This article originally appeared in the Jewish Voice and Herald.
By Arthur C. Norman
PROVIDENCE – Hannah White, who grew up in Providence’s Jewish community, continues to see the world through, as she puts it, “Jewish-colored glasses.”
White is communications and development associate and operations manager for JOIN for Justice (the Jewish Organizing Institute & Network). This reporter learned more about White’s responsibilities at a Rosh Hashanah dinner in Providence and in subsequent emails and phone calls. White, 27, explained that JOIN for Justice “trains, mentors, supports and connects Jewish organizers and their organizations.” When asked about JOIN for Justice, White explained the mission of the Boston-based organization. It is, she said, “to train and develop Jewish organizers who work in lay and professional positions, both in Jewish and other civic organizations. Through several initiatives, individuals and institutions are transformed and strengthened as they work to create justice in the world,” said White.
JOIN for Justice runs the Jewish Organizing Fellowship, which is a year-long apprenticeship program for young adults working within and beyond the Jewish community; its Seminary Leadership Project offers courses, training, internships and mentorships for rabbinical, cantorial and education students from all Jewish movements.
White coordinates all of JOIN for Justice’s communication needs. Her development responsibilities focus on grants, grant reports, managing the donor database and working on the annual appeal.
“I am really proud of two projects that I worked on this past year,” she said. “I worked with lay teams and a graphic designer/web developer to completely revamp our website. By adding new and fresh content to our site, we are now able to spread our message to a wider base.”
Also, she said, “I was part of our team that ran a two-day national conference in New York called the National Summit [where] we worked to build the Jewish community’s capacity for organizing in three ways.”
Summit attendees received training in organizing, its theory and practice, and its relevance and relationship to the Jewish community; created learning opportunities to build networks of organizers who are professionally, geographically and/or personally compatible; and learned to leverage the power and passion of the community, White explained.
How did White get engaged in the Jewish communal world?
“When I was 8, we moved to Providence and joined Temple Emanu-El, [which] was a big part of my Jewish life and education.”
White attended religious school there, and became a bat mitzvah in June 1998. After her bat mitzvah, she volunteered as a Torah tutor for b’nei mitzvah students.
“Another important part of my Jewish education and upbringing,” said White, “was the group of friends that I met at Emanu-El at Simhat Torah in eighth grade. They invited me to celebrate with them, we became fast friends and, each Shabbat, we attended services together and continued our Shabbat celebration all over Providence, resting, reading, learning and playing together. I learned about holidays and celebrations, Jewish text and tradition, and the community became central to my life.”
White said that the group called itself “The Jew Crew” and they are still an important part of her connection to Judaism.
In addition to her religious school education at Emanu-El, she participated in classes at the Harry Elkin Midrasha Community High School.
White earned her B.A. in religious studies from McGill University in Montreal, Quebec, Canada, and an MBA in nonprofit management and an M.A. in Jewish professional leadership, both from Brandeis University.
“Although it is sad,” said White, “another part of my Jewish education happened when my mom [died]. Even while she was sick, our support system was astounding – folks offered us rides to and from school, dropped off food and helped us in every way. When she died, I felt completely supported by the Providence Jewish community, who filled the sanctuary to the brim for her funeral. The care and support we received drives me, to this day, to provide that same love to others.”
What does the future hold for her?
“JOIN for Justice is growing nationally,” she said. “At this point, we are no longer a startup. I believe that with the proper tools we can transform the larger Jewish community and make the world a better place.
“I can’t imagine a world in which I am not a part of the Jewish community. Once, when I was in first grade, my mom asked what I had done in school that day. I told her I had learned about a Jewish man who roamed the countryside planting trees for Tu Bi-Sh’vat. I had internalized the story of Johnny Appleseed in a way that made sense to me – of course he was Jewish! I think I look at the world through Jewish-colored-glasses.”
Was there anything else she wanted to share with readers? “Yes,” said White. “I’m getting married in May!”
Will members of “The Jew Crew” attend?
“Yes, [they] will be there in full force.”
ARTHUR C. NORMAN is a freelance copy editor for the paper. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org. White is his sister’s stepdaughter.