newsBoycott, Divestment & Sanctions (BDS)

Boston JCRC moves towards ouster of Workmen’s Circle over BDS support

Calls to remove the Boston Workmen’s Circle from JCRC began to mount last summer when the group signed on to a petition organized by Jewish Voice for Peace.

Executive director of the Boston JCRC Jeremy Burton. Source: Boston JCRC via Twitter.
Executive director of the Boston JCRC Jeremy Burton. Source: Boston JCRC via Twitter.

The Boston Jewish Community Relations Council (JCRC) took an unprecedented step on Thursday in passing a resolution declaring that any member organization supporting the BDS movement could be expelled from the council, which could culminate in the ouster of the Workmen’s Circle.

The resolution—adopted overwhelmingly by a vote of 62-13 with eight abstentions—resolves that no member of the JCRC “shall partner with—in particular by co-sponsoring events primarily led or co-led by, or by signing on to statements primarily organized or co-organized by—a self-identified Jewish organization that declares itself to be anti-Zionist.”

Additionally, the resolution states that such an action “be grounds for removal from the JCRC.”

It is not clear that the resolution equates an organization’s support for BDS with the “anti-Zionism” that would result in expulsion from JCRC.

The resolution on Thursday comes amid concern over ties between the JCRC member organization Boston Workmen’s Circle (BWC), a Jewish nonprofit promoting secular and progressive Jewish values, and Jewish Voice for Peace, an anti-Israel organization that openly supports the BDS movement.

Calls to remove the BWC from JCRC began to mount last summer when the group signed a petition organized by Jewish Voice for Peace.

The JVP-led petition criticized efforts by supporters of Israel to “target organizations that support Palestinian rights, particularly the nonviolent Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement.”

A statement released by Jeremy Burton, executive director of the Boston JCRC, noted that the BWC’s decision to align with the global BDS movement “triggered questions and concerns within our coalition, given our long-established view that support for BDS is contrary to our mission.”

As such, that alignment led to a months-long investigation by JCRC’s membership committee involving  its large network and member organizations, which culminated in the vote on Thursday.

Speaking on behalf of the member organizations, Burton expressed sadness that the decision on Thursday “may ultimately separate [JCRC] from a venerable organization, the Boston Workmen’s Circle, a founder of our coalition and a home for many Jews in Boston who have no other Jewish space that resonates for them.”

Nevertheless, the decision on Thursday night was not final straw for the BWC. Burton said the JCRC will engage in dialogue with the BWC to determine a path forward.

“While our dialogue with BWC will continue in the coming weeks,” he said, “we took an important step in clarifying who we are as a coalition, and what boundaries define this coalition in advancing JCRC’s mission.”

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