Last week we publicly celebrated the Massachusetts legislature’s agreement to increase the state’s share of the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) (a refundable tax credit to help low-income workers, particularly those with children) in the Fiscal Year 2016 budget. Upon seeing that news, you may have wondered, how did JCRC decide to make a statement recognizing this accomplishment, and more generally, how does JCRC decide when and how to make public pronouncements?
JCRC is a network of 42 Greater Boston Jewish organizations. Our Council is comprised of some 120 members, representatives from these member organizations along with other individual community leaders. They debate resolutions and statements of principle that provide the framework for our further interpretation and implementation.
Our policy areas originate in three ways: top-down through the Jewish Council for Public Affairs (JCPA) resolutions system, a national process for articulating and defining a Jewish community relations agenda; bottom-up through our member organizations, partner agencies, and community members; and, outside-in through listening to the pulse of Beacon Hill and Capitol Hill. Often these streams combine and amplify our position and message.
Our work on the EITC is a prime example of those three sources of information working in concert. Through the JCPA process, our Council has spoken on multiple occasions about the need for policies which help lift people out of poverty; our partnership with JVS showed the clear nexus between the clients they serve and the benefit of the EITC; and finally, our conversations with our allies on Beacon Hill, including Governor Charlie Baker, Speaker Robert DeLeo and Senator Stanley Rosenberg, indicated a political willingness to address the issue. With these three sources clearly aligned, we were able to move with alacrity, joining with a coalition of advocates, testifying at the legislative hearing, drafting letters to the editors and finally publicly celebrating its eventual increase.
Sometimes, especially outside of the confines of our domestic policy, the stars do not always align so clearly and a decision about what voice we should offer is more art than science. That art includes consulting more voices in our own community, keeping an eye on what our national member organizations are doing on those issues, and being particularly conscious of who our audience is – as one local community – on a national stage, all while being cognizant that we are often being called to speak to issues where we lack technical expertise.
With regard to issues impacting Israel, we believe that the global Jewish community plays a key role in realizing the vision of Israel as a Jewish democracy and that we have the responsibility to advocate, agitate, and support Israelis in achieving that vision. We also believe in a healthy respect for Israel’s decisions, through her democratically elected government, on matters of security. A healthy respect doesn’t mean they have a veto, but when Israel is united on a matter of security, even if we disagree, we won’t work publicly against them – and, of course, the question of what is a security issue for Israel is sometimes up for debate.
At the end of the day, every day, we seek to find and define the center of Boston’s organized Jewish community, and then articulate that center point to the world around us. In moments of conflict, we turn inwards for that enlightenment. We are informed by what we hear from you, the leaders – at JCRC and amongst our member agencies. We need you to tell us what you think our community ought to be speaking up on, and where it is in our community’s interest for JCRC’s voice to be heard. We won’t always do what any one person thinks – in fact there are many issues where we don’t advocate what I personally support – but your voices and your insights enrich the conversation about this collective space that we all own together.
As we move together into a time of questions and issues of great significance, I hope you will find this helpful in both understanding how JCRC operates, and how your voice can be part of the discussion.