Volume XV | December 2020
Linking you to the work of creating a more civil and caring community in WNY
Powered by the Buffalo Jewish Federation
Co-Chairs: Deborah Goldman & Nina Lukin | Director: Mara Koven-Gelman
Student Intern: Hannah Gabelnick
Buffalo JCRC's work falls into three broad areas: Social Justice, Combatting Hate and Discrimination, and Building Relationships with Ethnic, Faith, and Cultural Communities. During the COVID-19 pandemic our priority is to ensure all communities maintain their safety and remain healthy.
Todah Rabah (thank you) to Nina Lukin, JCRC co-chair
JCRC extends a hearty thank you to Nina Lukin as she ends her JCRC Co-chair term. Nina's unrelenting energy and organizational skills helped build a new JCRC in 2018 with then co-chair Ted Steinberg. Among her many roles were chairing the Binyan (foundation) working group, working with Partnership for Public Good, League of Women Voters and Voice Buffalo. She identified and built relationships with many other community groups and leaders. Nina will remain a valued member of the JCRC executive committee. Deborah Goldman will remain as chair. Nina has joined the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Committee League of Women Voters of WNY, is a member of the Buffalo Jewish Federation board of directors and took a leadership role with the Center for Jewish Engagement and Learning’s Chanukah Box of Light project. Kol HaKavod (job well done) Nina!

Nina recently reflected on her time as JCRC co-chair:

“The recent passing of the top Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat, reminded me of my entrance into Jewish community relations. In Dec 2016, I travelled with JCPA to Israel on a fellowship, Darchei Shalom or Paths of Peace trip. In Ramallah, we met with this western educated, long-time advisor to PLO Chairman Yasser Arafat. Despite politically opposing the negotiator, I was able to engage in civil dialogue on vital yet challenging issues."  

"Given the recent election, leaving the JCRC co-chair role is poignant for me. One of the first roles I took was co-sponsoring with the Buffalo Urban League the “Let NY Vote” Campaign to advocate for legislative changes to allow for early voting, automatic voter registration, and more in New York State. Early voting was critical in affording all registered New Yorkers the ability to ‘spread out’ in-person voting across nine additional days during the COVID-19 pandemic.”
Racial Justice Working Group Update
by Hannah Gabelnick

In late August, the Buffalo JCRC created a Racial Justice Working Group (RJWG), a three-month volunteer-led group to self-educate, evaluate, discuss, and submit recommendations to the JCRC Executive Committee and Buffalo Jewish Federation Board of Governors. Led by Deborah Goldman, with the staff support of Mara Koven-Gelman, the RJWG is rooted in key Jewish values such as Tzedek, Tzedek Tirdof (Justice, Justice You Shall Pursue), Lo Ta’amod Al Dam Rey’echa (Do not stand idly by), Tikkun Olam (Repair the world), and Hineini (We are present).

Read the complete article here.
For more information on Racial Health Disparities, go here.
For more information on Fair Housing Organizations in WNY, go here.
Buffalo JCRC receives High Road Fellowship Grant to study:
Antisemitism, Racism and Hate
Buffalo JCRC recently was awarded a grant to place a Partnership for Public Good High Road Fellow to lead a project in Summer 2021 entitled, Antisemitism, Racism and Hate: Incidence and Impact. High Road Fellows are Cornell undergraduates interested in grassroots democracy and how individuals can help create a more equitable economy. Data from the FBI, Department of Justice and Anti-Defamation League clearly demonstrate that Hate, Racism and Antisemitism are on the rise. WNY is not immune and this issue has never been locally studied. This project aims to assess the incidents, create an inventory of organizations and activities combatting hate, and assess their impact on WNY. This project will shed knowledge and awareness on strategies to advocate and mobilize our community against further hate in our region. It will also make recommendations on how organizations/coalitions can continue this critical work.

The four parts of the project include:
  1. Research incident rate of hate, racism and antisemitism in WNY using mapping, focus group, databases, and law enforcement data.
  2. Create an environmental scan/mapping of which organizations aim to combat hate and foster tolerance and civil discourse and the activities they produce.
  3. Assess the impact of those activities on the rate of hate incidence rate, impact on inter-organizational collaboration including faith and racial justice groups and impact on educational (high school and college) outcomes.
  4. Recommendations of next steps guided by the research. 
Democracy Participation: Reflections of Election Inspectors and Election Protection Volunteers
Many members of the Jewish community were heavily involved in ensuring a safe and functional democracy during the 2020 Elections and we offer them our sincere gratitude. Here are some of their roles and reflections.
Election Inspectors

Several individuals participated in the Erie County Board of Elections training and acted as election inspectors on November 3, 2020. Thank you to Nina Lukin, Elliot Gabelnick, Rabbi Sara Rich, and Mike Steklof. Over 4000 people were election inspectors through Erie County (note: County Board of Elections manage the election under state law.) The day was long – starting at before 6 am and ending well after 9 pm.

Being a Student During COVID-19
By Hannah Gabelnick

It has been eight months since I have been inside of Amherst Central High School. Since the March lockdown, I have been participating in my sophomore and junior years of high school entirely online from the safety of my bedroom. For the remainder of the 2019-2020 school year, Amherst decided to stick with asynchronous learning where students do their school work on their own time with minimal teacher instruction. I watched teacher-created videos, took notes, completed assignments and quizzes, and even took the AP European History exam online. With no live teaching, in-class discussions, or final exams, it was hard to find motivation to keep learning.

Read more here.
Buffalo JCRC: A Year of Engagement, Social Justice and Caring
By Mara Koven-Gelman, JCRC Director
It is challenging to reflect upon the past month, let alone the past year. Founded in 2018, JCRC entered its second year in fall 2019. Here is a look back on how JCRC identified priorities and worked with partners towards “creating a more civil and caring community in WNY.”

Founding co-chairs Ted Steinberg and Nina Lukin, continuing with Deborah Goldman, the JCRC worked on three major areas: Social Justice, Combatting Hate, Antisemitism, and Building Relationships with other faith, ethnic, and cultural and legislative groups. 

Read complete article here.
JCPA and National

The Jewish Council for Public Affairs (JCPA) spearheaded “A Jewish Statement on Elections and Democratic Principles,” signed by the community relations network–more than 90 Jewish organizations, including 15 national member agencies and 76 local Jewish community relations councils and Federations. BJCRC signed on the letter. Read statement here
Special Thank you to Deborah Goldman and Grant Golden on a generous leadership gift to JCRC!
Jody Biehl
Ann Marie Carosella
Molly Carr
Adam Fogel
Rabbi Alex Lazarus-Klein
Phyllis Steinberg
Dr. Theodore Steinberg