Molly Bajgot grew up in Sudbury, Massachusetts, a Boston suburb, where she first became fascinated by food systems, nutrition and agriculture. Curious to see more of the country, Molly attended Arizona State University for two years. It was at ASU where Molly was first introduced to the Real Food Challenge, a student-led campaign to address university food procurement policies. This campaign addresses the political food economy, corporate monopoly, workers rights and fair wages, humane animal treatment, food access and affordability, and ecosystem health. She continued this work when she transferred to UMass Amherst to pursue a degree in Sustainable Food and Farming. While working on the Student Farm, Molly worked rigorously on campaigns, navigating campus administration to address food purchasing shifts. She became interested (and outraged) about the absence of workers’ rights in the campaign work they were pursuing and after seeing the ins and outs of her higher education institution, she decided that she would pursue stepping into the labor movement post-college. In the future Molly hopes to combine her passion for food justice and human rights to work with labor unions of farm workers. Molly is organizing at Adjunct Action.
Mira Biller was born in Toronto, Ontario. A recent graduate of Muhlenberg College, Mira studied Psychology and Jewish Studies and had her first organizing experience organizing a group of Americans and Israelis to create and lead a month-long community service program in Israel. It was her more recent experience during the Machon Kaplan program (lead by the RAC) where she worked at Jews United For Justice, connecting restaurant workers who were not receiving paid sick leave, with local Hillels, Rabbis, and synagogues, in order to share their stories, that solidified her passion for social justice. She has held internships with a variety of non-profit agencies working with Jewish communities, poverty &homelessness, Ethiopian and Latino immigrants, and job readiness for the previously incarcerated reentering society, and those on welfare with physical or mental barriers to employment. She also loved serving as her college’s Interfaith president, organizing educational sessions between students at the college, and the local Turkish community. This year Mira is working at Temple Emanu-El in Providence as the synagogue’s Youth and Justice Organizer.
Emily Bloch was born and raised in Brookline, Massachusetts. She graduated from the University of Massachusetts Amherst in 2011 with a degree in Public Health. As a student, Emily organized with people from across Massachusetts to lower student fees, increase state funding for higher education, and expand access to public higher education for undocumented students. Emily spent a semester interning at two public health facilities in Matagalpa, Nicaragua, working at a regional hospital and with a small women’s health non-profit. After college she worked as a Field Organizer for President Obama’s 2012 re-election campaign in New Hampshire, where she developed a deeper appreciation and understanding of what it takes to mobilize people to action. After the 2012 election she moved to Seattle, where she worked to provide one-on-one peer counseling, anti-oppression training and leadership development workshops to individuals and small groups. Emily recently moved back to the East Coast and is excited to spend her fellowship year at the Merrimack Valley Project in Lawrence.
Rahel Block was born and raised in Massachusetts in an active and supportive Jewish community. Early on in life, Rahel found her place in Jewish community and Jewish ritual life. In high school she decided to attend Gann Academy where she continued to engage and struggle with Judaism. After high school she spent a short time at Antioch College where she was entrenched in an activist community and explored hands on what it means to create and explore the possibilities of social change. Upon returning to Boston, Rahel spent her down time running Jewish youth groups and teaching in religious school. After a few years, Rahel spent 6 months volunteering in Israel doing both social action and social justice work. Upon returning to Boston, Rahel started working at Temple Beth Shalom primarily in an administrative role and now, after 3 years, Rahel is a full time Youth Engament Professional working with 6-12th graders in both formal and informal settings. Rahel will also be working in community wide social justice endeavors at Temple Beth Shalom in Needham and looks forward to applying the new skills she will be learning as a JOIN fellow to her work.
Jonathon Feinberg has been living in Massachusetts for the past six years, where he has spent the last three living in Lynn and working with the New Lynn Coalition, a group of community and labor organizations, in a variety of capacities. He earned a BA in Environmental Studies from Oberlin College in 2008, and an MA in Urban and Environmental Policy and Planning from Tufts University in 2014. Graduate education, Occupy Boston, and working in Lynn have all contributed to Jonathon’s passion for social justice, and understanding that real change comes not from the halls of government, but from the organized efforts of people struggling together to gain control over the decisions that impact their communities, economies, and lives. Jonathon has been involved in the anti-Mountaintop Removal coal mining movement, has studied the impacts of removing wealth from place and potential ways to recapture that economic power locally. Jonathon has worked with a variety of environmental and community oriented nonprofits doing research, outreach, and coordination. As a JOIN fellow, Jon is working to organize residents of Malden, Everett, and Medford as the Environmental Justice Organizer at Tri-City Community Action Program (Tri-CAP). (Jonathon is pictured in the center of the photo at left.)
Chelsea Feuchs recently graduated from Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island and is excited to move to and work in its big sister city, Boston! At school, she majored in Judaic Studies, and enjoyed additional coursework in Gender Studies, Public Policy, and Psychology. Chelsea has a passion for working on women’s issues and issues of economic inequality. She interned at the restraining order office in Providence, helping survivors of physical abuse and sexual assault access the resources they need to build safer, healthier lives. That experience, along with leadership opportunities through Hillel and the broader Jewish community, drew her to the JOIN for Justice Fellowship. As a JOIN fellow, Chelsea hopes to continue connecting people to the resources they need in her position at the Massachusetts Building Trades Council.
Simcha Halpert-Hanson was born in Boston, Massachusetts and grew up modeling their life on the adage “be yourself.” To wit, they perceived greatness in Green Day well before their classmates did; they shuckled in their Reform shul despite stares from fellow congregants; they joined the boys baseball team in high school to make a point about sexism. After journeying across the country, they went on to attend Eugene Lang College at the New School in New York City and helped form the band Schmekel, a trans-core band invested in increasing visibility for transgender and queer Jews. After graduating with a degree in Poetry and a minor in Jewish Studies, they went on to work for the UJA Federation of New York on the Commission for Jewish Identity and Renewal and then at Eden Village Camp. They are deeply invested in the unity of radical queerness and frumkeit as well as the psychological awakening of Ashkenazi Jewry. Simcha is organizing at the Boston Workmen’s Circle.
Colin Killick grew up in Tucson, Arizona, where he was attending protests and volunteering on campaigns by age 12. At age 17, he went to Washington, DC for three months to intern for his Congresswoman, Gabrielle Giffords, an experience which spurred him to turn his wonkishness and political frustration into a career. He graduated from Williams College, where he majored in political economy, and served as an Americorps VISTA. He then got involved in disability rights advocacy, drawing on his own experience as a person with motor dysgraphia, a neurological that impairs motor skill development. He serves as chair of the Somerville Commission for Persons with Disabilities and has worked on statewide campaigns to make housing and transit more affordable and accessible for people with disabilities. He’s also a slam poet and has worked to bring his interests together by co-organizing an open mic for youth with disabilities for Massachusetts Easter Seals and performing at a celebration of the 24th anniversary of the ADA. As a JOIN Fellow, Colin will be working at the Disability Policy Consortium.
Talia Laster is a recent graduate of the University of Massachusetts Amherst, where she majored in Judaic Studies and earned a certificate in Sustainable Food and Farming. She also co-founded and chaired J Street U at UMass Amherst, a part of a national student movement working towards a diplomatic two-state resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. In this work, Talia developed a passion for helping to create communities that do profound good in the world, by becoming ones that both contain open discourse and fellowship across political differences and are organized to act together in the public sphere. She grew up in a Virginia suburb of Washington, DC, and was a member of the Fabrangen Havurah. She has also served on the board of the National Havurah Committee, an organization committed to pluralism and creative approaches to Jewish learning and practice. Inspired by the amazing community leaders and organizers she has worked with in these settings, Talia is thrilled to be working this year as a Synagogue Organizer at the Jewish Community Relations Council.
Ally Little grew up in Oakland, California. The daughter of environmental advocates, she became engaged with social justice early in life and hasn’t looked back. In 2013 Ally graduated from UC Berkeley with a degree in Political Economy and a minor in Education. Attending a public university at a time of fiscal crisis strengthened her commitment to organizing and community-based change. She spent the following year working on early childhood policy at Children Now, a research and advocacy organization that aims to expand opportunities for children in California. At the same time, she sought to deepen the connection between social justice values and her Jewish identity through the Jeremiah Fellowship with Bend the Arc: A Jewish Partnership for Justice. Ally is thrilled to continue her engagement with organizing as a JOIN Fellow supporting human service workers at SEIU Local 509.
Kathryn Macías came to the Jewish Organizing Fellowship all the way from Athens, Georgia, where she earned a Bachelor’s of Arts in Communication Studies, minor in Religion, and Certificate in Leadership and Service from the University of Georgia. It was during her time in college that she discovered and cultivated her passion for social justice work at the intersection of religious and queer identity. Kathryn served as the Executive Director of the LGBT Resource Center’s Programming Board, co-led the University’s first LGBTQ Awareness alternative spring break trip, and served as the lead organizer in the Gender Advocacy Campaign. She describes her work through the Gender Advocacy Campaign as one of her proudest achievements as it resulted in the addition of “gender identity” to the University’s Non-Discrimination Anti-Harassment policy. While in college, Kathryn also interned with SOJOURN, the Southern Jewish Resource Network for Gender and Sexual Diversity, where she developed LGBTQ inclusion Train-the-Trainer curricula and secured a grant for youth suicide prevention. Kathryn brings her experience, commitment to justice, and chutzpah to her role as Boston Community Organizer at Keshet.
As a ’13 Macalester College student of geography and public health, Sarah O’Connor worked on the project of formalizing an academic concentration focused on food and agricultural studies, which catalyzed bigger questions about the relationship between students and the institution, which lead to her involvement in the on-campus efforts of a Twin Cities-wide anti-foreclosure campaign asking Macalester to adopt responsible banking policies. After four years of various studying, farming, agitating, and working with youth across Minnesota, India, France, Peru, the Dominican Republic, Israel and Egypt, she has been back in her home state of Massachusetts for the past year, working with a school gardening nonprofit as a FoodCorps service member in several Boston and Cambridge public schools. Sarah will be working this year as a JOIN fellow at St. Stephen’s Youth Programs as a community organizer and youth program counselor.
Shira Tiffany traveled north from Wilmington, Delaware to study International Relations at Boston University focusing on environment and development. Her outlook expanded when she and other students lived communally in Niamey, Niger, and upon returning to Boston she helped form a student organization to raise funds and awareness about a food crisis in Niger. Shira tutored students at a bilingual K-8 school in the San Francisco Bay Area and spent time in the family center where she decided to pursue community organizing. Back in Boston she taught environmental science and facilitated action projects with K-8 students and volunteered at the Dudley Street Neighborhood Initiative. Most recently Shira was working at The Midas Collaborative, a nonprofit working towards economic justice for Massachusetts residents. She also loves working in the fields at Waltham Fields Community Farm and Lexington Community Farm in the greater Boston area. Shira loves the city of Boston and has made a habit of living in co-ops named after animal dwellings. She is excited to set sail as a JOIN fellow with the Northwest Atlantic Marine Alliance.
Michelle Weiser is a recent graduate of Boston University where she majored in Communications and minored in Women, Gender and Sexuality Studies. Michelle served as the Public Relations Coordinator for the student-run Center for Gender, Sexuality and Activism on campus and was the founder and president of the Queer Activist Collective. She was part of the successful campaign to open the Sexual Assault Response & Prevention office at BU. For the past two years, Michelle has worked in communications at Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders, a nonprofit law firm serving LGBTQ and HIV+ communities. As a JOIN fellow, Michelle will be organizing in public health with Toxics Action Center in Eastern Massachusetts and Rhode Island and will be working side-by-side with communities, providing them with the skills and resources needed to prevent or clean up pollution at the local level. Michelle is originally from Southern California and enjoys bicycling, community building, potlucks, and painting in her free time.