JCRC: Jewish Community Relations Council of Atlanta


January 18, 2018

Sent via e-mail and first-class mail


The Honorable David Perdue

United States Senate

455 Russell Senate Office Building

Washington, D.C. 20510


Dear Senator Perdue:

122 DACA youth have lost their status every day since September when the President announced the end of the program in September 2017; they are vulnerable to immediate pick-up by Immigration Enforcement.  800,000 people who call America their home are threatened to be sent to countries that they have never known.


We support the type of bipartisan, common sense legislation that Senators Durbin and Graham have proposed to fix the program so that these innocent Dreamers will be able to stay in this country and earn their way to citizenship.  We as leaders in the Jewish community urge you to support such legislation and announce your support immediately and in the strongest possible terms.  Our own immigrant experiences are examples of coming to this country and succeeding as a community. Every Dreamer deserves the same opportunity.


The cause is urgent; the time for action is now.


Signed: The Jewish Community Relations Council of Atlanta

(contact: Harold Kirtz, 770-789-9378)


American Jewish Committee, Atlanta Chapter

(contact: Dov Wilker, 404-233-5501)

Anti-Defamation League, Southeast Office

(contact: Allison Padilla-Goodman, 404-262-3470)


Hadassah Greater Atlanta

(contact: Sheila Dalmat, 678-923-1727)


President: Harold Kirtz

Vice-President: Jon Barash

Vice-President: Ellen Nemhauser

Vice-President: Lois Frank

Secretary: Leah Harrison

Treasurer: Marc Schwartz

Immediate Past President: Harvey Rickles

At-large: Leslie Anderson

At-large: Mindy Binderman

At-large: Sandy Cutler

At-large: Matt Weiss


The Seder as a Vehicle for Fighting Hunger

By Harold Kirtz

Many of us may have a personal garden where we grow a small amount of food that we personally use.  But there are operations right here in Atlanta that harvest food for many others than just for the property owners.  Some of these operations will be highlighted at the Ahavat Achim Synagogue on April 4, 2018 at 6:00 PM.  Please join us to find out how you can participate in helping provide food for others, whether it is through harvesting food or by advocating for food policies that assist those in need.

The JCRC (Jewish Community Relations Council) and AA Synagogue are partnering with a number of other Jewish congregations as well as non-Jewish congregations, the Atlanta Community Food Bank, and other food-related organizations, from Second Helpings to Food Security for America.

One of those organizations is Concrete Jungle, which harvests fruit and nuts from over 2000 trees in the metro area.  Yes, there are thousands of trees in Atlanta that provide food for shelters and food pantries.  They are in yards, on the side of the road, next to buildings. Most of these trees were untended and ignored, with “their being wasted to wildlife while only miles away many poor and homeless struggle to include any fresh produce in their diet,” as its website states.

Come to the Seder and learn about how to volunteer to help pick this produce for local people in need.  Concrete Jungle also grows vegetables on a small urban farm in Southwest Atlanta, Doghead Farm.  That farm allows the organization to host additional volunteer events.

Another partner is Global Growers, which manages nearly 20 acres of land and supports a network of farms and gardens throughout metro Atlanta.  Since 2010, it has produced around 500,000 pounds of fresh produce.

Its 15-acre incubator farm located in Stone Mountain, Bamboo Creek Farm, is operating as a center for commercial crop production.  It is hosting immigrant farmers who were involved in agriculture in their native countries and who are now able to engage again in farming.

The Hunger Seder is now in its 8th year.  It provides a full Seder meal and a chance to see the Haggadah become a vehicle for liberating people from hunger and food insecurity.  In a profound way, we are ensuring, as the Haggadah says, “let all who are hungry come and eat.”

The Jewish tradition is rich with references on how Jews are to provide for those in need. Leviticus 19:9-10 states “When you reap the harvest of your land, you shall not fully reap the corner of your field, nor shall you gather the gleanings of your harvest.  And you shall not glean your vineyard, nor shall you collect the [fallen] individual grapes of your vineyard; you shall leave them for the poor and the stranger. I am the Lord, you God.”

From Isaiah, we hear, “If you shall pour yourself out for the hungry and satisfy the desire of the afflicted, then shall your light rise in the darkness and your gloom be as the noonday.”  And from the Talmud in the Midrash Tannim, we see, “God says to Israel, ‘My children, whenever you give sustenance to the poor, I impute it to you as though you gave sustenance to Me.’ Does God then eat and drink? No, but whenever you give food to the poor, God accounts it to you as if you gave food to God.”  These are but a few references from our tradition.

Through the Hunger Seder, we aim to create advocates for food and nutrition programs on the local, state, and national levels.  We encourage you to come and join us as we work to make our tradition live in numerous ways in our metro area.  Please join us.



Please join us on April 4, 2018 at 6:00 PM at the:

Ahavat Achim Synagogue

600 Peachtree Battle Avenue

Atlanta, 30327

Click here to register: https://form.jotform.com/80034358015145


(!/31/17) The Jewish Community Relations Council of Atlanta (JCRCA), the local organization in the Jewish community relations field, opposes President Trump’s executive orders that would restrict entry for refugees from predominantly Muslim countries, halt federal funding for “sanctuary cities,” and expand detention for immigrants and asylum-seekers.

David Bernstein, President of the Jewish Council for Public Affairs (JCPA), our national umbrella organization, stated “We are deeply concerned about President Trump’s actions on immigration and refugees, and the callous decision to take such action on International Holocaust Remembrance Day. These pronouncements not only severely restrict immigration, they instill fear among existing immigrant populations that they are not welcome and may be at risk. . . . . . The ‘sanctuary cities’ provision, especially, threatens to seriously compromise the police’s ability to keep communities safe by undermining trust and communication between police and immigrant populations.”

The executive order suspending immigration from seven majority Muslim countries is intended to “keep America safe”. However, we believe that a policy which closes doors to millions of legitimate travelers in order to prevent a small number of travelers who intend to harm Americans will fall short of making our country safer. This policy runs counter to nondiscrimination, equal treatment and welcoming the stranger; all core Jewish and American values. Further, if implemented will only alienate our relationships in the Muslim world, harm cooperation with allied countries in the fight against radical Islamic terror and only serve to make our country more vulnerable.

The Jewish people know firsthand the consequences of turning away those fleeing persecution. Based on our own immigrant experience and Judaism’s imperative to “welcome the stranger,” the JCRC is advocating on behalf of immigrants, refugees, and asylum-seekers who hope to build a better life for themselves and their children. Resettled refugees have consistently boosted the economy, and enriched our culture and pluralistic ethos. 91% of refugees are self-sufficient within 180 days of arrival to the United States. Not one refugee has committed a fatal act of terrorism post-9/11 in the U.S.

As the children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren of refugees, we take this executive order very personally.  The United States currently has one of the most stringent vetting policies in the world (taking 18-36 months) and should continue this careful review in order to keep our country safe. But we are facing a severe international refugee crisis and cannot let our concerns about radical Islamic terrorists undermine another core national purpose—providing a home for immigrants. The American immigrant experience is one of the country’s greatest sources of strength.

BY DAVID BERNSTEIN, President and CEO, Jewish Council for Public Affairs (JCPA)

The Movement for Black Lives platform calling Israel an apartheid state guilty of “genocide” sent shock waves through the Jewish community. It should not have come as a surprise.

I remember seeing scattered signs proclaiming “From Palestine to Ferguson” at protests in Ferguson, Mo. last year. I naively thought that protesters would view such signs as brazen manipulation. I was wrong. A year after Ferguson, a YouTube video on Black-Palestinian solidarity called “When I See Them I See Us” garnered tens of thousands of views. And just a few weeks ago, Black Lives Matter was among several groups protesting for Palestinian rights outside a Hillary Clinton fundraiser hosted by Israeli-American Haim Saban. The link between these two seemingly disparate causes is now undeniable.

There are a number of reasons for this perceived intersection between the plights of African-Americans and Palestinians, but none more salient than the organized Jewish community’s detachment from today’s civil rights movement. Notwithstanding our self-image as modern-day activists walking in the footsteps of Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel, the community has been largely absent from today’s civil rights tables. It should come as no surprise that we have little influence on a movement we are not involved with. It is past time we re-engage.

Re-engaging will not be simple. It was undoubtedly easier to mobilize Jews in the 1960s against segregationist laws and blatant injustice than it will be confronting today’s structural challenges. While the “new Jim Crow” may not be as explicitly segregationist as the old Jim Crow, the current inequities in our society — particularly our criminal justice system — disproportionately affect African-Americans and other minorities and wreak havoc in the inner city.

Today, the United States incarcerates more than 2 million people, more than any other nation. Among this population, people of color are vastly overrepresented. One out of every 15 black men is currently in jail and one in three will be incarcerated during his lifetime. African-American men and women are far more likely than whites to be harassed by police, and subjected to excessive use of force. They are less likely to receive adequate legal representation from a desperately underfunded, over-extended public defender system. Draconian drug laws put many productive people in jail for long prison sentences. Upon reentry, former inmates are disqualified from many jobs and services and often end up back in jail.

The Jewish community, which prides itself on its historic commitment to social justice, has every reason to join the cause of helping America live up to its own ideals of equality. And if the community wants to have any influence on how today’s civil rights activists view Jews and Jewish issues, it must show up to the planning meetings, press conferences and protests. Moreover, unlike many other social policy issues, criminal justice reform enjoys bipartisan support and should be less divisive within the Jewish community.

How can we mobilize the Jewish community to engage on civil rights?

First, we must do our homework on today’s civil rights landscape. We have to educate ourselves on the issues and identify the people already doing the work. Our traditional partners from civil rights 1.0 are no longer the only voices driving civil rights 2.0. 

Second, we must relax litmus tests that make it harder for us to re-engage. Alan Dershowitz argues that “until and unless Black Lives Matter removes this blood libel from its platform and renounces it, no decent person … should have anything to do with it.” He does not say, however, what we should do after they inevitably refuse to repudiate the platform. Is he suggesting that the Jewish community stay away from civil rights meetings where a Black Lives Matter representative is present? Such litmus tests are a prescription for Jewish isolation, not greater influence over the direction of the movement.

Third, we must help empower Jews of color and young people. Many Jews of color have connections to today’s civil rights movement. Not only can they help their fellow Jews navigate the external challenges, they can aid the community in developing the inner capacity to engage. They can help us talk to ourselves about race before we talk to the outside world.

Fourth, we must find our own voice on civil rights. It will not be easy integrating the Jewish community into civil rights coalitions, some of which hold very different political sensibilities. Young activists routinely invoke phrases like “white supremacy” to describe America’s prevailing power structure, and this may sound extreme to many mainstream Jews. Rather than feeling obliged to use these terms, however, the Jewish community can develop its own social justice vocabulary and come to the table in its own voice.

History will not wait for Jews to come around on our own schedule. We need to jump headfirst into the issues that matter now. It’s time to find our voice and make sure Americans — particularly African-Americans — hear it.



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