Our Jewish Community Relations Work Will Not Skip a Beat

Miriam Dant, JCRC Board President

April 3, 2020

Happy April and Shabbat Shalom!  April has always been my favorite month of the year; my birthday, as well as both of my sibling’s birthdays, is in April, leaves are turning green, gardening season begins, and I look forward to my family’s Maxwell House Coffee Haggadah Seder and the inevitable moment when someone slips in a joke and my mom laughs herself into tears.  This April, however, is not going to be like any other April in my lifetime.  Our COVID-19 quarantine will continue, our Seder will be virtual with a huge emphasis on Ma Nishtana (“what makes this night different from all others”), and our Jewish community, along with the rest of the world, will strive to be united, strong, safe and healthy.

But out of all of the disbelief, dismay, illness and concern, I’ve watched our JCRC, and our entire Jewish community, step up.  Upon the first days of the COVID-19 pandemic, our Jewish Federation immediately convened regular calls with agency professionals and lay leaders to work through the daily developments, and even though we spent all of those hours not once being in the same room together, I’ve never felt closer to or been more impressed by the amazing professionals and lay leaders that will see our Jewish community through these unprecedented times.

As always, our JCRC has played a unique and critical role in our Jewish community.  Our staff reached out to our US Senators urging them to include provisions in the current federal relief package that will benefit the most vulnerable Hoosiers, as well as our own institutions such as Jewish Family Services, Hooverwood, and synagogues.  We were the first to share information with our Jewish community about the relief packages and how to apply.  We convened what will be the first of many statewide calls with JCRC’s, Federations, and synagogues around Indiana, with the realization that we’re all facing the same issues and concerns, and that with technology, we can be closer than our geography suggests.  And we continue to work in coalition with interfaith leaders and social service providers to protect those whose livelihoods are being threatened by the loss of a job, home, school-provided meal, or the virus itself.

And like everyone these days, we’ve gone virtual, including our first virtual JCRC board meeting.  Our Yom HaShoah commemoration later this month will be virtual (Tues. Apr. 21 @ 1pm), allowing our Holocaust remembrance ceremony to be viewed statewide and reach even more Hoosiers than ever before.  Our annual meeting next month (Tues. May 26 @ 7pm) will probably use a similar format, and watch for other exciting virtual, meaningful programming ideas that our creative, dedicated staff is currently working on.

As always, one of JCRC’s key responsibilities is to combat antisemitism and hate, and unfortunately, there are increased incidents of both during this pandemic and the fear that it creates. For example, we signed on to a letter supporting the Chinese American community in the face of anti-Chinese rhetoric. Our programming with children, teens and adults will move forward using technology, and our voice will be loud, clear, and accessible.  We’ll continue to stand up and speak out, albeit using different modes of communication than in the past

As we all settle in for this long month of April, and prepare for Passover, our Jewish community relations work will not skip a beat.  My expectation is that we all come through this period stronger, more visible, and more connected than ever.  Shabbat Shalom and Chag Sameach!