JCPA’s Impact 2021
2021 was an important year for JCPA, and our work combating injustice and hate was as impactful today as when we were first created. JCPA is a multi-issue organization taking policy positions developed by the diverse Jewish community on major issues of the day from a Jewish lens. We are influential and respected by policymakers and have significant impact in Congress, the White House, and State Houses across the country. JCPA works to build a just society in common cause with other racial, ethnic, faith, and civic groups around the country. In this way, we share our Jewish values of tikkun olam. We collectively envision a world in harmony with our Jewish values and which supports the safety and security of all our partners. Please consider supporting advocacy, education, mobilization, and development of strategic community relations strategies and resources. Your gift helps to maintain a Jewish voice in the public square to influence decision makers and others civic leaders around the country, and to help keep us safe and secure during these changing times.
Combating Antisemitism – Growing antisemitism is a major concern for JCPA. While we agree that both racism and antisemitism are different, we also believe that we must fight hate together with those impacted. JCPA successfully advocated with the White House to appoint a Jewish liaison and nominate the Special Envoy on Antisemitism. We successfully advocated for the position to be enhanced to Ambassador level. JCPA has adopted and advocates for the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) definition usage. We work within our issue-based coalitions and partners to educate about antisemitism, to identify it, and to stand together against it. JCPA organized a meeting with the New York Times editors and leaders of Jewish organizations to discuss concerns about their cartoons and unbalanced reporting around Israel including the use of antisemitic tropes.
Advocating for Racial Justice – JCPA believes that to live our Jewish values and create a fair and just society we must stand with our racial partners in the quest for racial justice. JCPA has mobilized its full network to strengthen relationships with Black communities and has created a toolkit, templates, programs and a racial justice policy platform. More than 25 local JCRCs, from Orange County California to Indianapolis to New York, have carried out interactive webinars to learn from their Black partners about their priorities and develop closer working relationships. JCPA works closely with the NAACP, partners with the Urban League’s newly created Justice department on policy reform and criminal justice reform, and works with the Congressional Caucus on Black – Jewish relations. JCPA drafted a statement committing to work against systemic racism and more than 130 Jewish community relations organizations signed on.
Achieving Criminal Justice Reform – JCPA launched its Criminal Justice Initiative in 2016 to strengthen relationships with emerging leaders of the Black communities and live our Jewish values of restorative justice. Today, the initiative has expanded from one JCRC working on this issue to more than 30 JCRCs actively involved, with roughly 50 JCRCs educating and engaging on criminal justice issues. JCPA has organized a National Jewish Network on Criminal Justice Reform with over 100 members that launched a Jewish Values Framework “Jewish Call to Action: Ending Mass Incarceration and Criminalization” signed by 100 Jewish leaders. JCPA actively advocates for policing and sentencing reform, shifting to a rehabilitative and restorative justice approach to justice issues. This work successfully positioned JCPA to lead the Jewish community to respond to calls for police reform during the COVID19 Pandemic.
Working in Progressive Circles to Fight the Delegitimization of Israel – To fight delegitimization of Israel JCPA established the Israel Action Network (IAN), now a part of JFNA. Today, we have increased our work in progressive circles on civil rights and social justice concerns to live out our Jewish values and deter BDS efforts. We most recently stopped attempts to put a reduction in funding for Israel on the civil rights agenda, particularly after the recent Hamas-Israel hostilities. We are training JCRCs on engaging with progressives on Israel, including Jewish progressives. JCPA is also coordinating with other Jewish organizations to encourage the adoption of the IHRA definition as a tool for fighting antisemitism. If we are not at the table, then other groups, such as Jewish Voice for Peace, will fill this vacuum.
Support for Coexistence and Israel’s Efforts for Peace and Security – JCPA believes that for there to be lasting peace in Israel, we need to create a strong foundation of coexistence between Arabs, Jews and others living in Israel. We have advocated for the past four years for the creation of a coexistence fund to support these efforts, culminating in the Nita Lowey Act being signed into law in 2020. JCPA continues to work for a strong US-Israel relationship and to support US leadership for a two-state solution and to counter delegitimization of Israel.
Combatting Hate – At the start of the pandemic, JCPA was the first Jewish group to speak out against the increase in hate and bigotry against Asian American and Pacific Islander communities, leading a solidarity letter in both English and Mandarin signed by 87 national and local Jewish groups. Moved by the Jewish communal outcry, Chinese American groups sent thousands of much-needed personal protective equipment to Jewish social service agencies in DC, Boston, New York, Cleveland, Buffalo, and San Francisco. This was just one of many actions we organized. To counter the alarming spread of hate online, JCPA has taken action. We joined a campaign to hold social media sites accountable by educating the community relations field and launching a public campaign in August 2020 to pressure Facebook to ban antisemitism on its platform. For more than a year, JCPA was part of a Jewish advisory panel to Facebook where we organized a unified approach to focus on the highest priority: banning Holocaust denial, which Mark Zuckerberg had pointedly refused to do. It worked. A month after that very hard-hitting meeting with Facebook officials, Zuckerberg announced a change in policy to ban Holocaust denial. We are now working with ADL on launching a joint project to bring this campaign to the state level.
In May 2021, President Biden signed into law the COVID-19 Hate Crimes Act and the Khalid Jabara and Heather Heyer NO HATE Act to improve hate crimes reporting, tracking, and response. JCPA worked closely with its interfaith and intergroup partners for more than four years to achieve passage of the bill.
Ensuring a Strong Democracy – The Jewish community believes that a strong, thriving democracy is the best means of ensuring that Jews can live safely and freely. JCPA has an extensive record dating back to our founding of fighting for voting rights and mobilizing the Jewish community to actively engage in democracy and civic life through candidate and voter education programs, get out the vote efforts, and legislative advocacy for fair, free and accessible elections. The COVID-19 pandemic altered almost every aspect of the way we live and work, including how we voted in the 2020 elections. We organized a high-level strategic task force to convene our national agencies and SCN and prepared educational webinars, provided trainings and resources for JCRC directors, advocated with Congress, and partnered with our diverse interfaith and intergroup coalitions to secure funding administration of state elections. During and after the election, we worked with the task force to prepare community relations leaders and our network for various contested election scenarios. JCPA’s work helped mobilize more people, including Jews, to come out to vote in 2020 than in any other election in US history.
Strengthening Voting Rights – JCPA has led the Jewish community on supporting voting rights since the 1940s, including as a co- founder of the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights. This issue has remained a top priority of the Jewish community with several resolutions passed at the last JCPA conference as voting rights came under increasing fire in the face of Congressional inaction. JCPA is actively advocating for the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act and the For the People Act. The House passed the Voting Rights Advancement Act in August, and we will continue to fight for its passage in the Senate. We are working with local JCRCs around the country to fight efforts to suppress the vote at the state level in Georgia, Ohio, and Florida.
Advocating for A Compassionate Immigration System – JCPA has a long history of advocating for a welcoming and just immigration system and, in more recent decades, robust immigration reform. With the implementation of the zero tolerance family separation policy, JCPA increased its national advocacy to fight efforts to undermine our immigration and refugee systems, and build a more compassionate one, including decriminalization of those seeking asylum. JCPA led a letter of more than 600 state and national groups who wanted to speak out but didn’t have a national organization to represent them in the policy space. We took representatives from 25 JCRCs to the Mexico-Arizona border to learn firsthand about the immigration system and meet with asylum seekers and US border control. JCPA prioritized helping those in the immigration system during COVID-19. There is still much work to be done in this area.
Leading During COVID-19 – JCPA was a leader within the Jewish community in responding to COVID-19 and the social ills that arose during the period. As a nimble organization with a strong network in place, JCPA convened its Delegate Assembly and sprang into action, working tirelessly to support the Jewish community to engage in and navigate the new civil rights movement driven by #BlackLivesMatter, as well as to the threats to our democracy, protect the most vulnerable, advocate with Congressional leaders, and provide additional support to Jewish community professionals working on many fronts. JCPA organized three Delegates Assembly Meetings with over 90 communities and hundreds of representatives in attendance to set our plan of action. We organized more than 50 substantial webinars and virtual programs with thousands of people participating, strengthened relationships with diverse groups in fighting hate, developed toolkits, published op-eds, program templates and other resources to guide the community relations field. The JCRC network highly appreciated and praised JCPA for our aid.