By Melanie Roth Gorelick
I am excited to welcome the leaders of the community relations field to NYC for the JCPA2018 National Conference April 22-24. On the eve of the conference, I am reminded of a presentation from an interfaith leader named Sophie, who at a retreat, led a wonderful discussion on how the interfaith community “was made for times like these.”
The community relations professionals and lay leaders – those within the Federation system responsible for public affairs and intergroup relations work – are on the front lines at the local level navigating our current polarized reality. Annually they come together at the Conference to engage with high level speakers and thought leaders, share best practices with each other, and set consensus-based strategy and positions on public policy concerns.
The community relations field has been a pillar of the Federation system since its inception in 1944. There is an ingrained understanding that the Jewish community must share its values and be engaged in efforts with our partners in the non-Jewish community to ensure a democratic, just and pluralistic country, one in which all minorities, including Jews, can thrive. Local Jewish Community Relations Councils (JCRCs) are the one place within the Jewish community where Democrats, Republicans, and those with diverse opinions on Israel can come together to tackle public affairs together. While many of us feel challenged on a daily basis with an ever-changing political landscape that tests the limits of consensus, we feel that our work is more important than ever and have never been more energized. We understand that it is important to have a table where people convene to grapple with issues across differences.
We also understand the power of the faith voice. Our work does not stop when we set our policy platform, but just begins. Our real work is engaging daily with legislators, and with civic, racial and interfaith leaders. Our work is not about reacting in a time of fear but, rather, building strong communities and a society that ensures the rights of the most vulnerable and the safety of all. We know that as a Jewish community, small in numbers, we have limited influence and impact, but by joining together to find common ground on current day concerns we can make a difference.
At a time when our nation’s allies are feeling vulnerable, of rampant unrest in the Middle East, and many of our policies and values that undergird our work are being challenged, the community relations field is ready for business. We were made for times like these. And #JCPA2018 was made for times like these. Let’s put our heads together as we hear from inspiring speakers in interactive sessions that include #MeToo in the Jewish Community, #2020Census, #CriminalJusticeReform, #DreamAct, #GunViolence, and more.
Melanie Roth Gorelick is Senior Vice President, JCPA.