Empower Fellowship

The Empower Fellowship is currently paused. We are updating our programming to meet the needs of young Jewish organizers and social justice organizations today. To receive updates when we re-launch, and to learn about JOIN’s other programs in the meantime, please sign up for JOIN’s email list here.

The Empower Fellowship is a track within the Jewish Organizing Fellowship for Jews who self-identify as people with disabilities, disabled, or differently-abled*. Empower Fellows are part of the Jewish Organizing Fellowship, engaging in all of the training, community, and mentorship that come with being a Jewish Organizing Fellow. They also participate in additional trainings to support their leadership as Jewish organizers with disabilities. JOIN provides training and coaching to support the Empower Fellows’ placement organizations (employers) in being as accessible and inclusive as possible, as well as funding to help them hire their Fellows. Like all Jewish Organizing Fellows, Empower Fellows work at a variety of local social justice organizations, either within or beyond the disability community depending on their interests and the opportunities available. Jewish Organizing Fellowship applicants with disabilities can choose whether or not to additionally apply for the Empower Fellowship track.

*For more information on what we mean by “disability” and these different terms, please see below.

In 2022, there were 5 Empower Fellows within a cohort of 10 Jewish Organizing Fellows.

The Empower Fellowship is designed to make an impact on multiple levels:

  • The Empower Fellows, 4–6 Jewish young adults with disabilities, will receive support in their development as organizers. Empower Fellows will participate in all of the existing Fellowship activities, plus additional training sessions every 1-2 months. The additional training sessions will sometimes take place on Fridays after Jewish Organizing Fellowship sessions, and sometimes other days. These sessions will help Fellows build strong mutually-supportive relationships with one another. In a world that disempowers people with disabilities, building disability community is an act of resistance that grounds our work as organizers.
  • Session topics will include:
      • Learning the history of disability rights and justice movements, and how understanding this history can strengthen our organizing today
      • Knowing one’s rights as a disabled worker, understanding the Americans with Disabilities Act, and negotiating reasonable accommodations
      • Exploring individual adaptations to organizing practices based on one’s accessibility needs, strengths, and challenges
      • Intersections of Judaism and disability, including text study and religious perspectives as well as contemporary issues related to accessibility and inclusion in Jewish communities
  • All of the 10–14 Jewish Organizing Fellows will benefit. We have deepened our training about ableism (systemic oppression of people with disabilities) and disability justice organizing for all Fellows, and changed aspects of the Fellowship such as timing, venues, and modes of teaching and discussion based on the needs of the group. Everyone has a role to play in dismantling ableism, and these changes will deepen all Fellows’ effectiveness in their organizing.
  • We will support the Empower Fellows’ placement organizations in being accessible and inclusive, with training and coaching throughout the year, so that they can fully benefit from all that their Fellows have to offer. They will deepen their capacity to employ people with disabilities for the long-term, beyond the Fellowship year. Placements will also receive funding to support their ability to hire Fellows.
  • The JOIN staff have participated in training on ableism, disability justice, accessibility, and inclusion. This supports us both in welcoming the Empower Fellows and in improving all of our programs.
  • The wider JOIN community and organizing communities in the Boston area will learn more about ableism and disability justice from the Fellows (both Empower Fellows and other Jewish Organizing Fellows).
  • Social justice movements will be more effective as we benefit from organizers who have previously been excluded, and as Jewish Organizing Fellows, JOIN staff, and placement organizations learn to reduce barriers that keep people with disabilities out of our movements and make disability justice a core part of our justice work.

Why this? Why now?

Diversity, equity, and inclusion are core values at JOIN. For the past several years JOIN has focused on recruiting and supporting Jews with marginalized identities, including Jews with disabilities, Jews of Color, trans and gender non-conforming Jews, and Jews from poor and working class backgrounds. JOIN recognizes that systemic oppression keeps many of these individuals on the margins in Jewish communities and social justice movements.

Furthermore, we know that our organizations and movements can only succeed if we fight for liberation for all people. We aspire to build an anti-oppressive organization through our internal policies and practices and all of our programs. We are dedicating resources to recruit and support participants from marginalized groups throughout our training programs and network. The Empower Fellowship is a key part of that work.

Within the Jewish Organizing Fellowship, we have laid a strong foundation to deepen our disability work. Allegra Heath-Stout, our Fellowship Director, is disabled and has deep experience in the disability rights movement, and she has worked with many Fellows with disabilities over the years. We already have strong partnerships with two disability rights organizations, Disability Policy Consortium and Boston Center for Independent Living, which have each hosted 3-4 JOIN Fellows. Our broader commitment to growing as an anti-racist, anti-oppression organization also helps prepare us to design our new program in an intersectional way. We know that Jews with disabilities carry a range of other identities and experiences, and we are working to create a program where they can thrive.

Who is eligible for the Empower Fellowship, and what do we mean by “disability”?

To be eligible for the Empower Fellowship, you must meet the eligibility criteria for the Jewish Organizing Fellowship, and also self-identify as a person with a disability, disabled person, or differently-abled, or be considered in that category legally, medically, or socially, due to experiences such as (but not limited to):

  • Physical disability or mobility impairment
  • Mental health, psychiatric, or psychosocial disability
  • Learning disability
  • Sensory disability, such as blind, low-vision, Deaf, hard of hearing, or DeafBlind
  • Chronic illness
  • Neurological or cognitive disability
  • Intellectual or developmental disability

We understand that people with these experiences have a wide variety of relationships with the term “disability” and the disability community. If you have one or more of the above experiences or other experiences that could be labeled “disability,” you are eligible even if you don’t typically call yourself “disabled,” a “person with a disability,” or “differently-abled.”

Get to know our Advisory Committee, who helped create the Empower Fellowship.