JOIN for Justice

Frequently Asked Questions

What does JOIN for Justice stand for?

JOIN for Justice is the Jewish Organizing Institute and Network for Justice.

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Why was JOIN for Justice created now?

Over the past decade, thanks to the efforts of institutions such as the Jewish Organizing Initiative (JOI), Jewish Funds for Justice (now PJA & JFSJ), Union of Reform Judaism’s Just Congregations (JC), and others, more and more Jewish organizations and leaders are organizing to build vibrant, thriving communities of meaning and purpose, where people share their stories, develop a common mission, and then act powerfully on that mission both within their own communities and, in the larger world, by working for change that promotes the values of justice and compassion that are central to our tradition. However, despite various programs across the country supporting organizing in the Jewish community, there had not been one institution solely dedicated to the training and supporting of Jewish organizers.

Executive Director Karla Van Praag of JOI approached Simon Greer, former President and CEO of PJA & JFSJ to discuss what might be possible. Along with Rabbi Jonah Pesner, Senior Vice President of the Union for Reform Judaism (URJ) and long-time community organizer Meir Lakein, they began to develop the collective vision and strategic plan to create a pipeline of Jewish organizers who could meet the demand for more training in these skills. Thus, JOIN for Justice was created.

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Is JOIN for Justice a new organization?

Yes and no. The Jewish Organizing Initiative was a single program organization focused on young adult leadership development and organizing based in Boston, Massachusetts. JOIN for Justice is the result of a joint venture between the Jewish Organizing Initiative and the Progressive Jewish Alliance & Jewish Funds for Justice to create a new multi-program organization, mentoring individuals from multiple constituencies across the country. There is no longer a separate entity with the name the Jewish Organizing Initiative, which has now been renamed JOIN for Justice to encompass the larger vision. PJA & JFSJ continues to play a central role in the visioning, development and implementation of this venture. JOIN for Justice is an independent non-profit.

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What is the mission of JOIN for Justice?

The goal of JOIN for Justice is to identify, recruit, train, develop, place and mentor hundreds of top quality Jewish organizers in lay and professional positions inside and outside of the Jewish community, transforming and strengthening individuals and institutions as they work for a more just, inclusive and compassionate society.

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Who does JOIN for Justice work with?

Currently, JOIN for Justice targets three key audiences for training opportunities:

Young Adults: The Jewish Organizing Fellowship is in its 14th year with 17 fellows in 19 placements. This program places young adults, aged 21-30, as organizers for change. Fellows receive high-level training and mentoring in leadership and community organizing skills as well as engage in intensive Jewish reflection and study, connecting their passion to build a more just world with Jewish values.

Clergy: The Seminary Leadership Project, in its 6th year, provides training for seminary students and mentoring for new clergy interested in applying organizing skills to increase community engagement. To date, over 200 students have participated in trainings at seminaries including Hebrew Union College- Jewish Institute of Religion (in New York and Los Angeles), the Jewish Theological Seminary, Yeshivat Chovevei Torah, Reconstructionist Rabbinical College, and American Jewish University. In addition to coursework, students may apply for internships with synagogues and broad-based community organizations (some in partnership with Just Congregations). Alumni receive mentoring as they put their learning into practice.

Jewish Institutional Leaders: JOIN for Justice trains and mentors Jewish professionals across the country in how to apply organizing skills to build community and achieve collective goals. For example, in January 2012, JOIN for Justice will train and mentor top professional and volunteer leaders from selected Jewish social justice organizations which are part of the Jewish Social Justice Roundtable. Once trained, these individuals will lead their organizations in implementing a campaign focused on key social justice issues which will emerge in 2012.

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Where is JOIN for Justice based?

JOIN for Justice’s office is in Boston, Massachusetts, just as JOI’s office has been. However, the board includes national representation and our work is being implemented in cities throughout the country.

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Who is the leadership team of JOIN for Justice?

Rabbi Jonah Pesner is the Chair of JOIN for Justice. Rabbi Pesner is Director, Senior Vice President of the Union for Reform Judaism and Founder of the URJ’s Just Congregations. Karla Van Praag is the Executive Director of JOIN for Justice, having transitioned from the same position at JOI. Meir Lakein, Senior Director of Organizing, and Catherine Bell, Director of the Jewish Organizing Fellowship, round out the professional leadership team.

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How is JOIN for Justice different from other Jewish social justice organizations?

JOIN for Justice is the only institution dedicated solely to training, supporting, and connecting Jewish organizers and the organizations they serve.

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Does JOIN for Justice engage in political advocacy?

No. JOIN for Justice is a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization and is therefore prohibited from engaging in partisan politics. Additionally, we do not take positions on issues or get involved in specific advocacy campaigns. Our role is to provide the organizational training and support to Jewish organizers. These organizers use the skills they have learned to work with their constituencies and identify the issues importance to them and build a campaign to act on them, thus creating a more just society.

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Apart from the intensive training programs, are there ways for me to get involved?

JOIN for Justice is pleased to announce the 2012 National Summit in New York City from April 29 to 30th. This first-ever gathering will bring together more than 150 JOIN for Justice supporters and leaders. All those excited about JOIN for Justice’s work and interested in participating in training, networking and strategizing are invited to participate. Our official registration will launch in February. If you want to indicate your interest and be notified when registration goes live, please fill out this form.
For more information, contact

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How is JOIN for Justice supported?

JOIN for Justice receives generous financial support from the Nathan Cummings Foundation, the Dorot Foundation, the Herman and Frieda L. Miller Foundation, Repair the World and Progressive Jewish Alliance & Jewish Funds for Justice as well as other generous foundations and individuals. As the organization grows, JOIN for Justice needs additional support from foundations and individuals committed to creating a world grounded in the Jewish values of social justice. For more information on how to support JOIN for Justice, please contact or call 617.350.9994

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