The Jewish Community Relations Council is dedicated to working in common cause to enhance cooperation with other religious, racial, ethnic, and civic groups to foster a just, democratic and pluralistic society as well as promote the security of Israel and Jews everywhere. Guided by Jewish values, the JCRC is a nonpartisan agency that advocates, educates, collaborates, and mobilizes action on issues important to the Jewish Community and the greater community.
That work requires fostering and strengthening relationships across groups from different communities as well as our own, and often, communities with different beliefs, perspectives, and priorities.We Stand with Israel
“Anyone who can protest against the transgressions of one’s household and does not, is liable for the actions of the members of the household; anyone who can protest against the transgressions of one’s townspeople and does not, is liable for the transgressions of the townspeople; anyone who can protest against the transgressions of the entire world and does not is liable for the transgressions of the entire world.” (Talmud Bavli Shabbat 54b-55a
The Omaha Jewish Community Relations Council’s public policy priorities advance the ability of our organization to support our local, regional, and global Jewish community, with a special focus on upholding a healthy, safe, and caring community that is just, equitable, diverse, and inclusive; building bridges with other civic groups; and connecting with Israel and world Jewry.
With this goal in mind, the JCRC’s Public Policy Committee advances policy priority areas based on both the challenges that Jewish communal life faces and opportunities to further strengthen it. In supporting specific legislative and policy vehicles within each area below and in adding compelling legislative priorities, we prioritize issues with a nexus to the JCRC and community we represent, and we strive to be balanced and non-partisan.
(These positions were approved by the JFO Board in August 2023)
Since 1856, Jews have lived, worked, and thrived in the State of Nebraska. However, our enduring presence does not guarantee our safety and security. We must be ever vigilant about the rise of antisemitism both in Nebraska and across the globe.
Safety and Security: Jewish tradition teaches about the importance of protecting and cherishing every single life, for all life is holy. From the Mishnah we learn that “One who takes a life, it is as though they have destroyed the entire world. And one who saves a life, it is as if they have saved the entire world.” (Mishnah Sanhedrin 4:5). Each life is an entire world; we must work to safeguard every life using all tools at our disposal including accessing security enhancements for our communities and proactively engaging with our legislature to enact reasonable communal safety legislation.
Combating Anti-Semitism: Avot D’Rabbi Natan teaches: “Who is the strongest of all? One who overcomes his [her/their] inclinations…And some say one who can turn an enemy into a friend.” To combat antisemitism in all of its forms, we must work to build authentic relationships, taking these words to heart and finding common ground.
Support for Israel: The words of renowned poet Yehudah HaLevi remind us “My heart is in the East, and I am in the uttermost West.” Though we live here in Nebraska, for many, a piece of our heart resides in Israel. We look to the words of Israel’s national anthem, to guide us in HaTikvah, the hope, that we will find the ways to create a peaceful world where generations of Jews who come after us will call home. We may all answer the questions of whether Israel is a Jewish State or a State for Jewish People or a state that lives by Jewish values differently, and yet, we all sing the words of HaTikvah and pray for peaceful coexistence with our neighbors:
HaTikvah, by Naphtali Herz Imber: As long as the Jewish spirit is yearning deep in the heart, With eyes turned toward the East, looking toward Zion, Then our hope – the two-thousand-year-old hope – will not be lost: To be a free people in our land, The land of Zion and Jerusalem.
One of the greatest strengths of the Jewish community in Nebraska is its commitment to philanthropic giving to both Jewish and non-Jewish entities. We must continue to ensure that we serve as good stewards to our community and that we advocate to those in positions of power to ensure that public education, health care, and support for those in need are not diminished especially in times of such inequity.
Tikkun Olam, which translates to “repairing the world,” is a cornerstone of Jewish ethics and social responsibility. Tikkun Olam compels members of the community to actively participate in bettering the world and elevating the lives of others. And to repair the world, it is best to begin at our own doorstep–within our local community. Maintaining and improving the communal institutions that people rely upon are vital for the holistic betterment of society and thereby embodies the principles of Tikkun Olam.
Omaha is a vibrant, prosperous community but we know that not all residents have equal access to needed services to lead a thriving, healthy life.
The notion that we all have a responsibility to care for the vulnerable among us (represented in our texts as “the poor, the orphan, the stranger, and the widow”) is a common thread woven throughout our sacred texts. Isaiah exhorts us: “Learn to do good. Devote yourselves to justice; Aid the wronged. Uphold the rights of the orphan; Defend the cause of the widow.” (Isaiah 1:17).
Reproductive Rights: Jewish law and thought do not hold a binary, black-and-white view of abortion. While our tradition affirms that a fetus must be respected and cared for as potential life, Jewish law also states that, because a fetus does not become a full “life” (nefesh) until birth, abortion is not only legitimate but required in instances where a pregnancy threatens the life of the mother (Mishnah Ohalot 7:6).
Justice, Equity, Diversity, Inclusion (JEDI), and Human and Civil Rights:
We must work to ensure that Omaha is a welcoming place for all. One way to ensure that is to make sure that we welcome the stranger with open arms. Another way is to always be thinking about our own biases and what we can do to mitigate them. Our community should be a place of inclusivity of all people.
Genesis 1:27 teaches that God creates human beings b’tzelem Elohim, in God’s image, thereby imbuing each person with a touch of the Divine. Every person should be treated with the dignity and respect accorded to God’s creations. We have an obligation to create radically inclusive communities that create space for each person to be their authentic selves. As we advocate for inclusion and equity in our spaces, we remember that we are responsible for one another and that we are commanded to “love your neighbor as yourself” (Lev.19:18). As Rabbi Hillel taught in Pirkei Avot, “If I am not for myself, then who will be for me? If I am only for myself, then who am I? And if not now, when?” (Pirkei Avot 1:4).
LB 887 (Brewer): Creates the Nebraska Nonprofit Security Grant Program. This is JCRC’s priority bill this year. JCRC is working with Senator Brewer on an amendment and hopes to advance the bill to General File.
LB 1042 (Fredrickson): Allows automatic voter registration when Nebraskans receive or renew their driver’s licenses. The current set-up requires Nebraskans opt-in to voter registration. This bill removes that burden. JCRC provided a letter of support.
LB 1339 (Brewer): Eliminate a conflict in Nebraska statutes relating to the possession of firearms by off-duty and qualified retired law enforcement officers to legally possess and carry firearms on school grounds and at school-sponsored events; authorizes the local governing bodies of schools to adopt a written policy to utilize armed staff, faculty, or contractors for school security, and address personal qualifications, training, appropriate firearms and ammunition, and appropriate use of force; makes grants available from the School Safety and Security Fund for the creation of school facilities maps for use by first responders, and provides parameters for such maps to ensure interoperability with coordinating agencies. Provided testimony at the Dec. 2023 interim hearing on the impact on Friedel and ELC.
LB 1178 (Wishart): Creates the Intergenerational Care Facility Incentive Grant program for start-up costs for nursing homes or assisted living facilities in the development of intergenerational care facilities in which nursing home services and child care are provided. JCRC provided a letter of support.
LB 918 (Wayne): Allows DREAMERS, those with Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals status, to serve as law enforcement officials in Nebraska. JCRC provided a letter of support, aligned with our Jewish values of welcoming the stranger.
LB 952 (Day): Requires DHHS to opt into the summer Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT) program to ensure children have access to food during the summer months. Letter of support.
LB 1065 (Lippincott): Allows school districts to hire a chaplain to act or perform the duties typically required of a school counselor. These chaplains shall not be required to hold a certificate to teach, administer, or perform special duties in this state. Planned opposition testimony due to concerns that chaplains are not trained as counselors and the impact the counseling of these untrained chaplains may have on students who belong to minority religious communities, like the Jewish community.
LB 1357 (McDonnell): Creates a new criminal penalty punishable by jail time and fees for camping on property of a political subdivision such as a city or county. Camping is temporarily lodging outside with a sleeping bag, tent, or other type of shelter. LB 1357 criminalizes unhoused people who are residing on city or county property. Letter of opposition as the bill runs counter to Jewish values of tzedakah, charity, and social justice.
LB 1211 (Hansen): Shortens the timeframe for early voting, either in person or vote by mail, from the current 35 days to 21 days. Letter of opposition as this further restricts voting rights. Voting rights are an important pillar of the work of the Jewish Community Relations Council.
LB 1066 (Lippincott): Allows a school board to adopt a policy that authorizes students in K-12 grades to participate in an elective course in religious instruction conducted off school property by a sponsoring entity if the parent or guardian has given written permission.
LB 1034 (Lippincott): Prohibits school districts from punishing or prohibiting an employee from engaging in private religious expression otherwise protected by the First Amendment of the Constitution absent a showing that the employee has engaged in actual coercion. While a school district employee is on duty, the employee may engage in religious expression, discussion and share religious materials with other employees at the same time and in the same manner that employees are permitted to engage in nonreligious expression and discussion; wear religious clothing, symbols or jewelry as long as items otherwise comply with the dress code; decorate the employee’s desk and other personal space with personal items that reflect such employee’s religious beliefs to the same extent as other employees.
LB 1399 (Murman): Among the bill’s primary revisions, requires each school district to publish a list of library books offered for checkout. Requires school districts to provide an opportunity for parents or guardians to opt-in to receiving emails when students check out resources from the school library, including book title, author, and due date. Beginning in the 2026-27 school year, a school district shall allow any parent or guardian with a student attending such school district to request a five-minute portion from any book in the school district’s library be read aloud at school board meetings.
LB 1330 (Murman): Prohibits the University of Nebraska, state colleges and community colleges from requiring DEI programming for employees; spending public money on DEI programs; establish, support or employ an office or individual whose duties include creating, developing, or promoting DEI programs; promote or adopt any theory of unconscious or implicit bias, cultural appropriation, allyship, anti-racism, social justice (the list continues) or any related theory as the official position of the public institution.
View the most recent survey results of our Jewish communal priorities here.
The JCRC welcomes the opportunity to speak to schools, businesses, faith-based institutions, service clubs, and other organizations.Learn More