Minutes of Monthly Meeting
January 11, 1998
Location: Alumni Hall, University of Dayton
Meeting Topic: Outreach to the non-Jewish world--the role of the Jewish Community Relations Council (JCRC) of Dayton
Speakers: Bonnie Rice, Chair of JCRC and Naomi Adler, Director of JCRC
Hosts: Sophie and Steve Kahn
PRESENT: Connie Breen and Ruth Precker, Co-chairs; Arthur Auster, Judy Auster, Charlotte Braverman, Mimi Fisher, Shirley Flacks, Agnes Hannahs, Edith Holsinger, Sophie Kahn, Stephen Kahn, John (Jack) Kelley, Jerry Kotler, Barbara Levine, Chris Lipson, John Magee, Eileen Moorman, Bill Rain, Donald Ramsey, Ken Rosenzweig, Lou Ryterband, Robin Smith, William Youngkin.
Connie Breen called the meeting to order at 8 PM. She thanked Steve and Sophie for providing the refreshments and hosting the meeting. Shirley thanked the Dialogue for the gift which was given to Hadassah in memory of her husband, Paul Flacks. Steve delivered the invocation which was based on a reading from the prophet, Isaiah.
Ruth introduced the speakers, Naomi Adler and Bonnie Rice. Naomi is currently the Director of the Jewish Community Relations Council (JCRC) and the Women's Division of the Jewish Federation of Greater Dayton. Naomi joined the Federation in May and came to Dayton from Rochester, New York, where she worked as an Assistant District Attorney for almost five years. Her educational background includes a Bachelors Degree from Mount Holyoke College and a Juris Doctorate from the University of Buffalo Law School (SUNY).
Bonnie Rice has been a Magistrate on the Vandalia Municipal Court since 1992. Prior to that time, she spent 11 years in private legal practice where she specialized in litigation with an emphasis on discrimination cases. She holds a Bachelor of Science degree from Indiana University and a Juris Doctorate from the University of Dayton. She has been active with a wide range of professional and community organizations, including her present position as Director of the Jewish Community Relations Council of Dayton.
The speakers alternated speaking. Naomi began by stating that she began working in her current position with the Jewish Federation in May of 1997. She noted that she serves part-time as Director of the JCRC and part-time as Womens Division Director. Bonnie and Naomi said their objective for tonight's presentation is to discuss some of the issues that confront the JCRC and to present some factual examples of cases that the JCRC has dealt with. Much of the work of the JCRC involves combating anti-Semitism and promoting understanding among different races and religions in schools and the workplace. One case involves an observant Jew who needs to get home early on Friday to prepare for the Shabbat (sabbath). The law requires an employer to accommodate the religious needs of an employee unless it causes undue hardship to the business. However, the employer must devise the method of accommodation. Employees in this situation often do not understand that they do not have the legal right to design the method of accommodation. One type of accommodation is granting all employees the right to take one personal religious day per year. However, this could still pose a problem for a Jew who needs two days off for Rosh Hashanah. The employee has to accept what the employer has offered as long as it has accommodated his religious practice. Another case involved a nurse who was not allowed by her hospital employer to take any days off for Rosh Hashanah. Yet hospitals often give Good Friday off without question. Naomi pointed out that the JCRC does not act as legal counsel but rather seeks to work out problems by mediation.
Bonnie began speaking by complimenting the Dialogue for the quality of the discussions at our meetings. She has been reading about them in our minutes. Bonnie pointed out that dialogue is so much more than debate; people grow with Dialogue. The JCRC also tries to promote dialogues rather than debates. One case the JCRC dealt with involved a teacher who scheduled an exam on a Jewish holiday. Another case involved a valedictorian who asked in her speech at the graduation for the attendees to "come to Jesus Christ." Another issue the JCRC has dealt with is the Mayor's Prayer Breakfast. People have felt excluded from it because of its overtly Christian character.
Naomi spoke again and discussed actions that have been taken by the JCRC that promote social justice abroad. The JCRC promoted the March on Washington for the protection of Jews in the former Soviet Union (FSU). The JCRC also supports the Jewish American Distribution Committee which provides food and the opportunity for social life to Jews in the FSU. On a recent trip, Naomi met people in FSU who had not been out of their apartment for years. One objective is to bring mobile people to immobile people for socialization. Also medicines are desperately needed in the FSU. Doctors often provide medicine samples which Naomi and her associates bring to the FSU on their trips. The JCRC provided coats to people in Minsk. The JCRC also provides an information resource to answer questions about the Israeli political situation for people in the Dayton area. The JCRC Board is composed of people who believe in social justice. As part of this mission, the JCRC is committed to monitoring the local news media for fairness of coverage. For example, the JCRC is interested in making sure there are locally written articles about Israel, not just Associated Press (AP) articles.
Bonnie then discussed the case of the Yitzhak Rabin (former Prime Minister of Israel) assassination. The JCRC organized a peace gathering which was held within 24 hours of the assassination. Representatives from all major religious groups in the Dayton area attended, including Catholic, Protestant, and Islamic leaders. This event promoted healing and is an example of the "outreach to the non-Jewish community" which is the topic of tonight's presentation.
Naomi then talked about some of the activities of the Hate Crimes Task Force which is a part of the JCRC. She noted that when she came to Dayton, she was very impressed with the enormously successful Holocaust education programs in Dayton. However, during the summer, she heard rumors of harassing phone calls to various Rabbis. These were hangup phone calls. In September, she heard about a case of a Rabbi who was threatened by the Aryan Nations group, which is based in Germantown. Also, racist and anti-Semitic messages were left on the voice mail of synagogues in the area. Some churches were also getting harassed. These disturbing events continued around the time of the Aryan Nations rally in Hamilton. At that rally, anti-Semitic flyers were distributed with the names of all the temples and Rabbis. As a result of these events, Naomi and Bonnie met with all the Rabbis, and they are maintaining regular contact with them. One focus of discussion is making sure all the Jewish facilities are as secure as possible. She noted that caller ID has been installed at synagogues, and it was successful in one case in that a harassing phone call was traced to someone.
Bonnie continued by discussing the efforts of the JCRC to put into place a mechanism for handling these types of crimes on a regular basis. Police Departments in the area have designated a person who handles these types of cases. In another area, the JCRC organized a trip to the Holocaust Museum in Washington. Father Jack Kelley went on this trip. Other cases the JCRC has dealt with recently include an incident in Kettering involving racial slurs and a Cross burning in Wilberforce. Bonnie noted that Ohio ranks 4th among the states in the nation in number of hate groups.
Naomi then concluded the formal presentation by describing how lobbying has allowed the JCRC to accomplish many of its objectives. Also, she pointed out that the Hate Crimes Task Force, which was put together by Bonnie, has increased the awareness of hate crimes in our community.
The formal presentation concluded at 8:40 PM.
Jerry told about one set of JCRC activities which was initiated by Don Cohen's calling him about planning a Seder for a Catholic Church. Since then, Jerry has become very involved in putting on Seders for churches and schools. This has been very rewarding for Jerry personally and beneficial for creating greater understanding of Jewish observances. In this connection, Naomi replied that the JCRC maintains a Speakers Bureau, which includes speakers on the Holocaust and Jewish holidays, such as Chanukah. Jerry asked whether the Speakers Bureau is marketed to the Dayton community and Naomi replied no. Edith described her activities with putting on a Seder in a church. Naomi said that the JCRC now has a very good information resource. Steve related predicaments he has faced personally in trying to get accommodation from his former employer to observe Jewish religious holidays. Both Steve and his wife Sophie were teachers. The school systems had no provision for the Jewish High Holidays. Someone suggested that Steve and his wife take sick leave, but they felt it was wrong to have to lie in order to observe the High Holidays. Steve said that the teachers were later able to negotiate for one religious day off and two personal leave days. Ken asked about the situation in retail businesses where the employer needs people to work on Saturday. Naomi and Bonnie replied that it is the employer's right to refuse to hire someone in that case if they cannot work on Saturday.
Arthur asked the speakers to talk about the problems of educating teachers about the Jewish calendar. Naomi and Bonnie said that the JCRC supplies a calendar of Jewish holidays to the various school systems. Another problem is educating teachers in public schools about problems at Christmas time. This includes alerting them to separation of church and state issues involved with Christmas observances in the schools, as well as avoiding the forcing of non-Christian students to be involved in observances with which they are not comfortable. Edith asked how JCRC activities relate to those of the Anti-Defamation League (ADL). Bonnie said that ADL is a partner with the JCRC in many activities, and they do many of the same things. Robin shared the nice way that Lexis-Nexis handles religious holidays. Employees are given five floating days that accommodate any religious holidays.
The discussion of the JCRC concluded at 9:00 PM.
Jerry talked about an interesting article he read by Dennis Prager. Jerry likes Prager because he writes about provocative things. The article is on the different way Jews and Christians respond to the need for forgiveness. Prager raised the question of how one can forgive the boy in Louisiana who killed 3 girls who were meeting in a prayer group. Another example is when the Catholic Cardinal in New York made a statement that a mass murderer should be forgiven. Jerry suggested different ideas about forgiveness as a topic for a future meeting. There was unanimous interest among the attendees in such a program. Shirley said that we do not need an expert. Jerry and Bill Youngkin agreed to be facilitators for the program which will be scheduled for the July 12 meeting.
Robin said that at Chanukah time, she saw a story about the Chanukah celebration in Cologne, Germany. She noted that it was a miracle that such a celebration could happen in the country that perpetrated the Holocaust.
Jerry described lighting of the Chanukah Menorah in the White House that was reported on television; he noted humorously that the candles were lit in the reverse of their proper direction.