Since our last column, our Central Florida community has been changed indelibly. While the horrific attack at the Pulse nightclub brought immense grief and anger to our City Beautiful, the resulting collaborations to promote inclusion and unity have made us extremely proud to be Orlando Strong. As a Jewish community, it has been so heartening to see our clergy out in force with their counterparts from other faiths, to see our synagogues lead discussions on healing and to watch our community members participate as individuals in the various vigils.
It has also provoked some reflection for our Jewish Community Relations Council (JCRC) as to how well we have done with three interrelated facets of our mission. We are meant to engage in social action, develop positive and supportive relationships with other communities across the region, and serve as the convener of Jewish organizations, agencies and religious institutions around issues relevant to the Jewish community. This would seemingly put us in an ideal position to respond to community-wide traumatic events like the Pulse attack—yet, our response was not as effective as it could have been because we are still at the nascent stage of the most important aspect of our work: to build relationships. Institutionally, we did not have relationships with the two communities most directly impacted by the attack, the LGBT and Latino communities—even the LGBT and Latino communities within our Jewish community. When the Jewish Federation of Greater Orlando, of which we are part, brought in a security expert to help our Jewish agencies and synagogues examine their own security plans in the wake of the shooting, we as JCRC could not help direct that resource to the LGBT or Latino organizations that may have greatly benefited from his expertise. We did not have the relationships that would have allowed for direct agency-to-agency communication around how best to help those affected, whether by donating supplies, procuring services or organizing our own community to come out en masse to the various citywide observances. And with many of our fellow JCRCs from around the country calling to ask what they could do, we did not have the relationships that would enable us to direct them to specific ways to help beyond the large funds like those administered by Equality Florida or the City of Orlando.
What we did have was a cache of important individual relationships—for example, JCRC member Rabbi David Kay, who flew back from Camp Ramah in order to help lead the 50,000-person vigil at Lake Eola and who is an active member of the Interfaith Council. What we need to do is begin to stitch these individual relationships, which have been built on person-to-person mutual respect and understanding, into broader relationships between communities. It is the only way that we, as a Jewish community, can be a full partner in leading and participating in the actions that make our beloved Central Florida community truly our home.
We look forward to seeing you here in this space again next month. In the meantime, should you have any questions, please contact JCRC’s staff director, Marli Porth, at firstname.lastname@example.org.