Building community consensus has many steps

Matt Goldberg-1colWhen important events occur – in Israel or around the world, nationally or locally – the Jewish Community Relations Council (JCRC) is often compelled to produce a statement in comment.

Controversial actions by governments (our own or others) necessitate these statements. Whether we agree or disagree, we believe it is important that the Jewish community take stands on certain issues, either alone or in consensus with other groups.

But this process is important to understand.

What constitutes a consensus?  I am not sure there is an easy answer; it is sometimes a moving target.  It is somewhere between a simple majority and unanimity, but the actual percentage is undefined.

When we do make these statements of opinion, we claim to speak for the Jewish community and we do that because of our confidence that we do have consensus on a particular item.

Our committee is as diverse as we can make it. Political views, gender, Jewish denominations, age are all factors in the makeup of our JCRC. Diversity of opinions is an important part of how we operate so that we are as representative as we can be and can speak on behalf of the community, and we value the opinions of our committee as representative of the community at large.

We also look to see where our national Jewish organizations are on particular issues.  We look at the Jewish Council for Public Affairs (JCPA) which is the umbrella organization for 125 JCRCs (including ours) and 17 national Jewish agencies. JCPA provides us with talking points as well as legislative updates (should they be necessary).

We also look at where organizations such as the Anti-Defamation League, the American Jewish Committee, AIPAC, HIAS and others are on particular issues and see if there is a consistent message.

To further gauge consensus, we check how the Reform, Conservative, Reconstructionist and Orthodox movements address issues on which we intend to release statements.

Finally, I listen to the comments from the general community. I encourage everyone to contact me with their opinions on particular issues.

Obviously, it is impossible to know the opinion of everyone in Jewish Louisville, and we do not pretend to speak on behalf of every single Jew here.  Additionally, we might misread where our community is on a particular issue. We feel confident, though, that when we speak on behalf of the community we do so with the consensus of the Jewish community behind us.

Again, if you would like to discuss any issue that we are addressing, feel free to contact me at

Matanot L’evyonim

Every year, the JCRC helps to raise money around Purim for a particular charity. This year, we have chosen two: the Center for Women and Families and the St. John Center for Homeless Men.

Matanot L’Evyonim is a wonderful Purim tradition of charity and these two organizations could not be more worthy. They help people whose fortunes have reversed, helping them become self-sustaining once more. If you are interested in making a donation, please go to…

The JCRC “advocates for and promotes the universal interests and values of the Louisville Jewish community on a local, national and international level,” according to its mission statement. “Through advocacy, consensus building, direct service, and community collaborations, the JCRC builds support for Israel, social justice, and friendship with the diverse communities of Louisville.”

(Matt Goldberg is director of the Jewish Community Relations Council.)

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