Advocacy, Education at Heart of Jewish Community Relations Committee

“We build community because there is no better guarantor of the future than a populace that sees itself as sharing a common destiny… We must work together toward a powerful, unified rejection of hatred and prejudice. We need to be supportive of each other’s efforts because each response is important.”

Jewish Federations of North America (JFNA) leaders shared this as part of a response to the xenophobic, racist violence in Charlottesville this August. Though it addresses a specific incident, it speaks to the ongoing efforts of federations, like Jewish Community Board of Akron (JCBA), to promote a tolerant and pluralistic society.
Under JCBA, the Jewish Community Relations Committee (JCRC) assumes the role of advocacy for Jewish Akron. JCRC's mission reflects the ideals of American democracy.

“We want to make sure we advocate for a safe and secure country that promotes and recognizes Jewish citizens as an essential part of the community,” says Ron Lederman, JCRC director. “We are rooted in Jewish values and history.”

As part of his work, “I keep in contact with the local schools— they can contact me if there’s any issues on their campuses –anti-Semitism or Islamophobia,” Lederman says. “The same thing with University of Akron and Hillel at Kent. If something happened, we can step in with our Anti-Defamation League representative to investigate, correct any problems and prevent them from happening again.”

Education and collaboration are at the heart of JCRC's work. JCRC convenes important voices in both the Jewish community and politicos through programs open to the general community. One example is the annual Bernie I. Rosen Memorial Lecture program, coordinated by the JCRC.  The next lecture is scheduled in March 2018 and will focus on the impact of immigration, particularly as it relates to Ohio and Akron. Later this year or early next year, JCRC plans to hold a panel discussion on opioid problem.  It also plans to have a speaker from JFNA’s Israel Action Network to speak about BDS and what we can do about it.

JCRC is an active participant in the interfaith community in Akron and often collaborates with other religious organizations and community groups.  In late October, JCRC is hosting an interfaith mission to Washington, D.C. for Akron-area clergy leaders. There, they visit the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum and meet with representatives of the Israeli embassy.

For the past year, Lederman participated in an ongoing monthly discussion among Jewish and Muslim congregants— held at either Temple Israel or a mosque. “They were very, very open and fascinating discussions,” he says.

The Jewish-Muslim Dialogue event on Sept. 17 grew out of these conversations, to engage the greater community. Rabbi Eric Yoffie and Dr. Sayyid Syeed will be speaking at 7 p.m. at the University of Akron Student Union Ballroom (303 Carroll St.) Temple Israel coordinated the event, with support from JCRC, the Islamic Society of Akron, Muslim Student Association, and Hillel at Kent State. The event is free and open to the public.

JCRC also works with Ohio Jewish Communities (OJC), which secures funds, educates and maintains relationships with government officials, and encourages sound public policy. Dr. Marty Belsky is chair of OJC, as well as chair of Akron’s JCRC. JCRC’s board  members include: Michael Gersman, Rabbi Josh Brown, Gary Rosen, Paula Gross, Debra Shifrin Newman, Sarah Rubens, and Kristen Leuchtag.

Your gift to JCBA's Annual Campaign helps support the work the Jewish Community Relations Committee.