The Jewish Community Relations Council of Howard County (JCRC) is a committee of the Jewish Federation of Howard County (JFHC). It cooperates and engages in programs and causes that advance Jewish communal values by partnering with community leaders, elected officials, and community organizations and coalitions.
Who We Are
The JCRC builds recognition and mutual understanding between the Jewish community and the broader civic, ethnic, and religious communities to ensure that Jewish communal values are visible in the public arena and in civic and political discourse.
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 in consultation with the 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.
Student to Student
This unique program promotes greater understanding of Judaism among high school students by personalizing and demystifying Jewish culture and traditions through in-person presentations by Jewish peers. Groups of three or four students, representing the Reconstructionist, Conservative, Orthodox, and Reform branches of Judaism, speak to students in area high schools — the presentations resonate with high school students since they are given by peers and spark lively discussions.
Betsy Singer Marcus, JCRC Co-Chair
Laura Salganik, JCRC Co-Chair
Shauna Leavey, JFHC Director of Community Engagement
Joel Frankel, JFHC President & CEO
Rabbi Gordy Fuller, At-Large
Chuck Koplik, At-Large
David Marker, At-Large
Annie McCormick, At-Large
Dan Newberger, At-Large
Jeff Rubin, At-Large
Eric Tanenholtz, At-Large
Kelli Rives, Bet Aviv
Michelle Levine, Bet Chaverim
Nancy Schweiss, Beth Shalom
Bonnie Sorak, Columbia Jewish Congregation
Rachael Simon, Kol Nefesh
Lynne Gaynes-Kaplan, Oseh Shalom
Jessica Carmen, Temple Isaiah
Rabbi Craig Axler, Howard County Board of Jewish Clergy
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
After the murder of 11 Jews at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh and the killings at the Chabad Center in Poway, 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.
The JCRC supports a multi-faceted effort by the Howard County Public Schools System (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. Members of the JCRC serve on various HCPS committees and advisory boards.
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 supports policies and educates the community about local resources for affordable housing assistance.
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.
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.