Policy gives rise to action. We do not shy away from activism and often convene coalitions to influence policy, in the best spirit of democracy the Biblical imperative to pursue justice. Our board weighs in on important issues, both local and global, and develops a policy agenda. The board’s policy platform establishes priorities and guides the work of our volunteers and staff. Without a policy agenda, we would have no mandate to take action.
WHOSE VIEWPOINT DOES JCRC REPRESENT?
JCRC’s diverse board of directors represents the broad spectrum of Jewish community members, and their deliberations provide a strong snapshot of our community’s views. Anyone can attend regular meetings of the JCRC board, and there is always time set aside for community comment. The board strives toward consensus and to resolve differences of opinion in an environment of respect.
WHAT ABOUT ISSUES WHERE THE COMMUNITY IS DIVIDED?
The JCRC board does not limit its positions to issues where there is “an overwhelming consensus” in the Jewish community. When addressing issues on which the community is divided, the board’s deliberative process allows for all voices to be heard and does not guarantee that any particular viewpoint will prevail. However, the board – consistent with the political patterns of American Jewry – historically has promulgated policies that support Israel and Jews around the world, and that favor civil liberties, religious freedom, minority rights, social justice and an open society here at home.
WHAT PROCESS IS FOLLOWED IN FORMULATING JCRC PUBLIC ISSUES POLICIES?
JCRC is an independent body and takes its cues from a number of sources. Issues may be brought to JCRC by its board members, its member organizations, other Detroit Jewish and non-Jewish community organizations, or by individual members of the Jewish community. National Jewish agencies such as the Jewish Council for Public Affairs or Jewish Federations of North America may also encourage local Jewish Community Relations Councils to become active in certain causes.
In deciding whether to tackle a new public policy issue, it is first discussed by JCRC’s officers, who determine whether the issue should be addressed by the JCRC board based on specific criteria:
- Relevance to the Jewish Community – Does the issue affect the Jewish community in particular? Is it connected to Jewish values?
- Relevance to Detroit or Michigan – Is the issue one that has local relevance?
- Timeliness – Is the issue one that will soon be considered by the state legislature, Congress, or other public body?
- JCRC priorities – Does the issue fall within one of JCRC’s high priority categories?
- Resources – Would involvement in the issue require a feasible level of JCRC resources?
- Expectation – Do important segments of the Jewish or non-Jewish communities seek or expect JCRC’s involvement?
The leadership evaluates the answers to these questions in light of JCRC’s overall strategy, staffing limits, budget and partnerships.
JCRC follows this process when exploring a public policy issue:
- Board members recommend to the President that JCRC explore a particular issue.
- The president, in consultation with officers and the executive director, decides to bring an issue to the JCRC board using the criteria listed above. In certain circumstances, the president may choose to ask the board whether it wishes to examine an issue.
- Leadership consults with relevant Jewish organizations and with individuals with special expertise.
- Leadership determines the "Jewish" perspective.
- Board members are informed in advance about the vote and provided relevant documents.
- Presentations from different viewpoints are made at board meetings.
- A super majority board vote of at least 60 percent of those present and voting is required to adopt a policy.
- The board determines the issue's priority level for action (e.g., high priority with immediate action and JCRC leadership; medium priority with participation in coalition on issue; low priority with monitoring of issue).