JOIN for Justice http://www.joinforjustice.org Wed, 06 May 2015 18:55:25 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.2.1 Nesting in Nashville with JOIN Alum Rabbi Aaron Finkelstein http://www.joinforjustice.org/uncategorized/nesting-in-nashville-with-join-alum-rabbi-aaron-finkelstein/ http://www.joinforjustice.org/uncategorized/nesting-in-nashville-with-join-alum-rabbi-aaron-finkelstein/#comments Wed, 29 Apr 2015 18:40:55 +0000 http://www.joinforjustice.org/?p=4196 Forward profiled JOIN Seminary Leadership Project alumni Rabbi Aaron Finkelstein and his wife, Julie Sugar, in their Homelands column. See an excerpt of this get-to-know-you piece below, and read the entire interview on the Forward website. Aaron and Julie moved … Read More

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Forward
profiled JOIN Seminary Leadership Project alumni Rabbi Aaron Finkelstein and his wife, Julie Sugar, in their Homelands column. See an excerpt of this get-to-know-you piece below, and read the entire interview on the Forward website. Aaron and Julie moved to Nashville recently so that Aaron could work at Congregation Sherith Israel and the Akiva School.

Forward: How did you come to live together?

Julie: We moved in together after we got married. Almost a year ago! We got married last May.

How did you find your home?

We were very lucky. After Aaron accepted the job here, we planned a weekend in June to go “house hunting” (in quotes because we knew we were probably hunting for an apartment). A lovely board member at Sherith Israel helped us line up viewings of apartments for the weekend, and we had about a day and a half. One broker that she found was particularly pleased about the idea of having “a man of the cloth” as one of his renters. He told us about an apartment that wasn’t on the market yet, and that we couldn’t look at yet, but that sounded perfect.

Our friend, the board member, was able to look at the apartment not long after we flew back to New York. She and her husband sent us photos along with the message “take it” — and we did. We signed the lease before ever stepping foot in the apartment!

Continue reading on the Forward website.

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Tradition Welcomes Change: Thoughts from Ilene Weismehl http://www.joinforjustice.org/uncategorized/tradition-welcomes-change-thoughts-from-ilene-weismehl/ http://www.joinforjustice.org/uncategorized/tradition-welcomes-change-thoughts-from-ilene-weismehl/#comments Wed, 15 Apr 2015 16:20:18 +0000 http://www.joinforjustice.org/?p=4180 In May of 2014, JOIN’s Development Manager Ilene Weismehl wrote a great piece for RJ.org’s blog about camp memories, Shabbat, tradition, ritual and change. Enjoy an excerpt below, and read the whole article on the RJ blog. For as long … Read More

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In May of 2014, JOIN’s Development Manager Ilene Weismehl wrote a great piece for RJ.org’s blog about camp memories, Shabbat, tradition, ritual and change. Enjoy an excerpt below, and read the whole article on the RJ blog.

For as long as I can remember, it was a given that my brother and I would go to Olin Sang Ruby Union Institute, commonly known as OSRUI (pronounced Os-roo-ee), and even more commonly known as Oconomowoc (the camp’s Wisconsin town name).  Although none of the above-mentioned names hint at the Debbie Friedman prayers or Hebrew immersion programs or after-meal songs, I always had a notion of what the names might hold (courtesy of my parents’ stories of their own time at Union Institute in the fifties) and I couldn’t wait to claim it.

Forty years later, many of my camp memories have grown as faded as the photo below. But the memory of Shabbat at camp remains vivid! On Shabbat, all camp activities ended early so we had time to shower off the weekday grime of lake and sweat and craft projects. We donned our nice Shabbat clothes and shoes. Then, clean and shiny, and a bit shy for our newly-scrubbed appearance, the girls and boys would meet just outside the dining hall for Kabbalat Shabbat.

Everything became different and new for Kabbalat Shabbat, our receiving of Sabbath. With our combed, damp hair we had no choice but to seeeach other, ourselves, and the world differently. We sang L’chah Dodi with a melody à la the Mamas and the Papas. We sang, clapped, and jumped to express our heartfelt welcome as we anticipated a day of rest, albeit a rest from the none-too-stressful weekdays of camp life.

Each Friday, we were called upon by Jewish tradition and ritual to change our routine, to interrupt the status quo, and to transform ourselves and our expectations of the coming day. It threw our routine off kilter and sometimes made us uneasy. But from that initial discomfort we found rest and joy and a new understanding of the everyday.

Continue reading on the RJ.org blog.

 

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Why Ask Why? With JOIN Board Member Aliza Kline http://www.joinforjustice.org/from-the-field/why-ask-why-with-join-board-member-aliza-kline/ http://www.joinforjustice.org/from-the-field/why-ask-why-with-join-board-member-aliza-kline/#comments Wed, 15 Apr 2015 16:15:05 +0000 http://www.joinforjustice.org/?p=4178 Enjoy some wisdom about curiosity and the Jewish experience from JOIN Board member Aliza Kline’s TED talk in April of 2014:  

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Enjoy some wisdom about curiosity and the Jewish experience from JOIN Board member Aliza Kline’s TED talk in April of 2014:

 

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SHIFT: Taking Root ~ An Evening of Stories http://www.joinforjustice.org/fellowship/shift-taking-root-evening-stories/ http://www.joinforjustice.org/fellowship/shift-taking-root-evening-stories/#comments Fri, 27 Mar 2015 02:35:27 +0000 http://www.joinforjustice.org/?p=4127 At JOIN for Justice, we believe that stories matter. Stories create connections between people, they are how we share our history, they inspire us to act. Last week, JOIN for Justice celebrated the importance of stories when we gathered for … Read More

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At JOIN for Justice, we believe that stories matter. Stories create connections between people, they are how we share our history, they inspire us to act.

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Photo by Ernesto Arroyo Photography.

Last week, JOIN for Justice celebrated the importance of stories when we gathered for SHIFT: Taking Root ~ An Evening of Stories. Hosted in the inviting Cambridge, Massachusetts home of JOIN Board member Larry Bailis and his wife Susan Shevitz, SHIFT celebrated storytelling, community building and social justice with JOIN friends, alumni, guests and staff.

All of us in attendance were entertained, moved and challenged by the stories we heard, including this one from Jewish Organizing Fellowship alum Dani Moscovitch:

In addition to Dani, we enjoyed stories from Seminary Leadership Project alum Rabbi Jen Gubitz, Jewish Organizing Fellowship alum Dani Moscovitch and JOIN Director of Organizing Meir Lakein.  JOIN Board member Dan Rosan served as our emcee.

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Enjoy a slideshow of images from the evening, and stay tuned for more video stories! All photos by Ernesto Arroyo Photography.

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Paid Family Leave: Using our Faith and Courage to Reflect Jewish Values http://www.joinforjustice.org/thinking-out-loud/paid-family-leave/ http://www.joinforjustice.org/thinking-out-loud/paid-family-leave/#comments Wed, 25 Mar 2015 17:56:08 +0000 http://www.joinforjustice.org/?p=4111 JOIN for Justice’s Clergy Organizer Rabbi Stephanie Ruskay recently co-authored an excellent piece on the importance of paid family leave as an equitable policy, “What Do We Need? Paid Family Leave. When Do We Need It? Now!” Read an excerpt … Read More

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JOIN for Justice’s Clergy Organizer Rabbi Stephanie Ruskay recently co-authored an excellent piece on the importance of paid family leave as an equitable policy, “What Do We Need? Paid Family Leave. When Do We Need It? Now!” Read an excerpt below, and read the entire article on the eJewish Philanthropy website:

Beginnings are critical. They set the stage for how relationships will develop. Having the opportunity to bond with a child, or children, embrace a new identity as parents, and create a new and expanded family unit takes time and requires focus. Parents need to be home, and there needs to be food on the table and money to pay for the expenses of supporting a family.

Beginnings are when healthy habits are created. Beginnings are when families can get grounded and bonded. They are when a family can root itself and prepare to take its place as a contributing unit in society. Families can’t do any of these things if the mother loses her job when she gives birth, or has pregnancy complications that she can’t address because her job doesn’t permit her to make adjustments to how and when she works.

Recently, I was asked to help a Jewish communal organization recruit for some positions for which they were hiring. I felt uncomfortable helping recruit for an organization that did not offer its employees a sufficient and just period of paid leave. I shared this reaction with the organization which is actually currently working on this at the board level, and anticipates changing their policy in the near future.

They expressed appreciation for the feedback.

Read the whole article on eJewish Philanthropy.

StephanieRuskayRabbi Stephanie Ruskay serves as the Clergy Organizer at JOIN for Justice. Trained in organizing through JOIN’s Seminary Leadership Project, Stephanie is particularly focused on helping rabbis develop and use organizing skills to help transform their communities and work more effectively to pursue social justice. Stephanie also serves as the Director of Alumni and Community Engagement at AVODAH: The Jewish Service Corps.

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Shmita, Debt & Justice in a Los Angeles Garden http://www.joinforjustice.org/uncategorized/shmita-debt-justice-los-angeles-garden/ http://www.joinforjustice.org/uncategorized/shmita-debt-justice-los-angeles-garden/#comments Wed, 25 Mar 2015 17:37:06 +0000 http://www.joinforjustice.org/?p=4103 For the last year, Rose Prevezer worked as the rabbinic intern at Netiya, an interfaith food justice network in Los Angeles. This internship is run in partnership with JOIN for Justice. We are so grateful for this thoughtful reflection that … Read More

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For the last year, Rose Prevezer worked as the rabbinic intern at Netiya, an interfaith food justice network in Los Angeles. This internship is run in partnership with JOIN for Justice. We are so grateful for this thoughtful reflection that Rose shared with us — about growing food, shmita, forgiving debt and working for justice.

My time working as the rabbinic intern for Netiya, an inter-faith food justice network based in Los Angeles, has been focused on education and community organizing around the Shmita, or Sabbatical, year that started last Rosh Hashana, The shmita year is a year of rest for the land of Israel that the Torah states should occur every seven years as “a Sabbath for God”. We are told that “for six years you are to sow your land and to gather in its produce, but in the seventh, you are to let it go and to let it be, that the needy of your people may eat, and what remains, the wildlife of the field shall eat” (Exodus 23:10-11). In the shmita year all produce is ownerless. You can store items from the previous six years’ harvest to survive but you are not permitted hoard more than you need; the excess must be made hefker (free) to all. At the end of the shmita year all debt is cancelled, for no man is “to oppress his neighbor or his brother” (Deuteronomy 15:2).

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Shmita has long been relegated to the abstract in contemporary Jewish life. As its halachic rules and regulations apply only in Israel, Diaspora Jewry largely ignored its teachings. Moreover, in Israel itself, loopholes in Jewish law – developed for the purpose of allowing agriculture to survive in the early years of the State and intended to be time-limited – became normative practice. However, recent years have seen a flourishing of interest in shmita and an increased understanding of the relevancy and ethical power of its practices.

There has been an acknowledgment that the lessons and benefits of shmita are multiple and universal. Shmita teaches the value of long-term agricultural good practice and sustainability by encouraging rest and respect for the land and its potential yield. Shmita draws our attention to the intersections between poverty, debt and food insecurity, and radically shifts our understanding of ownership. Shmita articulates the relationship between rest and dignity in way that forces us to address not only our own individual and organizational work commitments and stresses, but also labor rights and widespread wage inequality.

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Shmita promotes the role of empathy in creating a more equal society. For one year all people share in the resulting abundance or insecurity. How does this shared experience have the potential to change us? How does it alter the way we are in relationship with one another? Going forward will we be more alert to societal ills, more conscious in our consumerism, more attuned to the needs of the land? Will shmita result in the kind of spiritual and social awakening envisaged by Rav Kook in his introduction to his treatise on shmita, “The Sabbath of the Land:”

“What the Sabbath achieves regarding the individual, the Shmita achieves with regard to the nation as a whole. A year of solemn rest is essential for both the nation and the land, a year of peace and quiet without oppressor and tyrant…It is a year of equality and rest, in which the soul reaches out towards divine justice, towards God who sustains the living creatures with loving kindness. There is no private property and no punctilious privilege but the peace of God reigns over all in which there is the breath of life. Sanctity is not profaned by the exercise of private acquisitiveness over all this year’s produce, and the covetousness of wealth stirred up by commerce is forgotten…Life can only be perfected through the affording of a breathing space from the bustle of everyday life.”

This shmita year, environmental and social justice organizations in Israel and the Diaspora have been working to educate and encourage communities to find ways to practice and infuse their daily experience with the values of shmita. In Southern California Netiya has been at the forefront of this endeavor, and as their outgoing rabbinic intern I have been working with communities and groups throughout Los Angeles to explore the relationship between shmita, spirituality, debt and food relief. In particular we have been examining the myriad ways in which shmita can be observed and celebrated today, whether one lives in Israel or not.

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At Netiya we have been speaking and teaching about shmita in synagogues and churches, schools and institutions throughout the city. We have been using the model of shmita to examine our own organizational practices and encouraging others to do the same. We have been hosting workshops and events – on gardening, water conservation, planting, pickling, and harvesting – in order to promote long-term sustainable food practices.

We have been working to ensure that the lessons of the shmita year will continue to impact and change the lives of our communities for the better. It has been a privilege to be part of this conversation.

941347_600046326673115_83268822_nRose Prevezer is a rabbinical student at the Ziegler School of Rabbinic Studies, Los Angeles. She has worked as Netiya’s Rabbinic and Community Organizing intern and is an active member of the Minyan Tzedek Organizing Path at Ikar, a social-justice focused spiritual community. Rose is pictured at the far left of the photo on the right. She’s with a group of 7th graders at Ikar who have just learned how to harvest a carrot!

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Voices of Conservative/Masorti Judaism Profiles JOIN and JOIN Leaders http://www.joinforjustice.org/uncategorized/voices-conservativemasorti-judaism-profiles-join-join-leaders/ http://www.joinforjustice.org/uncategorized/voices-conservativemasorti-judaism-profiles-join-join-leaders/#comments Thu, 19 Mar 2015 16:15:03 +0000 http://www.joinforjustice.org/?p=4090 The May 2015 issue of Voices of Conservative/Masorti Judaism profiles two JOIN leader alumni, Rabbi Noah Farkas and Rabbi Dave Baum, and JOIN for Justice in their excellent article, “Holy Chutzpah: Synagogues move from social action committees to social action … Read More

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The May 2015 issue of Voices of Conservative/Masorti Judaism profiles two JOIN leader alumni, Rabbi Noah Farkas and Rabbi Dave Baum, and JOIN for Justice in their excellent article, “Holy Chutzpah: Synagogues move from social action committees to social action commitment.”

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Click the image above to read the entire online magazine, read just the article and read an excerpt here:

This large-scale, sustained involvement in social action is not isolated to Pennsylvania’s Ohev Shalom. Rather it is part of a larger change in the way many Conservative synagogues incorporate social action and tikkun olam, repairing the world, into the lives of their kehillot. These congregations are moving social action from an occasional community activity to a core part of what defines synagogue life.

And as they do, they’re finding it a powerful tool for engaging people who no longer join synagogues out of obligation, but as a way to find meaning in their lives.

“If we want to bring more people into our tent, we need to broaden our perspective and challenge ourselves to see things differently, to see God’s work as outside of the synagogue,” explains Rabbi David Baum of Congregation Shaarei Kodesh in Boca Raton, Florida.

To do this in South Florida, Baum and his congregants partner with an interfaith group that gleans extra produce from local farmers’ fields at the end of the season and donates it to the local food bank. Aside from the obvious biblical allusions, Baum encourages his congregants to see the very performance of service as holy and integrally connected with Jewish tradition.

“We have these commandments to feed the hungry and look out for the less fortunate,” he says. “When people learn and then do it, they become more connected to Judaism and God.”

Baum and his fellow Conservative rabbis engaging in this kind of work believe that connecting the Torah’s commandments to hands-on social action breathes new life into Jewish observance and creates more entry points into a synagogue.

“Seeing tangible results from what a religion says about the world is really important,” says Rabbi Noah Farkas of Valley Beth Shalom, a large congregation in Encino, California. “So when our religion says that we should think about the stranger and the orphan that means we need to think about the stranger and the orphan and act on their behalf – otherwise these words become hollow.”

Like several of his colleagues, Farkas capitalizes on the community organizing skills he learned as part of JOIN for Justice, which trains Jewish leaders in building community to effect social change. For the last several years, JOIN has trained hundreds of rabbinical and education students, as well as rabbis across denominations, to use the tools of organization to deepen community engagement.

In 2013, the group held a training for members of the Rabbinical Assembly, the association of Conservative rabbis. Rabbi Jay Kornsgold, chair of the Rabinical Assembly’s social justice commission, says the event represents a shift in Conservative Judaism toward putting more emphasis on social action and social justice. “A few years ago this wouldn’t have been possible,” Kornsgold said of the meeting, which attracted over 40 rabbis.

Community organizing techniques are the ultimate in “relational Judaism” and indeed JOIN was mentioned in Dr. Ron Wolfson’s influential book of the same name. As Farkas explains, the approach involves engaging congregants in conversations, hearing their stories, and identifying issues they’re passionate about. Efforts are then organized around those issues and lay leaders are empowered to take ownership of the causes.

Read the entire engaging article.

We are so proud of the work that Rabbi Farkas and Rabbi Baum are doing in their congregations and the impact they are having on their communities and their world. And we’re thrilled that JOIN for Justice is in a position to expand our training and organizing work with rabbis and congregations this year through our Seminary Leadership Project and our new Chut Hameshulash Fellowship for rabbis, cantors and Jewish educators. Stay tuned on our website for more news!

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JOIN Alum Rabbi David Segal Featured in Aspen Magazine http://www.joinforjustice.org/seminary-project/join-alum-rabbi-david-segal-featured-aspen-magazine/ http://www.joinforjustice.org/seminary-project/join-alum-rabbi-david-segal-featured-aspen-magazine/#comments Wed, 11 Mar 2015 19:53:16 +0000 http://www.joinforjustice.org/?p=4068 JOIN alum Rabbi David Segal was featured in Aspen Magazine’s March 2015 issue (he’s on the left in the photo below): The text reads: David Segal, 34, Rabbi, Aspen Jewish Congregation The Aspen Jewish Congregation (aspenjewish.org) has endured some periods … Read More

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JOIN alum Rabbi David Segal was featured in Aspen Magazine’s March 2015 issue (he’s on the left in the photo below):

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The text reads:

David Segal, 34, Rabbi, Aspen Jewish Congregation

The Aspen Jewish Congregation (aspenjewish.org) has endured some periods of difficult transition over its 40-year history, but thanks to Rabbi David Segal, it’s finally seeing the light. His arrival almost seems like kismet: The Houston native spent many family vacations in Aspen. He now lives in Basalt with his wife, Rollin Simmons, who is the congregation’s cantor, and their two children. A Princeton alum, Segal was ordained by Hebrew Union College — Jewish Institute of Religion in 2010 and immediately headed west. “Today, and especially among our demographic, it’s clearly harder to engage people in religion,” he says. “People don’t move here to become religious, but they do more here to become spiritual.” Named one of America’s most inspiring rabbis in 2014 by The Jewish Daily Forward, Segal engages locals with regular music-focused services, a monthly slopeside Shabbat at Snowmass and expanded programming. Notable nugget: He took a stand-up comedy workshop while living in New York and has performed shows there and in Aspen.

We continue to be inspired by how Rabbi Segal engages with his community!

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Announcing: New JOIN Clergy Fellowship! http://www.joinforjustice.org/uncategorized/announcing-new-join-clergy-fellowship/ http://www.joinforjustice.org/uncategorized/announcing-new-join-clergy-fellowship/#comments Thu, 12 Feb 2015 19:43:07 +0000 http://www.joinforjustice.org/?p=3984 Talking about community organizing…  is easy! Learning it is a challenge. Doing it is much harder. Community organizing brings people together to identify a shared mission and common values and interests and act on them together. Doing this consistently and … Read More

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Rabbi_Noah_SHIFTTalking about community organizing…  is easy!

Learning it is a challenge.

Doing it is much harder.

Community organizing brings people together to identify a shared mission and common values and interests and act on them together. Doing this consistently and persistently, in a way that has an impact and invigorates you rather than depletes you, is hard work.

Hundreds of rabbis, cantors, and Jewish educators have been trained by JOIN for Justice’s Seminary Leadership Project, but, to bring about the changes we dream of in the world and the Jewish community, we need to expand our support to clergy in the field.

That’s why JOIN is thrilled to announce the launch of our new Chut Hameshulash Fellowship for rabbis, cantors and Jewish educators!

The Fellowship will run from March 2015 into next year. Read more and let us know if you’re interested!

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Political Leadership: JOIN Board Member Stephanie Kolin http://www.joinforjustice.org/uncategorized/political-leadership-join-board-member-stephanie-kolin/ http://www.joinforjustice.org/uncategorized/political-leadership-join-board-member-stephanie-kolin/#comments Thu, 29 Jan 2015 02:19:02 +0000 http://www.joinforjustice.org/?p=3945 This week on RJ.org, guest blogger Steven Windmueller wrote a great piece about JOIN Board member Rabbi Stephanie Kolin: about her new position at New York’s Central Synagogue and about her role in modern-day religious leadership. He writes: With the … Read More

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Photo of Rabbi Stephanie KolinThis week on RJ.org, guest blogger Steven Windmueller wrote a great piece about JOIN Board member Rabbi Stephanie Kolin: about her new position at New York’s Central Synagogue and about her role in modern-day religious leadership. He writes:

With the announcement this week of the appointment of Rabbi Stephanie Kolin to the position of Associate Rabbi of Central Synagogue in New York City, the progressive Jewish community has the opportunity to celebrate the evolution of Just Congregations, including its creation of Reform California, and the defining role played by its extraordinary leader, Rabbi Kolin.

The storyline here is not only about how one person can affect change but also of how a movement can be created, nurtured, and led by an inspiring leader.

In examining the rise of Reform CA as a new political force within this state, we can explore the impact of what religious leadership can mean in a 21st-century context. Rabbi Kolin, with her knowledge of community organizing, her Jewish prophetic passion, and an extraordinary degree of personal energy and integrity, also brought to the table a leadership style that empowered her colleagues and in turn engaged their congregational leaders.

For Rabbi Kolin, this was as much about “team” as it was about mission. From the outset, she framed the entire cause for building a new model of social engagement around the collective will, insights, and commitment of her partners. The team evolved, not only in terms of numbers but through a maturation process of shared learning. Several principles framed this enterprise: to organize, empower, and invest the collective energies and resources of our community in growing our political resources and connections in order to build partnerships and alliances with other state-wide actors. The outcome was to achieve a new vision of what California could be by taking the political steps to change the status quo.

Continue reading “Building a New Model of Political Leadership: How Rabbi Stephanie Kolin Changed our Community” on RJ.org.

 

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