Below is a version of the State of the Organization as read by JCRC Chair Matt Most at the 2023 JCRC Leadership Luncheon.
It is great to be together with so many friends to celebrate the Jewish Community Relations Council. Thank you for being here.
Last week, at the JEWISHcolorado Signature Event, many of us had the opportunity to hear Liev Schrieber talk about Jew’s fighting back.
I identify with Liev’s take on our history and see the JCRC as an essential capacity of political strength for our community. Given the antisemitism we face, given the anti-Israel voices we must refute, given the violence we see directed at us and other communities… if the JCRC didn’t exist, I would be standing before you today pitching that we invent it.
The JCRC is a council of representatives from 38 diverse Jewish organizations from across the state and 15 at-large representatives who work together to address the challenges faced by the Jewish community as well as other communities targeted because of their race, religion, ethnicity, and identities. We actualize our traditional Jewish values by working collaboratively with community partners, legislators, and diverse allies to promote human life, dignity, and civic participation.
History is clear, the ability to engage in the political process is essential to ensure our own safety. History is also clear, that for minorities, successful engagement in the political process comes from building alliances with others. Finding the opportunities to work with other communities on shared priorities, hoping they will do the same for us.
JCRC is the mechanism by which the Colorado Jewish community speaks with one voice, in all its diversity to mobilize our community and others across the state. Our vision is for JCRC to reflect Colorado Jewry in all of its diversity — geographic, racial, economic and political. It is particularly important to us that all Jews feel the JCRC is a place where their voices are heard. If you see gaps in our membership, as I do, I hope you can help by joining us.
As many of you know, this is our first JCRC Leadership Luncheon since 2019. Over the past three years, JCRC has been hard at work redefining itself and expanding its partnerships with public officials and building a broad coalition of support with a diverse cohort of community agencies. These relationships have resulted in the passage of two pieces of legislation vital to the Jewish community.
First, The Holocaust and Genocide Education bill, which was supported by a broad coalition of nearly 100 organizations, and signed by Governor Polis on July 8, 2020, ensures that Colorado’s social studies curriculum helps students explore some of the darkest moments of history, including the Shoah, in the hope that through education we can build understanding…and prevent evil through knowledge. Today I would like to thank our legislative partners, and ask they stand and be recognized.
- Representative Dafna Michaelson Jenet
- Representative Emily Sirota
- Senate President Stephen Fenberg
- Senator Dennis Hisey
A second success was the Colorado Non-Profit Security Grant Program signed into law by Governor Polis on June 7, 2022. This program creates safer spaces for non-profits in a world increasingly threatening to minorities and their advocates. The first allocations, totaling nearly annual $400,000 were made this past October to 9 organizations (including 6 Jewish organizations). As with the Holocaust Ed legislation, we built a coalition of nearly 100 diverse partners to ensure all communities had a voice at the table. Today I would like to thank our legislative partners and ask they stand and be recognized.
- Representative Dafna Michaelson Jenet
- Representative Iman Jodeh
- Senator Chris Hansen
- Senator Kevin Priola
We have not only been busy at the legislature we have continued to host successful Public Officials Missions.
Indeed, over the past 20 years, JCRC has taken nearly 100 Colorado public officials to Israel. Of the current legislature, 19 members have participated, including 5 members of leadership. We look forward to providing a transformative experience another 10 members on our next trip later this year.
The power of this trip is hard to explain if you haven’t witnessed it. Together, we explore the beauty and complexity of Israel. We share a deeply personal—and for most participants—a once in a lifetime experience.
On our last trip, while standing at Yad Vashem, one legislator turned to me to share a connection he had just made between his own obligations as a legislator and the failure of German legislators to protect Jews and other citizens—instead they legalized hate and persecution. This is the precariousness of our lives as leaders, caught between a desire to stand with friends and colleagues and an ethical obligation to put human lives and ideals above everything else. “Never Again,” means so much more to both of us now. If you have been on Public Officials Mission as a legislator or sponsor… please stand! I encourage you to ask one of these participants about their experience.
If you have been on Public Officials Mission as a legislator or sponsor… please stand! I encourage you to ask one of these participants about their experience.
For the last ten months, it has been my pleasure to work along side our new JCRC Director, Dr. Dan Leshem. Dan brings broad Jewish community experience both as a former Hillel executive director, and as a scholar and educator of Holocaust and Genocide Studies and antisemitism.
We had the opportunity to put his expertise to work immediately during Colorado’s Holocaust and Genocide standards development process. In one iteration of the standards, Colorado students would not have learned the word “Nazi.” Through thoughtful advocacy and partnership, two members of the State Board of Education, worked with the Jewish community to ensure the adopted standards reflected best pedagogical practice. This was one more reminder for us that bill passage is not the end of our work.
In recognition of their efforts, I would like to acknowledge the two state Board of Education members who are here with us today. Please stand and be recognized.
- Rebecca McClellan
- Karla Esser
This past November, within hours of the Club Q mass shooting, JCRC reached out to our partner synagogues in Colorado Springs and to our LGBTQ+ statewide partner advocacy organizations to offer support. I would like to thank Rabbi Pillsbury of Temple Beit Torah and Shara Smith of The Interfaith Alliance of Colorado for allowing us to be a part of the profound and moving community responses they led.
After Derek Okubo, executive director of Denver’s Office of Human Rights and Community Partnerships presented on the Colorado Migrant crisis at the December JCRC meeting, our member organization Temple Emanuel took the lead in mounting a massive community response that has so far engaged over 1,000 community volunteers from over 62 organizations (34 Jewish and 28 from the broader community) donating over 5,500 boxes of clothing, backpacks, toiletries and other vital needs. I ask JCRC members Rabbi Emily Hyatt and Lori Kalata of Temple Emanuel to stand and be recognized for their endless hours of dedication to this initiative.
So, what is left for us to do?
This year we are supporting legislative initiatives that will:
- Renew funding for Colorado’s Non-Profit Security Grant Program;
- Increase Medicare reimbursements to our nursing homes;
- Ensure the renewal of the Child Care Center Tax Credit; and
- Support Holocaust Educators across the state to realize our goal of universal Holocaust and Genocide Ed.
JCRC is the tool we have developed to give our community a collective voice at the capital. A voice for coalition building and coalition joining. We are your voice fighting for democracy, for equal rights under the law, and for a future of safety, security and prosperity.
JCRC is where the Jewish community comes together to ensure that there is a better tomorrow ahead for all of us, not just some of us; that we all do better together; that when we look out for our neighbor and for each other we create the best future for the Jewish community.
In challenging times, we need organizations that not only make their voices heard, but seek common ground. A minority voice that works with others, can succeed in a democracy. To do all that, we must be strong, organized, and committed – and that’s why we need the JCRC.
Today you have heard about the JCRC’s work, and we very much appreciate you being here. You also understand that what the JCRC does is not free—It takes immense resources, both talent and treasure. Today, I am asking for you to dig a little deeper to support this vital organization.
On your table is a bag of pledge cards. Please take them out now. As you open your envelope think about the impact your gift will have. Your generosity directly supports the work of the JCRC and ensures a strong Jewish voice on issues of importance to our community and our commitment to grow from strength- to-strength.
Thank you for your contributions and advocacy.