“I was seeking to develop an organizer’s tool box… and I got it”

Jake Ehrlich lives in Michigan, and signed up for the our 2019 Don’t Kvetch, Organize!  course to support his work with Congregation T’chiyah and Detroit Jews for Justice. JOIN talked with Jake a few weeks after the course ended to share his experience in the course.

Jake marching with others with a "Poor People's Campaign" banner.

My hesitation in signing up for Don’t Kvetch, Organize! was around not being sure if the level was right for me. I’ve been more and more politicized and come to radical politics, and I wasn’t sure if I’m the right fit. But I’d heard lots of good things from people that I respect, and looking through the teacher descriptions it was exciting to see the diversity of folks represented.

I was hoping to come away with a sense of the nuts and bolts of organizing, including having skillful effective one-to-one conversations and moving beyond that into building relationships, how can we turn issues into a campaign, and how can we shift power. I was seeking to develop an organizer’s tool box and honing a vocabulary to talk about these things. And I got it – what stuck with me from Don’t Kvetch was developing clarity and fluency in speaking about organizing. It gave me the concepts and language to talk about what we’re doing, in a way that enables critical conversation, having the language to help us set goals and evaluate how well we’ve done.

I definitely feel I’ve become more effective in identifying people’s motivations in one-to-ones. I came in feeling strong in the relational component but not as strong in the actionable side, and the course gave me the framework to better conceptualize the strategy element of it. Another potent learning was the clear differentiation between activity and an action: i.e., that actions aspire to strategically advance a campaign, while activities may serve only to edify its participants. This distinction has been illuminating both in the work of political action as well as my work as a synagogue employee, helping me to take a long view about the broader impact of community-building instead of just “programming.”

Jake holding a challah.

As someone who has been politicized in other spaces, I felt like I had something to offer in the discussion forums. I would encourage organizers to use this space not only for their own education, but both to uplift and support the development of other organizers, and to practice how you would talk about organizing and the issues you work on.

Don’t Kvetch, Organize! invites a large swath of people to it, from Jews who are just starting to think about social justice and social action to people who have had some considerable organizing experience under their belt. It can be really rewarding to be part of a diverse online learning cohort and participating in the discussions.

You can learn more about the course here, and register below.

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