HRC Statements

Statement of the NHRC:  November 16, 2023

To our Needham Community regarding the Israel-Gaza Conflict:

We are horrified by the unfolding war and devastating loss of life in Israel and Palestine, and strongly support de-escalation of the recent violence in this region. The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Volker Türk, declared: “It has been one full month of carnage, of incessant suffering, bloodshed, destruction, outrage and despair. Human rights violations are at the root of this escalation and human rights play a central role in finding a way out of this vortex of pain.” 

Members of the Needham community who have ties to loved ones in Israel and Gaza are experiencing pain, sorrow and grief. Many in our community are angry, frightened and hurting as they mourn the thousands of lives lost. They feel unsafe, silenced, and not valued as members of the community. We urge civility during this period of conflict and ask members to reflect on how their actions affect those around them, such as the use of words that could be construed as anti-Semitic, Islamophobic or racist. These responses are inconsistent with our community values. We condemn hate crimes and discrimination in our town, state, country and world, and we fully support law enforcement's efforts to prevent and prosecute such crimes. We expect that our Town will remain a safe place for people to live, to gather and engage in peaceful conversations to learn about each other's experiences. 

The charge of the Needham Human Rights Committee is to advocate appreciation and respect for human and civil rights in our Town. Needham is a diverse community, one that embraces people of many races and religions. This is a moment for us to reach out to our neighbors, to pull together, and to support one another in unity and compassion. We ask community members who need support – or who have suggestions for ways of supporting their neighbors during this difficult time – to contact the NHRC at

In peace and solidarity, 


Tina Burgos
Cynthia Ganung
Jennifer Howard
Kerry Hurwitch
Amelia Klein
Keith LaFace
Finley McKeon
Albert Schram
Marlene Schultz
Emme Ward

Statement of the NHRC: June 27, 2023

The Needham Human Rights Committee joins calls for community conversations to examine how Needham neighbors can better respond to and prevent future incidents of racial harassment at our schools and in our Town.

Few things trigger action more than watching a child be bullied or hurt by another.  Observing someone misuse power to intimidate, harass, and belittle someone else touches an innate sense of injustice in all of us.   When the person misusing the power is an elementary school student, the observation should stop us in our tracks.   The central question need not be focused on the motivations of a child who is learning how to use their words, but on what norms our community creates and endorses that allows for this kind of experimentation.  In times like these, we need to be looking at not just at what the kids are doing—but at what the adults around them are doing to personify our best intended values.

Individual acts of racism can have long term effects on the person targeted by the perpetrator and on the broader community as well.  The Needham Human Rights Committee stands with the Chinese Friends of Needham in calling on our greater community to recognize the urgency of addressing the impact of incidents of bias happening in our schools.  Further, while recognizing the Needham Public Schools have been intentionally working hard at improving equity and inclusion across the district through the REAL Coalition, we support the call for creating and implementing better tools to help us know whether the existing protocols and policies are working not just to hold individual students accountable, but in mitigating the pain caused to the community.  Because the schools mirror the broader community of Needham, incidents of racially targeted harassment at schools tell us we have a lot more work to do as a Town.

In March 2021, the Needham Unites Against Racism Initiative (NUARI) promulgated a vision statement for the Town:  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.  In that spirit, the Needham Human Rights Committee will be working this summer to coordinate plans with our partner community organizations and Town officials to sponsor a new round of community conversations on race focused on our schools.  Our goal is to facilitate an open dialogue around understanding the incidence and impact of acts of hate in school, the existing protocols and practices within the district, as well as how the broader Needham community can be engaged in teaching each other (young and old) how to prevent incidents in the future.  

Want to be involved?   Contact the Needham Human Rights Committee at

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: March 25, 2022

Statement of the NHRC on the War in Ukraine

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:  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:  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.