Jackie Congedo — In Conversation
This Moment Calls Us to Stand Up: JCRC Year in Review
Normally at this time of year, we would be gathering to talk about the challenges facing our Jewish community and our city, and our plans to meet them. We would hear from a thoughtful speaker, rich with experience, who would leave us feeling inspired and energized for the work ahead.
While there is nothing normal about this year, and we cannot have our annual meeting in our usual way, our work continues—with new urgency and purpose—grounded in our common values and our 81-year-old mission of protecting Jewish security recognizing that Jewish security depends on a just society for all. Take two minutes now to watch this inspiring video—celebrating the work we’ve done this past year—together.
In pursuit of our mission, we have led successful initiatives to support our community during COVID-19, combat antisemitism and hate, educate and advocate on Israel and issues facing our community, and build and strengthen our coalitions with diverse partners.
Please take a moment to read our comprehensive Year in Review for 2019-2020. As the president of our board, Ronna Greff Schneider, told the board recently: “This year has brought unprecedented challenges, and we have truly stepped up.”
Since last June, we’ve responded to more than 25 incidents of antisemitic and other hateful activity in the Greater Cincinnati region. This included responses to antisemitic bullying in schools, hateful graffiti on public parks and infrastructure, propaganda campaigns by hate groups, and antisemitic rhetoric from public officials, among other incidents.
In this video, Jonathan describes surviving prolonged antisemitic harassment at his school and our work helping to bring about positive change for him, his family and his school community:
We also worked with Ohio Jewish Communities to help 18 Jewish Cincinnati organizations assess and communicate their COVID-19 needs to local, state, and federal elected officials, effectively making the case that emergency funding was critical for the survival of the Jewish nonprofit community.
We joined with other local nonprofits and immigration advocacy groups in the formation of a city-wide Rapid Response Network to support basic, immediate needs of immigrant and refugee families in Cincinnati.
In the area of Israel education, we helped design various congregational civil discourse projects, in partnership with Resetting the Table, and hosted county-wide public library book discussions of Yossi Klein Halevi’s Letters to My Palestinian Neighbor, as part of Jewish Cincinnati’s We Need to Talk initiative.
I am proud of our committed board and staff and the JCRC’s work this past year, and while we anticipate challenges ahead, I am confident that we can and will rise to meet them:
We are seeing increased polarization and environmental toxicity as the November elections grow nearer. So are working to elevate discourse by convening forums featuring informed and respectful debate on substantive issues, and we are working hand-in-hand with other partners to be sure Cincinnatians are informed and active voters.
We are seeing a continued rise in antisemitism and extremism, fueled by an environment where fear, scarcity, and isolation are only increasing. So we are planning the 2021 launch of an institute to combat hate and antisemitism, which will convene diverse civic leaders to in an alliance to strengthen our inclusive democracy. This force-multiplier project will empower civic leaders with the tools and connections they need to be more effective in countering extremism and strengthening our civil society.
Our communities are writing a new chapter in the struggle for racial justice and civil rights. So we are empowering our Jewish community to be more actively engaged in racial justice issues through specific, thoughtful, relevant education and opportunities for action. And we are doubling down in stronger relationship and solidarity with our partners in communities of color. I recently had the opportunity to sit down with Kevin Aldridge, Opinion Editor at the Cincinnati Enquirer, and Eric Ward of the Western States Center to discuss Black-Jewish relations in America following recent antisemitic statements made by high-profile Black celebrities.
Our JCRC is much stronger because of the hard work and expertise of our board of directors. I am so grateful for the leadership of our president, Ronna Greff Schneider, and for our outgoing board members Greg Landsman, Joanne Grossman, and Amnon Maggid, who served the organization during an extraordinarily difficult time. I want to issue a warm welcome to our incoming board members: Debbie Brant, Jennifer Manago, Sasha Naiman, Seth Schwartz, and Kayla Soroka. This group of talented, savvy, connected individuals will bring new and diverse perspectives to our already-impactful lay leadership team. I appreciate their energy and commitment to meet the upcoming challenges. Finally, I am excited to share that Sherri Goren Sloven has joined our Executive Committee, and Mark Barsman has been named Executive Vice President, and is expected to follow Ronna next year as our next board president.
As we reflect, we can look back with pride on the work we’ve accomplished over the last year as we look forward with determination to rise to the already formidable new challenges of the day. Join us—what’s ahead will take all of us. Follow us on Facebook and Twitter, and please reach out to me or to Justin Kirschner, Associate Director, for more information on how to engage in our work.
Thanks for caring about our community and what we do.
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