A Message to Our Community

A Message to Our Community

JCC Members, Neighbors, Leaders & Staff,

The Torah tells us “Justice, justice, you shall pursue to live.”

Right now, we’re participants in that pursuit, we’re witnessing what happens to a community when justice (tzedek) is withheld, we’re breaking at the reminder that – for too long and with too much regularity – our neighbors throughout the Black community confront a life without equal justice.

Our JCC, all JCCs, were born from the reality that access to safe spaces is not always equitable. While we are not the victims in this fight, we’re reminded that we cannot stand on the sidelines and watch as members of our community are disenfranchised, hurt, or killed – every faith has a version of the Golden Rule in their values, and ours tells us to stand up. In our Strategic Roadmap, of which there are only six points, one of our imperatives is to “Build upon our intentionally inclusive culture, reflecting the diversity of those we serve.” This is both an acknowledgement of the JCC we are and aspire to be, and an acknowledgement that we have work to do.

As the CEO of this JCC, I have been privileged to learn that “community” means that many voices, at extraordinary moments, must speak from one heart. I am reminded that we are at our best when we lift each other up. I am humbled to remember that sometimes we lead, sometimes we follow, but always – always – we stand alongside those where the help is needed the most.

This is one of those times.

For as much as the JCC serves as a destination for all people to live moments of joy, health, and values – I hope it’s a place where action happens. I’m not sure what we do tomorrow to confront this racism, and to own our part in building a healthier and more just future, but I do know this community has what it needs to get to work. I hope the JCC will continue to be a place for that work. For all the times our community has held us up, for all the moments where our friends and neighbors said to us “This isn’t happening to me, but it feels like it is,” this is our moment to do the same.

Last week, I was in Minneapolis to help my daughters pack up at the end of their college school year. It matters less what I saw or how I felt than it does to remember why I was so proud when my daughters chose Minneapolis for school and to create their other Jewish community – because it was so much like Milwaukee, our home. Today, Milwaukee is Minneapolis. And Milwaukee is Louisville, is Atlanta, is New York, is Los Angeles.

This is an everywhere problem. This is an everyone problem. Justice is everyone’s responsibility.

May the memory of George Floyd, and all those who have been victims of racial violence and inequity, be for a blessing.

Wishing you all tzedek (justice) and shalom (peace),

Mark Shapiro
President & Chief Executive Officer