In honor of Mother’s Day, we want to share a beautiful story of how one mother-daughter duo is going at their justice work, and how their relationship is strengthened because of it. Rachel Leiken is a current Jewish Organizing Fellow working at The Labor Guild, and her mother Elana Leiken took our online course, Don’t Kvetch, Organize!, last Fall. Below they share their experience of learning community organizing simaltaneously through JOIN this past fall.
Rachel (Fellow): One night leading up to the election, I was talking to my mom on the phone about whatever stories happened to be in the news that day. She told me that she was feeling so sad about everything that was going on—especially the vitriol and hate of political discourse—but that she didn’t know what to do and was looking for some way to educate herself on language and strategies of today’s justice movements. In response, I suggested she take Don’t Kvetch, Organize course (which I had taken in the Fall of 2015), and she did! It was great to have conversations about organizing together—we talked about a lot of components of the course, shared thoughts on some of our favorite videos, and discussed important issues like what it means to prioritize certain identities and voices without tokenizing individuals. I’m really proud of the project my mom is developing as a result of the class (see below)—she has been a teacher at her school for 22 years (since I’ve been born!) and a union representative for 10, and the work she is doing is an example of the powerful transformative work you can do when you’re really embedded in, understand, and love a community. I feel so proud to have a mom who pushes herself to learn about justice work through new modes, and lucky that I have a mom who I can learn from and with in my organizing work.
Elana (Rachel’s Mother): During the course of the class, one of the staff members at my school was diagnosed with cancer. As I started to think about it, I realized that we have had an unusual amount of staff members diagnosed with cancer at our school and needed to take action. In the past I would have done this on my own, but drawing on the lessons I learned in Don’t Kvetch, Organize!, I knew the project would be enriched by input from the entire staff. What really surprised me when we all got together to formulate a plan was how everyone stepped up to help and how we were able to create a comprehensive plan of action so quickly and efficiently. We have teams scheduling meals, testing the water and soil, and meeting with our union and our district to see if we can find a cause. It felt wonderful to not have to shoulder the entire burden and I know we will be more effective together.
On a personal level, I feel such a pride in the work Rachel is doing. It’s not the kind of pride you feel as a parent when your child accomplishes something at school (although that’s nice too) but a deep, deep pride that comes from knowing that your child is helping to make the world a better place. And, she has helped make me a better person too!