Alum Harry Weissman featured in Bill Protects Parents with Disabilities in Custody Cases

Alum Harry Weissman was featured in Bill Protects Parents with Disabilities in Custody Cases published in The Herald News On Thursday, July 25, 2019.

Harry Weissman, 2019 Jewish Organizing Fellow.

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Packing the Instruments of Our Salvation

Cantor Vicky Glikin

Senior Cantor Vicky Glikin (Clergy Fellowship alum) of Temple Emanu-El in Dallas, Texas shared with us this soul-stirring sermon on Immigration Justice at Shabbat Chukat on July 12, 2019. Cantor Glikin was born in Ukraine and lived in Kiev until moving to the United States at the age of 13.

“We came to the United States where I hoped to build a better, safer life for us. Unfortunately, that did not happen. Instead I watched my baby girl die slowly and painfully just a few months before her second birthday.”  These chilling words are part of testimony offered before Congress this week by Yazmin Juarez, a migrant mother from Guatemala. Yazmin and her daughter Mariee crossed the US-Mexico border in 2018. Mariee had been a healthy and happy baby, making the journey to the U.S. southern border without any health problems.  Once in the US, Yazmin and Mariee spent a few days in a Customs and Border Protection facility Yazmin referred to as an “icebox” for its cold temperature. She said they were locked in a cage with about 30 other people, sleeping on a concrete floor. After a few days in the “icebox”, Yazmin and Mariee were transferred to a federal detention center in Dilley, TX. A nurse examined Mariee on arrival and found her to be healthy.  At the detention center, Yazmin noticed that a number of children with whom they were sharing a room were sick and no effort was made to separate the sick from the healthy or to care for the children who were ill. After a week, baby Mariee started to cough and sneeze. When she was finally seen by a physician’s assistant, Mariee was diagnosed with a respiratory infection and given Tylenol and honey for treatment.  Mariee did not get better. Her fever spiked, she began to vomit and have diarrhea, she stopped eating.  This time, the little girl was treated with antibiotics for an ear infection, Pedialyte and Vicks VapoRub.  Eventually Yazmin’s pleas for a deeper examination and higher level of care were heard, but unfortunately it was too late.  Mariee spent six weeks in the hospital with a respiratory infection and eventually died on what was Mother’s Day in Guatemala.

Since December, at least five migrant children have died after being apprehended at the Southern border.  A 2 ½ year old boy whose name we do not know who died of pneumonia and a high fever; a 7-year old girl Jakelin Caal Maquin who died from a bacterial infection, an 8-year old boy Felipe Gomez Alonzo who died from flu complications, and a 16-year old boy Juan de Leon Gutierrez whose cause of death was eventually determined to be a brain infection.  In the words of Representative Raul Ruiz of California, “The Customs Border Patrol was not created to address the humanitarian needs of families who are legally seeking asylum in our country and therefore the conditions that the women, infants, toddlers and elderly find themselves in are subhuman.”  Insufficient and inadequate food, lack of meaningful medical examinations and care, sleeping on cold concrete floor with the light on all night, loud noises interrupting rest times, lack of basic supplies like toothpaste and toothbrushes, diapers and soap, no ability to launder one’s clothes.  All of this in facilities that were never meant to be places of long-term inhabitation, but which have turned into these due to new immigration laws and requirements that intentionally slow down the processing of asylum cases.  

In this week’s Torah portion we learn of the death of Miriam.  The Torah delivers the news of Miriam’s death in an astonishingly terse way, even for the Torah.  Perhaps there are no words to describe the pain of this loss. Perhaps the real pain of Miriam’s loss is symbolized by what happens next.  “The community was without water.1  Miriam’s death caused the disappearance of the well that had sustained them.  What happened to the well? Where did it go? Midrash Tanchuma2 teaches that the well of water that traveled with the Israelites throughout their journey came to them through the merit of Miriam.  And, what had Miriam done to merit this traveling well3, which was not only the source of water, but also of healing4?  She had uttered a song by the waters of the Sea of Reeds.  Miriam merited the well by leading the Israelites with hand-drums in song and dance after the miraculous Exodus from slavery in Egypt and the splitting of the Sea of Reeds.  Miriam merited water for her people because even when freedom from slavery was a distant and unlikely dream, she had the foresight to pack her hand-drums in anticipation of the celebration of her people’s liberation.  Miriam dared to hope for a better future.

Once Miriam dies, the people, overcome with grief, dare not hope and dream.  They rebel against Moses and Aaron. Moses and Aaron, in turn, lose faith in God and fail to accurately follow God’s instructions for procuring water.  A mistake that costs both of these longtime leaders the ability to enter the Land of Israel with their people. This week’s Torah portion is called Chukat, Laws, and one of its messages is that there are grave consequences for those who do not follow the letter of the law.  

This should not be surprising.  Laws are very important. They help to create order out of chaos.  They give a society consisting of many people and diverse interests the ability to co-exist and thrive.  We need laws in order to ensure that our society is healthy, that people can live in safety and security, that every individual can reach his or her potential.  We need laws to bring order to our lives, to draw nearer to God and to our tradition. Laws are grounding. But, not all laws are good laws. A law can elevate or crush, help or hinder, alleviate or encumber.  A law can bring more holiness into the world and create a sense of hope, or it can desecrate and punish indiscriminately.

Moses and Aaron are punished after Miriam’s death and numerous explanations for this punishment are provided over the millennia.  But, did Moses and Aaron really deserve not to see the Promised Land? Is it possible to look at Moses and Aaron, indeed all of the Israelites, 

not as rebels and law-breakers, but as a human beings who are suffering?  When Moses strikes the rock in a manner that upsets God, he is not only God’s servant doing the wrong thing. 

He is also a grieving brother.  When the Israelites turn against Moses and Aaron, they are not only rebelling against their leadership, they are also processing the death of Miriam and the loss of the source of water and healing, which had sustained them until this point.  Moses, Aaron and the Israelites are in pain, but they don’t know how to channel that pain in a productive way. We have been there too. There is the pain of a broken relationship, the pain of feeling unseen or left behind, the pain of an unexpected illness or death.  Our inability to channel the pain in a productive way can lead to outcomes that are disastrous for us and the people around us. And, what of the pain we experience when we hear of the conditions in the detention centers, when we learn of the unforgiveable suffering and the tragic deaths of innocent children?  It’s impossible not to feel pain. How do we turn this pain into a vehicle for cultivating hope? How do we, like Miriam, in the midst of the darkness begin to pack the hand-drums and the instruments that will eventually become the source of our salvation?

We begin by opening our hearts to the stories of the people who are suffering.  We begin by being informed about what’s happening at the border in our own state and the rest of the country.  We begin by affirming that while asylum seekers wait for their cases to be heard, 

they have the God-given right to live in humane conditions.  We begin by affirming the legal right granted by our constitution to all those in peril to be able to seek asylum in the United States.  We affirm our expectation that this right is exercised without undue duress to the asylum seekers who come to our country in search of a better future for themselves and their families.  They do so as each of our ancestors, or perhaps we ourselves, came to this country seeking a better future. We ground ourselves in the laws, the same way that our ancestors have grounded themselves in laws for generations.  And, we also speak out against a system that creates greater suffering for people who are inherently vulnerable and defenseless.  

I know first-hand what it’s like to live in a place where you are unwanted and threatened.  Growing up in Ukraine, I felt the sting of anti-Semitism and I was intimately familiar with a sense of fear for my wellbeing.  And, I also know firsthand the feeling of a warm welcome, the sense of unbridled possibility opening up to me when my family immigrated to the United States on July 4, 1992.  I will never forget Independence Day fireworks that illuminated every corner of the sky with a panoply of colors as we drove to our new home from the airport. And, I will never forget asking my uncle why there were so many fireworks in the dark sky and him answering that the fireworks were for me because the United States was happy to have me as one of its own.

Today’s asylum seekers, too, deserve to know that the United States is happy to see them.  Not only do they deserve it, but we do too.  Our foundational national story is summarized by Emma Lazarus’s famous poem, the “New Colossus”:

“Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

The condition described in the New Colossus feels like a distant cry from what’s happening on our border today.  This is not only tragic for those stuck in the quagmire of our broken immigration system.  It is also tragic for our national identity, threatening the very foundation of our country.  And, so recognizing this, we pack the hand-drums.  We take our cue from the Prophetess Miriam who knew that it’s always darkest before dawn, who packed the instruments even as the promise of liberation was faint and who eventually led our people in dancing and celebration of freedom.  We take our cue from the Prophetess Miriam who through her hope merited healing water for her entire community.  May we, too, merit the gift of healing water for ourselves and our community.

(Sung excerpt from “The River” by Coco Love Alcorn)

Water heal my body,
Water heal my soul,
When I go down, down to the water,
By the water I feel whole.

1Numbers 20:2
2Midrash Biber, Bamidbar 2:1
3BT Shabbat 35a
4Midrash Vayikra Rabbah 22:4


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Holly Stein on raising her voice for immigrant justice

JOIN Alum Holly Stein with grey shirt and dark shares on.

Holly Stein, activist and JOIN alum.

JOIN for Justice: When we heard that you were arrested and jailed, we shared the information with our supporters.  What led to the arrest, and how long were you in jail? And what was the crime?

Holly: Last summer, as things were really ramping up on the national level around people being kidnapped and held in detention centers throughout the country, the FANG Collective organized a direct action carried out in solidarity with hunger-striking detainees at the Bristol County House of Corrections in Dartmouth, Massachusetts. 

Sheriff Thomas Hodgson, who was the sheriff of that county, is a close ally of Trump and was speaking out at that time (and continues to speak out), saying things like “We should just send people from the detention center to help build the wall,” and has really been pushing both the 287G agreements but also something that’s even more extreme that wouldn’t even have to be a contract between the federal government and local police. So we wanted to bring attention to that specific facility, also because in Rhode Island there’s no detention centers, so when people are picked up in Rhode Island, that’s where they’re being held. That was the link to Providence as well, and Rhode Island in general. 

So we orchestrated a nonviolent, direct action that took place at the two entrances of the facility. One of the entrances, there was a really large structure that had been erected that said “Stop Family Separation” and “Shut Down ICE.” The guard of that entrance met that large structure really violently. Something that has been seen in other cities and other places, as a way of people really holding space for a long time in the street, and it’s because it usually requires some more thoughtful extraction to get people out who had just been met super violently, and they just grabbed the poles and pulled, basically threw people to the ground that were like 25 feet in the air. That resulted in people getting concussions and just really brought to light the violence, just on the outside, how they were addressing something that they didn’t approve of, and how violently they responded to that. 

I was at the other entrance, with another person, and we were locked to the gate of that entrance with a piece of equipment that said “Abolish ICE” on it. They arrested all four of us, with Trespassing, Disturbing the Peace, and Resisting Arrest. So that was the action itself. 

One of the tactics of nonviolent direct action is to stare large institutions in the face and see how they react to that. It was clearly one of those examples of, yeah this a really violent institution that doesn’t really have that much regard for the individual, regardless of whether they agreed with how we chose to protest, or not. 

So that resulted in what has been a year-long back-and-forth in the courts (not a trial). I think going in, they dropped everybody else’s Resisting Arrest charges except for mine. What I’ve learned through this process is that it’s an example of how the court system works. If they had a larger charge over my head – there’s a chance of – we haven’t seen this, but the maximum they had with a Resisting Arrest charge was two and a half years, and so it started to become really clear – we had a couple different agreements with the prosecution, and our lawyers were from National Lawyers Guild and they were working with the prosecution, and a couple of those agreements got thrown out because of the judges. So it became really clear that the judges were actually our biggest roadblock. 

So I accepted the plea.

They sentenced the three other people to 10 days for resisting arrest, and those three are taking it to a trial to contest that the charges don’t meet the crime, the necessity of bringing attention to detention and to the treatment of people doesn’t merit a jail sentence. In my scenario, because the judges were coming down really hard and the lawyers were concerned, if they take it to trial and lose, it’s a horrible sentence. But 30 days in jail is the maximum they can have without passing charges. But they would have the liberty to make an example with six months, or a year. So that was why I decided to take the plea of the 10 days and a year of probation off of a disturbing the peace charge. They’re pretty extreme charges for the specific actions. We haven’t seen this happen yet in any of the other protests throughout the country. Similar types of really big scenes to hold space and to disrupt business as usual, but a lot of these cases are being either dropped or dismissed or fined.

JOIN for Justice: Are there any particular organizing skills that you learned from JOIN that you use in your organizing today? 

Holly: Yeah, creating power analysis and power mapping. Those were some concrete things of how to look at key players when you’re looking at a situation, how to take it from the macro to the micro and really get a sense of how to focus in on different aspects of a really large issue. Those are things that I use today. And just a continued development of my one-on-one skills and my relational building skills. I think the biggest thing at this point is the JOIN network still provides me with friends, and community, and other people who are working in all different areas. Being able to bounce ideas off of people who might be working from a different angle is really helpful.

JOIN for Justice: Can you give an example of where some of those practices manifested in some of your recent work? 

Holly: We’re working right now to focus on the immigration issues that are impacting Providence and obviously on a national and international level. Taking something as large as Immigration and Customs Enforcement and then thinking about that issue really broadly – it can be very overwhelming. 

One of the things we’ve been able to do is to break it down and look at it both as the large issue and also directly a community issue. As a result, we’ve looked at the context, the 287G argument, contracts, that are between Immigration and Customs Enforcement and local police and really evaluating the area that we’re in: We asked questions, such as who holds a lot of power within that area? and who is upholding those contracts? and how is it directly impacting Providence and the people in Providence who are trapped and picked up by the police? I think the ability to take the bigger issue at hand and really hone in, and focus in, on the 287G agreements is one tier of a really large organizing challenge.

JOIN for Justice: Is this work that you’re doing with an organizing collective? 

Holly: Yeah. This is work I’m doing with the FANG Collective, there’s a lot of similar people who while we are looking at structural problems and institutional problems and inviting to change, we’re also trying to build something that we see as a sustainable way for a community to be supporting each other. The Shut Down Ice Campaign is with the FANG Collective, and then we are one of the many local groups who are part of the AMOR network, which is an alliance to mobilize resistance, it’s a collaboration of a lot of different grassroots organizations in Providence to end state violence that directly impact people and communities. Whether it’s through deportation or through policing. There’s a lot of different organizations that are involved in that, so we are working in collaboration with that network and taking lead from folks in that network, but then also have a separate campaign where we’re specifically focusing on putting pressure on the counties in the surrounding areas that have 287G agreements. 

Since our interview with Holly, a lot has happened, including Never Again. She sent us this note, updating us on the Fang Collective’s work.

The momentum around Never Again has been real inspiring.  As many of you know a month ago I was sentenced to ten days in jail.  Today the judge sentenced another person to a 30 day suspended sentence and the entire restitution of $ 3,000 dollars.  Another person just did a 10 day jail sentence and another one awaits a trail sometime in August or September. Last week 18 Jews in Rhode Island got arrested protesting the Wyatt detention Center, which has a contract with ICE and brings people from the border to Rhode Island.  At the protest we saw the Bristol County Vans and Plymouth County Vans pull into the facility one which was stuck because of the demonstration.  All 18 protestor’s had their chargers dropped.  Bristol County has been extremely harsh on protestor and it is important that we continue to show up at the courts and financially contribute to people of color doing this work and people fighting these agreements in conservative counties where the punishment for bringing attention to these issues are often harsher!

See all of the great work the collective have been doing throughout Massachusetts and Rhode Island here.

See Holly speaking to reporters in the video below.

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Right-sized and Ready to Lead: How Boston’s Never Again Action Actually Happened

JOIN Fellow Emet Ezell with their hands raised up in the air, in mid-song. They are leading a multicultural crowd of people.

Photo courtesy of Reuters.

You probably don’t know that many of the organizers of last week’s actions involving hundreds of Jewish people standing up against ICE in Boston were directly connected to JOIN for Justice. And they didn’t need you to know – they were exercising a form of leadership that doesn’t require being in front and recognized all the time. Through that leadership, they did a type of organizing we all can learn from.

Miles Meth, a graduate of the 2017 Jewish Organizing Fellowship, coordinated the Boston action, while recent graduate Emet Ezell led the protest with a song that came to them while biking home from a planning meeting for the protest. Emily Bloch, a 2015 graduate, led the campaign’s nonviolent action component. Hannah Weinronk, class of 2017, coordinated the logistical side of the action. Jon Wishnie, another recent graduate, coordinated tactics. Meanwhile, in New Jersey, JOIN’s Fellowship Director and alum Allegra Heath-Stout was among the 36 Jewish protesters who were arrested for blocking the entrance to an ICE facility in the town of Elizabeth. Sarah O’Connor, a 2015 alum, was on the coordinating team for that action. The list goes on, confirming that JOIN is unequivocally building a field of Jewish leaders capable of effectively organizing for justice, inside and outside of Jewish communities.

The action in Boston reflected JOIN’s vision of the Jewish community responding to the call to play a role in the country’s social justice struggles. This call came from the immigrant justice movement. The response infused Jewish wisdom and experience with JOIN’s brand of social justice organizing. 

“The running joke in our JOIN cohort,” said Emet Ezell, “is that the #NeverAgainParaNadie action was the real Siyyum (graduation), which feels quite true to me. There was the Siyyum ceremony, and the day after that, we were organizing at the speed of light for the Boston action. I truly felt ready to step into that whirlwind because of the tools JOIN had given me, but more importantly, a large amount of us immediately planning the action were connected to JOIN in some way or another.”

Emet Ezell yelling into a bull horn. Beside and behind them is a multiracial crowd of people.

Photo courtesy of the Boston Globe.

“I was at the front with Li, who organizes for Movimiento Cosecha, an immigrant justice organization, and we were holding the energy of the people. In front of me was Miles, who I worked with at SEIU 509, telling me to stall or walk faster or slow down. He was also coordinating with Jon and Hannah, who were working on logistics, and coordinating that entire situation. Then Molly walks by with Jesse and Kaila and I see them holding up their phones for the live stream. Carly and Aviva are in the crowd, holding down the songs that I’m leading and looking at me with trusting followership. And then, as we round the corner, Harry and Abbie are getting arrested. Throughout the entire action, I’m seeing folks from my cohort and previous JOIN cohorts. This was why I knew I was able to show up: because I had competent, trusting followership behind me. Because I had a network of hearts that believed in me.” 

Most would think the action was the culmination of a longtime plan, but the reality is the opposite. Less than two weeks prior to it taking place, Miles Meth had attended a Momentum training with Movimiento Cosecha, but he did not make the Never Again connection then.

“On the way back from the training,” said Miles, “my flight got delayed for four hours and I shared the ride back with Li Adorno (of Cosecha). We had the chance to bond and connect over our families, and go deep. So when this conversation about concentration camps was really erupting in the Jewish community, and questions about whether ICE detention centers should be called them or should they not, and what should we be doing, I realized then that this was an opportunity to take action, and I felt very comfortable contacting Li.”

“We had a half hour conversation about what kind of action should be taken, and then that led to a conversation with a couple of other Cosecha organizers, which finally led to an in-person meeting of 25 or so Jewish and immigrant organizers, and that was the genesis of the action itself.”

Sarah O’Connor said the relationships she formed in JOIN were key to her current involvement in this movement. A week before the actions took place, she connected the Jewish experience with the current immigrant crisis when a friend (who is a LatinX Jew)  posted an alarm about it on Facebook, urging Jews to take ACTION. Hundreds of people commented on that post, including Sarah. 

“Before that post, none of the current Never Again organizing and actions had been on anybody’s radar. The immigration crisis has been going on for years, but what struck a chord with people was how the post made the connection to the Holocaust. I think a lot of people who were watching the way that Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez got totally slammed for comparing the border camps to concentration camps, were also imagining what might have happened had they been alive in the time of the Holocaust, and felt they were ready to take action as Jews to make it clear that when we say Never Again we mean it, and that our people’s trauma was not going to be used to distract us from what Representative AOC correctly identified as concentration camps. We were able to provide a galvanizing frame and container for them to do that in a way that I think nobody else was.” 

“Every time somebody from JOIN stepped into a role,” said Miles, “I knew that person was going to be solid because they had the training and skills. JOIN is selective in bringing on people and cultivating people who have a certain social justice analysis that they’re bringing to the work. I think that is really crucial when you’re working under a lot of stress and urgency, having people who you know are invested in organizing from a point of listening to the people who are closest to the oppression and investing in and privileging their experiences and their voices, was something that we were actively trying to do in working with Cosecha on this.”

Miles also said the facilitation training that he got from JOIN helped to keep the core members of the action on the same page.  “We would have phone conversations at 9 am every day, and no one wants to talk on the phone for more than an hour, so it felt really important to have ways to organize our thoughts, move us through them, and allow everybody a chance to talk about what was going on for them and where they needed support, but also to just connect as people.  I think the facilitation training, and just the experience I got as a JOIN Fellow were really shining through here.”

“Ever since taking Rabbi David Jaffe’s Fellowship training on humility, I had been thinking about what it means to be right-sized in a moment, in an action, and in a role,” said Emet.

Emet explained “right-sized” to be about finding the intersection between what is needed in a moment, and what one has to offer. It is about the dance between yourself and others – knowing when to shrink or to swell. It’s both a release of ego and finding the courage to take up as much space as the situation needs when the opportunity arises.  

“As someone who leads song and brings a lot of energy – no matter what space I’m in – I sometimes feel like I’m too much or I’m asking too much, and I think this was the first time I was in a space where I didn’t feel that way,” said Emet. “I was at the front: leading songs, singing, holding 1,000+ heartbeats, but I felt like that was an appropriate-sized task for me in the moment, and in the movement. Stepping into that role was really when it clicked for me, this concept of being ‘right-sized.’”



To read more about Boston’s Never Again Action and Others, read the following:

To find out more about Never Again or to support them, visit here

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An Organizer’s Journey: Turning Grief and Storytelling Into Community

We love sharing stories about how our alumni are using the organizing lessons we taught them to make change in the world. Last month we were fortunate to speak to Chloe Zelkha, an alumna of the 2014 Jewish Organizing Fellowship. One of the many things she said she learned from her experience was the emphasis on storytelling as an organizing tool.  “I fell in love with [it],” she said, “and taught it to youth at The Food Project, which is where I was working as a JOIN fellow.”

Today, Chloe is chaplain resident at UCSF Medical Center, where she uses storytelling while sitting at the bedside of someone who is dying. It helps her solicit a review of the person’s life and connect them to their own wisdom and what matters most to them, she explained.

In addition to this work, Chloe has been preparing for the Young Adult Grief Retreat, a project inspired by her own experience, and — by extension — a form of organizing. She was thrilled to tell us more about how the retreat came to be, and what participants can gain from the experience.

JOIN: What inspired you to bring to life a grief retreat? 

Two years ago in January, my dad died suddenly of a heart attack – totally healthy person in his 60s. I really was thrown into these questions. And I should also say, relatedly, my partner of many years, now my husband, three months before my dad’s sudden death, was hit by a car on his bicycle on the 2nd day of Rosh Hashanah and suffered really serious injuries, a massive brain injury, he broke his sternum and his neck and had nerve damage on his legs that made him really not able to walk, really serious. So for a year, we were working towards his recovery. Those two moments of powerful grief thrust me into this landscape of big questions about life and death and meaning. … I was woken up to this essential fact that anyone can die at any moment. The central fact of our mortality, and of impermanence. I was like “How do I stay awake to this? I don’t want to go back to sleep and just ignore that that’s true, because I think that there’s some wisdom and power there. How do I stay awake to that without living afraid all the time?”

JOIN: What was your process for finding the answers to such big questions?

The thing that I knew from organizing was that big questions and projects of the heart are best done in community. So, I went looking for people who got it. I came across a few really wonderful organizations, one being The Dinner Party which is a wonderful organization of folks, mostly in their 20s and 30s, who have experienced significant loss, gathering together around dinner tables in all these different cities. I connected with that crew, and also with faith-based communities: the Jewish Healing Center in the Bay area, and with my family at Urban Adamah (this Jewish farm in the Bay area). That’s ultimately what also brought me into chaplaincy. I thought about my professional work thus far, and continue to, as trying to facilitate transformative experiences for people. That’s how I think about what I do. I had known the power of retreat, from my work running this three-month, super-immersive experience with Urban Adamah, the Urban Adamah Fellowship, and with my work running summer-long immersion experiences for diverse youth at the Food Project, and also from sitting retreats myself. I thought it would be so beautiful to combine that form of immersion experiences on an urban farm, that I knew really well, with the population that is now where my heart is. I also thought it would be amazing to do that, instead of in a highly pathologized, clinical way that most grief spaces run, to do that for and by young people who know loss. So I got this idea in my head to do a grief retreat for young people on an urban farm, and Urban Adamah was game to try it out with me. I’m really excited about it; I think it’s going to be really magical and transformative.

Urban Adamah Farm

JOIN: What can participants expect to gain from this experience? 

One thing that’s really unique about the retreat is that all facilitators are also participants, and all participants are gonna be asked to hold space for each other. So there’s some things that are really separating us from this really formal therapeutic traditional grief-group vibe, that for me are really important and draw me into spaces. With the exception of a few teachers that we’re bringing in for an hour-and-a-half-long workshop session, who are just coming in and out. Participants can expect to engage with community ritual and with multi-model ways of getting at grief from working with emotions in the body, and with singing, and moving, and making art, and cooking, and also lots of free space and social time to connect with people who get it, or people kind of “in the club.” We’re really centering relationship, so hopefully people really get a chance to connect with others in the way that they want. And also, invitations into speaking from the heart, into silence, into solitude and also into community.

JOIN: Does a person have to be Jewish to attend?

Nope! The retreat is open to folks of all backgrounds and we hope it will be a diverse crew.

JOIN: What encouragement can you give to someone who is considering participating in the Jewish Organizing Fellowship?

JOIN is such a special opportunity to deepen into yourself as a leader and as a Jewish person and as an organizer, and to deepen into this powerful community that can love you and push you. There’s nothing better than that. That’s basically as good as it gets!

JOIN: Is there a memorable moment from your JOIN experience that you can share with us?  

I’m thinking about our closing retreat, and at that point in the program the fellows were empowered to plan and facilitate almost all of the retreat, which was so empowering and special. Dylan [Kaufman-Obstler] and Henry [Neuwirth], two of the fellows in my cohort, led a closing ritual that took us through the story of our year together, in conjunction with the story of each of our lives, and the story of the seasons. It was a very powerful and creative ritual that was home-grown out of our group. When we finished, we all spontaneously gathered in this tight little circle and sang one of our group’s favorite songs to sing. I remember it starting slow and building and building until we were practically jumping up and down wailing, some people laughing raucously, some people shedding tears, and I just found that group ritual to be such a good descriptor of how open our hearts were to learning but also to each other during that year. It was such a sacred moment. I remember that really strongly.


Chloe is also writer and illustrator of how-to zines on crafting rituals to honor loss. Find out more about Ten Grief Rituals here.


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