Shana tovah: “be strong and may your heart be courageous”

[image description: ‘Shana Tovah from JOIN for Justice’ text surrounded by a circle of multi-colored Rosh Hashanah themed items such as apples and honey]

Many of us approach the Jewish new year with a flood of different emotions, jumping rapidly from Rosh Hashanah to Yom Kippur to Sukkot. We might be unlikely to associate joy with Yom Kippur. Yet, the Talmud tells us that Yom Kippur is one of the two happiest days of the Jewish year.

It could be hard to make that connection. Yom Kippur can feel austere. The different shofar blasts are associated with different forms of weeping.

As we enter the new year and take stock of ourselves, how far we can each be from who we are called to be, how often we fall short, and how removed we can feel from meaning and peace, it could be easy to feel broken hearted. Many of the Jewish leaders we train and support organize around issues that break their heart – it can be hard to believe that we still have to fight against the blasphemy of anti-Black racism or for reproductive autonomy, and heart rending to see things going in the wrong direction. And for Jews of Color, particularly Black and brown Jews, there can be a justifiable feeling of a defeatedness at a country that has never been just or equal.

Bring all that with you into Yom Kippur, and you can’t eat, either.

So, how do we find joy?

The traditional Jewish liturgy adds Psalm 27 to morning and evening services in the month before and the weeks after Rosh Hashanah. The psalm ends with “Hope to the Lord, be strong and may your heart be courageous, and hope to the Lord.” Why the repetition? In the Talmud, Rabbi Chama explains that if one prays and what they pray for doesn’t come to pass, they should pray again. We have to be strong and have courageous hearts so that we can keep at it, even when we fall short.

On the same page in the Talmud, Rabbi Elazar teaches, “since the day the Temple was destroyed, the gates of prayer are locked… yet, even though the gates of prayer were locked, the gates of tears have not been locked.”

Maybe our tears, maybe our hearts breaking at all the injustice and indignity around us, can actually make our hearts courageous so that we can stay in the struggle. The heart is a muscle and our former executive director, Karla Van Praag, taught at a JOIN Organizing Fellowship siyum that, when muscles tear, they can grow back even stronger. In a training video for our Don’t Kvetch, Organize! course, we quote the organizer Richard Harmon who contrasts optimism with hope. Harmon says that hope is primal, and only real after one does the grieving work and comes out the other side. Or, as adrienne maree brown writes, “grief is the growing up of the heart that bursts boundaries like an old skin or a finished life.”

Through SEA Change, in our Organizing Fellowship, our seminary courses, our online training, our new Jews of Color Organizing Fellowship, in all of our work, we help people name and understand the oppression around us, and support them as they grieve. But the gates of tears are not locked – once we grieve, we help leaders build the determination to act by organizing people around us into a powerful force, scheming up a strategy, and acting. We support them as they dig into the struggle. And if our hope isn’t rewarded with success, we can act again. And again.

On Yom Kippur we can grieve. But the rabbis taught that it’s a joyous day because we know that, if we sincerely desire to do better, God will give us another chance. Our tears can open the gates – and then it’s on us to build the community and the power to do our part to stand for our values and our lives.

May this be a year where we hope, we build, and we struggle, and may we continue to realize that we’ll only move forward together – in solidarity with each other and other communities around us. May this be a year that, when we get knocked down, we’ll get up, we’ll grieve – and then go back to hoping and acting. We’ll fight. Rest. Fight some more. We’ll find joyous moments to experience together, and celebrate wins, both big and small. May it be a good year, a better year, for everyone.

Shana tovah.

Jess & Meir

JOIN Co-Executive Directors

Thank you for your support this year – Can you extend it into the New Year with a gift today?


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Reflections on Don’t Kvetch, Organize!

Image Description: “Sitting Down with RB Reflections on Don’t Kvetch, Organize” written beside a headshot of RB Brown. A white person with short hair and hoop earrings smiles at the camera

Image Description: “Sitting Down with RB Reflections on Don’t Kvetch, Organize” written beside a headshot of RB Brown. A white person with short hair and hoop earrings smiles at the camera

Since 2015 JOIN for Justice has run Don’t Kvetch, Organize!, an online course that teaches participants how to make a real difference on the issues they care about by delving deeply into the fundamentals of community organizing. The eight-week course is taught by well-known and highly respected community and organizational leaders through a mix of recorded videos and live online meetings for discussion groups. The topics in the course range from Jewish and biblical history to present actions that are resulting in real change. We sat down with RB Brown, JOIN’s Director of Online Learning, to hear more about how the course has changed and what they’ve learned stewarding the course.

Q: You’ve been at JOIN for three years now. What have you learned about organizing by running this course? 

So much! Most consistently in this role I see how relationships are key. We often have people sign up for the course through word of mouth, and I love that, because what it means to me is that organizing is a part of that relationship. We need each other, we can’t do any of this alone!

That shows up during the course as well. We’ve been seeing growth in the number of people who come as part of a group, either because they recruited an organizing buddy, or because an organization is encouraging the development of their leaders. It can be really helpful to take the course with people coming from a shared context, because you can immediately start to riff with each other about how you’re going to bring it back to your people. ‘What if we committed to five 1:1’s a month?’ ‘Who do we know with connections at ___?’ Stuff like that. It means you can build a bridge together to take the ideas from the course and start to implement them. Plus, we could all use accountability sometimes!

I also work pretty closely with the organizations that are bringing together larger groups, and the organizing training really starts in that recruitment process. We encourage folks to identify a team to take responsibility for outreach, and it feels really powerful to embed skillbuilding even in that seed of making the course happen.

Q: What are your top 3 things that have excited you about this course?

One of the biggest things I’m excited about right now is that growth in groups coming in. Even back at the very beginning of the course we had groups registering together, but we’re starting to see an uptick in institutions that are sponsoring a full cohort of around 25, 30 people. Noticing that has helped us thoroughly shift the way we think about the course from being an intervention on individuals, to something that’s working on more of a group or organizational level. And some of these groups are coming back for multiple years! 

I should give a particular shout out here to Jews United for Justice (JUFJ) down in DC, and organizations collaborating to bring groups from the Conservative Movement: the Jewish Theological Seminary, Rabbinic Assembly, and the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism. For the last few years, JUFJ and the Conservative Movement have both started bringing cohorts together regularly every time we offer the course, which makes the course part of a strong pipeline of leadership development. 

I’m also excited by the ways we’ve adapted the content. Organizing fundamentals are pretty consistent over time, but when the pandemic hit we collectively faced massive changes to how we were interacting with each other and the context we were organizing within. We saw a lot of interest in mutual aid, and the impacts of the pandemic highlighted the importance for all of us to integrate disability justice frameworks into our organizing. We were able to put together a pandemic-specific version of the course very quickly that could speak to the new landscape we were in. As we’ve become more accustomed to the pandemic, I’ve pulled back slightly on that focus, but the disability justice content is here to stay and adds a rich layer to the course.

The last thing I would point to is the growth in identity-focused cohorts. Last year we secured funding to support two cohorts for people with disabilities. Even more than meeting specific access needs, it meant that there was an identity-affirming space for people with disabilities to connect with each other and learn organizing skills together. We’ll be offering another cohort for people with disabilities in the fall 2022 round of Don’t Kvetch, Organize!. (If you’re interested you can join the wait-list here). 

Similarly,  in the current round of the course we are offering for the fifth time a cohort option specifically for Jews of Color (JOCs) and non-Jewish people of color. Every year we have some participants who are experiencing a JOC space for the first time with us, and we often hear reflections about how that dedicated space was a highlight. 

I can’t help adding one more – our latest experiment is to offer more live online meetings as part of the course. I’m excited to see how that changes (and strengthens, I hope!) the experience of taking the course.

Q: What relationship does Don’t Kvetch, Organize! have to other offerings at JOIN for Justice?

Many clergy come through our programs rooted in a congregational setting, or go on to lead within a congregation, and Don’t Kvetch, Organize! can be a great avenue for them when they’re trying to bring organizing skills more broadly to their community. Once a few people in a congregation have taken Don’t Kvetch, Organize! and they’ve started to build momentum, that would be a great time to reach out to us about joining a SEA Change cohort. SEA Change is a 6-month program which Clergy and lay leader teams participate in together, in order to learn and practice organizing skills to both 1) bring greater racial equity to their congregation, and, 2) get their synagogue started on deeper racial justice work in their community in partnership with local people of color-led organizations.

Don’t Kvetch, Organize! also works similarly for the professional organizers that we’re coaching one-on-one, or in group coaching sessions through the Collaborative for Jewish Organizing (CJO). The course is a good basebuilding tool. Three of the organizations in CJO are even collaborating right now to split a cohort, and sending a mix of members and staff through the course together.

The course can also be an entry point for people who are looking to shift professionally to organizing. We’ve had several young adults take Don’t Kvetch, Organize! and then go on to apply for and join our Jewish Organizing & Empower Fellowship.

Q: What does having the Don’t Kvetch, Organize! mean for the Jews looking to live out their justice values?

This course creates an option for Jews to learn organizing skills through a Jewish lens. I spoke with someone just earlier this week who took the class after she had already received organizing training elsewhere, and she named that getting to connect her Jewish values and practice to her organizing work as a particularly valuable part of Don’t Kvetch, Organize!

Organizing is the clear focus of the course, this is not a deep dive into text study, but each week has videos of rabbis making connections between organizing and Jewish traditions and practices, and most of the case studies are examples of Jewish communities and organizations working in multi-faith, multiracial coalitions. I think it’s helpful to see that modeled. We hear from folk with a variety of connections to Judaism how that was helpful for them – whether it’s someone who is a long time member of a synagogue, or someone exploring the connection between their desire for social justice and a Jewish identity for the first time. I’m glad we can offer a resource that meets people in so many different places on the journey of discovering what Judaism means to them.

Q: What is your favorite part of the course for you as the person behind the scenes?

There are discussion boards for the course where people can post reflections on the content between meetings. Every year I see here and there a few people having a major revelation when we get to the part of the course about the difference between activities and actions. It’s a real awakening, and often it’s a moment where they’re getting a new perspective on years of their experience in the Jewish community or their other work for justice.

 I love to see that shift in framework happen for people. It epitomizes everything the course is about: giving people frameworks and tools to understand how they can effectively approach building power to make change.


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Press Release

JOIN for Justice Names Jessica Greenblatt Seeley and Meir Lakein as Co-Executive Directors

A vital shift toward shared, representative leadership for a just and equitable future



Contact: Kat Macias,, 617-350-9994 x107

March 7, 2022 — JOIN for Justice (JOIN), a national nonprofit that trains Jewish leaders to organize for justice and equity, announced today that Jessica Greenblatt Seeley and Meir Lakein have been named the organization’s new Co-Executive Directors. Jess and Meir will succeed Karla Van Praag who successfully led the organization through a period of national expansion and great growth from 2007 until 2022. The search for JOIN’s new leadership was led by DRG Search, a talent advisory group that conducts executive searches for nonprofits all over the world.

“I am thrilled that JOIN will be led by Jess and Meir,” said Karla Van Praag. “They are extraordinary leaders whose complementary skills and experience will add depth, richness, and vitality to our work at an important moment in history. Jess and Meir are both so knowledgeable, committed, and visionary. They make a powerful team.”

“Establishing a co-leadership model embodies JOIN for Justice’s commitment to relationships and representation as core ingredients for building a just and equitable world,” JOIN’s Board President Phil Rosenblatt stated. “I am so excited about what Jess and Meir will be able to do together to help JOIN grow and thrive.”

Jess brings nearly two decades of experience as a visionary leader for environmental and climate justice and she is a champion for building sustainable and equitable food systems. Most recently, she served as the Program Director for the Core Fellowship of the Environmental Leadership Program (ELP) — a nationally-renowned organization that has trained more than 2,000 of the United States’ emerging leaders in environmental and social change. A Korean American Jew, Jess is energized by building relationships, the power of community, and deepening her commitments to racial justice. ​​

Jess shared, “I am honored to be stepping into this new role as co-executive director of JOIN for Justice, alongside Meir. I believe deeply in equitable leadership structures, and I love that the model of shared leadership aligns with JOIN’s approach to effecting transformative change. JOIN’s mission and core values deeply resonate for me — as an activist, a parent, and as a Jew of Color. I’m looking forward to training Jewish leaders across the U.S. who have enormous potential to mobilize their own communities for justice and equity. At a time in the world marked by so much brokenness — racism, climate change, health inequities, and much more — the work of JOIN has never felt more important, and I am excited to be a part of it.”

Meir has been the Director of Organizing at JOIN for Justice since 2010 and has worked as a professional community organizer for over 30 years. The architect of JOIN for Justice’s Fellowship for Clergy, Meir has trained over one thousand rabbis to be organizers for change, and has provided hundreds of consultations to synagogues and Jewish organizations nationwide. Regarded as a mentor for a generation of young organizers and rabbis, he has shaped a new model of Jewish leadership that is rooted in relationships, humility, and collective equity. An Orthodox Jew, Meir has been influenced by synagogues, Jewish day schools, and other Jewish institutions and believes in the role that they can play in the march towards liberation. Prior to his work at JOIN, Meir organized numerous and diverse cultural, socio-economic, and faith-based communities around issues such as housing justice, job training, education, drug treatment, and health care.

“I feel honored to partner with Jess to deepen JOIN’s impact as a leader in the field of Jewish social justice,” said Meir. “As Jews and Jewish communities, we have so much work that we’re called to do in order to heal a world that can be so broken and oppressive. We are called to lift up the leadership of those who have so often been marginalized, and to strive to be the communities we dream of being. JOIN’s adeptness in the art of organizing, its belief in people’s ability to be the change agents we need, and its deep grounding in Jewish wisdom establish JOIN as the organization equipped to help our Jewish communities. I continue to be on a learning journey with JOIN, and I know that my partnership with Jess will strengthen our work as a whole.”

Rabbi Jonah Pesner, a former board president of JOIN and the Director of the Religious Action Center (RAC) of Reform Judaism shared, “JOIN is a powerful catalyst for new expressions of Jewish leadership rooted in justice — within and beyond Jewish life.” He continued, “Addressing inequities and injustices in today’s world requires the right mix of leading with one’s head, heart, and hands. Meir and Jess embrace that kind of authentic leadership, and I am excited about the work they will champion together on the national stage and to continue to collaborate in any possible way.”

Jess and Meir will begin their work as co-executive directors of JOIN for Justice on March 15, 2022. Meir is based in Massachusetts and Jess is based in Pennsylvania.

About JOIN for Justice

JOIN for Justice: The Jewish Organizing Institute and Network (JOIN) is a national organization whose mission is to shape the field of Jewish leaders organizing for justice, both inside and outside of Jewish life in the United States. Founded in 1998 in Boston, the organization now has a national presence and focuses on three key constituencies: Jewish communal leaders including clergy and seminarians; Jewish leaders organizing for social justice; and grassroots Jewish groups such as synagogues and Jewish justice groups. Through its year-long Jewish Organizing Fellowship for young adults, a fellowship for Jewish clergy, and an array of online courses for Jews of Color, Jews with disabilities, and other communities, JOIN for Justice is training thousands of people to take action on a wide range of social justice issues. In doing so, JOIN is cracking open new possibilities for how Jewish leadership manifests today.

Learn more:

About Jess Greenblatt Seeley

 headshot of Jess Greenblatt Seeley, a Korean woman wearing a yellow blouse and gold earrings smilingJess Greenblatt Seeley (she/her/hers) is a seasoned activist, organizer, and trainer with nearly two decades of experience leading national nonprofit organizations. Most recently, she served as the Director of Core Fellowship Programs for the Environmental Leadership Program (ELP) — a nationally-renowned organization that has trained more than 2,000 of the United States’ emerging leaders in environmental and social change. ​Previously, Jess worked extensively in the food justice and local food system movement. She served as the Executive Director of the FoodRoutes Network, Director at Pennsylvania Certified Organic, and worked on her late husband’s sustainable grass-based dairy farm business in North Central Pennsylvania. Her contributions as a woman in agriculture were featured in Temra Costa’s 2010 book, Farmer Jane: Women Changing the Way We Eat. 

Jess’s personal leadership style is firmly grounded in empathy, relationship-building, and a commitment to an equitable future for generations to come. She is a skilled network weaver and facilitator both  online and on land, and is excited to return to a world where we can safely convene and hug. Jess is a Korean American Jew, first-generation college graduate, widow, parent, and partner. She is energized by building relationships, the power of community, and deepening her commitments to racial justice. Jess firmly believes that Black people, Indigenous people, and people of color must have clear pathways to leadership to equitably address the world’s social, political, and environmental issues. Jess lives in Pennsylvania with her husband, Kevin, their three children, and a large furry dog.

About Meir Lakein

Image Description: headshot of Meir Lakein, a white man wearing striped shirt and glasses smilingMeir Lakein (he/his/him) is a visionary community organizer with more than 30 years of experience mobilizing communities at the intersections of social justice and Jewish life. From 2011 to 2022, Meir was the Director of Organizing at JOIN for Justice and, during that time, he created JOIN for Justice’s Fellowship for Clergy. He has trained over one thousand rabbis to be organizers for change, and has provided hundreds of consultations to synagogues and Jewish organizations nationwide. Regarded as a mentor for a generation of young organizers and rabbis, Meir has shaped a new model of Jewish leadership that is rooted in relationships, humility, and collective equity. Prior to coming to JOIN, Meir served as the lead organizer for the Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Boston, organizing thousands of adults and teens in 14 synagogues to identify their common values and interests, develop a common story and mission, and take action to live their values and defend their interests — both in the community around public issues and within their own institutions. He also worked as the lead organizer of the Brockton Interfaith Community, a coalition of 25 churches and synagogues that won major victories in areas such as home ownership, prescription drugs, nursing home care and employment, and certification for immigrant nurses. Meir has experience building powerful organizations with homeless people in Connecticut and with Mizrachi, Russian, and Arab public housing tenants in Israel. His work and writing have been featured in myriad publications.

A white Orthodox Jew, Meir has been influenced by synagogues, Jewish day schools, and other Jewish institutions and believes in the role that they can play in the march towards liberation. He lives in Massachusetts with his wife and two sons.

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Reflections from Access to Power

Image Description: “Reflections from Access to Power” written on top a circle filled with stripes of yellow, orange, and red. Photos of seven Access to Power Fellows line the bottom of the image.

We just graduated the first-ever cohort of the Access to Power Fellowship! A virtual 7-month leadership development program for Jewish organizers with disabilities in their 20/30s offered in partnership with Sins Invalid, National Council on Independent Living, and Detroit Disability Power, with consultation from Leili Davari, the program ran January – July 2021. The Fellowship included trainings, small group coaching sessions, and individual coaching with experienced disabled organizers. We sat down with Allegra Heath-Stout, the Director of this Fellowship, to hear more about what Access to Power meant for JOIN for Justice and our broader communities. 

Q: Tell us who was in the Access to Power Fellowship and how it was unique?

There is a real difference between making accommodations within an existing program and designing a program from the beginning for multiply-marginalized people. Access to Power was the first program we’ve designed from scratch for Jews with disabilities, with an eye towards the intersecting marginalizations of  race, gender, and class. 

By designing the program structure with access at the center and providing a stipend and other support, we’ve been able to support the leadership of fellows who have often been excluded from leadership development opportunities.

We had a cohort of 20 Fellows engaged in volunteer or professional organizing across the US and Canada. The cohort is very diverse, with a wide range of disabilities and significant representation of Jews of Color, trans and nonbinary Jews, and Jews from poor and working class backgrounds.

Q: What does having the Access to Power Fellowship mean for the Jewish community?

In the Jewish world and more broadly, there are many programs serving people with disabilities but far fewer developing their leadership and really seeing them as leaders. One impact of this Fellowship is shifting how we think about the role of people with disabilities in Jewish community: not just as recipients of service, or people to help or to include, but more as leaders who have unique contributions to make.

Developing the leadership and organizing skills of disabled people benefits all of our communities. Ableism harms all of us by pushing us to value productivity over wellbeing and to try to fit ourselves into limited normative boxes rather than embracing all that we are and all the ways we can support one another. Disabled people have a unique understanding of this oppressive system, and a unique perspective on how to dismantle it and build more just, interdependent communities. 

Q: What does having the Access to Power Fellowship mean for the disability community?

The disability community has a variety of leadership development opportunities, but not many accessible ways for leaders to be trained specifically in community organizing. The Access to Power Fellowship is one step towards filling that gap, not only by training the 20 Fellows directly, but also through the organizing they’ll go on to do within and beyond the disability community.

Q: What were some of your takeaways from making the program accessible to a group with such a range of disabilities and access needs? 

It is crucial to budget for access, and a lot of access needs can be met with thoughtfulness, creativity, and time. I was reminded that some forms of access are not expensive or super complicated, like offering an opportunity to complete an application over the phone rather than in writing, sharing agendas in advance, or changing the font of a document. Some can be complicated when they’re new, but just take some dedication and practice to figure out, like integrating chat and spoken conversations in a group with varied processing styles.

This experience also makes me think about the ways access is both something organizers have to plan for and something that depends on how the group interacts with one another – a way of relating to one another. Accessibility is an organizing skillset. Dustin Gibson, from People’s Hub, addressed this with the Fellows in a powerful session called, “Building Access-Centered Cultures in Organizations and Movements.”

In the Fellowship, we worked together to create a space where people felt comfortable showing up at varying levels of capacity and ability to participate. When Fellows were sick or tired and could only show up with video off and make a few comments in the chat, they knew that they and their participation were valued. Applying this ethos to our broader organizing spaces and beyond is part of building the world we want to live in, where every person is valued for who they are.

Q: What impact do you think this program has had on the Fellows? 

For many of our Fellows this was their first extended experience in a disability community. In this unique community, many Fellows developed more self-acceptance around their identities as people with disabilities and as Jews, and as disabled Jewish people of color, disabled Jewish nonbinary people, and more. By the end, many felt more empowered to show up as their full selves in their organizing groups, their Jewish communities, and beyond. Many also left the Fellowship with greater self-understanding and clarity about the role they want to play in justice movements. 

One thing that really stood out to me was how the Fellows came to deeply value this cross-disability community. Many left the Fellowship feeling motivated to find and create justice-driven cross-disability communities after the Fellowship.

Q: What else do you need people to know about Access to Power?

I want people to know how crucial our partners (Sins Invalid, the National Council on Independent Living, Detroit Disability Power, and consultant Leli Davari) have been in planning and implementing the program. We could not have done this alone. People should check out their incredible work. 

These partners came on board early in the planning process, and played key roles in shaping the curriculum, developing the criteria for Fellows and recruiting and selecting them, leading trainings, navigating access challenges, and adapting the program based on feedback throughout. This incredible team ensured that the Fellowship was grounded in disability justice and on-the-ground disability organizing, and helped connect the Fellows to the broader disability community. 

These relationships are already impacting JOIN for Justice more broadly. For example, Dessa Cosma, Director of Detroit Disability Power, spoke on a panel about multi-racial disability organizing as part of Don’t Kvetch, Organize!, our online course. Ivy Hest, one of the Access to Power Fellows (and a Jewish Organizing Fellowship alum), moderated the vibrant discussion. 

Q: What are the top 3 things you learned from leading the Access to Power Fellowship?

1)  We have a great need and an exciting opportunity to make our organizing cultures more sustainable. So many people (with and without disabilities) are shut out of movement work because they have caretaking responsibilities, need more rest than their peers, can’t keep up with the pace of meetings, or countless other reasons. Having more sustainable organizing cultures that move at the pace of the people who want to participate and welcome people to contribute with the capacity they have would help us build power and benefit from a wider range of leaders who have so much to offer our movements. 

2) It is imperative that we value the many ways people participate. Disabled people are at the forefront of creating ways to organize that more fully honor all of our humanity and the fact that we all have both bodies and minds. Through the Fellowship we’ve had powerful conversations about (and practice in!) building organizing cultures where organizers can be frank about their needs and what they can offer. These cultures are rooted in interdependence and value a wide range of contributions. 

3) Cultural work plays an important role in organizing. One of our partner organizations, Sins Invalid, focuses on creating art, writing, and education about disability justice, rather than running organizing campaigns. In organizing we take stock of  the world as it is currently and move toward the world as it could be through campaigns. Given the intense marginalization of people with disabilities, it is often a challenge to survive, let alone cultivate a vision of a truly liberated world. This is where cultural work comes in. Art and cultural work is how we get the space and support to both get through the day-to-day slog of oppression and dream of the world we are fighting for as organizers, the world as it should be. The work of Sins Invalid has been foundational in building a framework of disability justice and visions of that liberated world.

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Deepening Our Accessibility Practices

Image Description: “Deepening Our Accessibility Practices” written on a white paper with a small with a white box below, the text inside reads “Thursday, Nov 11 2-3:30pm ET”. These are set against a yellow background with outlines of a magnifying glass, pencils, and paper clips. At the bottom is a red banner with the JOIN for Justice logo in the bottom right corner and the url across the bottom.

The global pandemic initiated a wave of effort to make it possible for many people to work, participate at school, and connect with spiritual communities remotely. Suddenly, access measures that people with disabilities had been denied for years became a matter of course. At the same time, many of our most creative and adaptive responses to the pandemic were time-tested practices within disability culture, including care pods, mutual aid networks, and inclusive practices for gathering remotely. 

Our speakers will share stories about how they have seen access play out in Jewish and organizing communities, how the burden of the pandemic is falling on vulnerable populations, and opportunities to connect across movements by incorporating a disability justice framework in our organizing

On this call, through a presentation followed by a moderated conversation between our powerful speakers, we’ll learn how ableism impacts all of us, why it matters to bring access-centered culture to all of our organizing and communities, and how we can put access at the center in the next phase of the pandemic. Join us for this session that adds nuance to how we conceive of access and invites us to connect accessibility to our broader work in justice movements.

Thursday, November 11, 2-3:30pm ET


Captioning and ASL interpretation will be provided for this session. Please note in your registration if you will need ASL, as well as any additional access needs. We will reach out if we have questions.


a cartoon style photo of DustinDustin Gibson‘s work addresses the nexus between race, class, and disability. He’s worked on-the-ground with Centers for Independent Living (CIL) in Southwest PA with a focus on deinstitutionalization and youth self-determination. His work in the national CIL network supported youth peer support networks and policing/incarceration + disability.

He’s the Access, Disability and Language Justice Coordinator at PeoplesHub, a Peer Support Trainer with Disability Link in Georgia, a board member with Straight Ahead and HEARD, and a founding member of the Harriet Tubman Collective, Us Protecting Us in Atlanta, GA, and the Policing in Allegheny County Committee.

photo of Elliot Kukla

Elliot Kukla (he/they) is a rabbi, chaplain, author, artist, disability activist, and a trans/non-binary educator. His writing appears in many places including The Forward, The Body is Not an Apology, and regularly in The New York Times and Sunday Review. He was the first transgender rabbi ordained by a mainstream movement, the Reform Movement’s Hebrew Union College Los Angeles campus in 2006. His policies and prayers for trans and non-binary people are used across the Jewish world and his work is frequently featured in the media including on Democracy Now, NPR, and National Geographic. For the past 15 years he has offered spiritual care to those who are dying or bereaved; his current work is focused on disabled and queer wisdom for adapting to this era of planetary transition. He lives in Oakland with his partner, their kid, two Boston Terriers and a cat named Turkey.

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