Volume XXV| June 2023

CONNECTIONS

Linking you to creating a more civil and caring community in WNY

Powered by the Buffalo Jewish Federation

Co-Chairs: Deborah Goldman and Adam Fogel

Senior Director: Mara Koven-Gelman

Rabbinic Consultant: Rabbi Alex Lazarus-Klein

Manager: Rachel Beerman

JCRC Intern Sam Lukin Johnson

Our work falls into three broad areas:

  • Social Justice
  • Combatting Hate and Discrimination
  • Building Relationships with Ethnic, Faith, and Cultural Communities
Visit the JCRC Website
EDUCATE

Buffalo Jewish Federation Launches J.E.D.I (Jewish Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion) Course

 

Buffalo’s Jewish Federation recently completed the region’s first J.E.D.I. learning course. This seven-session course was created under the leadership of Jewish Federations of North America by leading experts around the country to help support federations as they look to build more inclusive spaces. Here in Buffalo, over the first half of 2023, in a combination of in-person and virtual sessions, Federation staff came together to learn, share and grow, as individuals and as an organization. The topics were broad and ranged from exploring identity and implicit bias, to taking a deep dive into housing segregation in Buffalo. At the end of the sessions space was left to think about how to build a more inclusive Jewish community recognizing the racial diversity within the Jewish community, and to reflect on how the Jewish community builds ally ships with groups across the region. 


Miriam Abramovich, Chief Operating Officer of the Buffalo Jewish Federation:


Even though Jewish Buffalo has spent decades working to be inclusive, to do outreach, to engage, and create spaces of Belonging – our efforts to make sure every Jew (and their loved ones) can find entry points, see themselves, lead, and thrive in community, never ceases. The JEDI curriculum has become a foundational tool in helping our professional leaders build competencies and capacity to be engaged in this ongoing work. By deepening our own understanding of personal and systemic biases, understanding the diversity of Jewish identities, and practicing humility, we can live our commitments to ensuring radical inclusivity in Jewish live.

 

 Robin Kurss, Director of Jewish Experience:


I didn’t know how much I didn’t know until the J.E.D.I. curriculum opened my eyes. I have learned so much about race, implicit bias, how to reflect and act…both in my personal and professional life. I feel as though I now have more tools to begin the next steps in building relationships in our community.


Mandy Weiss, Director of HRC Operations, Planning & Overseas:


I am so grateful to have had the opportunity to participate in the first J.E.D.I Buffalo cohort. This experience made me realize that as much as I thought I knew, I actually have more questions than answers. I think that this J.E.D.I. work is just the beginning, a great start to open the conversation and begin the dialogue in order to build relationships, all part of the work of Tikkun Olam and making this world a better place.

 

Buffalo’s JCRC and the Buffalo Jewish Federation is looking forward to continuing to bring the J.E.D.I. curriculum to more members of our Jewish community in the months and years to come. For more information, or if you have any questions please reach out to Rachel Beerman, JCRC Manager at rachel@buffalojewishfederation.org.

Community Conversations

Rabbi Alex Lazarus-Klein, a local host of the podcast Crossroads, engages in conversations with members of our Buffalo community. Recently, Rabbi Alex talked with Leah Halton-Pope, Senior Advisor to Majority Leader Crystal Peoples-Stokes, and then with Jillian Hanesworth, Buffalo's first Poet Laureate. These meaningful Crossroads conversations cover work, faith, and in this case, their participation on the 2023 Civic Leader's Trip to Israel. Crossroads is a joint production of Town Square Media and the Network of Religious Communities.

Conversation with Leah Halton-Pope
Conversation with Jillian Hanesworth

ADVOCATE

JCRC has launched an updated voting website with information about how to register to vote and how to vote. You will also find information about candidates and ballot initiatives, as well as additional information about partner organizations and much more.

Check out the website here!

Postcards to Get Out the Vote!

By Patricia Meyer Lee


The OFYWNY (Organize For Action Western New York) Postcards project was established locally in 2016 by Jane Marinsky and Renee Stith as a result of issues related to voting. Since then the number of writers for the project has increased from a small group of postcarders who met in person, to a larger network of writers who are emailed information. The writer orders a packet of their choice. Postcards, information and addresses are provided with a choice of places to pick up your kit - Parkside, Norwood and Ruskin Rd. in Amherst.


Those who participate are looking for a way to make a difference. Writing is a way to make a difference from the comfort of your own home. Issues include Gun violence, Affordable Childcare & Supreme Court Ethics. Encouraging voters to register for upcoming elections is a large part of the postcard project.


Do postcards make a difference?


Political scientists have conducted dozens of experiments on the effect of direct mail and find that, on average, mailers increase turnout when they use “messages that emphasize civic duty or the importance of making one’s voice heard” (Gerber and Green 2015, pg. 58). Additional evidence also shows that making the interaction feel personalized, rather than just a blanket message from an organization, is key to increasing the effectiveness of voter outreach.


In a recent letter to writers, a quote from the Talmud was included for inspiration. "Do not be daunted by the enormity of the world's grief. Do justly now, love mercy now, walk humbly now. You are not obligated to complete the work, but neither are you free to abandon it.”


To sign up for the Postcards please write to Patti Meyer Lee at buffalosounds@aol.com. We have a number of nonprofit groups to which we send nonpartisan issues.

MOBILIZE/CONNECT


LOCAL

A year ago, a shooting in Buffalo brought our Jewish and Black communities together

By Rabbi Alex Lazarus-Klein/JTA


For our Buffalo Jewish community, the attack was a call to action. In years past, the Jefferson Avenue corridor was the heart of the Jewish community.


The attack on the Tops Friendly Market on Buffalo’s Jefferson Avenue last May 14 shook Western New York to the core. In the span of less than 10 minutes, an 18-year-old wielding an AK-47 killed seven and injured three Black people.



The victims were teachers, caretakers, activists, new fathers, grandmothers, community leaders and all around good people. If not for the heroism of retired police officer Aaron Salter Jr., who lost his life in the attack, and the quick response of the Buffalo Police Department, the death toll could have been far higher.


A call to action


For our Buffalo Jewish community, the attack was a call to action. In years past, the Jefferson Avenue corridor was the heart of the Jewish community. As Jews joined the white flight to the suburbs, it became a place where very few Jews ever frequented. The vigils held in the aftermath of the attack were the first time many Jews in our community had been back in the East Side of Buffalo in decades, if not more.

Read the rest of the article here

Network of Religious Communities 40th Religious and Community Service Awards

Mazel Tov and Congratulations to this year's award winners at the Network of Religious Communities 40th Religious and Community Service Award Honorees, Deborah Goldman and Dr. Grant Golden (Buffalo Jewish Federation) and Margot Bittner (Congregation Havurah). Jewish Buffalo was part of this 300-person interfaith gathering: Cantor Dr. Irwin Gelman gave the blessing over the meal. We were grateful to be with Buffalo Jewish Federation CEO Rob Goldberg, JCRC Jewish Educator and Congregation Shir Shalom Rabbi Alex Lazarus-Klein, Congregation Havurah President Dan Mink, Judy and Len Katz and Dr. Liz Zausmer. The keynote speaker was Maureen O'Connor Rovegno, retired director of the Dept. of Religion at Chautauqua Institution and 2017 Buffalo Jewish Federation Interfaith Clergy Trip to Israel. Congratulations to the President of NRC, Rasul Khan and Executive Director, Rev. Dr. Stan Bratton for a beautiful evening that embraced love for all.

JCRC Continues to Meet with Legislators and Community Organizations

JCRC co-chairs Deborah Goldman and Adam Fogel, Jewish Family Services CEO Molly Carr, Rabbi Alex Lazarus-Klein, Mara Koven-Gelman and Miriam Abramovich met with members of the Buffalo News editorial board to introduce them to the Buffalo Jewish community and highlight the work Jewish Buffalo does in the larger general community.

 

Additionally, our co-chairs and Rabbi Alex joined Civic Leader Trip participants Leah Halton-Pope and Thomas Kim to meet with U.S. Representative Brian Higgins to discuss the Buffalo Jewish community and their key priority legislative interests: antisemitism/hate prevention/security and immigrant/refugee support. Our Civic Leaders emphasized how stronger relationships have been nurtured from a dynamic and thorough visit to experience Israel’s history, beauty, diversity and complications. 

JCRC at Burchfield Penny Art Center

Twenty-five years ago, the Burchfield Penny Art Center staff, along with guest curator John Baker, organized the exhibit Sharing Our View, showcasing the range of Black visual artists in the Buffalo area. The museum’s recent exhibit, Sharing Our View, 25th Anniversary, revisited the original exhibit, while also exploring how the museum’s mission has evolved and highlights newer works. Members of the community were able to gather together this spring for a guided tour of this powerful exhibit. This exhibit was presented through the generosity of Dr. Grant Golden & Ms. Deborah Goldman (JCRC co-chair).

JCRC at Ujima Theater

In late spring, JCRC sponsored a community meet up at Ujima Theater to see Erika Dickerson-Despenza’s Afro-surrealist play Cullud Wattah about three generations of Black women living in Flint, Michigan during the water crisis. 

Buffalo Jewish Federation’s PJ Library Engagement Grant Helps to Build Multifaith Family Partnership

This past spring, families from the Jewish community joined together with families from Pilgrim St. Luke’s United Church of Christ for the first gathering in a yearlong initiative. Buffalo was one of three communities to receive a PJ Library Engagement Grant through the Harold Grinspoon Foundation to build multifaith family partnerships. During the first gathering, participants shared stories of how their faith teaches them to take care of our planet, read books, and made beautiful art together. The children began to build new friendships, and the adults did as well. We will meet once per season, and we look forward to continuing to deepening our relationships with our new friends!

Speaking to Local Religious Group About Rise of antisemitism

Rabbi Alex Lazarus-Klein spoke to 30 Sisters of St. Mary of Namur who reside at the convent on Lafayette Ave. They reached out and wanted a rabbi to speak to them about the rise of antisemitism and how they can help. Rabbi Alex spoke about the rise of white supremacy and the pivotal incident of 11 Jewish worshipers who died at three congregations at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh on October 27, 2018. He discussed the Blue Square campaign about standing up to Jewish hatred and passed out blue square pins to everyone. “One sister, a member of the JCC said, “ I don’t understand why there is such hate towards Jews, we are so grateful for all the wonderful opportunities the Jewish community offers the full community (JCC and JFS.) “

STATE

Rob Goldberg (Buffalo Jewish Federation CEO) and Mara Koven-Gelman (JCRC Senior Director) were invited to sit on newly created NYS Division of Human Rights Hate and Bias Prevention Regional Council (WNY region).

Rob joined Western New York civic leaders Reverend Mark Blue (NAACP) and Thomas Buford (Urban League) in NYC on May 10 for “New York United,” a summit focused on bringing New Yorkers together to combat hate and discrimination. The summit was attended by over 400 individuals representing 62 counties in NYS and was presented jointly by the New York State Division of Human Rights, Division of Criminal Justice Services, and Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Services. 

NATIONAL/JFNA

Evan Gershkovich Action Alert: After weeks of vigorous and sustained advocacy by Federations on behalf of jailed Jewish journalist Evan Gershkovich, the House of Representatives is considering a resolution to call for his release. Please use the Action Alert below to urge your Representative to join this effort and share it widely in your communities. Buffalo's JCRC and the Buffalo Jewish Federation signed onto a letter to Secretary of State Blinken and this issue is moving forward.

Action Alert

We Are Family Juneteenth Shabbaton + LGBTQ Summit



Jewish Federations' JEDI Initiative is a proud sponsor of the second in-person We Are Family Shabbaton June 16-19, 2023 and welcomes Jewish People of Color, Indigenous Jews, Sephardic Jews, and Mizrahi Jews and their families.


Learn More Here

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BUFFALO JEWISH COMMUNITY RELATIONS COUNCIL EXECUTIVE COMMITTEE

Corey Auerbach

Lana Benatovich

Sharla Bleichfeld

Marjorie Bryen

Dr. Ann Marie Carosella

Dr. Molly Carr

Susan Grelick

Harvey Sanders

Shelly Yellen

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