In this week’s Torah portion, Pinchas, Moses names Joshua as his successor to lead the Israelites. In the same vein, Rabbi Strear has named me as his successor… to write JEWISHcolorado’s Shabbat Shalom message… this week.
As JEWISHcolorado director of external affairs, I work closely with Jay. I also have the privilege of working with the Colorado Jewish Community Relations Council (JCRC), the Jewish community’s public policy arm, and JEWISHcolorado’s Planning & Grant Making Committee, which supports key programs for enhancing Jewish life in the Centennial State and beyond.
On Wednesday, the JCRC celebrated a historic policy achievement: HB20-1336, the Holocaust and Genocide Studies in Public Schools bill. JEWISHcolorado hosted the bill’s signing, which was attended by Colorado’s oldest Holocaust survivor, Fanny Starr, as well as friends from the Armenian community, like ANCA-WR’s Simon Maghakyan, and others who forcefully advocated for the bill’s passage. It was a moving and thrilling way to conclude a successful year of work for the JCRC.
Besides the aforementioned leadership transition plan, Pinchas also includes the second post-Exodus census of the Israelites, which found that the population had decreased after a plague. Today, we find ourselves in a remarkably similar situation: the 2020 Census is tallying us up even as a pandemic rages. You can fill out the census online in twelve languages and on paper in fifty-nine: אַרײַנגערעכנט ייִדיש!
Why do it? For one, an accurate census count ensures our state is proportionately represented in Washington. The Census Bureau estimates that the Colorado population grew 14.5% between 2010 and 2019—and it has probably grown in the 365 days since that count. That could mean that after the 2020 Census is finalized, Colorado will have two or three additional Congressional districts sending representatives to the Capitol.
An accurate count ensures the equitable provision of services for all of our citizens, especially our most vulnerable. Unlike the censuses in the Torah, those conducted in the United States every ten years count everyone, from newborns to Methuselah. Older adults are more predisposed to severe effects from COVID-19, and the U.S. Census Bureau is focused on ensuring that those living in group homes for older adults—but also for college students, the incarcerated, and others—are being counted. That way federal funds can be allocated to those locations so that necessary services are provided at an appropriate level.
When we think about our vulnerable neighbors, we must think about People of Color who have also been disproportionately affected by COVID-19 and who are calling collectively for an end to systemic racism and the kind of police brutality that ended the lives of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Elijah McClain, and too many others. The Colorado JCRC was proud to join the Juneteenth Silent March, and our work will not end there.
Before I leave you to welcome in Shabbat with your family, I want to direct you to the musical interlude below. The video was filmed in our partner region Ramat HaNegev. Behind the singer, Israeli musician Dennis Lloyd, is a makhtesh, a crater formed by erosion. Israel is home to three of the six makhteshes in the world, and those three are in Ramat HaNegev. The setting is perfect for a song titled “Alien”: six astronauts—two of whom are Israeli— are training for conditions on Mars are doing so in a geodesic dome nearby.
On this Shabbat, may you feel proud of what you accomplished this week, may you feel counted, and may you feel yourself not a stranger, wherever you celebrate.
Shabbat Shalom U’Mevorach—A Blessed Shabbat of Peace,