Jackie Congedo — In Conversation
JCRC Responding to New Challenges During COVID-19 Pandemic
In our last conversation, I shared that during this challenging time, the widespread fear surrounding COVID-19 has led to an increase in hateful rhetoric as well as bias-related incidents and crimes, often targeting Asian and Asian-American communities, and in some cases, targeting Jewish communities as well.
Despite these challenges, I remain inspired by your resiliency and commitment to community. For every article I read about fear, I find another about courage. And it’s this message of hope that drives our JCRC to keep working and preparing for the day normalcy returns. In fact, as the Passover holiday begins, a Jewish holiday that under typical circumstances would bring us together to celebrate the Jewish exodus from slavery, we must draw wisdom from the Passovers of the past that next year will be a brighter year in Jerusalem. So as we all begin to fall into new patterns of social distancing, homeschooling, and telecommunication, I wanted to share how JCRC’s plans and priorities in three major areas have shifted as we respond to these new circumstances in hopes to better serve you:
JCRC serves as the main government relations resource for all of our Cincinnati Jewish agencies and congregations, and this work has certainly taken priority during this time. First, we want to ensure our Jewish community leadership remains connected with our elected officials (local, state, and federal), so we can better advocate for legislation that provides relief for our agencies, congregations, and neighbors.
Furthermore, remaining connected with elected leadership ensures we can better communicate the rapidly changing recommendations and what it might mean for our community. In this vein, we convened and helped to coordinate conference calls connecting Jewish communal leadership in Cincinnati with Mayor John Cranley, Governor Mike DeWine, Senator Sherrod Brown and other officials. JCRC pushed for the CARES stimulus bill, just signed into law. Thanks in part to our persistent advocacy, this bill will be a lifeline for our Jewish communal agencies and congregations. It allocates more than 300 billion dollars to a payroll protection program, where any 501c3 or small business can apply for millions of dollars in Small Business Administration loans. These loans will be converted into grants that cancel the need for repayment as long as organizations maintain payroll. With this bill’s passing, we can now pivot from an advocacy focus to an informational role—making sure our agencies and congregations are prepared to quickly apply for and access as much of this funding as possible. In order to make the most of what is available, we have coordinated our efforts with the Ohio Jewish Communities (OJC) in Columbus to conduct a “needs audit” of our Cincinnati Jewish agencies and congregations. This will help us to better know what our community needs and who best to reach out to for support.
We also know that the changes to the Primary elections in Ohio caught many of us by surprise. For the most up-to-date information on how to cast your ballot by mail, please visit our Facebook and Twitter accounts. This can be a multi-step process, so please be sure to reference these timely resources. We continue to work with local synagogues, NAACP, and the Chamber on planning Get Out the Vote efforts for November 2020.
Lastly, please take a moment to fill out the US 2020 Census form for your household. You should have received an invitation in the mail with instructions about how to fill out the questionnaire. It is important that everyone in your household be counted, because it will determine congressional representation, inform hundreds of billions in federal funding every year, and provide data that will impact communities for the next decade.
TRACKING/COMBATTING ANTISEMITISM AND XENOPHOBIA
While the priority in our work has very much shifted to ensuring that we can best connect our agencies and congregations with relief opportunities, we are still actively monitoring antisemitic and xenophobic activity. Last week, we partnered with the Business Chamber and the head of the Chinese Chamber on a podcast about xenophobia during the COVID-19 crisis. Additionally, JCRC signed a letter expressing the Jewish community’s support and partnership in fighting hate and xenophobia against the Asian and Asian-American communities, and has shared additional resources for families, neighbors, educators, and organizations. We are reminded that each of us can do our part to mitigate the spread of hate, misinformation, and fear.
ISSUE AND COALITION WORK
Our work as it relates to Israel and on our other priority issues continues. Our weekly Israel update continues to provide a weekly summary of the big news out of Israel, and we are sharing with community leaders virtual opportunities to learn from Israel’s scientists and doctors who are on the front lines of defeating COVID-19.
In the areas of gun safety, criminal justice reform, and immigration, JCRC is taking the lead of the coalitions we have joined. In some cases, such as immigration and criminal justice reform, the focus of these issue-based coalitions is shifting to ways the work is impacted by the COVID-19 issue, in other cases the work of these coalitions is slowing a bit. Regardless, we are at the table and actively participating as we always have been.
Thank you for your continued support and partnership during this challenging time. Please, above all else, stay safe, healthy, and hopeful.
Thanks for caring about our community and what we do.
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