By Deb Silverthorn
Advocating and mobilizing support for the social, political and humanitarian issues important to the local Jewish community is what the Jewish Federation of Greater Dallas’ Jewish Community Relations Council (JCRC) does every day. The JFGD’s public affairs division reaches out behind the scenes to support all in the area.
“We’re here to fight against antisemitism and to reduce hate of all kinds,” said JCRC Executive Director Anita Zusman Eddy, this year marking a decade of her work with the organization. “From protecting the teaching of the Holocaust in our schools, to speaking out however we must, to doing whatever is needed in a crisis — we are here.”
Together with Michelle Golan Friedman, JCRC director of Community Outreach and Programming, and Yolanda Jackson, JCRC project coordinator, Zusman Eddy focuses on public policy, communications, education, issue management, interfaith and inter-ethnic relations and social action.
From the time Zusman Eddy’s phone rang just after noon on Saturday, Jan. 15, until more than a week later, she was on alert nearly around the clock. The breaking news of a hostage crisis at Congregation Beth Israel in Colleyville, just a few miles from her own home and the congregation she and her family attend, called her and her team to action.
“For local, state and federal elected officials, including White House staff, Israeli government representatives and community and faith leaders of all religions, we became a hub for questions and support, connecting all involved,” said Zusman Eddy. “As a partner to the Fort Worth & Tarrant County Federation we played a key supporting role in managing the overwhelming situation, far beyond anything we ever could have imagined.”
When Jewish Federation Fort Worth & Tarrant County Executive Director Barry Abels arrived at the organization last year, he reached out to Zusman Eddy and the two met in person. They stayed in touch and when there was a hands-on need, that established relationship was critical for hand-in-hand success.
“I can’t speak highly enough of the efforts by the JCRC staff and of how our work together was phenomenal in crisis,” said Abels. “I very much look forward to collaborating on issues of education, of advocacy and of strengthening the ties in our community.”
Together the JCRC, Tarrant Federation and the JFGD hosted a virtual event on Thursday, Jan. 20, which had more than 1,800 participants registered. The program, organized to honor Congregation Beth Israel, help heal the community and thank law enforcement and first responders, remains available for viewing on the JCRC’s website and Facebook page.
Grateful that crisis calls are rare, the JCRC’s day-to-day efforts include a broader area of education and advocacy.
“We’re absolutely invigorated to prioritize that education reduces hate and antisemitism,” said Zusman Eddy.
With that goal, Golan Friedman, a Dallas native who joined the JCRC in 2017, leads the JCRC Student-to-Student peer education program, which brings Jewish high school students representing different branches of Judaism to Dallas-area public and private schools that don’t have a significant Jewish presence, to speak about themselves.
“Through engagement and dialogue our Jewish youth help challenge stereotypes and build understanding of the Jewish people while strengthening their own Jewish identity and developing leadership skills,” Golan Friedman said.
The program, co-chaired by Jolene Risch and Kathy Garber, began in 2021 with students visiting Ursuline Academy; it’s looking for participants for the 2022-2023 school year.
Golan Friedman also works with everyday leaders on the JCRC’s “Just Conversations” for post-college young adults. Spearheaded by Josh Yudkin, who co-chairs the program with Toni Howard-Lowe, who is Christian, this initiative focuses on building relationships between emerging leaders of different faiths throughout the community.
“[The program was l]aunched in November 2020, [and] we’ve had virtual conversations about civic engagement and health inequities,” said Golan Friedman. “Together we’re building allies for the Jewish community of the next generation of leadership and influencers, inspiring motivated young people interested in bringing about positive change.”
JCRC’s reach is wide as it partners with the Jewish Council for Public Affairs, the Jewish Federations of North America and the Israel Action Network as a central convener of Dallas’ Jewish community of local synagogues and Jewish schools, member organizations and others.
“Our JCRC is the critical bridge between the Jewish Federation and the general community,” said Bill Finkelstein, Jewish Federation of Greater Dallas board chair. “The relationships the JCRC builds with faith and civic leaders, community stakeholders and elected officials are essential in our work opposing antisemitism, supporting Israel and other issues that impact the Jewish community.”
Every other year, when the state legislature is in session, the JCRC organizes the Jewish Communities Day at the State: Legislative Mission to Austin to meet with the state’s highest elected officials and as a communal effort to advocate and educate on issues important to the Jewish communities of Texas.
Before the pandemic, JCRC held meetings with school districts; Allen, Frisco, Plano and Richardson hosted an open forum to discuss concerns for parents of Jewish students in public schools and school board presidents and superintendents. Additional efforts to build interfaith and inter-ethnic relationships include the JCRC’s annual Interfaith Seder (this year on Tuesday, March 29, at 6:30 p.m.).
“Anita has the JCRC and community relations in the front of her mind…always deep in the work, and Michelle has found her place and her professional strength,” said Cindy Moskowitz, JCRC chair. “These women understand the very complex issues that come to them, and it is a privilege to work with them toward dignity and opportunity.”
Joining Moskowitz on the JCRC executive committee are Cyd Friedman, Kathy Garber, Mark Mullaney, Jay Post, Rabbi Adam Roffman, Melanie Rubin, Brent Rubin, Dawn Strauss and Josh Yudkin. Advisers to the organization are Robert Feldman, Ann Margolin, Lillian Pinkus, Florence Shapiro, Ron Steinhart and Andrea Weinstein.
“I care deeply about our community and how it relates to what’s going on in the world,” said Moskowitz, following in the footsteps of her parents Arnie Sweet, of blessed memory, and Janice Sweet Weinberg, who both served as JCRC chairs. “JCRC is so mission driven, and its strength is its professional leadership who care so deeply about Dallas being a strong and vibrant community.”
For more information, or to contact the JCRC, call 214-615-5293, email firstname.lastname@example.org or visit DallasJCRC on Facebook.