(L to R) Moderator Adam Teitelbaum leads Jason Greenblatt, Shanie Reichman, and Rabbi Josh Weinberg in a discussion on Israel


By Julia Olson

Assistant Editor

The focus of JCRC’s 2023 annual meeting was “Working Across Differences,” a theme highlighted in Director Rabbi Ari Ballaban’s opening remarks to the packed Amberley Room in the Mayerson JCC, June 13, 2023. In Ballaban’s view, collaborating in the current climate means “partnership or nothing.” He emphasized the importance of collaboration amongst those who may disagree, stating that the whole point of the collaboration process was to reach across differences in order to reach a common goal.

The meeting included a farewell to several outgoing board members, including Harvey Cohen, Jon Entine, Rabbi Margaret Meyer, Bobby Oestreicher, Penny Pensak, and John Youkillis. Mark Barsman, immediate past president, passed the reins of leadership to Ben Schneider. During his reflection on his term, Barsman celebrated the JCRC’s work with SAFE Cincinnati, a community wide initiative aimed at effectively dealing with security threats and securing the safety of the Cincinnati community. He also highlighted the work of Project Shema, an organization that engages communities in understanding and addressing contemporary antisemitism.

Ten new board members were nominated for the 2023-2024 term: Rabbi Rand Burke, Gary Greenberg, Drew Hiudt, Julie Jacobson-Ruby, Rachel Kaplan, Michelle Kohn, Rebecca Sanders, Ian Sarembock, Matt Slovin, and Jazz Wolk.

Jeremy Spiegel, Assistant Director of the JCRC, introduced the second cohort of the Leaders in Light Institute.

The Leaders in Light Institute is a leadership development program that works to educate community leaders on combating extremism and polarization. Cohort members participate in a series of monthly seminars held over nine months, followed by a practical application of the learned material in participants’ own communities and organizations. The second cohort of Leaders in Light consists of 20 community leaders and organizers from all over Ohio, ranging from school board members, Ohio state legislators, attorneys, and CEOs.

Though the first half of the JCRC annual meeting covered the typical annual meeting fare, the second half provided attendees something unique. This year, the JCRC also hosted a panel discussion on the American Jewish response to the upheaval in Israel. The panel was moderated by Justin Teitelbaum, Executive Director of the Israel Action Network and the Associate Vice President for Public Affairs at The Jewish Federations of North America. Teitelbaum led the three participants in a discussion about American responses to the judiciary crises in Israel, including common misunderstandings of the situation in the Holy Land. The panelists also include their own perspectives on the Israeli mindset, gathered from their own time spent “on the ground” in Israel. Jason Greenblatt, a member of the panel, was the former White House Middle East Envoy and current Senior Director of Arab-Israel Diplomacy at Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs. Greenblatt was one of the architects of the Abraham Accords, appointed by former President Trump as special envoy to the Middle East. Shanie Reichman, IPF Atid Director at Israel Policy Forum in New York City, also sat on the panel. Reichman and her organization aim to educate young American Jews about the complexities of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and to better understand policymaking in Israel. According to its website, IPF Atid seeks to “advance a two-state vision in Israel.”

The final panelist was Rabbi Josh Weinberg, VP of the URJ for Israel and Reform Zionism and Executive Director of ARZA, the Association of Reform Zionists of America. Weinberg focused on the nuances of the American/Jewish experience and understanding of democracy. Each panelist emphasized the importance of listening to opposing viewpoints, and each expressed hope for the future. Despite the differing viewpoints displayed on the panel, each participant agreed that the protests that have erupted around judicial reform are a turning point in Israeli history. The outcomes of those protests and the proposed legislation that caused them are envisioned differently by many people, a fact highlighted by the varying viewpoints on the panel. Yet the panel exhibited the JCRC’s theme of the evening: collaboration and understanding only result when those with contrary views work together across their differences.

The JCRC will also be hosting “Jewish and Elected,” a town hall featuring US Congressman Greg Landsman, State Representative Dani Isaacsohn, and Cincinnati City Council Member Mark Jeffreys. The event will take place Thursday, June 29 at 6:00 p.m. Registration is available on the JCRC website.