Now Hiring: Jews of Color Organizing Fellowship Director and Trainer

Position Opening: Jews of Color Organizing Fellowship Director and Trainer
Classification: Full-Time, Exempt
Location: Work from Home with occasional travel
Posted: September 2021

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. We train and mentor rabbis, community leaders and community organizers through a variety of intensive organizing training programs, in person and online. 

Jews of Color Organizing Fellowship Program (JOCOF):
We are preparing to launch a national cohort-based leadership development program for Jews of Color – one that provides training, mentorship and community support to help participants grow as powerful community organizers and social movement leaders. The pilot program will train 18 Jewish Leaders of Color across four cities, which may include Chicago, the Bay Area, Atlanta, Baltimore, and NYC. The Director will be a guide and mentor to the program participants and support a quickly growing field of BIPOC Jewish organizers who are stepping into their power, taking on tough campaigns, and challenging and transforming both our justice movements and our Jewish communities. 

Position Overview: 
The program director will play a central role in guiding and shaping this new program including: completing the curriculum design; establishing selection criteria and selecting program participants; guiding program participant matches with organizing placements; leading the training and building 1:1 relationships with the program participants; recruiting and managing a team of supporting trainers and coaches; and, building and sustaining relationships with partner organizations and a team of program advisors. 

The ideal candidate has a solid background in community organizing for social change – meaningful professional and/or volunteer experience directly organizing in the field, doing work such as running campaigns, helping build coalitions, developing leaders – and is looking for a leadership position responsible for designing and launching programs and supporting other people’s development.  This person will be part of a team of Program Directors at JOIN who each run a program, share resources and knowledge, and occasionally collaborate on special projects. This person will report directly to the Director of Programs and work closely with a JOCOF Advisory Committee, and will have access to professional development funds to support their leadership. 

Responsibilities:

  • Represent JOIN and establish JOIN’s presence in four cities, including meaningful relationships with local social justice leaders, Jewish community organizations, funders, and potential partner organizations.
  • Tapping into JOIN’s extensive library of training modules, curriculum plans, and networks, develop and manage the program’s curriculum: design learning goals, develop a series of trainings to move people towards those goals, and recruit outside trainers & educators as part of the training team. Training settings include virtual trainings, in-person meet-ups, and retreats.
  • Utilize advanced facilitation skills & understanding of group dynamics for running retreats, and facilitating training events.
  • Be a strong 1:1 mentor, able to support participants across lines of difference (including race, gender, ability status, and class) but also able to challenge and push them to grow.
  • In coordination with our recruitment and communications staffer, oversee outreach and recruitment for fellows as well as recruiting organizations to employ one of our fellows in each of four locales. Work to match fellows with placement organizations. Provide support over the course of the fellowship to both fellow & employer.  
  • Work with an external evaluator. Undertake periodic internal evaluations to improve the program over time. Analyze results and make recommendations for future changes. 
  • Effectively manage the program budget. 
  • Recruit and engage the JOCOF Advisory Committee to guide the program’s strategic choices and provide ongoing accountability to the larger JOC community and other important stakeholders groups.
  • In coordination with development staff and Executive Director, report out to key stakeholders and strategize about approaches to gain resources for the organization’s work. 
  • Help design and implement trainings for other audiences and paid clients, as part of JOIN’s trainer team.

Qualifications and Desired Experience:

  • Experience launching new programs, ideally national in scope.
  • Strong experience in anti-oppression training and facilitating diverse groups with a range of experiences in a participatory manner. 
  • Deep familiarity and nuanced understanding of the experience and needs of Jews of Color and the impact of racism, and more specifically anti-Black racism, on Jews of color.
  • Significant personal experience (professional and/or volunteer) with community organizing — bringing people together to act collectively toward a common vision.
  • Experience as a trainer.
  • Experience with program design, project management, and evaluation.
  • Ability to develop the leadership of organizers and guide them in the design and implementation of an organizing strategy.
  • Ability to work in a team environment, to delegate, and to support colleagues at all levels of the organization.
  • Versed in Microsoft Office (or Google Docs), GMail, and Zoom. 
  • Some familiarity with Jewish community/culture/religion.
  • Budget management experience preferred.
  • Experience developing partnerships with other justice organizations.

Travel Requirements: 
The program includes three retreats a year, approximately 4 days each.  The director will also travel for local site visits to the four program cities (expected once or twice a year per city) and one JOIN staff retreat a year. The program director has some flexibility in scheduling these travel events.  

Compensation and Benefits

  • Salary Range: $60,000 to $79,000 depending upon experience.
  • Benefits: 80% employer paid health and dental insurance, 5% 401k match after one year. Other benefits include life insurance, disability insurance, health & dependent care FSA accounts. 
  • Vacation time: 12 days in first year, 15 days in second year. 
  • Holidays: Generous holiday schedule, plus Jewish holidays. 
  • WFH Office: A company computer will be provided, plus $50 a month to cover home office expenses. Employee must be residing in the United States.   
  • Union membership: This position is represented by the JOIN Workers Union, a member of NPEU/Local 70, IFPTE.

More about JOIN for Justice
Our current programs include our 18-month Clergy Fellowship, wherein we are training and supporting teams of rabbis in Miami and St. Louis to engage their congregations to build power and get involved in local multi-faith, multi-racial organizing. We also run a new seven-month long national organizing training program for disabled Jewish organizers in their 20s and 30s called Access to Power. Participants get intensive training and individualized coaching as they learn about disability organizing history, the nuts and bolts of running campaigns and how to organize to fight ableism, racism and other forms of oppression.  JOIN for Justice also sponsors the Jewish Organizing Fellowship, a year-long organizing fellowship for young Jewish adults in Boston, as well as training in Jewish seminaries across the country and online courses and trainings.

At JOIN for Justice, we believe social justice requires the voices of those most directly impacted by injustice. JOIN is dedicated to building a culturally diverse and pluralistic staff team — via internal training, structured reflection exercises and an ongoing investment in the leadership development of staff. JOIN strongly encourages people of color, indigenous people, disabled people, LGBTQ+ people, and immigrants to apply. You do not need to be Jewish. 

To apply: Please send a cover letter and resume, as two separate documents in a single email, to JOCOFDirector@joinforjustice.org. 

JOIN for Justice is an equal opportunity employer. We carefully consider applicants for all positions without regard to race, color, religion, creed, gender identity, sexual orientation, national origin, age, disability, marital or veteran status, or any other legally protected status.

Posted in Diversity Equity and Inclusion, Fellowship, General | Comments Off on Now Hiring: Jews of Color Organizing Fellowship Director and Trainer

The Search for JOIN’s Next Executive Director

In an effort to increase transparency, the Strategic Transition Committee (STC), which is overseeing this process, is sharing information regarding the search and transition here. This webpage will be updated as new information is available.


December 2021 Update

We are excited to share an update on the ED search. At this point in the selection process the application is closed. The Strategic Transition Committee, comprising an array of JOIN stakeholders and leaders, has met with several incredible candidates for first round interviews. We are currently in second round interviews, which include JOIN staff, and expect to hold third round interviews in the near future. Our hope is to finalize the selection process early in the new year.

We look forward to finding the right fit to bring JOIN into our next phase of life as an organization.

Laura Loeb & Molly Schulman

Strategic Transition Committee Co-Chairs


Thanks to contributions from JOIN’s board, staff, STC members, and our DRG consultants, JOIN’s board approved an ED job description which has already begun to be widely distributed. We encourage our community to circulate the job description to your networks and consider applying yourself. If you have any questions or particular candidates you’d like to highlight, please reach out to Sarah Raful Whinston at swhinston@drgsearch.com and Yasmine Coccoli at ycoccoli@drgsearch.com.

Job Posting

Executive Director

Boston, MA/Willing to consider remote

About JOIN for Justice

JOIN for Justice, Inc., the Jewish Organizing Institute and Network (JOIN for Justice or JOIN), is a national organization with staff located across the country dedicated to training, supporting, and connecting Jewish organizers, clergy, and lay leaders with their communities. A catalyst for change and a trusted leader in community organizing, JOIN is building a powerful field of Jewish leaders effectively organizing for justice, both inside and outside Jewish communities in the United States. JOIN responds to the escalating demand for skillful leaders who use organizing principles and practices to achieve positive social change. JOIN provides a powerful grounding, reinforcing social justice commitments within Jewish value systems while supporting participants to foster a more meaningful sense of Jewish identity.

We believe that Jewish leaders and Jewish communities are called to play an instrumental role in fighting for social justice, and that we have distinct ways that we can contribute if we organize and work in partnership with other communities. Since our launch in 1998 as a local organizing fellowship in Boston, JOIN has grown into an influential national organization not only training thousands of young adult Jews, but also Jewish leaders in communities across the country organizing for justice. Led by an incredibly talented staff who are well-known and well-respected in the social justice community, JOIN’s goal is to make a difference, not a statement.

In 2019 we launched a growth plan to train 10,000 organizers and to guide our long-term strategy including: 1) Developing a pipeline of Jews of Color and organizers with disabilities, able to lead in Jewish and non-Jewish settings, 2) Developing the power of organized Jewish communities to fight for racial, economic and disability justice in coalition with other groups and, 3) Supporting the Jewish Social Justice/Justice sectors to make a powerful impact through strategic campaigns.

JOIN’s Programs

The Jewish Organizing Fellowship is a year-long leadership program that trains young adults within and beyond the Jewish community. In recent years, JOIN has expanded its original Fellowship program to include The Empower Fellowship that trains Jewish leaders with disabilities in community organizing. In 2022, JOIN is launching the groundbreaking Jews of Color Organizing Fellowship that will train Jews of Color across the country in community organizing.

JOIN’s Clergy Action as Lived Leadership program invests in promising rabbinical students, rabbis, and cantors by training them to use community organizing tools such as relationship building, leadership development, and collective action with their congregations and organizations.

JOIN’s Online Institute provides a virtual space where Jews across the country can learn how to move from feeling overwhelmed and powerless to understanding how to strategically join with others to act effectively on their values—and do something that will really make a difference.

JOIN offers a range of Consulting and Training Services to strengthen the organizing practice of individuals, organizations, and coalitions in the Jewish community to accomplish systemic change for social justice in the United States.

More information about JOIN can be found on the web at: https://www.joinforjustice.org/.

Position

JOIN for Justice is at an exciting juncture in JOIN’s and our country’s history. As we continue to implement our strategic plan and expand the reach of our programs, JOIN seeks a dynamic Executive Director to guide the organization by holding our strategic vision, building relationships with key stakeholders, fostering a vibrant, thriving staff culture, and strengthening the organization’s infrastructure.

Reporting to the Board of Directors, the Executive Director will have oversight of a $1.5M budget and 11 staff responsible for programs, development, operations, and administration. This is a unique opportunity to be a part of a fast-growing organization that has trained over 7000 leaders and 100 partners in community organizing for social justice.

Priorities

  • Partner with the Board and Staff to ensure implementation of the existing strategic plan and develop a clear, compelling vision for the future of JOIN.
  • Continue to champion JOIN’s commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion, particularly with respect to racial justice and disability justice.
  • Develop a communications strategy that will position JOIN for national impact, recognition, and reach.
  • Expand the communities that partner with and learn from JOIN including building and maintaining donor relationships in order to fund the organization’s programs and growth.
  • Ensure the development of curricula that is effective and takes into account the best of organizing traditions and emerging models and includes the wide array of communities JOIN trains.
  • Strengthen and grow organizational and administrative infrastructure and ensure clarity and consistency in staffing structure, policies, and processes.

Detailed Responsibilities

Strategic Vision & Leadership

  • Ensure that JOIN’s vision and values are expressed in every aspect of the organization, including its culture, personnel, and programs.
  • Cultivate and nurture a high-functioning team, rooted in respectful relationships and a shared appreciation for JOIN’s vision.
  • Work with the Board to identify, cultivate, recruit and retain diverse and exceptional board members and lay leadership.

Communications & External Relations

  • Manage the design, implementation, content, messaging and engagement strategies that will position JOIN for broader impact and success.
  • Work with staff to establish a clear, resonant brand that reflects JOIN’s mission.
  • Oversee the development of nuanced messaging that can cater to different audiences (funders, staff, partner organizations, fellows) and communicate complex ideas to a variety of stakeholders.
  • Ensure that communications and marketing strategies are consistently articulated both internally and externally.

Fundraising, Community Engagement & Partnerships

  • Effectively communicate JOIN’s mission externally and build partnerships and coalitions with stakeholders, funders, community leaders, and adjacent organizations within the Jewish and social justice worlds.
  • Serve as JOIN’s chief spokesperson, acting as a key driver in donor and partner cultivation, solicitation and stewardship.
  • Collaborate with development staff to implement an expansive fundraising strategy to increase funding from major donors & foundation support.
  • Pursue innovative streams of income and partnerships to diversify sources of revenue, ensuring that there are resources to support the expansion and innovation of programs.

Infrastructure, Operations & Finance

  • Assess the current financial status of the organization and work in close coordination with the Board to continue a plan for financial sustainability and growth.
  • Develop long and short-range financial plans, monitor the budget and ensure that sound financial controls are in place; set financial priorities accurately to ensure that JOIN is operating in a manner that supports the needs and values of the program and staff.
  • Oversee the organizational infrastructure and establish clarity and consistency in policies, processes and internal operations to support staff and delivery of programs.

Qualifications

  • A strong understanding of community organizing philosophies is a must; demonstrated activism and/or professional experience in community organizing is preferred.
  • Excellent interpersonal skills; able to build and maintain relationships across the diverse slate of JOIN constituencies and partners.
  • Strong storytelling and communication skills; able to convey complex ideas to a wide variety of stakeholders and ensure a shared understanding of JOIN’s mission and impact.
  • Can incorporate an intersectional analysis of power and social identities into community organizing.
  • Familiarity with and commitment to Jewish values.
  • Possesses humility, high emotional IQ, and superior active listening skills.
  • Excellent mediating and facilitating skills; can create and hold space for the diversity of political perspectives and beliefs within the JOIN community, while continuing to foster a sense of belonging for all constituents.
  • Ability to collaborate on developing fundraising strategies, cultivate, solicit and steward major donors and to inspire high-net worth individuals and major foundations to financial leadership.
  • Transparent and creative with proven success in building, developing, and empowering individuals and teams thereby allowing innovation to grow.
  • Experience working with a collective bargaining unit within a nonprofit context is preferred.

Compensation

130K-150K, subject to flexibility depending on feedback from the market.

Benefits

  • Health, dental & medical coverage
  • Flexible Spending Account options
  • 403b matching after one year of employment
  • 12 days vacation PTO (paid time off) per year that increases with continued employment; 12 days sick leave PTO per year
  • Office closures for 10 federally recognized holidays, 13 Jewish holidays, and 2 floating holidays

At JOIN for Justice, we believe social justice fights require the voices of those most directly impacted by injustice. JOIN is dedicated to building a culturally diverse and pluralistic staff team — via internal training, structured reflection exercises and an ongoing investment in the leadership development of staff. JOIN strongly encourages people of color, indigenous people, disabled people, LGBTQ+ people, and immigrants to apply

This position description is based upon material provided by JOIN for Justice. JOIN is an equal opportunity employer.

Rachel Carter, Associate, rcarter@drgsearch.com

Yasmine Coccoli, Talent Consultant, ycoccoli@drgsearch.com

Sarah Raful Whinston, Senior Search Consultant, swhinston@drgsearch.com

Apply


Strategic Transition Committee Co-Chairs

photo of Laura LoebLaura Loeb has been very involved with several of JOIN’s programs, including ROAR! A Jewish Leadership Training for Resistance, Organizing, Action, & Resistance, which provided one-day trainings in 19 cities in 2017,  a 2018 voter registration drive in Atlanta with Jewish groups working in coalition with African American organizations, and the successful campaign in Florida to pass Amendment 4, which restored voting rights to rehabilitated felons. Laura is an active member of the Community Issues/Social Action Committee at Washington Hebrew Congregation in Washington, D.C. She volunteers with organizations sponsoring brain tumor research and is also supportive of the work of Tahirih Justice Center, which provides legal services to immigrant women and children fleeing violence. She is a graduate of Stanford Law School and sits on the Dean’s Advisory Council and received a BS degree in accountancy from the University of Illinois. She was a healthcare regulatory lawyer for 22 years, becoming a partner first at Hogan & Hartson (now Hogan Lovells) and then at King & Spalding. After the unexpected death of her brother, Laura became co-owner and manager of Herman L. Loeb LLC, a family-owned, privately held oil and gas exploration production company. She lives in Potomac, MD with her husband and has two daughters age 26 and 24.

photo of Molly SchulmanMolly Schulman (she/her) received her B.A. in American Studies from Tufts University with a focus on institutions and power. Since graduating, Molly has sought opportunities to combine her passions for community organizing, resource mobilization, and Judaism. She is an alumna of JOIN for Justice’s Jewish Organizing fellowship (2019), the Chordata Capital fellowship, and the Urban Adamah fellowship. She has worked as an educator in both Jewish and secular settings, founding and facilitating a Rosh Chodesh circle, curating and facilitating a Jewish praxis group with Resource Generation, teaching at Central Synagogue, and training at multiple orientations with IfNotNow. She has served on the board of JOIN for Justice since 2019, is a rabbinical student at the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College, and is an ALEPH Kesher Fellow. Molly lives in Brooklyn, New York.


Strategic Transition Committee Members

photo of Jeannie ApplemanJeannie Appleman co-founded the Seminary Leadership Project in 2005 with Meir Lakein and Rabbis Stephanie Kolin and Noah Farkas and has trained more than 750 seminary students in organizing, congregational development, and leadership. In addition to the Seminary Leadership Project, she also runs JOIN’s Clergy Fellowship and has trained and coached hundreds of Rabbis and Cantors, lay leaders, and staff from the Reform, Reconstructionist, and Conservative movements, Federations, and other communal organizations. Jeanine is currently working to create new ways to integrate traditional organizing with anti-oppression and anti-racist frameworks alongside JOIN staff and organizational partners & trainers of color, Megan Madison and Megan Black.

Before coming to JOIN to teach organizing to others, Jeannie, herself, was an organizer for 25 years. Through the Industrial Areas Foundation, she served as the lead organizer for a primarily African- and Caribbean-American-led affiliate in Queens, New York, as well as their Long Island affiliates. Jeanie led electoral campaigns in Chicago and Baton Rouge, and directed a successful statewide campaign in Illinois to stop contra aid in congress. Additionally, Jeanie has written several articles, created and directed a national foundation to faith-based organizing, and conducted two research studies on faith-based organizing.

photo of Jordan Berg PowersJordan Berg Powers is the Executive Director at Mass Alliance, where he previously served as Deputy Director of Mass Alliance. In his nine years there, he has helped elect new progressive leaders across the state, recruited progressive champions to run, and trained hundreds of grassroots organizers. In 2015 Jordan was recognized for his exceptional work in politics as an inaugural inductee into the 40 under 40 Poly Award. Using his expertise in talking to ordinary voters about progressive policy, Jordan is active in campaigns for saving public education, gender equality and more progressive tax system for the Commonwealth. He conducts trainings across the state on campaign strategy and management, candidate recruitment, progressive messaging and women in politics. Jordan has a Masters in International Politics from the London School of Oriental & African Studies as well as a B.A. in International Development and a B.A. in Economics from American University.

photo of Rabbi Judith KemplerRabbi Judith Kempler  serves at Temple Beth Am in Pinecrest, Flordia specializing in outreach and engagement with unaffiliateds in their 20s and 30s, young families and empty nesters. A graduate of the Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion in New York City, Rabbi Kempler holds a Master of Arts in Hebrew Literature. She was ordained in May 2009. A native of Columbia, Maryland, she graduated from Washington University in St. Louis in 2002 with a Bachelor of Arts in Women’s Studies and a concentration in Modern Dance.

Upon ordination, Rabbi Kempler joined the staff at Brooklyn Heights Synagogue as the Youth Director. She also taught adult Hebrew, led Torah study and facilitated the URJ’s Introduction to Judaism course. She has also officiated at several life-cycle events, in the U.S. and abroad. In addition to working in the American Jewish community, she travelled to the Former Soviet Union to lead Passover seders and participated in an American Jewish World Service rabbinic delegation to Senegal. When not working or studying, Rabbi Kempler is an avid runner, yogi and modern dancer. She loves to cook and regularly makes a “mean” chocolate-chip challah.

photo of ldit Kleinldit Klein is a national leader for social justice with more than 25 years of experience in the non­profit sector. Since 2001, she has served as the leader of Keshet, the national organization for LGBTQ equality in Jewish life. ldit built Keshet from a local organization with an annual budget of $42,000 to a national organization with an annual budget of nearly $4 million. Under her leadership, Keshet has supported tens of thousands of rabbis, educators, and other Jewish leaders to make LGBTQ equality a communal value and imperative.

Prior to leading Keshet, ldit worked in Jerusalem for Israeli-Palestinian peace and helped envision the Jerusalem Open House as a leader in the Israeli LGBTQ rights movement. A magna cum laude graduate of Yale University, ldit earned her Master’s in Education from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, with a focus on social justice and anti-oppression education. She serves on the advisory board of the Safety Respect Equity Coalition and the leadership team of the Jewish Social Justice Roundtable to strengthen the national Jewish social justice movement. ldit was honored by the Jewish Women’s Archive with a Women Who Dared award as well as by Jewish Women International with a Women to Watch award, and selected for the Forward 50, a list of American Jews who have made enduring contributions to public life. She lives in Boston with her wife, Jordan, son, Lior, and pup, Langston.

photo of Dan RosanDan Rosan is an experienced health care strategist with over ten years of experience in the nonprofit and private sector. Currently he supports Biogen’s Development Sciences organization as the head of Business Analytics, where he drives resource planning, performance measurement, and special projects. Prior to joining Biogen, Dan was a management consultant for a boutique firm serving the biotechnology industry, where he worked with the world’s largest biopharmaceutical companies and top tier venture capital funds. He also led the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility’s health care practice for four years. Dan has a BA in History from Vassar College and an MBA from Harvard Business School. He lives in Somerville, Massachusetts with his wife and two children.

photo of Phil Rosenblatt

Phil Rosenblatt is a partner at the Boston law firm of Nutter McClennen & Fish.  Inspired by the Jewish Organizing Initiative’s founding Executive Director, Michael Brown, Phil joined the JOI Board many years ago and has worked with their leadership to guide the organization through a number of exciting transitions, culminating in JOIN for Justice’s collaboration with PJA & JFSJ to bring the organization to a whole new level.  Phil also serves or has served on the Board of Combined Jewish Philanthropies, as Vice President and Board member of the Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Boston, as President of the Leventhal-Sidman Jewish Community Center, as an Executive Committee and a Board member of the Equipment Leasing and Finance Association, as President of the Lincoln Station Phase I Homeowners Association in Lincoln, New Hampshire, and as a Board member of the Loon Mountain Alpine Ski Race Team, also in Lincoln, New Hampshire.  Phil received a BA from Union College in Schenectady, New York, and a JD from the University of Chicago Law School.  He lives in Needham, Massachusetts with his wife Nancy and dogs Hannah and Bode. Their two sons live in Washington, DC and Houston, Texas.

photo of Evan TraylorEvan Traylor, originally from Oklahoma City, serves as the associate director for college engagement at the Union for Reform Judaism, after spending two years as the inaugural URJ presidential fellow for millennial engagement. Evan graduated from the University of Kansas studying political science, Jewish studies, and leadership studies. He is a past NFTY president, Kansas Hillel intern, student member of the Hillel International Board of Directors, and co-founder of the Hillel International Student Cabinet.

 

photo of Rabbi Lauren TuchmanRabbi Lauren Tuchman received rabbinic ordination from the Jewish Theological Seminary in 2018 and is, as far as she is aware, the first blind woman in the world to enter the rabbinate. A sought after speaker, spiritual leader and educator, Rabbi Tuchman has taught at numerous synagogues and other Jewish venues throughout North America and was named to the Jewish Week’s 36 under 36 for her innovative leadership concerning inclusion of Jews with disabilities in all aspects of Jewish life. In 2017, she delivered an ELI Talk entitled We All Stood At Sinai: The Transformative Power of Inclusive Torah.

Posted in Fly on the Wall, From our Staff, General, Our News | Comments Off on The Search for JOIN’s Next Executive Director

SEA (Study, Engage, Act) Change

You can learn more about SEA Change here. 


Study * Engage * Act * Change

By Karen Herron

Image Description: image of a blue wave on an orange background. The wave is curing toward the text "SEA CHANGE Study | Engage | Act".

Image Description: A blue wave on an orange background  curing toward the text “SEA CHANGE Study | Engage | Act”.

As individuals and institutions increasingly strive to understand their roles in perpetuating structural racism in the United States, questions abound regarding how to affect meaningful and lasting change. The long-overdue interest spurred a preponderance of virtual events and programming to educate Jewish communities about the history of racism, the experiences of Jews of Color, and an increased awareness of the intersectionality of factors such as race, gender, ability, and socioeconomic position.  Yet, despite new awareness and understanding of the causal factors, the search for solutions to rampant inequity can overwhelm even the most informed and best intentioned among us.

In early 2020, before the pandemic and racially charged atrocities brought to light on social media focused our country’s attention on racism, two large, mainstream congregations in the suburbs of Washington, D.C. initiated efforts to jointly address the persistent inequity in our midst.  Crossing denominational lines, B’nai Israel and Washington Hebrew Congregations, representing the Conservative and Reform movements, both have deep historical roots in Montgomery County, Maryland. 

Recognizing the opportunity to seize this moment to learn with intention, build relationships, and work together toward a more just future, Washington Hebrew and B’nai Israel joined forces to engage in sacred work to address racial inequity and injustice so that our community reflects our values.  

As a first step, a planning committee comprised of clergy and lay leaders participated in a racial equity training implemented by a local community organization.  Next, we undertook an extensive search of local and national organizations to find an experienced partner who could shape and implement a plan to pursue our mission. We retained JOIN for Justice to bring their expertise and experience in building strong Jewish communities capable of effectively organizing for change. While the focus of SEA Change is racial equity, our choice was also motivated by the stories we heard of how other synagogues were transformed through JOIN’s guidance in incorporating the principles of community organizing.

In November, we launched SEA Change Racial Equity Roundtable, a unique cohort of 50 diverse individuals, comprised of 22 congregants and 3 clergy members from each synagogue, to study and engage together in order to act as change agents within our congregations and in Montgomery County.

The congregants who chose to participate in the multiyear initiative recognized that we cannot wait for our leaders to deliver change. Motivation to participate varied from concerns for the larger community to personal yearnings for inclusion in Jewish communal life.  One applicant to the program noted “Indifference to oppression is just as dangerous as active oppression. If we don’t actively fight against oppression, then we support it… We have to fight against the oppression of African Americans.”

Another shared “I think a part of the problem facing many Jews of Color is that it’s hard to deal with the microaggressions and racism that sometimes come with our Jewish organizations or synagogues. It is even harder when you don’t see anyone that looks like you or can relate to your experience.”

While another said, “I’ve determined that as a privileged, White American, I want to help turn back systemic racism. As a Jew, I feel I must do more than want… I need to take some action.”

SEA Change is intended to lay the groundwork for us to take action: to identify and address issues of diversity and equity within our own congregations and to work side by side with communities of color to address racial inequity in Montgomery County.  

Both Washington Hebrew and B’nai Israel Congregations have robust social action programming centered around service and ample volunteers willing to lend their time and energy to helping others. However, we recognize that in addition to the valuable service projects that our synagogues regularly undertake, we must also address the underlying causes of poverty and work toward being part of changing the structural foundations that cause unjust situations to continue. 

Just like the chambers of government merely miles from Washington Hebrew’s D.C. campus, both communities include congregants who vote Republican as well as Democratic. In these polarized times, additional goals of our work include serving as a model for creating constructive dialogue among Jews around this topic and relationship building between Reform and Conservative communities.

Along the way, JOIN has tailored the curriculum to our community and been flexible when it seemed best to pivot direction or rethink the order of trainings. Rabbi M. Bruce Lustig, Senior Rabbi of Washington Hebrew Congregation, noted recently that “In a world with so many unknowns, JOIN has been phenomenally flexible at readjusting and adding critical components.  They are organizationally smart and have provided the right platform to think through next steps and also to model to our congregants how to be proactive and responsive at a time when both are increasingly necessary.”

In Phase One of SEA Change, the emphasis was on learning the key principles of anti-racism theory and practice as well as the fundamentals of community organizing. We began with intensive learning about power, race and organizing, exploring the history and the stories we have each inherited and still hold about race, racism, Jewish identity and antisemitism.  

We learned specifically about the historical and present-day reality of race and racism in Montgomery County through the experiences and stories of local leaders of color who are engaged in organizing work in our community. We also heard about the experiences of other congregations who trained with JOIN and successfully integrated community organizing into their communal landscape. Rabbi Lydia Medwin of the Temple in Atlanta and Rabbi Aaron Alexander of Adas Israel Congregation in D.C. imparted valuable knowledge gleaned from their congregational experiences. They generously shared their time and imparted tangible examples that provided a view of how community organizing seeped into different facets of their congregations, allowing us to imagine the impact of integrating a community organizing lens.  Rabbi Lustig shared that “although it is challenging not knowing where the road is going to take us, there is excitement around the possibility.  Those involved have developed wonderful relationships and changed their attitudes and way of thinking.  We are building future congregational leadership from within.”

We are currently in Phase Two of our journey which has us working in teams to investigate a variety of avenues for social change. Following interactive JOIN trainings on conducting internal race equity audits of our own congregations and researching to identify external partners for action in our local community, our dedicated teams are busy putting what they have learned to work. In addition, we are tapping the skills we gleaned in a training on conducting relational meetings through informative and engaging one on one meetings across the cohort.

This is the start of a process that we hope will bear fruit for many years to come and  there have already been lessons learned along the way. Yes, it would have been nice to meet in person to develop personal relationships to help energize the work. But the combination of our country awakening to an awareness of racial inequity and the limitations imposed by the pandemic created an atmosphere ripe for our cohort to convene virtually with JOIN’s talented trainers from across the country. We are making the most of the technological resources we have at our disposal and are looking forward to meeting in person when we are able.

Soon we will cull and evaluate the information gathered from the External Research Team meetings in order to select a campaign or organization with whom we will partner to address racial inequity in our community. The Internal Audit Committees will share the areas they have identified as race equity challenges and opportunities for internal institutional transformation.  This interpretation and selection process will be the focus of Phase Three, and as we move into Phase Four our attention will turn to base building. We will proactively work to integrate what we have learned into congregation activities and recruit additional congregants to be involved through a house meeting campaign.

Rabbi Mickey Safra, Senior Rabbi of B’nai Israel Congregation noted that “SEA Change themes are already starting to permeate throughout different areas of the congregation. I am very appreciative of the guidance and support JOIN has provided and look forward to transitioning to taking off the training wheels and getting to work.” Associate Rabbi Mitch Berkowitz added that “It’s been popping up in organic ways” as he meets with B’nai Israel Committee Chairs to plan for Fall programming. “We now have an opportunity to demonstrate to our community that the investment in SEA Change is broader than the 50 people who have participated so far.”

The success of SEA Change will be measured not only by how many people are engaged in community organizing efforts but also by the type of cultural shifts that are achieved. Already, the relationships developed between the two congregations represent a strong foundation for ongoing sustainable action to achieve change in our community. Rabbi Susan Shankman of Washington Hebrew noted recently, “As relational conversations started, the level of participation is quite high. People are finding partnership in conversation. Cohort members are stepping up and taking ownership through leadership. We have seen intergenerational relationships as well as connections between B’nai Israel and Washington Hebrew members invested in building community.”


Many thanks to Master trainers, Megan Black, and Megan Madison (also a JOIN board member), whose wisdom and talent in developing and  implementing the trainings were invaluable.


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What it Takes: Building Electoral Power in Georgia

Register to join us for this session on June 3 at 7pm ET / 4pm PM.

Captioning will be provided. Please reach out to RB at rbrown@joinforjustice.org for other access needs.

Image Description: “What it Takes Building Electoral Power in Georgia” sits in the top left corner above an image of a ballot going into a ballot box with the date “June 3rd 7-8pm ET” on it. To the right are photos of Nsé Ufot and Lela Ali. Under the photo of Nsé Ufot is her name and “New Georgia Project” under Lela Ali is her name and “Movement Voter Project”. The JOIN for Justice logo sits in the top right corner. 

Georgia’s massive increase in voting and its shift from Republican stronghold in 2000 to a tossup heading into election day this past November was the result of over a decade of strategic, powerful, and creative community organizing across the state, particularly with communities of color and young people. Even then, as a testing ground for restrictive voting legislation and after a primary election rife with problems, flipping Georgia blue was by no means guaranteed. Now, as Georgia has taken the lead of a national movement for voter suppression, organizers will have to adapt yet again. Join us to hear two perspectives on the details of building local progressive power: from Nsé Ufot, Chief Executive Officer of the New Georgia Project, and Lela Ali, State Partnerships Associate with Movement Voter Project. Ufot and Ali will take us through the nuts and bolts of their work to build power one voter – and one donor – at a time.

Captioning will be provided. This call will be recorded and you are welcome to join with video on or off. You may send any questions to RB Brown at rbrown@joinforjustice.org.

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Leadership Transition Announcement

Why I’m So Excited About JOIN for Justice’s Future
By Phil Rosenblatt, Board Chair and President

Greetings!

On behalf of JOIN for Justice, I’m writing to share our Executive Director, Karla Van Praag’s transition plans—and why I’m so excited about JOIN’s future.

I’ve been on JOIN’s Board, and the Board of its predecessor, The Jewish Organizing Initiative (“JOI”), for some time, most recently serving as Board Chair . . .

. . . From being drawn to the brilliance of JOI’s mission—training Jews in community organizing to honor our Jewish heritage working for real systemic social justice change . . .

. . . To grappling with whether JOI was viable and seeing it answer this question with a resounding YES . . .

. . . To seeing JOI grow into JOIN, and loving what JOIN was accomplishing but worrying that its impact was too narrow . . .

. . . To watching in awe as JOIN’s brilliant professional staff and leaders developed programs reaching across the United States—helping thousands, even millions, of people change their world . . .

And for virtually all this dynamic growth, and during my entire tenure as Board Chair, my principal ally has been JOIN’s Executive Director, Karla Van Praag.

I believe JOIN’s—and Karla’s—success has been built on her style of leadership; i.e., her ability to attract extraordinary talent and to empower our staff to reach great heights.

I have never been prouder to be part of JOIN.

After more than thirteen years as Executive Director, Karla has informed me she still loves JOIN’s mission and she’s still motivated by JOIN’s vision, but she has decided she wants to make space for other aspects of her life and for new leadership in the organization.

While I will truly miss partnering with Karla as JOIN’s Executive Director, I am filled with confidence in JOIN’s future—and gratitude for how Karla has informed us of her decision and has asked to pursue these changes over the next nine months.

JOIN is blessed in at least two important ways. First, Karla has given JOIN ample time to engage in a thoughtful process to find our next Executive Director; and, second, Karla has built an organization which is not only capable of carrying on our dynamic work and growth through this transition, but which will undoubtedly attract exciting candidates to become our next Executive Director—filled with new energy and dreams of how the world can be.

And so, by the end of the year, Karla is going to step down as Executive Director of JOIN for Justice. Until we bring on JOIN’s new Executive Director, she will serve as co-Executive Director alongside Meir Lakein, who co-founded JOIN with Karla and is currently our Director of Organizing.

A fabulous Strategic Transition Committee has been convened to begin JOIN’s search. Once JOIN’s new Executive Director commences their leadership role, Karla will support our new Executive Director’s vision by taking on a new part-time role focused on building strategic relationships and initiatives for the JOIN community to further our work.

I’m grateful to know the Jewish social justice world is not losing one of my greatest heroes. Karla assures me her passion still burns for working to make a better world, and her efforts will continue in those ways she believes she can make her best contributions and feel most fulfilled.

So, for all these reasons, I look forward with great anticipation to JOIN’s future, and I look forward to your ongoing passion for JOIN as we move on to our next chapter.

 

Sincerely,

Phil Rosenblatt
Board Chair and President

—————————————————————————————————————————————–

Making Space
By Karla Van Praag, Executive Director

JOIN is such a special organization. I knew it from the moment I decided to step into leadership at its predecessor organization, the Jewish Organizing Initiative, back in late 2007. This is because JOIN’s leaders, no matter where they call home, view the world through a very particular type of lens. While their concerns may vary widely – from the very local to those of individual Jewish communities to national and global challenges – they share a common determination to move beyond simple “concern” to action. Our people are the kind that say “I’m going to do something about it.” Far from the spaces in social media full of complaints and platitudes, our leaders are committed first to learning how to make effective change, and then getting on with it and making it happen, even when it’s hard, even when they fail.

JOIN is special because it is filled with so many of these passionate people committed to both learning and action. Being in this work with people like this is invigorating. It’s compelling. And truthfully, it can also be very intense and consuming.

This community – and I’ll be specific here – the Jewish social justice community – has grown up a lot in the past decade, and I have been lucky to grow along with it. We’ve become more organized and more effective, and we’ve also learned where we are ignorant, or causing harm, or looking the other way. One lesson that this community has begun to talk more about over the past several years is how much we need to care for ourselves even as we do the hard work for good. That rest is an intrinsic part of the work, just as Shabbat is a part of the week. I can talk a good game about this, but in reality I’ve struggled with this evolution personally. For years, as my body or my mind screamed at me to stop, I’d tell myself I was needed and, I admit, I took pride in being strong.

And then, 2020. Over the past year, we have all been challenged by a reality we didn’t recognize, and many people learned for the first time how much of our lives we cannot control. But just as I flexed my resilience muscle yet again – working harder to navigate the unexpected – I noticed a new and growing willingness in some parts of our culture to admit aloud we were hurting, and to give each other more benefit of the doubt when we faltered. That we might need to question the way it had always been done. I began to listen to the still, small voice that told me I didn’t have to simply push on the same way anymore. If some of the world could begin to admit it needed to slow down a little and change, then maybe I could too.

So rather than push through, I decided to do something radically different for me: to step back. I wanted to create some space in my life for something else, to practice tzimtzum, making space for creation to take root and flourish. And the board of JOIN has been unsurprisingly supportive in figuring out a way to chart a new course that allows me to do so that supports me while always furthering our mission.

Of course, leadership turnover is natural because organizations evolve. Leaving my role is essential for that to happen, and I’m so happy to do it during a period of strength for JOIN, in a time when my health is good, and in a way where the board and I can ensure the transition happens smoothly. This is an incredible moment for JOIN to find new leadership that reflects who we are now and who we are becoming because, simply put, we are thriving. We are training more leaders than ever before. As we announced we would in our growth plan, we have started new programs focusing on building the pipeline for diverse Jewish leadership for change, starting Access to Power for disabled Jews earlier this year and building toward a Jews of Color Organizing Fellowship to launch by next year. New leadership will invigorate our growing organization with fresh energy and insight, and take us to the next level.

I’m also confident in this decision because, as much as I’ve put into JOIN, the organization has never been about me. While I’ve been the official leader of JOIN, it’s always been a leaderful organization. It’s the way I’ve led and the reason I’ve loved it. Because of the way we’ve built this organization, no one piece is indispensable, including me. A new Executive Director will bring their talents to an incredible staff and lay leadership who don’t have to begin to step up, because they’ve always stepped up. The new Executive Director will be fortunate to work with these people and these programs, with all of us.

I’m so grateful to be able to continue to contribute in a role that’s right for me and the organization. I’m also thrilled and recognize the privilege I have to be able to take some time to tend to my kids properly while they are still at home and to tend to my body and soul from a period of physical strength.

Every Passover, we are supposed to feel that it is us, not our ancestors, leaving Egypt. That’s a big ask – it’s hard to tell people what they ought to feel. Yet I suspect many of us may feel, this holiday, that we are emerging from the cave and getting a little closer to the light. We aren’t in the Promised Land yet – but it does feel that we’re progressing through the desert, getting closer. My decision definitely feels like it’s bringing me a little closer. Many, many thanks for being part of this journey with me and with JOIN.

Chag Sameach!
Karla Van Praag
Executive Director

Posted in From our Staff, General, Our News | Comments Off on Leadership Transition Announcement