Volume XXIII| December 2022


Linking you to creating a more civil and caring community in WNY

Powered by the Buffalo Jewish Federation

Co-Chairs: Deborah Goldman and Adam Fogel

Director: Mara Koven-Gelman

Rabbinic Consultant: Rabbi Alex Lazarus-Klein

Manager: Rachel Beerman

JCRC Intern Sam Lukin Johnson

Our work falls into three broad areas:

Social Justice

Combatting Hate and Discrimination

Building Relationships with Ethnic, Faith, and Cultural Communities

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JCRC Engaging in Racial Justice with Community Partners 

Members of our JCRC Executive Committee and Racial Justice Subcommittee had the honor of being in attendance at the The Buffalo Branch NAACP 2022 Medgar Evers Awards Dinner on October 22.

It was a powerful evening which included an awards presentation, a meaningful acknowledgement of the families of those lost to the Tops shooting on May 14 who were in attendance, and a thought provoking keynote speaker presentation by acclaimed national journalist Roland S. Martin. Martin encouraged those in attendance to not just be satisfied with awards events, but to be reflective of their actions and look for ways to to act to help move our society to be more equitable for all. This certainly resonated, as the recent 2022 JCRC survey identified racial justice as a major priority for our Buffalo community. Corey Auerbach, chair of the Racial Justice Subcommittee and member of our Executive Committee, captured the spirit of the evening when he said, “Being here together in support of the NAACP reinforces the JCRC’s dedication to helping create a more civil and just society for all.”

During the program multiple members of the Jewish community were acknowledged for their dedication to helping create a more civil society. Nina Lukin, an elected Governor of the Buffalo Jewish Federation, was publicly acknowledged for her support of the NAACP. In addition, Samantha White, a co-chair of the Minority Bar Association of Western New York Criminal Justice Task Force, and board member at Temple Beth Zion, accepted the Daniel Acker Community Service Award on behalf of the WNY Minority Bar Association Task Force. The Buffalo Jewish Federation was also acknowledged as a 2022 Honorary Dinner Chairperson for their support.

JCRC Cosponsors Pulling the Race Card Event

We were honored to cosponsor the League of Women’s Voters “Pulling the Race Card” event, which was held on October 26 at the SANYS (Self Advocacy Association of New York) Western New York headquarters on Broadway. Two sisters, Kezia Pearson and Sarah Pearson-Collins, who created the “Pulling the Race Card” event, moderated the evening. With 69 people in attendance both virtually and in person, it was a powerful evening where participants sat at tables engaged in meaningful, and at times uncomfortable, conversations around questions related to race and identity here in the United States. As one participant said, “I feel that if you’re not willing to have uncomfortable conversations that you’re not willing to change.”

In her own experience at a previous Pulling the Race Card event, Nina Lukin, who helped organize the October 26th gathering, talked about her group’s response to the prompt “ Do most people prefer to be white and poor or Black and middle class?” She said that it was an uncomfortable but necessary conversation as it gave space to talk about how “Racism is not just hard to talk about. It also goes unnoticed or unrecognized by white people."

Nina reflected, “I worked with the Jewish Federation to establish the JCRC to promote civil and just conversations and to build bridges across our communities by offering awareness, education, and advocacy. Programs like Pulling the Race Card are important tools for JCRC to endorse, participate in, and plan along with our religious, municipal, educational, and non-profit partners. Where else would you see a high school principal, Baptist pastor, NAACP civic engagement committee member, self-advocacy president, Ahmadiyya Muslim, JCC director, and a college provost gather to talk about race.” 


Buffalo’s New African American Veterans Monument

The Buffalo Jewish Federation was honored to be a bronze sponsor of the African American Veterans Monument and to play a small part to ensure that the stories of American bravery and dedication to country and humanity are preserved far into the future.

Since opening its doors in 1979, the Buffalo and Erie County Naval and Military Park has been an important place to learn about and honor the brave military individuals who have served our country. The most recent addition to the military park, the African American Veterans Monument (AAVM), is the first monument in the nation designed to commemorate African Americans who have served in all six branches of the military in times of war and peace. Through the memorial itself, which was designed by Jonathan Casey and the team at Solid 716, and the outstanding website (aavmwny.org), visitors can learn about twelve military eras of United States history and the African Americans who served during those times.

While there are many ways in which the lives of African Americans and Jews have intersected during America’s military history, one very powerful experience happened during the World War II era. It was during World War II that the 761st Tank Battalion, a segregated all Black unit, was present at the liberation of a subcamp of Mauthausen. One of the soldiers, Floyd D., whose story is archived at the Holocaust Center of San Francisco, recounted in a talk to students about his experience there:

We all are God’s creatures, and we’re all alike. Our skin may be different, our color may be different. That doesn’t give us the right to hate one another. We are all the same in the eyes of God. And it’s just hard for some people to know that, to believe it.

Whoever say that it didn’t happen, I would like to tell them that it did, and I am a living witness to witness it. To me, it’s memories, and to the ones that wasn’t there, and now, it’s history. To them. So they gotta believe it. They must believe it, because if we don’t remember this, it’ll happen again.

As soldier Floyd D says so poignantly in his recollections, we need to know our history and to pass that history down to future generations. 

JCRC Attends the Partnership for the Public Good Community Agenda Vote

On Friday, December 2nd members of JCRC, along with hundreds of other non-profit leaders and community members, attended the Partnership for the Public Good's Community Agenda Vote. After hearing presentations about proposed planks from 15 area organizations, JCRC was able to cast a vote for five of the planks that most aligned with our mission. The organizations who sponsored the ten platform planks that received the most votes will then work closely with the Partnership for the Public Good to help actualize their initiatives to strengthen our community. It was inspiring to hear from so many dedicated individuals and see democracy in action.


JCRC 2023 Civic Leader Trip to Israel Cooks together

Several members of the JCRC 2023 Civic Leader Trip to Israel gathered last month to learn how to cook delicious Middle Eastern cuisine under that guidance of Bloom & Rose restauranteur and chef, Zach Rosenbloom. 

The cooking class was an opportunity for the group to get to know each other while making and eating delicious Middle Eastern fare.

Cooking for the Community

by Samuel Lukin Johnson

Since 2020, my mother and I have been cooking and delivering meals to families in need. It was the beginning of the COVID pandemic, and it was not safe to go to the supermarket or school. We looked for ways to help others in our community that were the most at risk. At the time, there were few volunteer options available that did not jeopardize our health. We were scared of exposure to an unclear and highly infectious virus. My mom stumbled onto a unique, new grass-roots effort that was promoted in a social media group. The nonprofit's mission seemed simple: “Feed families, spread kindness, and strengthen communities.” Through the organization “Lasagna Love” we completed online training in food preparation safety, and then we started to cook.

We have delivered 3-4 lasagnas a month to families based on an agreed upon day/time. We primarily deliver to the Buffalo Community Fridge on East Ferry Street, but there are several other Community Fridges across Buffalo! Usually, we set aside one day every few weeks to prepare and cook many pans all at once. It is a long, and sometimes frustrating process, but I love it. I love to cook for myself and my family, but I have realized that cooking for others is much different. It gives it much more meaning. I care and put in more effort. This only increases when I cook for those in need. Many people to whom we deliver meals have not eaten a home cooked meal in a while. Being the person able to help people and provide them with meals makes me very proud. I really appreciate the woman that started the non-profit and did so in part to try to eliminate the stigmas of people asking for help. This amazing organization has provided me with a great opportunity to take one of my passions, cooking, and use it to help others and serve my community.


NYS Election 2022: Legislators Congratulated    

JCRC recently offered congratulations to all NYS and US legislators who won November mid-term elections. This non-partisan communication was an opportunity for us to introduce the Jewish community, core issues and values: the US-Israel relationship, the rise of hate and antisemitism, and the Jewish imperative to care for the community’s most vulnerable. The mailing also included a five year Jewish holiday calendar to build awareness of key dates. 


The Chicago GA: Creating a More Civil and Just Society

by Deborah Goldman

The Jewish Federations of North America (JFNA) General Assembly (GA) is the annual gathering of the Federation system and its North American and global partners. For the first time in three years, leadership came together, in person, to gather and work collaboratively at the GA in Chicago from October 30 through November 1. The goal was to explore the complex issues facing our communities in terms of our shared communal agenda for the year ahead. 

Read Whole Article Here

JCRC helps to promote Security Webinar to Community Partners

JCRC was honored to promote a Jewish Federations of North America (JFNA) Intergroup Nonprofit Security Webinar last month. Over 15 Buffalo area community groups were contacted, and many attended.

The webinar featured Mark Silveira, Senior Advisor, Grants Administration of FEMA’s Grants Program Directorate, Nate Looney, JFNA Director of Community Safety and Belonging, and other experts. This webinar provided a roadmap for JCRC civic partners to prepare and position themselves to successfully apply when the RFP for Non-Profit Security Grant Program (NPSG) in each state is issued.

The target audience for this webinar was JCRC’s non-Jewish, inter-group and interfaith partners who are eligible for NSGP money. Many thanks to Rabbi Alex Lazarus-Klein and Network of Religious Communities, Stan Bratton for the outreach.

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