This article appeared in the Jan. 24, 2014 Jewish Advocate.

JALSA to honor Fein, Ross and Settles at Annual Meeting

By Susie Davidson

The Jewish Alliance for Law and Social Action gets down to business each year at its Annual Meeting, electing new officers and highlighting recent achievements. But over bagels, lox and other Kosher fare, the nonprofit social justice organization also pays tribute to community leaders who reflect its values and mission.

JALSA, established in 2001, calls itself “a progressive voice within the Jewish community, engaged in working on issues of social and economic justice, civil rights, and constitutional liberties.”

At the 12th Annual Meeting, to be held at Temple Israel in Boston on Sunday, Feb. 9 at 10 a.m., teacher, writer, public speaker and social justice icon Leonard “Leibel” Fein, whose syndicated column appears occasionally in this newspaper, will be honored with the Social Justice Legend Award. Civic leader Michael P. Ross will receive the Advocate for Justice Award, and cultural visionary, restauranteur, and affordable housing and community activist Darryl Settles will receive the Community Leadership Award.

“Leibel Fein, through his writings and teachings, has inspired generations of people to act on their Jewish values and honor all human beings," said JALSA Deputy Director for Development and Outreach Cindy Rowe. "MichaelRoss, who served in the Boston City Council for over a decade, has acted on his values to improve the lives of people throughout the city. And Darryl Settles has created community connections in all of his ventures. These honorees truly reflect JALSA's values."

JALSA officers include President Frank Smizik; Secretary-Clerk Mary Ellen Grossman; Treasurer Celia Segel; Executive Director Sheila Decter; and Deputy Director for Administration and Finance Michelle Weiner Taylor. Community organizers include Barbara Gutman and Erica Rothschild. Among the tools cited in its online “multifaceted toolbox” are “Creating, joining, and staffing coalitions, community organizing, Initiating and drafting legislation, providing access to key public policy decision makers, writing and coordinating legal briefs, and engaging our members in public policy, education, and advocacy campaigns.”

Ongoing efforts focus on increasing minimum wage, gun violence prevention, immigration reform, public education, access to healthy food, increasing state revenue, transgender law, preventive health care, green jobs, foreclosure prevention, religious accommodation, and climate change.

Fein has long encouraged the Jewish community to live the values of its heritage. His 1994 book “Smashing Idols and Other Prescriptions for Jewish Continuity” is a major resource for the Jewish Social Justice Roundtable, to which JALSA belongs. Fein founded the National Jewish Coalition for Literacy, co-founded Moment Magazine, founded MAZON: A Jewish Response to Hunger, served as co-Director of the Religious Action Center in Washington, and has authored several groundbreaking books. He has written extensively for publications including The New York Times, The New Republic, Commentary, Commonweal, The Nation, Dissent and the Los Angeles Times, and is also a celebrated and sought-after public speaker.

As a political science teacher at MIT, he formed the “Social Science Teaching Council” of national teachers in the field. He was also Deputy Director of the MIT/Harvard Joint Center for Urban Studies. In 1970, he moved to Brandeis, where he became a Professor of Politics and Social Policy and the Klutznick Professor of Contemporary Jewish Studies.

Fein is renowned for his work in urban research and relations between the Jewish and African-American communities; Middle East peace efforts; and international politics, during times of upheaval such as Vietnam, The Six-Day War, the second Intifadah, and the crisis in the former Yugoslavia.

“Over the years, Leibel's works have helped galvanize the Jewish community,” said Decter, who said that Fein wrote a piece called “We Believe” for JALSA as it was forming. “It is as much a core of who we are now as it was when he wrote it,” she said.

Rowe called Fein a visionary and a mentor.

Elected to the Boston City Council at the age of 27, Ross served for 14 years, including two terms as president, and ran a mayoral campaign that further elevated his civic career. "I believe that in order to build a better Boston and to make sure all of our residents have a shot at opportunity, we must embrace bold, new ideas," he said in his campaign website. Ross' platform, "Boston Smarter," advanced fresh strategies in education, public policy, law enforcement, employment, housing, neighborhood planning and other areas of city governance. His initiatives paid tribute to Boston' s storied history as they set the pace for its evolution.

Ross, who earned an MBA from Boston University and a law degree from Suffolk University, is Of Counsel for Prince Lobel Tye LLP, and pens opinion pieces for the Boston Globe.

Rescued from ruin at Dachau by American soldiers, Ross' father Stephan earned four college degrees, counseled city youth, and founded the New England Holocaust Memorial. His son not only upholds this astonishing legacy, but carries it forward with innovation and grace.

“While Mike was on the City Council, we worked with him on economic justice issues such as the living wage effort," said Decter. We thought it important to thank him for his years of public service and concern for social and economic justice.”

Rowe added, “Mike has proudly spoken about how his Jewish heritage is linked to his commitment to justice.”

As Director of the American Jewish Congress prior to JALSA, Decter worked with hospitality icon Darryl Settles to establish Community Servings, the home-delivered hot meals program for persons with AIDS, which currently delivers 3000 meals per week to people with life-threatening diseases and their caregivers.
Settles was an executive for Digital Equipment Corporation prior to creating D'Ventures Limited, LLC which created the Beehive and Darryl's Corner Bar & Kitchen (formerly Bob's Southern Bistro), and music-related ventures that include the Beantown Jazz Festival and the jazz, soul, blues and top 40 booking agency Beantown Sounds. Along with Berklee College of Music, Darryl is planning other festivals and jazz-related events.
As President and Founder of WiSe Urban Development LLC, which helps bring more multi-family affordable housing options to urban communities, Settles, who holds a bachelor's degree from Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, has taken his record of experience to loftier heights.

His involvements include the Massachusetts Convention Center Authority; The Metropolitan District Commission, where he is an Associate Commissioner; the Berklee College of Music Advisory Board; The Huntington Theater Board; The Museum of Fine Arts Board; and the Massachusetts Restaurant Association Board. Among distinctions Settles has received are: Color Magazine's Change Agent; Museum of African American History's Legacy Award; the City of Boston's Minority Business of the Year; Black & White Boston's Business Profile Award; Bostonian's We!Are!Boston Community Leadership Award; Stuff@Night's 100 Players of Boston's Nightlife; Boston Magazine’s Forty Bostonians We Love; and Omega Psi Phi Fraternity's Omega Man of the Year.

"Boston's music, restaurant, tourism, and hospitality offerings have all benefited from Darryl's leadership,” said Rowe.

Decter said that JALSA has continued the AJCongress' long work in affordable housing. “Recently, JALSA helped put together the broad interfaith coalition that helped save 40B, the affordable housing statute,” she said. “We have worked with B'nai B'rith of New England and Jewish Community Housing for the Elderly, to help advocate for their projects,” she added.

"At the annual meeting, JALSA will be celebrating our work, while recognizing that the job of pursuing justice is never finished,” said Rowe, who cited gun violence prevention laws and comprehensive immigration reform as current efforts.

“Our members collected over 7000 signatures to get an increased minimum wage and earned sick time measure that protects all workers on the statewide ballot," she said. "Yet, the work on these issues and many more is not yet done, and we hope more people will want to join us.”

Tickets ($60; under 30, $36), ticket/membership pricing options, and Sponsorships are available, dietary laws apply, and the facilities are fully accessible. All donations are tax-deductible above the cost of the brunch ($45). Temple Israel is located at 477 Longwood Avenue, Boston. Parking is available for $7 at MASCO Garage at 375 Longwood Ave. (MasterCard/Visa or cash accepted), or take the MBTA to the Longwood Stop on the Green Line. To RSVP online, for more information or to donate, write the Jewish Alliance for Law and Social Action, 18 Tremont St., Suite 320, Boston, MA 02108, call 617-227-3000, email, or