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Posts tagged ‘JCRC’

Why Jews should join the fight for gay rights in Russia

Jews around the world should join San Francisco’s Jewish community in speaking out against anti-gay legislation in Russia.

By Elka Looks, Jewish Community Relations Council
Originally posted in Haaretz 10/9/13

Gay rights, as Hillary Clinton so aptly said in her momentous speech in Geneva in 2011, are human rights and the struggle for LGBT equality is part of a long historical evolution that has arguably been in motion since the Reformation. Russia, however, seems to be on the wrong side of human rights history, with its recent anti-gay legislation bearing shocking resemblance to that of its Soviet predecessor, notorious for its oppression of minorities, including Jews. Read more

Peer Tutoring Program Helps Struggling Elementary School Students

By Isabel-Duarte Gray, Program Assistant, Jewish Community Relations Council (JCRC)

Every Tuesday morning, 33 Gideon Hausner 8th graders pile into parent carpools and ride to Theuerkauf Elementary School in Mountain View, where they spend the morning building the literacy skills of K-3rd grade students. In their assigned classrooms, the teen tutors work one-on-one with the younger students, wander the classroom providing help as needed, or sometimes lead groups to enhance their tutees’ reading skills through cooperative exercises. “As I read with them, I try to use techniques that I remember from when I was younger that helped me learn to read,” says Lucy, an 8th grader taking part in the peer-tutoring program. “For me, what is most important is that I want them to know that I love reading too, and that I am helping with it not because I was sent to, but because I want them to develop the same love of reading that I have.” Read more

An Artistic Approach to Increasing Literacy

by Judy Pam-Bycel, JCL Program Manager, and Randi Dodick Fields, JCL Bay Area Director

JCL Tutor and artist, Joan Frenkel

Longtime Jewish Coalition for Literacy tutor, Joan Frenkel, loves inspiring curiosity in children.  “I was raised by a mother who imparted in me the importance of working to help other people, rather than just yourself.” Joan is a sculptor who spent almost 40 years as the Chief Scenic Artist for the San Francisco Opera and the San Francisco Ballet until retiring in 2010.  She’s been a volunteer reading tutor with the Jewish Coalition for Literacy (JCL) for the last 13 years- since the program started in the Bay Area.  Joan began by tutoring one child a week, but found she liked it so much, she wanted to do more.  Tutoring ‘’taps into my curiosity,” she says, and “gives me the opportunity to impart the love of reading in children…I end up learning more myself!”

Today, Joan tutors at Starr King Elementary School in San Francisco, volunteering five days a week for two-and-a-half hours each day.  As part of her tutoring, she reads individually with each student in the kindergarten class as well as tutoring five 2nd grade students.  Most of her students, she says, are English Learner students, who have grown up without speaking English at home. “I was never a teacher,” she says, “but I can tell when a child is having trouble and I want to make their life happier.”

Joan has gotten so much out of her tutoring experience with the Jewish Coalition for Literacy that she started to think creatively about ways she could help even more.
Being an artist, she came up with the idea of holding an art exhibition to benefit JCL, since she knows that the organization must raise all its own funds, which is especially difficult in a tough economy.  Joan was willing to donate proceeds from sales of her sculptural works to the cause, and she pitched the idea to a local Palo Alto art gallery.  The gallery liked the idea, as did several other local artists who also wanted to participate.

Joan and Artists

Participating Artistis, left to right: Ellen Brook, Joan Frenkel, Sandy Ostrau, and Karen Benioff Friedman. Not pictured: Ruth-Anne Siegel and Wo Schiffman.

As a result, six artists including Joan, who work in ceramics, textile arts, mixed media, printmaking and oils, participated in a 10-day benefit art exhibition for JCL at the Fibre Arts Design Studio in Palo Alto (JCL exhibition), which concluded on September 2.  More than 100 people attended the festive opening reception on August 23.  Participating artists, along with the Gallery, donated a portion of all sales to the Jewish Coalition for Literacy, a joint project of the Jewish Community Relations Council and the Jewish Community Federation and Endowment Fund.

Nine works sold during the exhibition, raising close to $4000 in support of JCL’s work to fight illiteracy among the most at-risk students in local public schools. The JCL serves about 1,000 predominately Latino, Asian and African American students annually, in 45 of the most under-resourced public elementary schools and after school programs in the Bay Area.   If you have just one hour a week, you can become a JCL tutor.  Register for one of JCL’s free  upcoming tutor training workshops at www.jclread.org

The Jewish Coalition for Literacy is funded in part by a $95,000 JCF annual grant and is a joint project of Jewish Community Relations Council and the Jewish Community Federation and Endowment Fund.

Jewish Coalition for Literacy Enriches Lives and Builds Relationships

By Isabel Duarte-Gray, Program Assistant at the Jewish Community Relations Council

The night before Jerilyn Gelt learned about the Jewish Coalition for Literacy, she enjoyed an unexpected phone conversation with the 10-year-old daughter of a family friend. “I asked her why she was up so late, and she said ‘I’m reading a book,’” explained Jerilyn. “I asked ‘Isn’t it fun when you find an author you really like?’ And she said, ‘Yes, and sometimes I like to be in the book!’”

The next day, Jerilyn attended services for Rosh Hashanah, where her Rabbi addressed the role of Jews as the “People of the Book” and encouraged his congregation to consider volunteering at the Jewish Coalition for Literacy. Remembering the vitality and enthusiasm of the child she’d spoken to the night before, Jerilyn quickly signed up to volunteer with JCL as a tutor.

Jerilyn and her former JCL tutee, Jamila Grizzard, at Jamila’s high school graduation in May.

Jerilyn is one of hundreds of Jewish Coalition for Literacy volunteers who are trained and placed with K-3 students in underserved Bay Area public schools and after-school programs. The program offers an hour of individual literacy training per week to over 1,000 local public school students, distributes thousands of new and gently used children’s books to its partner schools and students, and hosts multilingual training workshops to help parents of JCL students bring the love of reading home. JCL is a wonderful opportunity for Jewish community members to practice Tikkun Olam and help support under-resourced California public school systems in their own neighborhoods.

When Jerilyn joined JCL twelve years ago, she was searching for something “more meaningful” from her community outreach work. These days, Jerilyn has her hands full, serving as President of the  Jewish Community Relations Council,  but she still makes time for tutoring through the Jewish Coalition for Literacy. “It’s invaluable,” she explained.

“I’d guess that most of the children tutored by JCL volunteers rarely if ever  get to spend an hour a day or even a half hour a day with an adult who focuses just on them.”

Jewish Coalition for Literacy tutors have produced remarkable results. Teachers report that JCL students increase an average of three reading levels per school year. Moreover, 95% of JCL pupils show improvement in reading comprehension, 97% become more motivated to read in class, and 95% demonstrate more confidence in their ability to read aloud. With more than half of California children in the 4th grade reading below grade level, the Jewish Coalition for Literacy provides much-needed support to children during a crucial period in their development. Jerilyn can attest to the lasting impact of JCL’s program first-hand, as she recently attended the high school graduation of one of her former JCL students.

Jerilyn began tutoring Jamila Grizzard through JCL when Jamila had just begun the fourth grade at the Harvey Milk Civil Rights Academy, a public elementary school in San Francisco’s Castro district.  Although Jamila struggled with reading disabilities, she and Jerilyn persevered and she showed steady improvement. At the end of the school year, Jamila and her mother asked Jerilyn to continue tutoring her, which she did through Middle School and even occasionally in high school . For the next eight years, the two met in libraries, at the Boys and Girls club, and even on weekends to study and enjoy cultural events. One week they’d work on a presentation for social studies, the next they would explore the San Francisco Arboretum. This spring, Jerilyn looked on proudly as Jamila accepted her high school diploma and was accepted to San Francisco City College. She will be the first member of her family to attend college when she begins this fall.

The Jewish Coalition for Literacy provides more than reading resources and support to underserved communities—it enriches the lives of all its participants, tutors and students alike. “The [JCL] experience is really beyond giving money,” Jerilyn emphasized. “It’s giving of your time, and I think that the more time you give with these little kids, the more you see it matters.”

Become a JCL tutor
Register for one of the upcoming free tutor training workshops at www.jclread.org.

The Jewish Coalition for Literacy is funded in part by a $95,000 JCF annual grant and is a joint project of Jewish Community Relations Council and the Jewish Community Federation and Endowment Fund.

Historic Vote Against Divestment from Israel

By Noga Zimerman, Director, Middle East Affairs, JCRC

Last week, the organized American Jewish community was part of a historic victory over proponents of the anti-Israel Boycott/Divestment/Sanctions (BDS) Movement when a resolution calling on the Presbyterian Church (PCUSA) to divest its assets from three companies with sales to Israel was narrowly defeated at the church’s annual General Assembly. The Jewish Community Federation, through a grant to the Israel Action Network (IAN), and its support of the Jewish Community Relations Council (JCRC) which led the organizing effort in the Bay Area, played an important role in helping to ensure that resources were and are available to respond to these serious challenges.

The resolution had previously passed the church’s Middle East Committee and its General Assembly Mission Council, the highest authoritative body of the PCUSA, with an overwhelming majority. So odds were heavily stacked against the position of the mainstream organized Jewish Community that believes that divestment from Israel will hinder, not advance peace, and that divestment singles out Israel as solely to blame for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

In preparation for the vote, the IAN (a joint initiative of the Jewish Federations of North America and the Jewish Council for Public Affairs) and the Bay Area JCRC along with other JCRCs throughout the country had launched a comprehensive joint advocacy campaign against the resolution to ensure that church members were fully aware of the negative ramifications of this resolution and of our community’s strong position against BDS ahead of what was sure to be a historic vote with deep impact on the scope and direction of the BDS Movement’s Israel divestment campaign in mainline Christian churches. The joint efforts included the wide distribution by the IAN of an anti-divestment, pro-peace “Letter in Hope” signed by over 1,500 rabbis and supported by over 22,000 members of the community, and the distribution by the JCRC as a direct letter to the voting members that described the one-sided, prejudicial nature of the BDS Movement and of the resolution, and expressed the community’s hope that the church would choose instead to impact the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in a fair and productive way. All three organizations did extensive advocacy work behind the scenes, and in particular, mobilized allies within the PCUSA to reach out to their peers and openly discuss the resolution and its unjust, imbalanced nature. Following a hard-fought battle on both sides, the resolution was defeated 333-331, potentially marking a turning point in our battle against divestment in the mainline Christian churches.

See the Press Release

Freeing of Soviet Jews

For 20 years, from 1969 – 1989, San Francisco was the center of major public protests in support of Soviet Jews and their desire for freedom.   The cry “Let My People Go” was heard hundreds of times as community members rallied in front of the Soviet Consulate and at Soviet cultural events held throughout the area.   One particular memory is from February, 1987 when Natan Sharansky who had been released from a Soviet prison a year earlier spoke from a stage set up near the Consulate.  He looked out at thousands of people who gathered at this special rally organized by the Jewish Community Relations Council and Bay Area Council for Soviet Jews, both beneficiaries of the Jewish Community Federation.   The next day, the San Francisco Chronicle quoted one of the protesters.  “We gathered here so often to protest for his freedom.  And now he is here, helping us to protest for the others.  Such a day.”    For 20 years uninterrupted our community fought tirelessly to help free Soviet Jews – one by one by one until a million or more were truly free.    At the beginning they said it couldn’t be done; the Soviet government would never open the iron curtain.   But history tells a different story and our community which was galvanized by the inspirational leadership of Hal Light and many others can take pride in its tremendous contribution to the Soviet Jewry movement, as can the Federation in its support of it.

- by Rabbi Doug Kahn, JCRC Executive Director



On Sunday, April 10, 2011, former U.S. Secretary of State George Shultz will receive the Federation Centennial Award for his extraordinary efforts in the freeing of Soviet Jews.

The award presentation and following wine reception are a part of FedFest One Hundred.  Please join us in honoring Shultz and celebrating the Federation’s centennial year.

Photos courtesy of the Magnes

Marching for the inevitable change

On the morning of May 26, I, like so many Californians, waited nervously to hear the California Supreme Court’s decision on Proposition 8. And like so many Californians, I was angered and disappointed by the court’s decision to uphold the proposition. Although the court preserved the 18,000 same-sex marriages performed before Proposition 8 was legalized, the decision as a whole was disheartening.

A rally, a protest and a march for equality were held throughout the day and into the evening. What I experienced was a truly inspiring sight – thousands of like-minded families, individuals and allies, chanting and carrying signs of support for the LGBT community.  Instantly, my hope was restored. Despite this loss, the LBGT community continues to grow stronger and more organized. Surrounded by individuals of all walks of life, each filled with the same righteous anger, I realized that change is inevitable.

The night was also deeply meaningful because of its strong Jewish presence. In previous marches and rallies I participated as a LBGT activist who is Jewish. But on May 26, surrounded by friends and professionals from the organized Jewish community, I participated for the first time as a Jewish LBGT activist. I felt proud holding the Kol Tzedek marriage equality Chuppah and listening to Rabbi Doug Kahn, Executive Director of JCRC, inspire the crowd with his powerful words. Far too often, religion is portrayed as mutually exclusive to gay rights. But as we demonstrated that night, Judaism and equality go hand in hand.

The California Supreme Court’s ruling undoubtedly angered many in the Jewish Community, and you have every right to be angry. However, it is important that as a Jewish community, we take this anger and channel it into positive change. The court may have silenced the voices of hundreds of thousands of LGBT couples. But as Harvey Milk wisely noted, “Hope will never be silent.”

This is the first blog-posting of Jacob Goldstein, the LGBT Alliance 2009 Summer Intern.

The LGBT Alliance is currently organizing “Jews March for Pride,” a unified Jewish contingent for the San Francisco Pride Parade on June 28. Together we will send the message that the diverse Jewish community overwhelmingly supports marriage equality. Dozens of synagogues and Jewish organizations throughout the Bay Area have already signed up to march with us.

Register and learn more at http://tinyurl.com/jews4pride.

Rabbi Doug Kahn of JCRC and Jacob Goldstein, LGBT Alliance intern, at the May 26 Prop 8 Protest Rally

Rabbi Doug Kahn of JCRC and Jacob Goldstein, LGBT Alliance intern, at the May 26 Prop 8 Protest Rally

Solidarity gatherings for Israel

Update January 21, 2009: The Israel Center recently created a web page with more updated information, including community gatherings, opportunities to help Israel, resources, videos, and more. Check it out at http://www.israelinthebay.org/gaza.htm

Many of you are looking for ways to get involved and learn more about the situation in Gaza. The following are some of the gatherings and lectures planned in the Bay Area for the next few days:

Jewish Community Relations Council:
Solidarity Gatherings for Israel
http://www.jcrc.org/israel_events.htm
  • Thursday, January 8, 2009
  • San Francisco
    5:30 pm
    - Solidarity Gathering
    6:30 pm
    – Prayers for peace, a briefing on the situation, remarks by community and faith leaders, and information about ways to support the people of Israel.
    Congregation Sherith Israel, 2266 California Street
  • Los Altos Hills
    7:30 pm
    Congregation Beth Am, 26792 Arastradero Road
SF Voice for Israel:
Countering Anti-Israel Demonstrations
http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=22259707003
  • This and every Friday
  • Berkeley
    Noon

    Bancroft and Telegraph
  • This and every Saturday
  • Oakland
    Noon

    Grand Lake Theatre, 3200 Grand Avenue
  • Saturday, January 10, 2009
  • San Francisco
    11:00 am

    Civic Center Plaza, Polk between Larkin and McAllister

Need a protest sign? Check out the collection from StandWithUs.

Benny Morris – 1948:
A History of the First Arab-Israeli War
http://www.israelinthebay.org/morris.htm
  • January 27-29, 2009
  • San Francisco
  • Berkeley
  • Los Altos Hills
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