As the details of the State Budget are being debated on Beacon Hill, I am reminded that it is often said that laws are like sausages: it is better not to see them being made. I disagree – and not just because I am a vegetarian or because there is an inference that both are made from pork! In fact, to stretch this analogy a bit further, at JCRC we believe that you should not only see laws being made, but you should be one of the "cooks."
As JCRC prepares its recipe for public policy advocacy, we look for several key components:
The ingredients should be organic: Through JCRC’s Synagogue Social Justice work, we strengthen the ability of synagogues to do high-impact social justice work from a Jewish perspective. We work to build a Jewish community that prioritizes social justice, to connect Jewish communal interests to broader social concerns, and to enable individuals to recognize and build their power to act as change agents through their synagogues. Through our work, synagogue leaders are developed, synagogue communities and their social justice efforts are strengthened, and change is effected in Greater Boston and the state by addressing root causes of social problems. Similarly, JCRC’s public policy committee and Council generate policy ideas that come from their experiences in the community.
The meal should be family-style: With a purpose of defining and advancing the values, interests, and priorities of the organized Jewish community in the public square, JCRC works with its many partner agencies and community representatives to determine our communal priorities. JCRC seeks continued input and partnership from a robust network of Jewish organizations, thereby both elevating their work and advancing our shared agenda.
It should be appetizing: With both a constituency of community members across Greater Boston, and decision makers on Beacon Hill and Capitol Hill, it is essential that we work together to craft priorities and message them so that they are appealing to both the advocates and those with the power to make change.
And, of course, the meal should be (ful)filling: Just as when you serve a tasty and filling meal, knowing you’ve labored to put it on the table from scratch, when we as individuals and as a group pursue policy change to better our world, it evokes a sense of meaning, connectedness to a larger community, and of impact.
As we are in the midst of Massachusetts budget debate, our Government Affairs team is on double shifts in the State House kitchen working on our top budgetary priorities. But, these chefs don’t work alone. Take a moment the next time you see one of our sous chefs from our various policy committees who help develop the recipe that is our priority list. Volunteers who have joined (or will be joining) us at the State House to add seasoning as the laws are made – Beth Badik, Paul Bernon, Samantha Joseph, Matan Koch, Chuck Koplik, and Adam Suttin, to name a few – will tell you that not only is their experience fruitful, but it is a vital ingredient to ensure that relationships with decision makers are sustainable and that our agenda is further advanced by having the message shared by volunteers who deeply are invested with our priorities by choice.
So, what about the notion of too many cooks in the kitchen? Transparency and engagement in government creates a more inclusive Commonwealth and country, thus elevating the discourse. Similarly, an open and civil dialogue at the JCRC Council creates a more invested community of advocates for our priorities. We must continue to work together to influence change and advance our communal priorities.