From the desk of Stewart Bromberg
On May 29, 2019, the Board of Trustees of the Jewish Federation of Western Massachusetts approved moving forward with our Community Demographic Study. The organization chosen to perform the study and report back the information is the Cohen Center for Modern Jewish Studies at Brandeis University. They have begun their organization of the process and will meet with our community task force again soon.
Security is an issue in all of our minds these days. As part of our effort to provide more funding to our constituent agencies to help enhance secure environments for our community members, we are constantly reviewing grant opportunities to help us pay for these improvements. We recently submitted a grant proposal to Homeland Security to help with our community wide efforts in this area. At the time of the submission deadline, our state legislators were considering increasing the amount of dollars available for this effort. I wish to share with you the following press release issued by the JCRC of Boston addressing the results of their deliberations:
JCRC Applauds MA Senate for Unanimous Support of Non-Profit Security Grant Funding
(Boston, MA) – The Jewish Community Relations Council applauds the Massachusetts State Senate, including lead sponsor Senator Eric Lesser (Longmeadow), Senate Majority Leader Cynthia Creem (Newton), Senate President Emerita Harriette Chandler (Worcester), and the Senate President Karen Spilka (Ashland) for unanimously supporting the amendment to increase the state Non Profit Security Grant program from $150,000 to $500,000 for the upcoming fiscal year. This funding will cover 10 grants across the Commonwealth for vital security enhancements and protocols at houses of worship, community centers, and other institutions at heightened risk of violence.
Earlier this month, JCRC organized a letter, signed by close to 150 Jewish institutional leaders from across the Commonwealth, to Governor Baker and state leaders asking for increased funding for this vital initiative.
“The Massachusetts State Senate sent a strong message that we believe every resident of Massachusetts should feel safe in their communities, and never feel targeted because of who they are. I’m proud of the Senators who advocated so eloquently and movingly for this amendment on the Senate floor, and I’m grateful to the entire Senate for passing this important measure unanimously,” said Senate President Karen E. Spilka.
“Anti-Semitism, islamophobia, bigotry and violence have no place in our society. We must continue to fight for and defend our freedom to worship and live openly and free. It pains me that our world still suffers from xenophobic acts of violence and hatred. But I am proud that the Senate stood up in unanimous support for security grants for nonprofits, because nobody should ever fear for their safety,” said Senate President Emerita Harriette L. Chandler.
“Unfortunately, we have seen a troubling rise in hate crimes across Massachusetts. These incidents are meant to intimidate some people in our communities, and they tear at the fabric of who we are as a country based on the equal right of everyone to participate in our democracy. With these security grants for synagogues, mosques, community centers and other organizations, we have made clear that hate has no place in our Commonwealth,” said Sen. Eric Lesser, who sponsored the amendment.
“In Massachusetts and across the nation, those who spew hate and violence and anti-Semitic views seem emboldened, and acts of violence are becoming all too common,” said Senator Creem. “We must continue working to change this tragic reality, and we should never accept it as the norm. However, the funding in this amendment also recognizes the need to ensure that we may worship and exercise our rights and freedoms in safety.”
“We congratulate our partners in the State Senate for unequivocally endorsing the right for all people to gather in safety,” said Aaron Agulnek, director of government affairs for the Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Boston. “Houses of worship, community centers, and other institutions must be safe, secure and open. This funding is a strong step towards that goal, but we must do more to challenge the motivation for all forms of hatred. Education and respect, not fortification, is our ultimate hope.”
The Senate also unanimously adopted Minority Leader Bruce Tarr’s amendment to codify the Governor’s Hate Crimes Task Force into law. JCRC partnered with Governor Charlie Baker, the Anti-Defamation League, CJP, and Jewish federations and agencies across the state in 2017 to reestablish this vital task force after it remained dormant for several years.
Not only do we applaud the unanimous support from the Massachusetts Senate, we added our support to the effort and were one of the communities signing the letter of support. Our application for the Homeland Security Grant included a letter of support from Senator Lessor’s office for our efforts to receive grant funds to be distributed throughout the Jewish Federation of Western Massachusetts service area, including Hampton, Hampshire, and Franklin counties in Massachusetts and the communities we also serve in Northern Connecticut.
The festival of Shavuot (or Shavuos), is a Jewish holiday that occurs on the sixth day of the Hebrew month of Sivan and begins this year at sundown on Saturday, June 8, 2019. Shavuot commemorates the anniversary of the day God gave the Torah to the entire Israelite nation assembled at Mount Sinai, although the association between the giving of the Torah (Matan Torah) and Shavuot is not explicit in the Biblical text. The holiday is one of the Shalosh Regalim, the three Biblical pilgrimage festivals. It marks the conclusion of the Counting of the Omer.
In celebration of Shavuot, our office will be closed on Monday, June 10, 2019. Wishing you a Chag Sameach.