HRC Statements

Statement of the NHRC 

June 16, 2022

Recently, many Jewish organizations in Massachusetts have been the focus of hate through an online published list which contains harmful anti-Semitic rhetoric.  Specifically, the aim of the Mapping Project is to “dismantle” and “disrupt” the entities that are targeted on this list.  

Given this, The Needham Human Rights Committee declares that we stand in solidarity and support of the Jewish community, as hate, in all forms, does not belong in our communities.

Tina Burgos
Cynthia Ganung
Jennifer Howard
Kerry Hurwitch
Amelia Klein
Rinaz Mala
Finlay McKeon
Albert Schram
Marlene Schultz
Emerson Ward

Statement of the NHRC on the War in Ukraine

March 25, 2022

The Needham Human Rights Committee strongly condemns the war in Ukraine and hopes for a swift end to the senseless violence that is being perpetrated against Ukrainian citizens.  

Unfortunately, one of the consequences of this upheaval is that anti-Russian bias is appearing in our community and region.  Biases – whether unintentional or not – are based on stereotypes that lead to rash decisions or discriminatory practices against people of a particular ethnicity, gender, race or social group.    Social media and news reports are encouraging their neighbors to take negative action toward anyone who is “Russian” or affiliated with “Russians”, such as boycotting businesses that sell Russian products, initiating bans against Russian arts and culture, or targeting Russians living in local communities.  

Our State officials have cautioned that biases or unsupported assumptions can be harmful, such as “shutting down some Russian immigrant family that’s been here in Massachusetts for years and runs a business that may have some sort of Russian overtone.”  Anti-Russian bias in the media affects children, who according to studies develop biases at a surprisingly young age.  A NHRC colleague who immigrated to Needham from Syria gave a striking example of how her children were approached by classmates who asked them “Do you belong to ISIS?”  

As your Human Rights Committee, our work aims to build bridges of understanding as we advocate for the human rights of all in our town.  During this troubling and uncertain time, we are guided by the Preamble of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights

Whereas disregard and contempt for human rights have resulted in barbarous acts which have outraged the conscience of mankind, and the advent of a world in which human beings shall enjoy freedom of speech and belief and freedom from fear and want has been proclaimed as the highest aspiration of the common people.


Statement of NHRC on Derek Chauvin Verdict 

To members of our Needham community:

 The members of the Needham Human Rights Committee extend their deepest sympathy to the family of Mr. Floyd and hope that his loved ones can begin to heal from this tragic and senseless loss.

 The long-standing history of systemic racism in our country has created a society in which Blacks are devalued and marginalized.  The guilty verdict of Derek Chauvin not only serves accountability for the killing of George Floyd, but it is a long overdue step toward justice for Black Americans.  

 The Needham Human Rights Committee will continue its work toward racial equity and will endeavor to “actively engage with those who feel the impact of racism most directly, seeking their input, guidance, and honoring the wisdom of experience.” -Needham Unite Against Racism Initiative

In accordance with our purpose, we strive to reaffirm the worth and dignity of every human being.  Our hope is to facilitate healing and the creation of a world grounded in community building and transformative change.

Signed the Members of the Human Rights Committee

Statement of NHRC on the April 13, 2021 Election

The Needham Human Rights Committee would like to congratulate Lakshmi Balachandra and Marcus Nelson on their historic election wins for Select Board members.   As the first people of color to be elected to the Board, we are excited to collaborate with this diverse body to continue our mission of making Needham a more inclusive and welcoming place for all who reside, work and visit our community.  The significant increase in civic engagement in this election demonstrates exciting opportunities for progress in executing NUARI’s (Needham United Against Racism Initiative) recently adopted Mission statement:

Needham will be a community free of racism, racial bias, prejudice, and discrimination.  Our residents, schools, businesses, organizations, and government will work together to identify barriers to racial equity and create solutions, opportunities, resources, and support for removing them.

For the first time in the history of Needham, we are experiencing what NUARI named as guiding principle 1(a): people of color will see others of color in leadership roles in government, business, the school system, and civic groups.

The business of advocating for human rights in Needham is deeply enhanced by having many different perspectives represented in analyzing any situation. Today we have more voices than ever at the table to do this work.  The Needham Human Rights Committee is eager to continue to join forces with the Select Board to amplify community concerns and protect human rights.

We also want to extend our gratitude to Maurice Handel and John Bulian for their support and allyship during their tenures.  Their commitment to furthering human rights initiatives has always been appreciated and will truly be missed.

Signed the Members of the Human Rights Committee

In Recognition of David Summergrad:

Our Community has lost a champion of human rights.   As president of the NEEDHAM DIVERSITY INITIATIVE, and as a resident of Needham, David Summergrad stood up to oppression and discrimination.  He was a gentle provocateur who inspired others to make the world a better place through self-education, experience, and a commitment to justice and action.  The Preamble to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights states: Whereas recognition of the inherent dignity and of the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family is the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world. David upheld this principle. In the words of friends and colleagues, he “relentlessly pursued what others may have seen as impossible”; “served as a ‘mover’, peace-maker, a bridge-builder and connector”; “was a social justice warrior, beautiful spirit, and phenomenal human being.” David Summergrad touched the lives of many, including our young human rights activists. His legacy inspires all of us to campaign for the basic rights and freedoms that humans are entitled to. “We have much work to do to honor and extend this significant legacy he leaves.”

Anti-Racist Resource List (PDF)


A Message from the Human Rights re: George Floyd (PDF)

Message from the Human Rights Committee: re: Chabad Jewish Center Arson

*  Message from the Human Rights Committee:  Post NZ Mosque Shootings

*  Human Rights Day - Vote of the Board of Selectmen 12/20/2016

*  Message from the Human Rights Committee: Let’s Resolve to Build a Nurturing Community (PDF)

Statement of the Needham Human Rights Committee in support of preserving important human rights of our transgender and non-gender conforming friends, family and neighbors

The Needham Human Rights Committee stands proudly beside all in Massachusetts fighting to preserve the basic human rights of all transgender and gender non-conforming people. While we strive to create a more perfect union, where all individuals are able to in fact live free from prejudice, ignorance, and hate, the Needham Human Rights Committee recognizes that an important step toward this aspiration is upholding existing, essential, legal protections guarding the rights of transgender and gender non-conforming individuals in Massachusetts to be, undisturbed, in any public place they chose. Affirming the right to privacy and live free of discrimination, honors the human dignity inherent in all. Rescinding these fundamental rights, serves to divest our neighbors of their essential humanity and exacerbates the danger many live with every day. The Needham Human Rights Committee urges our community to join the effort to uphold the current Public Accommodations Law in Massachusetts, guaranteeing continued equal protection under the law for all transgender and gender non-conforming individuals in the Commonwealth.