In partnership with Combined Jewish Philanthropies, JOIN is thrilled to announce the Empower Fellowship, which launched in the 2019-2020 Jewish Organizing Fellowship year.
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 will be part of the Jewish Organizing Fellowship, engaging in all of the training, community, and mentorship that come with being a Jewish Organizing Fellow. They will also participate in additional trainings and other opportunities to support their leadership as Jewish organizers with disabilities. JOIN will provide 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 will 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 and visit our FAQ.
This program is generously supported by Combined Jewish Philanthropies, in honor of Barry Shrage, former President and CEO of Combined Jewish Philanthropies.
In 2019-2020 there will be 3-6 Empower Fellows. We anticipate having a cohort of 10-15 Jewish Organizing Fellows, the same number as in recent years, including the Empower Fellows.
We are excited about all the people and organizations this program will have an impact on:
- The Empower Fellows, 3–6 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 1–2 additional training sessions per month. The additional training sessions will most likely take place on Fridays before or after Jewish Organizing Fellowship sessions. 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 10–15 Jewish Organizing Fellows will benefit. We will deepen our training about ableism (systemic oppression of people with disabilities) and disability justice organizing for all Fellows, and change 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 will participate in training on ableism, disability justice, accessibility, and inclusion. This will support 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 justice 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 are each currently hosting their third JOIN Fellow. 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 labelled “disability,” you are eligible even if you don’t typically call yourself “disabled,” a “person with a disability,” or “differently-abled.” (To learn more about why we use these different terms, visit our FAQ.) If you would like to talk about whether this opportunity is right for you, given your unique experiences, please contact Jihelah Greenwald, Program and Network Manager, at email@example.com or 617-350-9994 x208.
To apply, you must complete the Jewish Organizing Fellowship application and answer the supplemental questions in the personal statement.