Dru Greenwood lives in Massachusetts, and signed up for the 2019 course Don’t Kvetch, Organize! to support her work at Temple Israel and with the Greater Boston Interfaith Organization. JOIN talked with Dru a few weeks after the course ended to share her experience in the course.
There’s nothing better than this course for synagogue leaders. It speaks with a Jewish voice and speaks to live issues in the interfaith organizing world, about how to speak with Jewish voice and authenticity. That particular focus is what I found really unique about Don’t Kvetch, Organize!
What I was hoping to get out of the course was a deeper understanding and practice of organizing. I’m working with the Greater Boston Interfaith Organization. We had just finished a major action, starting with a listening campaign in the spring and then serious actions in late August and right before the 2018 election. The Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey came to our action and received a blessing from 1,400 people, all raising their hands and sending her off as the people’s attorney to fight for affordable healthcare on behalf of the people of Massachusetts. When the deal was finally struck, her chief of staff told our lead people that they had put strictures in place that saved Massachusetts consumers more than $1 billion over 7 years.
Everyone took a breath after the fall action. It was after this action that several of our core team members took the JOIN course together. It was exactly the right place for us to be. In the spring 2019, we were going to devote organizer and clergy leadership time to bringing in more congregations and organizations with a focus on people of color, immigrants, low and middle income people. In the meantime during winter 2019, our main goal is to strengthen the organizing capability of the existing member organizations and that’s exactly what this course did.
I thought that the structure of the course was brilliant. I really appreciated the mix of virtual Zoom meetings and the readings and the videos. I’m not used to learning in that way, and I thought that was very effective.
The breadth and the approach to content was great. I know a number of people who made some of the tapes – Rabbi Jonah Pesner and Cheri Andes were wonderful, and I learned stuff about their actions on healthcare that I hadn’t known. It offered really helpful perspectives. It’s so much more tangible when you see the video of someone talking about a campaign; it comes alive.
Now that the course is over our synagogue core team has taken on a practice of doing one-to-ones. We each made a commitment to do a particular number each month—together it comes to 22 one-to-ones each month. At the beginning of each meeting we say how many we’ve done, and so far a month and a half after the course we’ve done over 50. It’s a cultural shift because we’re taking the practice of organizing so seriously, and we’ve taken on more responsibility ourselves.
This course is so important for helping us as Jews learn to be effective organizers and to really make a difference. The framework enabled us to understand why one-to-ones on an ongoing basis as a practice are so important to our effectiveness. And also how to talk about why this matters to each of us, like why you are doing work on affordable housing even though you personally have a place to live. That’s the story I try to tell–why this is so important to do–and the course gives you the tools to do it through a Jewish lens.