JCRC Team for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion in Howard County Public Schools, including Anti-Semitism Report
April 27, 2021

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY

In July 2020 the JCRC sponsored a community wide zoom session to identify and discuss social justice issues that the JCRC should study over the next several months. One of three Teams JCRC established was Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion in Howard County Public Schools, including Anti-Semitism.

The Team recognized that there was very little information about what Jewish students attending Howard County Public Schools experienced as it relates to Anti-Semitism, bias against or toward Jews, hateful comments, intolerance, oral, written, symbolic representations, and/or physical incidents. There were no specific anecdotal or documented cases to examine.

The Team reviewed several HCPSS documents and policies, including Policy 1000 Civility; Policy 1010 Anti-Discrimination; Policy 1060 Bullying, Cyberbullying, Intimidation and Harassment; Policy 1080 Educational Equity and the Implementation Procedures; and Policy 9020 Student Rights and Responsibilities. 

The Team decided to develop two questionnaires to gather information and data about how Jewish students are treated by other students, teachers, and administrators in the Howard County Public School System. This study was not undertaken as a statistically representative or random sample study, but rather as a means to obtain anecdotal information from some Jewish students about their experiences in the HCPSS. 

 

One questionnaire was designed for rabbis to complete and the other was a questionnaire for students in grades 7 through 12. Both questionnaires were sent out in November 2020. We received responses from 4 rabbis and 26 students by the end of December 2020.

 

The responses from the students indicated that many, not all, had experiences in school with other students and, occasionally, staff, that could be described as Anti-Semitic. Students also experienced some of these problems on-line. 

The Team found a considerable amount of information in the raw data that was useful in demonstrating to the HCPSS administration and the larger community the experiences of Jewish students. HCPSS can then develop pro-active plans to eliminate these types of occurrences for Jewish students and also for all students in Howard County, regardless of race, religion or national origin. By “pro-active,” we mean that HCPSS should provide materials and lessons to students to help prevent these incidents beforehand, and not just institute policies for dealing with these types of incidents after they occur.

The report includes nine recommendations for consideration by the JCRC and the JFHC for implementation. The recommendations were developed to address the problem and concerns expressed by these representative responses from Jewish students in the HCPSS. The entire report and Exhibit B, which contains a detailed summary of the raw data from both questionnaires, can be found at the JFHC website. 

As We Move Forward in Our Third Year: Update 2021

In the first “pandemic summer” of 2020, the members of the JCRC, including representatives from every Howard County congregation and other community leaders, began to plan our focus of the next two years. 

 

We organized a Virtual Listening Session with 46 social justice advocates from the Howard County Jewish community to tell us what issues were the most serious and important to them. We found that people were most concerned about 1) antisemitism; 2) racism in Howard County; and 3) the need for diversity, equity, and inclusion in our local school system.

 

We then formed Teams to address each of the topic areas, recruited members for each Team, and are researching the landscape nationally and in Howard County.  We’ll continue conversations by seeking out individuals and groups that are already working on these issues. We intend to identify action and develop new approaches to continue the path toward further justice in our community.  

 

The three Teams and the Chairs are:

  • Antisemitism – Betsy Singer Marcus, JCRC
  • Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (including Antisemitism) – Yale Stenzler and Annie McCormick, JCRC
  • Anti-Racism – Chuck Koplik, JCRC

 

For more information, contact me at betsysingermarcus@gmail.com

Maryland Jewish Advocacy Day 2021: A Report
by Betsy Singer Marcus

Maryland Jewish Advocacy Day has great value for our Jewish community in Howard County. It’s the only time that we join with our colleagues at the Baltimore Jewish Council and with the DC Jewish Community Relations Council (JCRC) to honor our Jewish values by supporting legislation that supports repairing the world, justice, and teaching our children well.  The demonstration of Jewish leaders from the state of Maryland and DC joining together in this way truly has an impact on our elected officials in the Maryland General Assembly and state government.  This year Advocacy Day includes two sessions with our Howard County Delegation: Feb. 1 with District 12 representatives and March 15 with Districts 9 and 13.  You can still register for the March 15 virtual meeting at baltjc.org/AdvocacyDay

 

As the keynote for Maryland Jewish Advocacy Day, we were honored on Feb. 15 to hear (virtually) from Governor Larry Hogan and from newly-elected Congresswoman Kathy Manning (D-NC-6); she is a former Chair of the Jewish Federation of North America.  Governor Hogan spoke about support for the needs of the community on a state-wide basis and reaffirmed his commitment to keeping our Jewish communities safe.

JCRC Members

Betsy Singer Marcus, Chair
Murray Bakst, At-Large
Toby Brookes, At-Large
Rabbi Gordon Fuller, HoCo Board of Rabbis
Lynn Gaynes-Kaplan, Oseh Shalom
Lori Kassoff, Bet Aviv
Chuck Koplik, At-Large
Annie McCormick, Temple Isaiah
Phil Rogofsky, Bet Chaverim
Laura Salganik, At-Large
Rachael Simon, Kol Nefesh
Bonnie Sorak, Columbia Jewish Congregation
Yale Stenzler, Beth Shalom
Eric Tanenholtz, At-Large
Ralph Grunewald, JFHC – Staff Director

 

Jewish Community Relations Council
 

Who We Are

The Jewish Community Relations Council of Howard County (JCRC) cooperates and engages in programs and causes that advance Jewish communal values by partnering with community leaders, elected officials, and community organizations and coalitions.

The JCRC builds recognition and mutual understanding between the Jewish community and the broader civic and religious communities to ensure that Jewish communal values are visible in the public arena and in civic and political discourse.

The JCRC is a committee of the Jewish Federation of Howard County (JFHC).  It is composed of one representative of every Jewish organization and synagogue in the county; those representatives are appointed to the JCRC by their respective organizations.  JCRC members also include several At-Large Members appointed by JFHC’s President, and the chair is a member of JFHC’s Board of Directors.

 

What We Do

Guided by our Jewish values, the JCRC advocates and promotes policies at the local, national, or international levels. The JCRC seeks to interact with religious, ethnic, and cause-based organizations and coalitions to promote and advance mutual goals.

The JCRC also interacts with local Howard County elected and governmental officials; elected officials in the Maryland House of Delegates and Maryland Senate; Maryland’s Governor and administration; other state government officials; and Members of the US Congress, the Administration, and other federal officials. 

Public Policy Issues

For complete details of the JCRC's public policy items, please click here.

  • ANTI-SEMITISM

    The JCRC is greatly concerned about persistent anti-Semitism around the world and in our own nation, and feel that governmental leaders, clergy of all faiths, and civil society must confront and combat it. The JCRC supports efforts to monitor anti-Semitic incidents and develop appropriate strategies for engagement with affected communities, local and state governments, faith groups, law enforcement, the media, and civil society leaders and organizations.

  • CIVIL RIGHTS

    The JCRC is committed to protecting and advancing the civil rights of all Americans. We strive to protect individuals discriminated against on the basis of race, religion, sexual orientation, and gender identity. We support policies that address bullying and the efforts of national Jewish organizations that work to ensure that civil rights statutes such as the Hate Crimes Prevention Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act are implemented and enforced.

  • EDUCATION

    The JCRC supports a multi-faceted effort by HCPSS to improve the teaching and learning environment for all students and teachers through diversity, equity, and inclusion. The JCRC has urged the HCPSS to respond resolutely to anti-Semitic harassment in the HCPSS and monitors these incidents and responses. At the request of the JCRC and the Howard County Board of Rabbis, the HCPSS is working to include curricula aimed at preventing hate and enhancing education about the Holocaust and its context.

  • Environment & Climate Change

    The JCRC believes that climate change is a human-induced, international security threat and one of the greatest moral issues of our time. The JCRC endorses and supports continued advocacy for legislation in Howard County and at the state level to require clean, renewable energy and discourage continued dependence on fossil fuels that emit carbon dioxide and warm the Earth’s atmosphere.

  • Health

    Everyone in Howard County should have access to adequate health care. Part of that health care is the cost of prescription drugs, which continues to increase. The JCRC supports the Prescription Drug Affordability Initiative of the Maryland Citizens Health Initiative and joins with local Howard County coalitions working to prevent illness and promote health and wellness.

  • Homelessness & Affordable Housing

    The JCRC applauds the work of many Howard County organizations who are working to increase the availability of affordable housing for low-income populations. By consulting with the Association of Community Services in Howard County, Howard County Department of Services and Resources, and others, the JCRC will support policies and educate our members about local resources for affordable housing assistance.

  • Immigration

    The JCRC supports federal immigration policy that balances the protection of human rights with national security concerns. It supports reforming our nation’s immigration system to create a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants and is in favor of effective border security that protects human rights, workers’ rights, and the right to seek asylum. The JCRC also supports the work of HIAS which provides, legal, physical and relocation assistance to refugees.

  • Israeli-Palestinian Peace

    The JCRC supports and advocates for two independent, democratic, and economically viable states: a Jewish State of Israel and a Palestinian state, coexisting in peace and security. It believes that this vision can be achieved only through direct negotiations and that unilateral attempts to achieve Palestinian statehood through United Nations action — as well Palestinian efforts to achieve full membership in United Nations-affiliated bodies — are counterproductive.

  • Older & Aging Adults

    By 2035 Howard County residents age 65 and older will comprise over 21% of the population. To accommodate these demographic changes, the JCRC supports efforts that enable local older adults to live safely and with dignity, no matter their income level. The JCRC supports the inclusion of Universal Design elements in housing options to enable residents to live independently for as long as possible. It also understands that reliable transportation is critical for members of the aging population.

  • Poverty & Food Insecurity

    Poverty and food insecurity are some of the most acute hardships many Americans, including children, face across the country – and Howard County residents are not immune to this hardship. The JCRC supports an increase in the minimum wage and policies that expand eligibility for the Earned Income and Child Tax Credits. The JCRC further supports important programs such as Medicaid, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), and related Maryland statewide programs.

  • Safety & Security

    After the murder of 11 Jews at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh, the Federation and the JCRC intensified work with the Howard County Police Department (HCPD) to safeguard religious institutions and community spaces. The JCRC partners with the HCPD and security experts to inform local synagogues, interfaith centers, and community meeting spaces about local services offered by HCPD, the Department of Homeland Security, and the State of Maryland that can limit vulnerability to attacks.

  • Voting Rights

    The JCRC supports policies that make the process of voting fair and more accessible, with strong support for the Voting Rights Act, early voting, and the scheduling of elections and caucuses on days that are not religiously-sensitive. The JCRC encourages efforts to urge Congress to pass the bipartisan Voting Rights Amendment Act and applauds the Maryland State Board of Elections’ efforts in Howard County to provide ample and convenient voting locations and early voting.