Jewish Community Relations Councilof San Francisco, the Peninsula, Marin, Sonoma, Alameda and Contra Costa Counties

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JCRC Consensus on Economic Justice

January 27, 2016
Posted by: Felice Zensius, JCRC Public Policy Committee Chair

JCRC affirmed a new JCRC Consensus Statement on Economic Justice last week at its first Assembly meeting of 2016. The new statement affirms the value and dignity of every human life and asserts that the Bay Area organized Jewish community, which JCRC represents, actively supports the right of each person to pursue economic self-sufficiency. This policy statement will be utilized as a means to advocate based on a series of eleven Policy Principles that it sets forth.

This statement on economic justice is the result of the Bay Area JCRC’s robust consensus building process – a collaborative practice that’s unlike anything done in any other Jewish community group, even in other JCRCs around the country. Like all of JCRC’s consensus statements, it is the result of extensive deliberation among divergent views and reflects the opinions of the Bay Area’s organized Jewish community.

This interrogative process begins after the JCRC Public Policy Committee has selected and prioritized issues. We then gather feedback from the organized Jewish community. The collected thoughts, concerns and considerations go back to the committee, which is charged with writing a statement that reflects the general agreement around the issue. The current statement required an entire year of investigation and writing, and I am truly grateful for the committee’s time and thoughtfulness during the process. I'm also very proud of the JCRC staff, who worked tirelessly on all the changes, and of the final result that was ratified on January 19 by the Assembly, JCRC’s largest deliberative body.

The goal of each consensus statement is to drive JCRC’s advocacy efforts. Recent consensus statements have included Guidelines on Reproductive Rights (2013), National Oil Independence (2009), Immigration Issues (2009) and Religion and Elections (2008).

As an example of how all the consensus statements inform our advocacy work. The statement on Reproductive Rights led JCRC to ‪strongly support The ‎Reproductive FACT Act last year. The act, which was ultimately passed and signed into law, helps women in California access financial support for and make more informed decisions about family planning and pregnancy. Specifically, it requires dissemination of information about California public programs that provide comprehensive family planning services for eligible women. This is precisely the kind of “unbiased, scientifically based family planning education” that JCRC’s consensus process concluded “should be expanded so that women know their reproductive choice options and decide upon the best option for themselves in consultation with their health care provider.”

Although the specific advocacy efforts for the new economic justice statement are still in development, the statement’s instructions are very clear. It draws from the rich tradition in Jewish text that calls for the amelioration of poverty and promotion of equity. “Advancing economic justice means working to enhance the economic stability of individuals and communities by providing fair and equitable ways for people to earn a decent living and build sustainable economic resources. Economic justice aims to ensure individuals’ equal opportunity to share in our country’s prosperity,” reads the statement.

The bottom-line goal is to promote economic self-sufficiency and equity for all Americans. However, the statement also describes how the community believes this can be accomplished and what types of reforms it will support. Here are the eleven Policy Principles that the statement addresses:

-The Role of Government is fundamental for promoting conditions that allow low-income individuals and families to become economically self-sufficient.
-We must support policies that address key drivers of Wealth and Income Inequality to reduce the racial and gender wealth gaps.
-Jobs and Fair Wages are essential and must include a living wage that allows people to be self-sufficient.
-Education is the best long-term solution to address inequality and poverty.
-Tax Reform – personal and corporate tax codes need to be reformed based on ability to pay to generate needed revenue and to increase tax fairness.
-Access to affordable, nutritious and culturally appropriate foods must be increased to assure Food Security.
-The government must take a regional approach and invest adequate resources to tackle the complex issues surrounding Homelessness.
-The government should provide funding and create policies for ensuring Affordable Quality Housing, including both increasing production and preserving/rehabilitating existing housing
-Healthcare is a basic right and it is critical that unnecessary barriers to affordable coverage be removed.
-Public Benefit Programs should be indexed for inflation and reflect the cost of living.
-We support closing the Digital Divide through increasing connectivity, expanding digital literacy training, and expanding innovative programs that make technology more affordable.

Exodus Rabbah 31:12 declares, “There is nothing in the world more grievous than poverty; it is the most terrible of all sufferings.” Yet, the actual causes of poverty are multiple and complex. To advance the conditions necessary to alleviate those causes, a multi-pronged approach – including thoughtful public policy – is needed. With our new consensus statement, JCRC will be taking a front seat when it comes to reforms and mobilizing our community to advance economic justice in a rational and considered manner.

PHOTO: “Homeless Crisis 50” by John Cruz (2013).