“The course was a paradigm shift for me”

Rickie Kashdan lives in New Jersey, and signed up for our 2019 Don’t Kvetch, Organize! course as a member of the Reform Jewish Voice of NJ, which is an affiliate of the Religious Action Center. JOIN talked with Rickie a few weeks after the course ended to share her experience in the course.

Rickie and Liz Cohen in El Paso at Rev. Barber’s Moral Monday at the Borderlands

 What was your biggest hesitation about signing up for Don’t Kvetch, Organize!?

I don’t think I had any hesitation, maybe a little bit about having time. I was mainly excited about having the opportunity to focus my attention on community organizing. I had participated in JOIN for Justice’s ROAR training in person a few years ago, and that was very exciting.

What were you hoping to get out of the course?

I was hoping to gain confidence in my ability to work with communities. I’ve done quite a bit of community organizing but not from my Jewish heritage perspective, and I was looking to get some grounding in organizing from that perspective. Specifically, I’ve been active in my Reform Jewish movement’s statewide organization that’s part of the Reform Action Center (RAC) and I was looking to get more skill to build things around the state.

What did you discover from taking Don’t Kvetch, Organize!?

I was really bowled over! The course was a paradigm shift for me, many paradigm shifts. Some of it was at the very beginning of the course, the piece of thinking about root work vs (or in addition to) direct service activities, which has been an issue in my own congregation. I was excited to have a model for why I was frustrated just doing what people have called social action, to understand why it was frustrating to me that we were giving food to hungry people, when I want to also do policy, root cause work. It was like, “Oh, that’s what that is!”

The many stories as part of the trainings in the course were helpful, and the ideas around not just doing activities, but actually creating change. I felt a little bit of, “Oh, all I’ve been doing is activities all these years, oh no!” Not that that’s totally true, but that’s how it felt. So much of the time people have wanted something that they can say, “We did this, that was an activity we did.” I’m starting to recognize that if it’s not part of the bigger strategic plan, then are we really making the sustained change that we’re looking for? Maybe not!

Another really important piece for me was really focusing on community organizing as building change through building relationships. In my mind that’s the most key thing for me. It helped me look at how I was doing that and reaching out to congregations and building sustained relationships with people that can then be fostered into long term supportive connections and relationships.

It happened that the course timeframe worked really well with the Reform Jewish Voice of New Jersey advocacy day in our state capital in Trenton, and I saw relationship building there as well. In previous advocacy days, I had gone in to our local assembly people and they had not always been willing to meet with us. We had been able to meet with them at other times but not on the advocacy day. This year one of the Senators and the assembly person that was there made a point of meeting with us. That’s because I’ve been building relationships with them. They knew who we were and wanted to meet. One of them spoke with us for over an hour, because we were listening so intently, and he talked about his personal struggles.

What did you enjoy most about the course?

I really liked the videos, the stories,. seeing examples gave me both a mix of a lot of hope and also a feeling, “Could I really be part of such a big campaign?”

Marshall Ganz really speaks to me; it was good to have an opportunity to get to hear him in the videos. The videos of Meir explaining in very concrete terms the nuts and bolts of organizing for success and for change also was a highlight for me.

I loved the challenge of having to post in the discussion forum because it’s not something I do, and it is a goal of mine to learn to write out my thinking and put it out there. I felt like, “Ahh, now I have to do it!” Getting to have the online conversations with people. I love having a buddy, we’re still in contact, that made it more real. I would say the office hours were also really useful.

 If your best friend was on the fence about signing up, what would you tell them?

I would tell them it is fully worth it to spend the time to allow yourself to focus on effective organizing. It allowed me to have so many conversations and share my thinking while I was doing it. It was a very big growing experience. I have no regrets.

Learn more about the course!


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“Trust the process and jump in!”

Fran Zamore lives in Maryland, and signed up for our 2019 Don’t Kvetch, Organize! course as a member Jews United for Justice, in order to learn how to be a more effective activist. JOIN talked with Fran a few weeks after the course ended to share her experience in the course.

Fran with mountains in the background.

If you’re thinking about taking the course, trust the process and jump in!  Just do it. I found the course valuable. You might get something entirely different out of it than you expect, but you’ll definitely get something. It’s all around your own growth so you can then make thoughtful decisions about how you want to proceed in helping repair this very needy world.

Part of what I’ve been noticing about myself is that as we’re living in this awful time in our history the only way that I can get up in the morning is by ratcheting up my meditation practice and by being part of the solution. I have a sign on my refrigerator that says “life begins at the end of your comfort zone.” Even though I thought this course would be a little nerve wracking, I knew I had to learn about organizing theory and tactics so that I can be more useful.

I discovered a lot of things in the course. I discovered I have good instincts and I can trust my instincts. I discovered language for stuff that I knew but didn’t know how to put language to well. I discovered that I don’t necessarily have the drive to do the things I thought I was interested in doing, but that there are other ways to plug in. It was very exciting to me to hear the richness of the conversation and the incredible thinking of the participants and the teaching material. It gave me a lot of hope—gives me a lot of hope.

I feel a greater sense of confidence. I’m a much keener observer. Other benefits include deepening some of my relationships because of people I know who participated in the program, and a willingness to stick with stuff even when it gets sloggy. I have a real appreciation now of how this kind of work isn’t one and done, this is ongoing.

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“I was seeking to develop an organizer’s tool box… and I got it”

Jake Ehrlich lives in Michigan, and signed up for the our 2019 Don’t Kvetch, Organize!  course to support his work with Congregation T’chiyah and Detroit Jews for Justice. JOIN talked with Jake a few weeks after the course ended to share his experience in the course.

Jake marching with others with a "Poor People's Campaign" banner.

My hesitation in signing up for Don’t Kvetch, Organize! was around not being sure if the level was right for me. I’ve been more and more politicized and come to radical politics, and I wasn’t sure if I’m the right fit. But I’d heard lots of good things from people that I respect, and looking through the teacher descriptions it was exciting to see the diversity of folks represented.

I was hoping to come away with a sense of the nuts and bolts of organizing, including having skillful effective one-to-one conversations and moving beyond that into building relationships, how can we turn issues into a campaign, and how can we shift power. I was seeking to develop an organizer’s tool box and honing a vocabulary to talk about these things. And I got it – what stuck with me from Don’t Kvetch was developing clarity and fluency in speaking about organizing. It gave me the concepts and language to talk about what we’re doing, in a way that enables critical conversation, having the language to help us set goals and evaluate how well we’ve done.

I definitely feel I’ve become more effective in identifying people’s motivations in one-to-ones. I came in feeling strong in the relational component but not as strong in the actionable side, and the course gave me the framework to better conceptualize the strategy element of it. Another potent learning was the clear differentiation between activity and an action: i.e., that actions aspire to strategically advance a campaign, while activities may serve only to edify its participants. This distinction has been illuminating both in the work of political action as well as my work as a synagogue employee, helping me to take a long view about the broader impact of community-building instead of just “programming.”

Jake holding a challah.

As someone who has been politicized in other spaces, I felt like I had something to offer in the discussion forums. I would encourage organizers to use this space not only for their own education, but both to uplift and support the development of other organizers, and to practice how you would talk about organizing and the issues you work on.

Don’t Kvetch, Organize! invites a large swath of people to it, from Jews who are just starting to think about social justice and social action to people who have had some considerable organizing experience under their belt. It can be really rewarding to be part of a diverse online learning cohort and participating in the discussions.

You can learn more about the course here, and register below.

Register Today!



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“Do you want to agonize or do you want to make real change?”

Rabbi Amy Eilberg lives in the San Francisco Bay Area, and signed up for the our 2019 Don’t Kvetch, Organize! course to support her work at Faith in Action and with Truah. JOIN talked with Rabbi Amy a few weeks after the course ended to share her experience in the course. Here’s what she had to say. 

Headshot of Rabbi Amy.

For anyone on the fence of taking this course, I would tell them you’re going to learn so much. There’s a lot of talk out in the world about “community organizing” but it’s not always clear what it is or what it’s made of. This course will really get you inside the world of how community organizers work and think. Community organizing is a powerful paradigm about how to make change on issues that are profoundly important to all of us. Despite being online, the course is done in a compelling and often interactive way and it was a really educational, wonderful experience. I recommend it very highly.

Before taking the course I wondered how the remote webinar technology would work for content that is so relational in nature. I was concerned it might not work as well learning at the computer, but it was clear that I wanted to take the course. My course instructor Rachel Leiken made really good use of the tech to maximize possibilities for interaction on the live calls. There was a cool whiteboard tool that was almost equivalent to an in-person group of people sitting in a room. It was different but still really interactive.

I found the videos incredibly compelling and useful. I especially responded to Meir’s teaching. He’s just a great teacher. It was conceptually clear and interesting, and he breaks down the issues in a way that changed the way I think about things.

One example was his analysis of the difference between a problem and an issue. It’s a very simple thing but it was powerful for me. I’m a person who has always been deeply engaged in “the big problem,” and feel that it’s meaningful to spend a lot of time and energy agonizing about it. And so do my friends! I surround myself with people like that. Meir was like a gentle knock on the head to say, “Do you want to agonize or do you want to make real change?” Maybe instinctively huge problems are animating for me, but if you want to make a difference, look locally and narrow in to where there are partners and you’re more likely to win. That was tremendously valuable for me.

You can learn more about the course here, and register below!

Register Today!


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Organizing for Liberation with Rabbi Lauren Tuchman


Event Flyer that with event description, title, date and location as described in the text below, accompanied by a photo of Rabbi Lauren Tuchman.

As we enter the high holidays, join us to reflect with Rabbi Lauren Tuchman and Rabbi Becky Silverstein. As the first blind woman in the world to enter the rabbinate, Rabbi Lauren will lead us in imagining how vibrant our communities can be when we are more inclusive and work to “decenter the center.” Please join us for this exciting and dynamic conversation, moderated by Rabbi Becky Silverstein.

PLEASE MAKE SURE TO RSVP here: https://bit.ly/2kSvr3E

You can access the Facebook event here.

TBZ is a wheelchair accessible location. If you need ASL interpreting or CART, please contact Cole at cpapadopoulos@joinforjustice.org as soon as possible, and by 9/25 and we will do our best to provide an interpreter. If you are able to offer ASL services, please reach out to Cole as well.

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