CEO Letter 3.25.22

By Jenn Ross

Earlier this month, a coalition of Jewish community members met with Harrisburg Mayor Wanda Williams to introduce ourselves and speak about the Jewish Community’s commitment to fighting hate and racism.  The group included Rabbi Ariana Capptauber, Rabbi Ron Muroff, Mike Sand (who has created a Structural Racism Task Force with Rev. Earl Harris), and myself.

We shared that the Jewish community is committed to combating structural racism because we understand the dangers of bigotry and prejudice as experienced through centuries of antisemitism. We are not far removed from the violence of pogroms, the Inquisition, and the six million Jews who perished in the Holocaust.

Our community is familiar with signs reading “no blacks, no dogs, no Jews.” White supremacist propaganda continues today, with the ADL reporting that PA had the highest level of any state in 2021. We share common antagonists with the African-American community, and strong alliances between our communities are crucial to combating hate.  We appreciate Harrisburg City’s engagement of a disparity study regarding government contracts and Mayor Williams’s commitment to involving our committee in efforts to combat racism.

How do our Federation and community members combat hate? Key efforts include Holocaust Education, our Jewish Community Relations Council (which weighs in on important topical and political issues and helps with policy-making), Interfaith and Civic Outreach, and our partnership with the Pennsylvania Jewish Coalition (PJC).

PJC advocates for Jews in our state at the Capitol, where the Governor’s Civic Commemoration of the Holocaust will be held at 10am on April 27 and is open to the public. You can also honor those who perished in the Holocaust by participating in the twenty-four hour Reading of the Names beginning at 7:30pm on April 27. Contact Lillian Rappaport, Emeritus Holocaust Educator, for more information at

In our last edition, Rabbi Sam Yolen of Congregation Beth Israel in Lebanon shared a few important Jewish advocates standing up for our community on social media, and asked readers to do the same. Some influencers inspiring me include:

  • April Baskin – I heard her speak at the 2016 General Assembly when she was the VP of Audacious Hospitality at the URJ. She taught me about the value of authentic conversations over PC discussions of race and other challenging matters, and can be followed @JoyousJustice365.
  • Ethan Felson – Formerly of Israel Action Network (JFNA), Ethan leads @AWiderBridge, a US-based nonprofit organization which has a goal of connecting LGBT communities in the US and Israel and advocating for LGBT rights in Israel. Ethan provided ongoing education which shaped and strengthened my community relations council work.
  • Maharat Rori Picker Neiss – a fabulous JCRC colleague from St. Louis who I deeply admire, Rori brings Jewish values into all of her work and tackles challenging issues with grace and compassion, and can be followed @roripn.
  • Jonathan Greenblatt - His recently released It Could Happen Here is an informative look at hate and extremism that I encourage you to read. Thank you to Allison Siegelman – who will be writing a review of the book in an upcoming edition of Community Review – for recommending it to me.

Who inspires you? What work would you like to support in our community? I would love to hear from you at or 717-236-9555 x3104.