While some of you reading this might be familiar with the Jewish Community Relations Council (JCRC), one thing you might not know is that the JCRC was one of the first of its kind founded in our country. This year marks 75 years since it was established right here in the Greater Cincinnati area. The JCRC is the arm of the Jewish Federation of Cincinnati that focuses on public affairs and community relations.
The JCRC has a long history of working for justice through community and government relations, advocacy and education. It was established in the 1930s during the rise of Nazism in Europe and at a time of overt antisemitism in the U.S.
Since its founding, the JCRC has forged ties with City Hall, area universities, public and parochial schools, as well as civic groups, labor unions and the like. It also worked closely with the mayor in founding the Friendly Relations Committee – now known as the Cincinnati Human Relations Commission). In 1963, the JCRC along with other faith communities organized a civil-rights march on Fountain Square that drew nearly 20,000 people and in the 1970s and 1980s, it advocated on behalf of hundreds of thousands of Soviet Jews as Jewish life was being extinguished in the Soviet Union.
Unequivocally Condemn Hamas
While we’re very proud of the 75 years of advocacy and support we’ve provided to the community, turn on any TV or open any newspaper, and it’s easy to see there’s still a lot more work to do. For example, at this moment, we are deeply concerned about the current situation in Israel.
The JCRC unequivocally condemns the barrage of rockets Hamas has fired with the sole intention of maiming or killing Israeli civilians. While we support diplomatic efforts to calm the crisis, we fully support Israel’s right to defend its population from Hamas’ wanton violence.
We grieve the loss of innocent life that is occurring while this current conflict continues. Our role is to help provide context for the community about what is going on and one example is our blog sharing information about the current situation, as well as Cincinnati connections to the current situation.
Our heart and prayers are with the many victims of this conflict and there is one common perpetrator: Hamas. In a joint editorial, outgoing Israeli President Shimon Peres and incoming President Reuven Rivlin recently wrote:
"The bloodshed will stop only when we all understand that it is not our unhappy fate to live together, but rather our destiny to do so."
Like Peres and Rivlin, we hope that all parties to this ongoing conflict will resort to discussion rather than violence so that all can live together in peace.
Work At Home: Gay Rights
Further, we are committed to promoting mutual understanding on a broad range of local, national and international issues. One such issue that is at the forefront in the new millennium is the gay rights movement. In some Middle East countries being gay is grounds for execution; however, Israel is one of the more progressive countries in the world for its legal protections and cultural acceptance.
However, full equality is not yet a reality.
Recently, we brought to Cincinnati, Yaniv Waizman, who is a Tel Aviv City Council Member and Founder of Israel Gay Youth and special advisor on LGBTQ affairs to the mayor of Tel Aviv, which hosts over 100,000 people during its annual pride celebration. He spoke at a community-wide event at the Mayerson JCC, offering a glimpse into life in Israel’s LGBTQ community.
Perhaps, more importantly he participated in an event hosted by City Council Member Chris Seelbach and Strive Together/Strive Partnership Executive Director and JCRC Board Member Greg Landsman. This event sparked ways in which we can learn from the efforts of Tel Aviv to spark conversations about how to make Cincinnati a more gay friendly city as it continues to strive toward being an inclusive community for all.
Committed to Cincinnati’s Jewish Community
As we look to the future, the JCRC will continue confronting the challenges of the day and work towards creating a more just society for all. In addition, JCRC remains committed to its founding purpose of protecting and supporting a thriving Jewish community in Cincinnati, which today is about 30,000..
It’s also important that the JCRC is focused on the international Jewish community, educating our local community about Israel and the rising anti-semitism in Europe. As a community, we will continue to work together with a broad range of organizations such as the Metropolitan Area Religious Coalition (MARCC), the Chamber of Commerce, Xavier University, the University of Cincinnati, the Islamic Center of Cincinnati and faith communities that are committed to making Cincinnati an inclusive and diverse city.
Look at any vibrant metropolis like Los Angeles or New York City and you will find communities that are culturally diverse, create an environment where young, up-and-coming, talented people are choosing to live and grow. We are excited to play our part in helping our great city thrive.
Sarah Weiss is the Executive Director of the Jewish Community Relations of the Jewish Federation of Cincinnati and The Center for Holocaust.
She is the recent recipient of the FBI Director’s Community Leadership Award for her work promoting civil rights in the community and partnering with the FBI. This award is given to only 56 people nationally.