Issue 4

Summer 2023

Words From Our Chair

Dear Friend,

It is with great pride and much inspiration that we reach out to you today with the latest edition of The Activist. The 2022-23 calendar year marked an important milestone for our Miami-Dade County Jewish community – a transition back to full, in-person programming and a return to holistic, communal involvement with both Jewish and non-Jewish partners. This includes work with collaborations, both existing and new, that look toward the future. We share with you here some of the Jewish Community Relations Council’s (JCRC) efforts during this calendar year, including the recent legislative session, engagement work with the Black and LGBTQ+ communities and Federation’s Israel 75 Miami Mega Mission.

As always, thank you for being a part of JCRC’s work, which is never done. We appreciate your support and welcome your continuing input.

In service,

Moj Khaghan Danial

Chair, Jewish Community Relations Council

Teens Advocating Together: Empowering and Inspiring Black-Jewish Unity

Teens Advocating Together, a multiyear partnership between JCRC and the NAACP’s Youth Council, resumed for another year with a renewed focus on building civic and communal bridges between the Black and Jewish communities. Programming spanned from October 2022 until March 2023 and empowered a cohort of 14 Black and Jewish students.

The 2022-23 schedule included seven workshop sessions that focused on preparing the student cohort for important conversations regarding public policy, civic engagement and the legislative process. The structure of each workshop encouraged students to build meaningful relationships to take back to their respective communities.

JCRC Committee members Anne Bloom and Evan Ross returned as speakers, joined by guest presenters such as Rep. Felicia Robinson, Miami Gardens Councilman Robert Stephens and Dr. Shirley Plantin, Director of the Miami-Dade County Community Relations Board. Topics for sessions included conflict resolution and storytelling, coalition-building and the Black-Jewish relationship during the Civil Rights Movement. Additionally, students had an opportunity to attend an event, hosted by the JCRC and the Miami Beach Black Affairs Advisory Committee, called “Shine A Light on Antisemitism and Racism.” It allowed the students to have an experiential interaction with the complex realities of being Black in America, being Jewish in America and being Black and Jewish in America.

These interactions prepared the student cohort for Advocacy Day in Tallahassee, where they met with members of the State Legislature to talk about criminal justice reform, public nuisance laws (as it relates to antisemitism) and childcare services. The students met with Sen. Alexis Calatayud, Rep. Mike Caruso, Rep. Anna Eskamani and Rep. Christopher Benjamin, among others. The cohort also had a brief, impromptu meeting with Miami-Dade County Mayor Daniella Levine Cava upon meeting her at the Capitol.

Most recently, on June 21, the 2022-23 student cohort attended a proclamation ceremony hosted by the Miami-Dade County School Board that honored the hard work and contributions of the program since its inception in 2019-20. Student Thomas Toole worked in collaboration with School Board member Lucia Baez-Geller to make this ceremony happen.

Achievements and Victories: The 2023 Legislative Session

The Jewish community was able to secure some key victories during the 2023 Legislative Session. The JCRC anticipates continued state funding through a grant for the Holocaust Memorial Miami Beach’s educational initiatives of up to $400,000. In past years, this funding has come directly from the State Legislature. However, this year the dollars are anticipated to come in coordination with the Governor’s office.

Also in the area of Holocaust education, the JCRC worked with the City of Miami Beach to declare June 5 Holocaust Survivors Day. To commemorate this important occasion, the Memorial hosted a brunch for 40 local Holocaust Survivors, with Miami Beach Mayor Dan Gelber as the featured speaker.

Another key area of focus with the legislature was antisemitism, in light of its continuous rise across Florida. Extremist and white supremacist groups have been littering materials (such as antisemitic flyers) nearby and on private properties across the state. In collaboration with the Jewish Federation of Palm Beach County and its JCRC, our own JCRC successfully worked to pass a public nuisance bill into law, with support from both chambers of the State Legislature and the Governor’s office. This law targets extremists who aim to intimidate Jewish people and other diverse communities.

Additionally, the JCRC supported legislation that passed to create infrastructure at the state level for facilitating Nonprofit Security Grants from state dollars. This would supplement the federal funding our community receives to protect our Jewish communal institutions, and we anticipate getting the measure funded in Tallahassee in 2024.

In the social service arena, in concert with the other Jewish Community Services (JCS) and Jewish Family Services (JFS) in Broward and Palm Beach counties, we helped our partners at Jewish Community Services of South Florida increase its Tri-County mental-health collaboration to $1.2 million this year. The four organizations divided the money evenly between themselves to address mental illness and substance abuse plaguing low-income individuals, with the goal of promoting emotional well-being and self-sufficiency. We also helped pass a Tri-County JCS initiative for just under $2 million to provide mental health awareness training to first responders free of charge.

Jewish American Heritage Month: Celebrating and Honoring Vibrant Jewish Life in America and Greater Miami

Jewish American Heritage Month (JAHM) is observed annually during the month of May. To celebrate and honor American Jewish life, the JCRC collaborated with the Miami Jewish Film Festival and our three local JCCs to display the work of American Jewish film directors who told the diverse stories of the American Jewish community. The Michael-Ann Russell JCC hosted a screening of The Automat, the Miami Beach JCC presented The Fabelmans and the Alper JCC, The Levys of Monticello. This programming followed the Miami-Dade County Commission’s decision, at the urging of the JCRC, to proclaim May as Jewish American Heritage Month locally.

While we have been witnessing a dramatic rise in antisemitism and hate, it was especially important to highlight the diversity and vibrancy of our Jewish communities both here in Greater Miami and across the country. Elevating Jewish contributions to American society and combating antisemitism in all its forms always have been and will continue to be a top priority for the JCRC.

Miami Beach Pride and Pride Month: Jewish and LGBTQ+ Partnership

On April 16, the JCRC continued our role as lead organizer for the Jewish community to march in the Miami Beach Pride Parade. In coordination with the Consulate General of Israel in Miami, we collaborated with 21 organizations, including synagogues, LGBTQ+ Jewish organizations, JCCs and advocacy organizations. A strong showing of support from the Jewish community displayed our commitment to the LGBTQ+ community through a collective moment of celebration and joy.

2023 JCRC Directors Association Meeting: Lessons From Miami

Earlier this month, the JCRC and the Greater Miami Jewish Federation hosted the annual JCRC Directors Association Meeting in Miami. This brought together 40 JCRC directors and other JCRC professionals to the Greater Miami area, which allowed our JCRC team to provide a deeper dive into the important work occurring daily in the community. This included tours at the Holocaust Memorial Miami Beach, Hampton Art Lovers at the Historic Ward Rooming House in Overtown and the Miami Beach JCC, highlighting the laudable accomplishments of our community partners.

Other activities of note included a series of briefings, breakout sessions and panel discussions about significant issues facing the JCRC world. One panel discussion focused on depolarizing the fight against antisemitism and a conversation on the recently released White House National Strategy to Counter Antisemitism. Another panel discussion explored LGBTQ+ rights, highlighting different voices from the community, such as Keshet’s Jon Cohen and Elizabeth Schwartz, Associate Treasurer of the Greater Miami Jewish Federation Board of Directors.

The JCRC Directors Association Meeting left professionals feeling both rejuvenated and inspired and gave them new tools and ideas to bring back to their respective communities.

Celebrating Israel at 75: Federation’s Miami Mega Mission

Eight hundred community members joined the Greater Miami Jewish Federation for our 2023 Miami Mega Mission to Israel, in celebration of 75 years of independence for the Jewish State. It was particularly significant for our participants to be present in Israel during this tumultuous time in her history.

Among the week-long trip’s highlights were a series of Mega Events intended to unite Mission participants in what proved to be the largest delegation in the world to visit Israel on this historic occasion. These large-scale celebrations included an opening dinner at Safra Square in Jerusalem, where we were visited by Israel’s President, Isaac Herzog; a Desert Extravaganza and drone show; and an Israeli star-studded concert attended by 3,500 people at the Caesarea Amphitheatre.

Each of these unifying Mega Events connected Mission participants to the miracle of Israel’s 75th anniversary and the critical role Diaspora Jewry has played in strengthening the Jewish State.

The Mission of the Jewish Community Relations Council (JCRC) is to educate, engage and mobilize the Jewish community in pursuit of social justice on a broad range of local, national and international issues, including Israel, antisemitism, civil rights and civil liberties. It functions as a consensus-seeking body and advocates on behalf of Jewish community interests to representatives of other community organizations, to government officials and to the media. The JCRC helps to maximize government dollars available for programs and services operated by Federation beneficiary agencies and promotes social policies that enhance the quality of life for all people.