This winter, JOIN for Justice has embarked upon an undertaking that has major significance for our organization, the Jewish community, and potentially the United States as a whole. One of the issues shaping the beginning of the second Obama administration and the current Congress is immigration reform. Recent moves by prominent Republicans to reach out to Latino voters in the wake of last November’s elections have presented an opportunity for a consensus around comprehensive immigration reform that has not existed for decades. A number of Jewish Social Justice leaders came to realize, through conversations with one another this past fall, that this potentially historic moment has presented an opportunity to the Jewish Social Justice Movement and the Jewish Community as a whole to have a major impact on the lives of millions of aspiring Americans. From these conversations, has been born a coordinated Jewish campaign for comprehensive immigration reform that includes a path to citizenship for America’s 11 million undocumented immigrants.
This year, The Nathan Cummings Foundation, The Jewish Social Justice Roundtable, and other Jewish organizations will be working with PICO National Network and United We Dream to mobilize Jewish voters in key congressional districts in Illinois, California, Arizona, Florida, and Colorado to push for reform. JOIN for Justice has been engaged by the Jewish Social Justice Roundtable to play a key role in this campaign, providing strategy consultation, training, and coaching to 10 Jewish organizations in vital locations across the country. Six of our leaders – including alumni of the Jewish Organizing Fellowship and Seminary Leadership Project – will serve as coaches in this campaign. By this summer JOIN will have impacted the development of hundreds of lay and professional leaders who in turn will mobilize thousands of people to stand up for change. We are preparing leaders around the country to engage their Jewish constituents in story-telling and legislative actions aimed at encouraging the construction of a new communal narrative about the Jewish Immigrant experience in this country that binds our history to that of today’s immigrants.
Meir Lakein, JOIN’s Director of Organizing, is directing JOIN’s contributions to this momentous effort. He had this to say about what this campaign means to him and to JOIN for Justice.
“We get to do what we do best, which is to develop leaders, and do it at a historical moment. This is really the first time that we as an organization have a chance to be part of directly having a systemic impact at the national level. I’m personally very excited about enabling Jewish institutions to work in partnership with communities outside our own rather than in service to them. It’s a really historic chance to change the way that we as Jews relate to the rest of the world. Also, this is really big. Life can be different for 11 million people in the United States. To change that many people’s lives. That’s big.”
The outcome of this campaign is hardly assured, but the opportunity for change is real and JOIN’s staff is proud to be taking part in a moment that may well prove to be tipping point in American history.