How can we support leaders and organizers responding to the pandemic? Passover teaches us that liberation can follow plague, if people can come together and resolve to act. Our new course about organizing in a time of pandemic can show the way.
Often it is in times of crisis, times of pressure, even times of tragedy, that communities teach themselves what they are capable of. What will synagogues and other Jewish institutions learn about their capacity during this pandemic?
How quickly, and how extensively, Jewish institutions have built wide mutual aid networks over the last month is not only heartwarming – it demonstrates how instinctive organizing is for our communities. The check-in phone trees, the coordination of food and medical support, and the outpouring of learning and social opportunities have been matched by efforts unique to this moment – most prominently organizing donations of protective gear for the medical workers on the front lines. We are demonstrating how much we can do when we take the hard work of building community seriously.
At the same time, many Jewish communities are struggling with how to fix our broken systems at a time when we are seeing so very many being excluded right now. Meticulously laid plans of visits to the State House and door to door voter registration have gone out the window. Often, we are left with encouraging people, as individuals, to call their legislators or sign online petitions. At this moment, our organizing around systems and policy change often lacks wide community support, creativity, and the power of our mutual aid organizing.
And that is eating at many of us. First, because many middle-class people know that, while they physically isolate themselves, that option isn’t available to homeless people, immigrants locked in detention centers, prisoners behind bars. And, they know that their ability to shelter in place is made possible by working-class people exposing themselves to coronavirus daily as they go to poorly paid jobs at Amazon and Instacart, working, as they must support their families, in unsafe conditions to ship others the goods that they need to stay home in relative safety. It also eats at us because we know, in our bones, that we’re capable of more, even if we (and I) can’t yet tell what that “more” is.
In response to this great need, JOIN is offering an additional round of our nationally acclaimed online course, Don’t Kvetch, Organize!, for Jewish communities, leaders, and organizers sitting at home struggling with these questions in this unique moment of national crisis.
This special edition of the course is designed specifically for organizing in a time of a pandemic. Added to the course’s traditional high-level video content and assignments will be special readings and discussions to help us discern what our communities are capable of right now when there is so much we are called to do. We will offer skills and insights for people seeking to organize in this time of crisis and suggest concrete opportunities to get involved in your community as you learn.