Jeremy Burton, headshotWhere I’ve been, and where we’re going.

October 1 was my first anniversary at JCRC. It is no secret that I have a passion for social media as a tool in our work. I ended my first day here with an update on Facebook:

Day 1 complete: Public policy committee prepping for Council meeting, meeting w/ FR folks re outreach & donors, budget review, drafting an op-ed re our unwavering support for Israel government. All in all a good day.

As I reflect on my first year in Boston, I’ve mined data from Foursquare—a social check-in platform that allows people to share where we are and that declares a user as “mayor” of a location when they are the most frequent visitor in recent months—for observations on the year behind me and the work ahead for us.

A community dispersed; not just geographically

Pull Quote #1, JB letter, October 1

When JCRC was founded in 1944 our Jewish community was concentrated in a few neighborhoods, mostly in Boston. As we moved to the suburbs it has become harder for our leaders to be in relationship with each other, to see each other on the same streets and in the same supermarkets.

For JCRC, with a Council of 140 members from across this region, many of whom only see each other at our meetings every few months, building the connections and understanding that lead to quality discourse and decision making for our community has become far more challenging than it was some 70 years ago.

This year I spent time in 38 different cities, towns and neighborhoods around Boston.

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Check-ins at houses of worship: 74


There are some constants over the years. Synagogues remain a center of our community and the basis for our community organizing work (which I heard about long before I joined JCRC): 20 different ones visited this year, for one-on-one conversations, JCRC Council meetings, and community events like the Israeli Consulate’s Yom Ha’atzmaut celebration that I was privileged to emcee. Our interfaith partners are also vital to our work: 18 churches, including the hosts of actions by the Greater Boston Interfaith Organization, and YMORE (Youth of MA Organizing for a Reformed Economy).

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Check-ins abroad: 197


Over 15 days in Israel this past March—attending the CJP Boston-Haifa Partnership annual meetings and co-leading a study tour for leaders in the Boston housing sector examining Israel’s social protest movement—I checked in 157 times. In April I made my 1st visit to Dnepropetrovsk, our sister community in Ukraine, where I checked in 14 times over 4 days.

Donation ask, JB letterI’m still the mayor of the Municipal Department of Education in Haifa—the agency that is our partner in implementing the Shiluvim initiative for the full integration of Ethiopians—as well as the Grand Hotel Café in Dnep, but the greater experiences this year have been the stories I’ve heard, in those communities and here in Boston, from long time leaders who helped establish and nurture these partnerships as an expression of our enduring commitment to global Jewish peoplehood and the future of Israel, a commitment made centuries before the age of social media.

Closer to home I’ve been to Worcester for the annual meeting of the Massachusetts Association of Jewish Federations—a coalition on Beacon Hill which JCRC leads (8 State House check-ins)—and to the Cape (for our summer outing at a board member’s home), though not to the North Shore, a region I expect we’ll be far more engaged with in the coming years.

I’ve done the Freedom Trail and have been to the Boston Opera House, the ICA, the MFA, the Gardner, to New Hampshire for NASCAR racing and of course to Fenway Park, but I haven’t yet been to Gillette Stadium, an omission I’d happily correct this season. Go Pats!

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Checking in to advance JCRC’s work and that of our 40 member organizations

In this quintessential college town, I’ve been to 10 colleges and universities, but only 4 lower schools, including Newton South for International Holocaust Commemoration Day and a visit to a Greater Boston Jewish Coalition for Literacy volunteer site.

While JCRC drives a lot of important work most of our activity as a community comes through the leadership of others. Our work is also about how we participate with and support our member organizations. Though I’ve only been to one consulate (Israel in Boston), I’ve met many diplomats at programs organized by AJC. I’ve met with labor leaders, but the 2 union halls I visited were for events hosted by the Jewish Labor Committee and the Workmens Circle.

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A vibrant and changing community

Pull Quote #2, JB letter, October 1

There’s a story in all of this, beyond my propensity for oversharing. It’s about a vital community, more diverse and more diffuse than ever before. Yet in my travels and my conversations I’ve come to appreciate that while we have changed over the years, with broader interests and approaches to our advocacy and activism, we’re also still a community committed to the core values JCRC celebrated at our annual meeting last June: pursuing justice, strengthening community, and supporting Israel, across Greater Boston and around the world. 

As a network that represents a broad spectrum of our community, these changes pose challenges as we continue to articulate those shared core values and priorities. This coming year I’ll be working with our leadership to articulate a vision and strategy for JCRC’s future that builds on our core and mobilizes the tools of our changing world (including social media) to build the relationships we need to meet these challenges.

I hope you’ll be part of meeting these challenges and I’d appreciate your reflections, now, and in the months to come.

Thank you to all of you for welcoming me and allowing me to become part of this amazing, wonderful and complex community.

P.S. Last summer when I was hired, the Jewish Advocate asked local leaders what I would need to do to be successful. One leader advised that I would need to drink “so much coffee” as I got to know our leaders. For the record: 212 check-ins at 69 coffee venues this year. Also, 3 tearooms.

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