Diaspora discord: Indiana Jews and the state's new 'religious freedom' law


The local Jewish Community of Indiana has spoken out, in what is now a national conversation, the state recently passed legislation to protect “religious freedom.” We feel that this statute will ultimately threaten religious freedom more than protect it, particularly minority communities such as ours,” the Indianapolis JCRC said in a statement a day after the law was signed.” 

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JCRC hosts Middle East panel discussion

More than 400 community members attended a Middle East Forum led by a panel of experts to learn about issues facing Israel and its neighboring countries on March 25, at The Tradition of the Palm Beaches. The panel included members of both Israel's and Palestinian Authority's peace negotiating teams. Event moderator Liz Quirantes, news anchor of TV's CBS 12 led the discussion.

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Indianapolis JCRC Statement on the Indiana Relgious Freedom Resoration Act

Last week the Indianapolis Jewish Community Relations Council issued a statement to oppose the passage of Indiana’s Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA), Senate Bill 101.

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How the San Francisco JCRC Stopped the Criminalization of Circumcision

San Francisco CIty Hall.  Photo by Jay Graham

Having caught on in much of the West for centuries, male circumcision is taken for granted in most communities. But for Jews, the circumcision of our sons is a time for celebration, often bringing together family and loved ones to reaffirm the covenant between God and the Jews in the same method practiced since Abraham. Starting in 2009, however, this rite faced a challenge from Massachusetts.  A national anti-circumcision movement, propelled by so-called “intactivists,” proposed to the Massachusetts State House legislation that would have banned circumcision.  They were successful in compelling public testimony on the subject, but the legislation fell flat immediately.  Learning from this, the anti-circumcision movement set their eyes on San Francisco, California, home to a robust, democratic process of placing proposed legislation on the local ballot for public vote.  In October, 2010, the anti-circumcision activists launched a campaign to gather signatures to place on the San Francisco municipal ballot a measure that would criminalize those who perform circumcision, making it a crime punishable by up to a year in County jail and a fine of $1,000.  If it were to pass, this measure would create a de facto ban on circumcision within the City and County of San Francisco.  The San Francisco Jewish Community Relations Council took notice.

The JCRC faced a dilemma. This could clearly be a problem for the Jewish community, but at this stage, it was just another proposed law in a State that allows for voter-initiated propositions.   It was not yet clear if there was momentum behind the proposed measure, and the JCRC didn’t want to fuel the issue, so they decided to avoid creating a media worthy campaign. Then, in the spring of 2011, the petition had gathered enough signatures to be placed on the ballot in the coming election.  Should the JCRC continue to ignore it, or undertake a massive and likely costly campaign to defeat it?

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Cleveland Joins ENGAGE

The Jewish Council for Public Affairs is excited to announce that the Jewish Federation of Cleveland will be joining the ENGAGE program, JCPA’s online advocacy and activism portal.

ENGAGE uses online tools from Democracy in Action to offer JCPA member agencies an easy way to create e-mail blasts, one-click advocacy pages, online petitions, event registration, web-based fundraising, and website content management. ENGAGE also includes an online supporter database that automatically records all online user actions to help track and group supporters by interest and action. Sophisticated reporting and analytics tools will allow ENGAGE members to set ambitious but attainable goals and benchmarks and measure our success.

For Cleveland, joining ENGAGE was an “exciting opportunity to reach out to their constituency and better advocate on their concerns,” said Dayan Gross. One of the major benefits that attracted Cleveland was the ability to syndicate and share actions and e-mails. So, for instance, if JCPA prepared an online petition for the coming UDI vote in the UN, each member of ENGAGE could have access to the content of the JCPA alerts, but reformatted based on community branding. This is designed to save communities time and help to coordinate messaging.

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