Indy JCRC Annual Meeting ~ May 22, 2018
Remarks of Steve Klapper, JCRC Board President
Call to Order
Good evening everyone and welcome. As the President of the Board of Directors, it is my distinct pleasure to call the JCRC’s 2018 ANNUAL MEETING to order.
As our Jewish community’s “Communal Table,” where representatives of all our synagogues and agencies are invited to sit together, we take great pride in the fact that we rotate the location of our annual meeting to the “homes” of those institutions represented on our Board. So, first, a thank you to Monica Rosenfeld, Board President, to Miriam Gettinger, School Principal, and to the entire Hasten Hebrew Academy family for welcoming the JCRC and hosting tonight’s Annual Meeting. It is now my pleasure to invite Miriam Gettinger to officially welcome us here and share an invocation.
Thank you Mayor Brainard for your thoughtful remarks. Our community greatly appreciates all of the support you have provided over the past few decades. Last month’s Holocaust Remembrance ceremony hosted by the City of Carmel was particularly moving, and we recognize that events like these do not happen without the tremendous support and guidance of your office.
In addition to Mayor Brainard, I would like to recognize and thank other dignitaries who are represented here tonight: Senator Joe Donnelly is being represented by his State Director, Hodge Patel, and Congressman Jim Banks is being represented by his District Director, Chris Crabtree.
The important work of the JCRC would not happen without the financial and administrative support of our Jewish Federation. So a big thank you to the JFGI President Mike Rubin, Executive Director Debby Grant, the many other JFGI professionals who collaborate with JCRC, and all of you who support the Federation and the Federation’s Annual Campaign, which enables us to focus on our mission.
I would like to thank our remarkable staff, led by Lindsey Mintz and David Sklar, as well as to welcome our two new staff members Marla Topiol and Aaron Welcher. The community outreach and programming that the JCRC performs has been greatly expanded over the past year and would not be possible without our hard working staff. Lindsey will be sharing more about the addition of Marla and Aaron, as well as some of the exciting programming that we launched this year and are planning for the remainder of 2018 and beyond.
I have been fortunate to be President at a time when we have such strong leadership on our Executive Board. As our full board only meets six times a year, much of the deliberation and time-sensitive decision-making falls upon the Executive Board. I want to particularly thank Gadi Boukai for his commitment to the JCRC. Gadi’s thoughtful voice will be missed in the coming year, but we look forward to welcoming him back in the, hopefully, not too distant future.
Thankfully, Jamie Ratner Rich will be stepping into the role of Vice President. Over the past three years, Jamie’s involvement as the JCRC’s Treasurer, has been instrumental in securing increased allocations and as chair of our Life & Legacy outreach, she has obtained numerous Letters of Intent and formalized support from our donors.
Our Committee Chairs perform a vital and often underappreciated role in helping to set and implement organizational priorities, so I want to acknowledge and thank our JCRC Committee Chairs.
- Miriam Dant, Chair of our Domestic Policy and Government Affairs Committee.
- Aaron Aft, Chair of our Israel & International Affairs Committee.
- Carly Turow, Chair of our newly launched Community Engagement & Intergroup Affairs Committee.
I would also like to thank all the members of the JCRC Board for the time, energy, and resources that they dedicate – by conveying the interests of the agency or synagogue they represent during Board discussions, attending JCRC programs, engaging on one of our committees (which by the way are open to ALL members of the community), or simply by paying attention to what’s going on locally or in Israel and thinking and communicating about ways the JCRC should act to advance our interests.
I also want to take a minute to recognize all of the past JCRC presidents. Joining us tonight are Judy Failer, Michael Wallack, Offer Korin, and David Vonnegut-Gabovitch.
And while they are not part of our board, our local clergy plays an invaluable role in supporting the mission of the JCRC, and providing an additional Jewish voice to the broader community. I would like to recognize our clergy leaders who are here with us this evening: Rabbi Dennis Sasso, Rabbi Brett Krichiver, Rabbi Stanley Halpern, and Rabbi Avi Grossbaum.
Thank you also to my wife Beth for her love and support while she takes on increasing responsibilities with the Jewish Federation and Congregation Beth El Zedeck. And to our kids for their continued love and understanding – represented this evening by Ben, who just arrived an hour ago from 5 months in Asia, and Leah, who is waiting for my speech to be over so she can return to her iPad. Our oldest daughter Hannah just entered the workforce last week in New York City, and Sarah, who is playing in the high school state tennis tournament out in Brownsburg tonight, unfortunately could not join us this evening.
As I reviewed the activity of the JCRC over the past 9 months, I was reminded of why much of my time away from and sometimes during my normal day job was devoted to our JCRC. The broad spectrum of issues that we address and the number of communities with which we interact is truly remarkable. I would like to touch on just a few highlights of the past year and try to provide you with a brief overview of some of our goals, accomplishments, and ongoing challenges.
While much of what we do involves pre-planned programming which is designed to be pro-active in meeting our mission and the needs of the community, it is the unexpected event and timely response from the JCRC that present some of our greatest challenges as an organization. The JCRC prides itself on our deliberative process when it comes to assessing and building a consensus within the Jewish community around an issue of concern. This deliberative process often takes several weeks or months. Today’s 24-hour news cycle and rapid-fire social media, along with increasing cases of anti-Semitic incidents and anti-Israel events, have resulted in the need for the JCRC to increasingly respond quickly and often publicly. In order to ensure that situations that require a more timely response undergo appropriate deliberation, our Board designed and approved a detailed decision-making process that we have already utilized, particularly with respect to issuing official JCRC statements. This has helped to provide our staff and leadership with important guidance when making time-sensitive decisions, as well as the necessary transparency to our board and stakeholders.
During my remarks last year, I touched on the founding of the JCRC more than 75 years ago in the midst of widespread domestic and European anti-Semitism. Combatting anti-Semitism at home and abroad remains a primary focus of the JCRC. Last year I referenced FBI statistics that showed an increase in reported anti-Semitic acts. Sadly, according to the Anti-Defamation League, the number of anti-Semitic incidents in the U.S. rose 57 percent in 2017 – the largest single-year increase on record and the second highest number reported since the ADL started tracking such data nearly 30 years ago. The sharp rise was in part due to a significant increase in incidents in schools and on college campuses, which nearly doubled for the second year in a row. The Boycott, Divestment, and Sanction (known as BDS) movement against companies doing business with or in Israel remains active on college campuses.
The good news is that the number of attempts to pass resolutions to boycott Israel through student governments on campuses in central Indiana declined this year compared to 2016, in part we believe due to JCRC efforts to help build campus coalitions to confront anti-Israel activity, establish strong relationships with campus administrators, coordinate pro-Israel speakers on campus, and support Jewish students on central Indiana college campuses.
Unfortunately, while BDS has been relatively quiet in central Indiana this past year, anti-Israel and anti-Jewish voices are getting much louder, particularly in far left circles (such as within some elements of the National Women’s March) – and anti-Semitic expressions are becoming more frequent on social media and in the streets, particularly in far right circles (such as what transpired in Charlottesville with white supremacists and neo-Nazis).
An example hit us locally this past fall when anti-Israel propaganda found its way into a student-led Spirit & Place-sponsored program at IUPUI. The lack of appropriate faculty oversight resulted in a shocking presentation without any context or source citing, and the unacceptable infiltration of anti-Semitic tropes into an academic setting. In this case, we immediately communicated the Jewish community’s disappointment with IUPUI administrators and offered support to Jewish faculty and students. We are especially thankful to Rabbis Dennis and Sandy Sasso for communicating our joint concerns directly with the Festival board. Without a doubt, addressing anti-Israel events and speakers will remain a serious challenge and will require JCRC’s continued engagement.
These threats are not going away. Thankfully, with the support of Steve and Bobbie Jacobs, Myron and Myrna Weinberger, as well as Helen Goldstein, Barri Fisch and many other contributors, we have created a new Combatting Anti-Semitism Fund to support our Stand Up and Speak Out initiative, which – very broadly – involves several new programs that enable the JCRC to be pro-active in equipping young Jews with the tools to combat anti-Semitism and effectively engage on Israel.
David and Lindsey deserve recognition for their efforts to increase dialogue with our elected leaders. It is more important than ever that we maintain open and honest lines of communication with our state and congressional officials so that they understand the concerns of members of the Jewish community. We must continue to support those that stand with us in fighting racism and bigotry and hold to account those that fail to combat anti-Semitism with the same fervor that they fight other forms of discrimination. These are sometimes difficult, but essential conversations, and ones that JCRC leaders and staff conduct with great care and integrity.
Our JCRC has also been active in supporting relationships and exchanges between local leaders and their counterparts in Israel. This past year, Angela Smith Jones the City of Indianapolis Deputy Mayor for Economic Development and Bryan Roach the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department Chief separately toured Israel and shared their experiences with our JCRC board. Earlier this month Governor Eric Holcomb attended the AgriTech Conference in Israel with a delegation from the Indiana Economic Development Corporation and Agrinovus, and Speaker Brian Bosma visited Israel with other State Speakers. We are working to secure a date later this summer for us to hear from each of them about their experiences as well.
Thanks to the generous financial support of Mickey & Janie Maurer and the Jewish Federation, we conducted a Civic Leadership Study Tour of Israel in February. With anti-Semitism rising and delegitimization efforts growing stronger, we recognized that we must establish and deepen our relationships with non-Jewish civic leaders in the Indianapolis area. Modeled after the many former “Maurer Missions” the last of which was in 2009, Beth and I, Greg and Megan Maurer, Lindsey Mintz, and Michele Boukai led 16 highly accomplished individuals from academic, not-for-profit, business, health-care, and faith based organizations on a remarkable 10 day (and for some 12 day) journey across nearly the entire Israeli demographic and political landscape. Our tour proved to be transformative for most, if not all, of our participants who gained a vital appreciation of the significant complexity of so many of the societal, religious, and political obstacles Israel must overcome. These leaders now have an increased understanding of the region, which allows for more productive and informed discussions going forward.
In December of last year, we proudly joined Jewish communities across our great country in sharing our appreciation for the United States historic and long overdue recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of the State of Israel. And, as all of you know, just a little over a week ago the modern State of Israel turned 70. Our JCRC worked with Indiana legislators to pass a resolution celebrating Israel’s 70th and to welcome the Consul General of Israel to the Midwest, Aviv Ezra, to Indiana’s House and Senate floor. We co-sponsored the Israel@70 celebration a few weeks ago, and will continue to find ways to publicly recognize Israel’s 70th throughout the year ahead.
We have several items on our “To Do List” moving forward as we look to further strengthen the structure of our organization through a review of our Bylaws and reassessment of the purpose, structure, and language of our Guiding Principles. As some of you know, the Federation is developing plans to re-imagine the campus and the JCRC looks forward to being a part of this conversation and determining where we can best serve our community. We must also take into account the recent results of the Demographic Study and use this valuable data to help us act and communicate more effectively.
I am excited and honored to lead our JCRC for another year and confident with the continued diligence of our amazing staff, commitment of our thoughtful board members, and support by each of you, we will be prepared to address the expected and unexpected challenges that lie ahead.