Category: 2020

JCRC/AJC Statement on Israel/UAE Agreement

More engagement, relations and dialogue are always beneficial on local, national and international levels. No matter our disagreements, we always do better when we can come together with respect and civility to talk about our perspectives. In fact, Jewish tradition is filled with big-time arguments in the Talmud – the rabbinic writings – and even in the Bible. Our JCRC/AJC salutes Israel, the UAE and the United States on this historic move forward. 

Seth D. Gould Named President of JCRC/AJC

BLOOMFIELD HILLS, Mich. –  The Board of Directors of the Jewish Community Relations Council/AJC (JCRC/AJC) has named Seth D. Gould as president. The announcement was made by Executive Director Rabbi Asher Lopatin.

Gould joined the organization in 2011, when it was AJC Detroit. He continued after the nonprofit partnered with the Jewish Community Relations Council to become JCRC/AJC. Since then he has chaired the Development and Israel Programming Committees, and served as Vice President and First Vice President. 

“I am passionate about advocating on behalf of the metropolitan Detroit Jewish community, Israel and threatened minorities, as well as fostering tolerance among interfaith and intergroup communities,” said Seth Gould, who will serve a two-year term. “I am honored to have the opportunity to lead an incredible group of activists who comprise our Board of Directors.”

Gould, a member of the Shalom Hartman Institute’s Detroit Community Leadership Program cohort, is an alumnus of Legacy Heritage’s OnBoard development program for Detroit, which taught best practices for nonprofit board governance.

A partner at the Miller Law Firm, a litigation boutique in Rochester Hills, Mich., the Bloomfield Hills, Mich. resident received his bachelor’s degree in industrial and operations engineering from the University of Michigan and law degree from Wayne State University Law School. He previously served on the board of the Cranbrook Kingswood Alumni Association.

For its 2020-2021 programming year, JCRC/AJC has also welcomed four new board members: Rabbi Yonatan Dahlen of Southfield, Jeri Fishman of Southfield, Sheldon Freilich of Bloomfield Hills and Sheri Shapiro of Farmington Hills.

JCRC/AJC’s mission is to represent the metropolitan Detroit Jewish community, Israel and Jews throughout the world to the general community, and to establish collaborative relationships with other ethnic, racial, civic and religious groups. JCRC/AJC educates and advocates on important issues, seeking consensus with a commitment to Jewish values. For more information visit www.jcrcajc.org.

JCRC/AJC Statement Regarding the Murder of George Floyd and Recent Protests

The Jewish Community Relations Council/AJC stands in solidarity and partnership with the African American community, decrying the horrific murder of George Floyd and the racism that tragically still engulfs our nation and even permeates so many of our police forces. We pledge to work with the religious, civic and political leaders in the African American community who are working to bring a peaceful, but forceful, message of protest, truth and hope, not only in their own community, but to all Americans. There is no place for racism, discrimination, antisemitism or hatred in our country. George Floyd’s death, and the unjust deaths of so many other African Americans, tell us that racism still exists, but we know that if we work together, in peaceful, even loving protest, we will overcome and will prevail. We are all choked by racism, we all cannot breathe with racist hate, and we will never stop until it is eliminated from our society.

Welcome from Seth Gould

Greetings JCRC/AJC family!

Beginning today, I have the honor of serving as board president of JCRC/AJC. I’m following in the footsteps of my parents and grandparents who each played an active leadership role in the Detroit Jewish community, through their respective synagogues, temples, and Jewish communal agencies. My family on both sides first came to Detroit in the late teens (over 100 years ago) because they believed, like many others, that Detroit was THE place to be, full of opportunity, fed in large part by the success of Ford Motor Company’s Model T vehicle.

I’m grateful to a cousin who posted on Facebook a cherished black and white photograph of my mother’s family picnicking on Belle Isle in the early 1920s, ironically not long after the last terrible pandemic. Great-grandparents, grandparents, great uncles, great aunts, and cousins can be seen relaxed, in close contact, and hugging each other. After the current pandemic ends, after social distancing is lifted, I’m looking forward to greeting all of you with hearty hugs and handshakes, because JCRC/AJC is truly a family to me.  

We did our best version of human connection, and then some, during our first ever “virtual” Annual Meeting conducted on May 13, 2020. The meeting included emotional and well-earned tributes to our late Board Member Sheri Schiff and outgoing president, Alicia Chandler. For those of you who were unable to make it, here is a recording of that memorable evening.

Until hugs and handshakes become a reality, I’m looking forward to seeing and hearing all of you during one of our exciting “virtual” programs described below. Despite the Covid-19 pandemic, JCRC/AJC continues full-steam ahead with its mission of representing and strengthening the Detroit Jewish community, and increasing the connection of our community to the rest of Detroit and beyond. JCRC/AJC remains the linchpin of connection with our partners in the diplomatic, legislative, media, interfaith, and intergroup communities.  

Building a strong coalition of partners allows us to cultivate support for democracy and pluralism. During these ever-increasing turbulent times, what’s more important than that? Truly!

Thank you for supporting JCRC/AJC! All my best to you and yours. Stay safe and well!

-Seth

JCRC/AJC Statement- Hate Imagery During “Operation Gridlock”

April 16, 2020 – At a protest yesterday in Lansing, several people demonstrating as part of “Operation Gridlock” used flags and posters featuring swastikas and verbiage comparing Governor Gretchen Whitmer to Adolf Hitler, as well as the Confederate battle flag. Regardless of one’s political views, the use of such imagery and symbolism is inexcusable. The Nazi imagery is particularly galling as it comes only days before Yom Hashoah (Holocaust Remembrance Day), which begins on Monday night. 

It is the position of the Jewish Community Relations Council/AJC (JCRC/AJC) that the use of symbols of hate are never appropriate as part of political discourse. The JCRC/AJC condemns these actions and asks the organizers of the protest, the Michigan Conservative Coalition, to immediately condemn the use of all hate speech and, specifically, the imagery used at yesterday’s rally.

March eNews Letter from Rabbi Lopatin

Dear Friends,

Alicia has set such a beautiful tone of gratitude and I want to begin my note by thanking her for her leadership as JCRC/AJC president. She has truly been a mentor for me in my first six months with the organization. Even during this difficult time, Alicia’s smile, wisdom and positive attitude has permeated the organization and given us all the confidence we need to make it through any adversity and upheaval. We are all so privileged to have her leadership, and I know, even after she leaves the presidency, we can rely on her character and strength to continue to move us forward.

And move forward we must! 

Our staff is learning how to cope with working from home, social distancing and isolation. Importantly, we are using our mission of relationship building and advocacy to transform our work in this new era where geographic limitations, in a way, are lifted. Even though some amazing programs were indeed cancelled or postponed, we are discovering that we can create new initiatives based on internet communication and gathering. These events  can bring faiths, communities and government leaders together in an even more ambitious way than before. Already this week we are bringing rabbis, imams, pastors and the community-at-large together to wage our mutual war against the coronavirus.

This situation reminds me that our rabbis have told us that the astrologers correctly predicted that our forefather Abram (his original name) would not have a future. Yet the trick was to change his name from Abram, meaning the father of one nation, to Abraham, the father of all nations. Abram would not have a future, but Abraham would have a legacy that would change the world. So, too, our old way of doing things – of bringing people together physically around metropolitan Detroit – will not work for the time being. Yet our own “Abraham,” our desire to impact people around us in every way possible, will usher in a new era for JCRC/AJC when we re-engineer our mission to build relationships and advocate on a broader and more profound level – across geographic divides and into hundreds of homes. We are committed at JCRC/AJC to make the creative pivot to enable us to fulfill our mission of being the Jewish voice for the broader community.

So with all the challenges, we do feel gratitude. To our flexible and visionary staff. To our lay leadership for their wisdom, commitment and engagement. To the Federation and our Jewish community who understand how vital our mission is, especially in this period when people are physically isolated and distanced. 

JCRC/AJC will not let the Jewish community be isolated, and we will always be the advocate for the needs of one another, and for others where we live. With your help we will find the creative, innovative ways to accomplish our mission in ways we could not even imagine. Together, we can do this!

Asher Lopatin

March 2020 E-news Letter

To our JCRC/AJC family,

Today I wish to express gratitude. Honestly, it’s hard to find gratitude in these moments of chaos and confusion, fear and uncertainty. But on Monday night, I was able to go on Zoom and participate in the Glazer Institute’s program, which we were a partner on, listening to one of my favorite authors, Yossi Klein Halevi, as he sat in his apartment in Jerusalem. I have been able to join rabbis from all over the community while they lead different prayer services on Facetime Live; my son has been able to continue his Mandarin coursework by studying with a native Chinese speaker in Europe; and my daughter has had the opportunity to draw along with acclaimed author Mo Willems. The technology that I have been known to curse for invading every aspect of life is now enabling us to stay connected even as the virus demands that we stay, physically, apart.

From our perspective at JCRC/AJC, we have:

  • been using technology to allow our staff to work remotely. This way we can continue to accomplish the mission of this agency without endangering anyone;
  • uncapped our staff’s sick time so they can be confident that even if they are stricken with this virus, they will not have to suffer financially; and
  • been and will continue to reach out to our contacts in the diplomatic, legislative, media, and interfaith communities as well as our own, Jewish community.

The work of community relations – of building communities – remains vital during these times of isolation. Our staff and leadership will continue to rethink what we can do to maintain and build relations during these times. From sending Pesach baskets to the diplomats that would normally be at our Diplomatic Seder to creating Ramadan gifts for our Muslim friends when we cannot be with them at our annual Interfaith Iftar – we will continue to creatively and relentlessly pursue communal connection.

Professionally, to each of you – our friends and supporters – I say “thank you.”

Personally, I have to say that I never could imagine that my three years of presidency would likely end by sitting on my couch as a reluctant homeschool teacher, rather than with you. I have been so thankful for the support of this agency and its mission. As always, for us, the relationships come first and I have been blessed to form amazing bonds through this organization.

While our amazing Executive Director Rabbi Asher Lopatin will likely have something appropriate from our Jewish tradition for us at this trying moment, what comes to mind for me is a quote from one of the many movies that my children have been watching during their extended screentime:”Be excellent to each other” (Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure, 1989).

With prayers for your continuing good health,

Alicia B. Chandler

JCRC/AJC Board President

Aspects of Muslim and Jewish Religious Freedom to Be Discussed

January 16, 2020 – Jewish Community Relations Council/AJC and the Michigan Muslim Community Council will host its 5th Annual “A Shared Future” Lecture Series with Wayne State University Professors Howard Lupovitch and Saeed Khan. This year’s topic is “Are We Religiously Free in America?”

“A Shared Future” will consist of three presentations all beginning at 7 p.m., followed by a dessert reception:

  • Wednesday, February 12, Muslim Unity Center (1830 Square Lake Rd.) in Bloomfield Hills
    • Topic: The navigation and implementation of Halacha and Sharia in the United States
  • Wednesday, February 19, Congregation Beth Ahm (5075 West Maple Rd.) in West Bloomfield  
    • Topic: Attitudes and applications of separation of religion and state
  • Wednesday, February 26 at Wayne State University, David Adamany Undergraduate Library (5150 Anthony Wayne Dr.) in Detroit
    • Topic: Attitudes toward the First Amendment as they pertain to constructive debate and civil discourse.

Established in 2014, “A Shared Future” is an interfaith dialogue series which unites members of the Jewish and Muslim communities to learn together and build relationships. There is no charge to attend the program for which advance registration is required. It can be completed at sharedfuturereligiousfreedom.eventbrite.com.

Howard Lupovitch is Associate Professor of History and the Director of the Cohn-Haddow Center for Judaic Studies at Wayne State University. He received a Ph.D. in Jewish History from Columbia University and has taught at Cornell University, Colby College, the University of Western Ontario and University of Michigan, where he was also a fellow at the Frankel Institute for Advanced Jewish Studies. A published author, Professor Lupovitch is the 2009 winner of the Bernard L. Maas Prize for Achievement in Jewish Culture and Continuity in the Area of Humanities.

Saeed A. Khan works in the University’s Department of History and is a lecturer in the Department of Near East & Asian Studies, where he teaches Islamic and Middle East History, Islamic Civilizations and History of Islamic Political Thought. A Research Fellow at Wayne State University’s Center for the Study of Citizenship, he also is an Adjunct Professor in Islamic Studies at the University of Detroit-Mercy and at Rochester College, where he co-teaches a course on Muslim-Christian Diversity. He is a Ph.D. Candidate at Wayne State University; Thomas M. Cooley Law School, JD. 

Professor Khan has served as a consultant to the US-Arab Economic Forum and has founded the Center for the Study of Trans-Atlantic Diasporas, a think tank and policy center examining and comparing the condition of ethnic immigrant groups in North America and Europe, consulting the US and UK governments on their respective Muslim communities.

For additional information, contact Corey Young, young@jfmd.org

A Shared Future is generously sponsored by the Ravitz Foundation.