Organizing for Liberation with Rabbi Lauren Tuchman Video Clip

On October 3, 2019, JOIN for Justice hosted an event, “Organizing for Liberation with Rabbi Lauren Tuchman.” Below is a clip from the conversation.


Text from three opening slides (until 40 seconds in):

On October 3, 2019, JOIN for Justice hosted “Organizing for Liberation with Rabbi Lauren Tuchman.”

As the first blind woman in the world the enter the rabbinate, Rabbi Lauren led us in imagining how vibrant our communities can be when we are more inclusive and work to “decenter the center.”

The conversation was moderated by Rabbi Becky Silverstein. Rabbi Becky is a local Boston rabbi and found of “Beyn Kodesh L’chol,” a community which explores the Jewish tradition in an explicitly LGBTQ embracing, anti-racist Jewish space that seeks to center the voices of those on the margins.


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An Inside Perspective on the Empower Fellowship

The Empower Fellowship is a track within the Jewish Organizing Fellowship for Jews who self-identify as people with disabilities, disabled, or differently-abled. Empower Fellows are part of the Jewish Organizing Fellowship, engaging in all of the training, community, and mentorship that come with being a Jewish Organizing Fellow. They also participate in additional trainings to support their leadership as Jewish organizers with disabilities.

Below is testimony from one of our current 2019-20 Empower Fellows about their experience applying and being in the inaugural Empower cohort. (They have chosen to remain anonymous.)

Fellows in a semi-circle, seated, facing presenter and flip chart.

All Fellows in a training session during their opening retreat.

How did you decide to apply to the Empower Fellowship?

When I was trying to decide if I wanted to apply for Empower, if I was “disabled enough” for Empower, if I “deserved” to be part of Empower, my partner told me something really helpful that I have told several other people since then. Everyone needs support –  to do their work, to learn new things, to continue to do hard things. That’s the point of doing JOIN in general – to get support learning how to be an effective organizer. And if you would benefit from the support that Empower provides, why not try to get it? You deserve to have the support you need (and the support that would help you even if you don’t *need* it).

How has Empower supported you this year?

Through Empower, I’ve learned a lot about myself, my disability, and how my disability and my organizing overlap. Empower has prompted me to think and explore how the way I organize is impacted by my disability and the ways that it improves my work rather than only paying attention to the ways it makes doing organizing the “normal way” difficult. I’ve been pushed by my cohort, trainers, my supervisor, and the people I work with to consider more carefully what nourishes me rather than just what doesn’t burn me out. It’s made me a more holistic, more connected, and more effective leader.

What have you gotten out of the Empower Fellowship?

A large part of what I have gotten from Empower has been being in community with other disabled organizers through the Empower cohort, and through the trainers that teach us during Empower sessions. They are (mostly) all activists or organizers with disabilities, and part of our sessions is almost always just talking about how disability has shaped their advocacy, and what kinds of things have helped them. The opportunity to learn from people who have been organizing while disabled is in and of itself really rich. Specifically, meeting other organizers with the same kinds of disabilities I have has been really nourishing too – people like me can and do this every day.

What would you say to something considering applying?

 I’ve heard several people express concern that they’re not “disabled enough”, or that because their disabilities/conditions aren’t the ones that a lot of the disability rights/justice movement historically centered, or are not as directly affected as another person they know, they shouldn’t apply and “take someone else’s spot.” My response to those people has been trust that the people who are reading the applications also have keen sense of disability justice, and that there is no harm in saying you would benefit from being within the Empower fellowship. It’s better to be considered than to take yourself out of the running because you don’t think you deserve it.

The presence of the Empower cohort has made a perceptible difference in how the whole Fellowship addresses disability. We are all learning more about ableism and its role in our own lives as well as oppressive structures. I’m looking forward to seeing the ways that this starts to ripple out into the other spaces we all organize.

Learn more about the Empower Fellowship here!


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Apply to Be a Placement Agency

Apply now to be a Placement organization!

The JOIN Fellowship is seeking dynamic social change organizations to partner with us by hosting talented JOIN Fellows in organizing roles for the next academic year.

Partner organizations benefit from hiring capable young professionals recruited and trained by JOIN throughout the year. The deadline for the regular application round is March 27, 2020. Those organizations that have been accepted as a JOIN placement in recent years may not have to complete the entire application – please be in touch with Jihelah Greenwald at if this is the case for your organization.

We have two applications: one for organizations interested in going through our matching process to hire a Fellow, and one for organizations who have an existing staff member they hope will become a Fellow. In each application, you will find the materials to apply for subsidies as well. 

This year, in partnership with Combined Jewish Philanthropies, we are excited to announce the second year of the Empower Fellowship. This opportunity is a track within the Fellowship for Jews who identify as people with disabilities, disabled, or differently-abled, and their employers. Placement organizations that hire Empower Fellows will receive added benefits including funding and additional training and consulting related to accessibility, inclusion, and disability justice. To learn more about the Empower Fellowship, click here. When applying for a Fellow, your application will automatically make your organization eligible to hire an Empower Fellow.

The fellowship Placement application gives background information about applying to become a partner organization with the Fellowship program of JOIN for Justice.  If you have any questions about the application or about the JOIN Fellowship, please contact Jihelah Greenwald at

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Reflections on Selah

A photo of succlents with text that says "Reflections from Selah, by Jihelah Greenwald"

I spent the first full week of the year with 23 other Jewish people of color at a retreat in the deserts of Southern California. It was the biggest gathering of JOCs (Jews of Color) that I had ever been a part of. It was the coming together of Selah’s Cohort 16, a group of people from across the country that Bend the Arc have identified as Jewish Leaders of Color. The backdrop of our learning was the clay-red desert canyon where nestled into the valley our buildings were lined with succulents and pink peppercorn trees instead of the more familiar shrubbery and mums of Boston. For me the space was rejuvenating, it was healing, and it was challenging.

We gathered from sun-rise to sunset for five days of learning together to grow our individual capacities as leaders. Between the sessions where we honed our leadership skills, there were many rosy moments of feeling “seen” and “belonging” like the first night at the dinner table trading stories with three other mixed-heritage FIlipinx womyn. In this space, I felt closer to being seen in my wholeness. 

But it wasn’t all rosy. On the third day, our group broke apart.

Tensions emerged in the dusk of the second day after a session on white supremacy culture. Again we sat in a circle discussing, but this time our good intentions fell short. My stomach flipped and my jaw clenched as racist microaggressions piled up. Our own internalized anti-blackness had followed us to the retreat. I opted out of the social time in the evening. Instead, walking to my room in a daze as the discussion and my own memories stewed with each other leaving me frustrated that (as my peer said) “there is no road map.” Before falling to sleep that night, I couldn’t stop thinking about the fact that even in a space created to specifically celebrate and uplift leaders of color in the Jewish community, there was still pervasive and prickly patterns of anti-blackness that reflect the anti-black racism that lay at the foundations of our society. **

The next morning, the crisp desert air and bright sunlight woke me. More hopeful after a night’s rest, I was ready to rise to the challenge of creating the group we wanted to live in. That day — through moments of listening, breathing together, taking breaks from the full group, and sticking with each other through our frustrations — we grew. We created new, resilient connections that were stronger than being “non-white Jews”. We built connections from our individual and collective commitment to see each other fully and healing from the anti-black racism that affects all of us.

By the end of the five days, I was tired from our learning and journeying together. On my flight back to Boston, I let my Shabbat practice begin early. I unplugged and allowed myself to rest. I entered the liminal space, the transition between my learning and coming back into my everyday life — where I could cherish the love and gifts Cohort 16 had given me and consider how to keep that spirit and energy with me moving forward. 

Thank you to every single person who joined us physically and spiritually last week. Thank you to everyone at Bend the Arc who made this experience possible, especially our leaders Leili Devari and Graie Hagans. And thank you to my team at JOIN who supported me in showing up at Selah and welcomed me back home.

*Selah a word from the Torah when Moses strikes a rock and water gushes forth. Some of the interpretations we discussed in our group includes a break, a rock, a break in a song, and a pause.

**One of Cohort 16 group agreements at this retreat was to take away learnings and uphold confidentiality. I want to share out my learnings, but the details will be scant to respect my commitment to our group. If you finish reading and want to know more details, my recommendation is to pay attention in multiracial group spaces you are a part of. Then make space for people with marginalized ideas to share their experiences. 


Jihelah Greenwald is the Program and Network Manager at JOIN for Justice.

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A Year in Review: 2019

This is from an email that was sent to the JOIN network on December 31.

JOIN for Justice is building a powerful field of Jewish leaders capable of effectively organizing for justice, both inside and outside Jewish communities in the US. We organize because, in the words of Emma Lazarus, “Until we are all free, we are none of us free” – our destinies are bound up as one. 

What does this look like?

JOIN Fellow with Megaphone at the front of a Never Again Action march.

It looks like our Jewish Organizing Fellowship alums showing up for immigration justice across the country through Never Again Action and other local solidarity direct actions

(Photo courtesy of the Boston Globe)



Photo of Eric Ward presenting with powerpoint. It’s creating spaces for our Clergy network to come together to discuss anti-semitism, white nationalism, and white supremacy; how to work across lines of difference within and outside the Jewish community; and how to organize politically diverse congregations. 



Thumbnail of video of Karla Van Praag and Allegra Heath Stout facing each other. It’s creating opportunities like the Empower Fellowship and the Jews of Color cohort of our online course to provide leadership opportunities and spaces for Jews with marginalized identities to deepen their powerful organizing skills.


Rabbi at podium with sign that says "Jersey City"It’s JOIN-trained clergy being a moral and powerful voice on preventing gun violence in New Jersey. 




As we close the fiscal year, we invite you once again to cast your lot with our widening network of Jewish social justice leaders. Please consider an end-of-year gift to JOIN for Justice today.

Give your end-of-year gift today!

Karla Van Praag

Karla Van Praag headshot
Executive Director, JOIN for Justice


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