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issue thirteen

PRESENTENSE jewish life: here and now

J ewish social action now engaging and inspiring the world

FOOD, FAITH, AND JUSTICE what's your grocery story?

THE JEWISH SERVICE MECCA

SPRING 2011 $6.95

new orleans and the jewish community

www.presentense.org

THEORY OF RELEVANCY

a new reality

Read it Online pt

presentense.org/magazine

Tikkun Nepal a jewish opportunity >> caylee talpert Tevel B’Tzedek volunteers pack their bags, put their lives on hold, and set off to live in a mud house in an impoverished Nepali town.

Doing Well by Doing Good socially responsible investing >>joe gelpe

A Chance to Play encounter with sudanese refugee >> lee frankel-goldwater

10 Days in Reverse bringing israelis to the us >> jason langsner

A sign of hope: Arava Institute for Environmental Studies students work with Sudanese refugee children.

What’s the Recipe? challah for hunger hits campus >> daniel cohen A Small World? the ghana-uk connection >> ruth newman and sam greene

Laté’s Plays argentinian tzedek theater >> eve goldfinger

Deportation and Identity a jewish-cambodian exchange >> julia baskin Transplanted from rural rice farms to inner city projects, often illiterate, and traumatized by genocide, the Cambodian-American community meets the American Jewish community in Chicago.

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issue thirteen 2011

Judeo-Veganism what’s on your plate? >> david bookbinder and benjamin barer The Action of Inaction shabbat as social transformation >> jonathan shefa Organizing in Chaos israeli activism >> yoav sivan

Cost of an Education footsteps lead beyond the hareidi world >> lani santo Pitch an Idea how does your garden grow? >> jonathan mann Old and New World community in crisis >> arieh s. rosenblum The Chasidic Poet profile of yehoshua november >> diane reich Community of Bezalel kids get creative with the arts >> adam jacobs

editor and publisher Ariel Beery managing editor Deborah Fishman social action steering committee Simone Abel, Mollie Gerver, Hamutal Gillo, Farrah Green, Anya Manning, Rachel Olstein, Maya Politis, David Russell arts editor Emily K. Alhadeff associate editors Marc Bailes, Rachel Berger, Josh Fialkoff, David Krantz, Devorah Matkowsky, Dalia Wolfson assistant editors Eric Ackland, Kara Bookbinder, Ilya Fischhoff, Cara Frazin, Jeremy Gillick, Roben Kantor, Samantha Pohl, Raeefa Shams, Margaret Stoner, Lianna Wolfson peer editors Julia Baskin, Lee Frankel-Goldwater, Michael Getty, Katie Goldstein, Arieh S. Rosenblum, Leah Varsano, Benjamin Weisberger copy editors Miriam Bader, Nathan Fein, Paula Garshowitz, Rachel Krauser, Maya Norton, Aimee Weiss art director Elke Reva Sudin assistant art director Jerrin Kay photography director Naomi Zeidman photographers Abby Bellows, Laura Berger, Caitrin Gladow, Rudi Halbright, Leah Mendyk, Blair Elizabeth Nosan, Wallace Roberts, Amy West advertising and circulation director Simi Hinden business team Melissa Meyers This work is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.5 License. To view a copy of this license, visit http://creativecommons. org/licenses/by-nc-nd/2.5/ or send a letter to Creative Commons, 543 Howard Street, 5th Floor, San Francisco, California, 94105, USA. Creative Commons: We think the Creative Commons approach to content is smart because it gives creators flexibility in their licensing choices and it allows for seamless sharing of content. At PresenTense, our exclusive rights to content expire after no more than 120 days. At that time, we encourage our authors and photographers to adopt a CC license for their work. CC WWW.PRESENTENSE.ORG ISSN:1939-249X PresenTense is an international grassroots effort to inspire and enable socially-minded pioneering amongst the Jewish People, and this Magazine is made possible by a network of contributors around the world.

Geared up to march! Photo by Amy West.

Features 18 PRESERVING MEMORY, HEALING TRAUMA storying as social action >> leah varsano and tamar toledano 35 LESSONS FROM INDIA a new context for community organizing >> abby bellows 38 DIRECT SERVICE OR COMMUNITY ORGANIZING? choosing a model for change >> rachel van thyn 40 JEWS AND SOCIAL JUSTICE complicating the narrative, learning from our past >> judith rosenbaum 42 SPIRITUALITY AND ACTIVISM meditating on change >> alison laichter

Letters to the Editor HOLY CHEVRE: an eco-friendly goat cheese

We loved the article about our delicious cheese in the Fall 2010 issue of Presentense. One correction- We’re located in the town of Falls Village, Connecticut. If you’re ever in the area, be sure to come by and meet the goats!

Megan Jensen, Isabella Freedman Jewish Retreat Center.

Errata PresenTense Magazine is an all volunteer effort with 501(c)3 nonprofit status, and supports itself by selling advertising and group subscriptions. If you would like to reach a young Jewish audience through our pages, subscribe to our publication, or purchase a bulk order for your organization or event, please contact Simi Hinden at simihinden@presentense.org. If you would like to support PresenTense in its mission to enrich Jewish life, please make checks payable to the PresenTense Group, Inc. noting “magazine” in the memo line. Checks can be mailed to: PresenTense Group, Inc. 131 West 86th Street, 7th Floor, New York, NY 10024. PresenTense accepts submissions, pitches, and letters to the editor by email: editor@presentense.org. Contents presentense.org/magazine

Community Pittsburgh

Becky Voorwinde is 30, not 26, years old and her title at the time was director of alumni engagement, not alumni coordinator. She is now co-director of the Bronfman Youth Fellowships. Spotlight on Jewcology

ROI is a sponsor of Jewcology, in addition to COEJL, Hazon, the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, Canfei Nesharim, the Shalom Center, and the Green Zionist Alliance. Cover: Caylee Talpert volunteering on Tevel B’Tzedek in Nepal. Photo provided by Caylee Talpert. issue thirteen 2011

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PresenTense in Action! PresenTense Through the power ofin theAction! network, individual connections

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Cheryl Berkowitz is a graphic designer based in Brooklyn, NY. She enjoys crafting interfaces that invite logical interaction and support a brand, for clients in publishing, television, education, performing arts, and nonprofit. issue thirteen 2011

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Contents 32 LET ALL WHO ARE HUNGRY fighting hunger through food rescue >> asher weiss 34 TZEDEK BA'SADEH jewish food justice >> jakir manela & daniel kieval

FEATURES 35 LESSONS FROM INDIA a new context for community organizing >> abby bellows Leket performs food rescue to feed the hungry. Photo by Leket.

2 Contributors 5 Editorial 6 Read it Online 7 PRESENTENSE FELLOW ACTIVISTS changing the world, one venture at a time >> melissa scholten-gutierrez

HERE & NOW 10 WOMAN TO WATCH joelle novey >> rachel krauser 11 MAN WITH A PLAN elie lowenfeld >> benjamin weisberger

RULES OF ENGAGEMENT 12 SOURCING SERVICE jewish perspectives and approaches >> ezra shanken

AROUND THE WORLD 14 THE 12-LEGGED RACE realism and hope >> michael getty 16 THE JEWISH SERVICE MECCA new orleans and the jewish community >> joshua lichtman & moshe kornfeld 18 PRESERVING MEMORY, HEALING TRAUMA storying as social action >> leah varsano & tamar toledano

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20 DETROIT on the move >> liz kohn

38 DIRECT SERVICE OR COMMUNITY ORGANIZING? choosing a model for change >> rachel van thyn

21 Setting the Agenda for Change lessons from the jewish social action forum >> david brown

40 JEWS AND SOCIAL JUSTICE complicating the narrative, learning from our past >> judith rosenbaum

IDEAS

42 SPIRITUALITY AND ACTIVISM

22 COLLABORATION AT YOUR SERVICE siach connects the conversation >> dyonna ginsburg 24 THEORY OF RELEVANCY a new reality >> adam simon

SOCIETY 26 SPECIAL NEEDS surpassing expectations >> dori frumin kirschner & meredith englander polsky 28 IN A REFUGEE NATION israel faces a new refugee wave >> laura berger 29 THE CASE FOR ASYLUM not just a refuge for jews >> mollie gerver

meditating on change >> alison laichter

REVIEWS 44 SHADES OF GRAY book review: hush >> emily k. alhadeff 45 JUST CHEAP book review: in cheap we trust >> suzanne lipkin

FOOD COLUMN 46 BLIND TASTE TEST blackout: dining in style in the dark >> melissa meyers

ENDPAGE 48 STRENGTH IN COMMUNITY >> elke reva sudin

30 FOOD, FAITH, AND JUSTICE what's your grocery story? >> miriam leibowitz

presentense.org/magazine Contents

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hat does it take to produce a magazine issue on social action? Let’s start with community: where the creativity and ideas are brewing. Connecting around these ideas, community members identify common challenges, in the hopes that they can then seek informed solutions. The PresenTense Issue 13: Social Action community encompasses writers and editors, artists and innovators, who formed a network reaching from Jerusalem to St. Louis to Nepal. As with any community, the social actions within this one benefitted the whole. The connections— visible on our contributor’s map (see “PresenTense in Action!” p. 2)— enabled reciprocity and sharing, in particular through peer-editing, where writers edited fellow writers’ work.

today and tensions within the field of social action work. We would like to share these burning issues with you in a form which can be shared over Twitter (each is less than 140 characters) to encourage you to spread the word, and to show you how these challenges frame and are in conversation with the content that ultimately we produced in the issue.

The backbone of the community, PresenTense’s Social Action Steering Committee, guided the process of production of this magazine by brainstorming challenges facing social activists

When we unite from individuals into a community, small actions accumulate and together can change the world!

Want to get involved with our community? We are always looking for creative writers, editors, and steering committee members. Email editor@presentense.org for details. Want to support our community’s continued production of the in-print product you hold in your hands? Subscribe at www.presentense.org/magazine/subscribe— and please spread the word.

PresenTense: What are the tensions and challenges in the field of social action? #CharityChallenges @Anya_Manning

Maya_Politis: Reinventing the wheel. So many do great work, but instead of combining their passion and minds, all are competing for the same funds. Anya_Manning: Embracing innovation and entrepreneurship in the nonprofit field without spawning unnecessary/duplicative organizations Anya_Manning: Better coordinating the social action organizations that DO exist to increase efficiency and further all our missions #SIACH @p. 22 Mollie_Gerver: Building alliances with those with different goals but similar values and different values but similar goals. #JEWISH SOCIAL ACTION FORUM @p. 21 Simone_Abel: Taking on only issues where I know I can actually achieve change, or those that are important but where creating change is more difficult.

Anya_Manning: Realizing that change may take years, even decades. But if we stop to address direct need faced today, the problems will continue. #DIFFERENT MODELS @p. 38

is program and education associate at Repair the World. She joined as an Insight Fellow, through which she previously worked at Dor Chadash and at The American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee. Prior, Anya worked as resident advisor and educator for Kivunim, a one-year precollege program for Diaspora Jews. In 2010, Anya was named a Nahum Goldmann Fellow and traveled to Croatia to meet with other fellows from around the world. A graduate of Barnard College and The Jewish Theological Seminary and a native of Natick, MA, Anya currently lives in Manhattan with her husband, Elie.

@Mollie_Gerver

moved to Raanana, Israel with her parents in high school, lived throughout Israel during her military service, and later moved to Jerusalem for university, where she founded Advocates for Asylum to raise awareness among policymakers and the public about why refugees fled to Israel from Eritrea, South Sudan, Darfur, the DRC and other areas of conflict and oppression. Mollie was a 2010 PresenTense Global Fellow, and is now a JDC Service Corp fellow in Rwanda at the Agahozo-Shalom Youth Village.

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Maya_Politis: When people wanting to do good come from the “outside,” problems can occur from cultural differences/insensitivity.

Rachel_Olstein: Engaging in projects that make us, the volunteer or service provider, feel good, without assessing the impact on the service recipient. #FOOD DESERTS @p.30

Maya_Politis: Problem of good intentions. A lot of social action is done in the name of “doing good,” but it is much more complicated to actually impact. Anya_Manning: A lack of coordination in connecting skilled (or unskilled) volunteers to people and organizations in need. #MARLA’S VENTURE @p. 9

@Rachel_Olstein’s interest in social justice began in 1999 when she volunteered for a year with AmeriCorps. She went on to receive her bachelor’s from Vassar College in urban education and French and spent two years teaching second grade at an inner-city school. She then spent several years teaching and leading outdoor education programs at the Teva Learning Center and as a wilderness guide for service trips in Ladakh, India and the Azore Islands. Rachel received her master’s in community leadership and nonprofit management at Hebrew University, focused on international development and volunteer organization. As part of her studies, she spent two months working on a rural banking project in rural Ghana. Rachel is the director of volunteer services at Agahozo-Shalom Youth Village.

@Simone_Abel

Anya_Manning: Making effective use of a volunteer takes time, effort, and thought; nonprofits need to be trained how to manage volunteers.

Simone_Abel: Where issues of human rights and Israel overlap, how to weigh in without alienating your support base, or conversely, losing credibility? #JEWISH SOCIAL ACTION FORUM @p. 21

Maya_Politis: The public’s apathy.

Mollie_Gerver: The What-About-Your-Own-People Fallacy: Facing critics asking, “Why are you helping them, not your own?” #NEPAL @READ IT ONLINE

Maya_Politis: The real work can get overshadowed by political and bureaucratic challenges. #ISRAELI ACTIVISM @READ IT ONLINE

Maya_Politis: Many activists have great passion but aren’t business-oriented. Projects lose steam as they lose $/much smaller impact than if sustainable.

Mollie_Gerver: Investing time in fundraising without it being at the expense of reaching the types of goals that would justify fundraising.

David_Russell: Where to find/draw the boundary

between dedication to a cause, making change, and the personal, to avoid burnout. #MEDITATION @p. 42

Mollie_Gerver: Being hopeful enough to keep fighting, cynical enough to keep questioning, and practical enough to keep working, all at the same time.

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is director of RenéCassin. Previously, she worked in the New York office of Human Rights Watch (HRW), and prior was an attorney at leading law firms Cravath, Swaine & Moore LLP, New York, and Mallesons Stephen Jaques, Sydney. She also worked as a journalist for the Australian Jewish News. Simone holds a BA/LLB and is currently completing a Masters of International Law at the University of New South Wales. She is a graduate of the Centro de Estudio del Espanol, Buenos Aires, and has lent her skills to the Migrant and Refugee Rights Project, the JewishCare Prison Outreach Program, Room to Read, the Downing Center Duty Solicitor Scheme, and the National Indigenous Project.

@Maya_Politis

completed her MA in International Development at The Institute of Development Studies in the UK in 2009. Currently she works as a consultant at Tel Aviv University and the Academic College of Jaffa, building academic programs in topics such as social entrepreneurship, community development, and migration. She has been teaching yoga for four years and is involved in different social/cultural projects in Tel Aviv. Maya made aliyah to Israel a year and a half ago.

@David_Russell is Director of Survivors Fund (SURF), a UK-based international nonprofit organization which represents and supports survivors of the Rwandan genocide. As Founder of The Social Enterprise (in 2007), David also continues to advise social ventures including A Slim Peace, which brings together Israeli and Palestinian women from across the Middle East divide with a shared goal of losing weight, and the Specially Produced Innovatively Directed (SPID) Theatre Company, which develops artistic programs with urban youth in London.

PresenTense Fellow Activists

changing the world, one venture at a time >> melissa scholten-gutierrez

S

ocial action, tikkun olam, saving the world— PresenTense fellows are doing it around the world. They heard the call from Rabbi Hillel, “If not now, when?” and seized their moment to make a difference in local and global Jewish communities. PresenTense caught up with a few past fellows, asking three questions:

T

1 What do you aim

to contribute to the social action community?

ova Speter is an artist, art therapist, art educator, and arts administrator with a BA in psychology, an MA in art therapy and mental health counseling, and a certificate in arts management. As the founder of The MEM Project, Tova leads community murals, engages students in artistic expressions of their Jewish identity, and reaches out to underserved communities through art.

The MEM Project harnesses interactions with the arts, fostering collective exploration and offering a new understanding of community partnerships. This innovative, mural-based community engagement experience builds self-esteem and generates new connections, making a difference in underserved neighborhoods.

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2010 Boston

important for our generation to engage in social justice activities?

Director, The MEM Project www.thememproject.org

The first action people can take is to identify participating in social justice programs as a priority in their lives. They can then reach out to engage in activities of interest. If there is interest in exploring social justice through the creative arts, they can be in touch with The MEM Project to get involved in an upcoming workshop or mural project.

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David Lasday

Head Coach, Bring It In - Israel www.bringitinisrael.com

Engaging in social justice is a win-win. It has been my experience that the more one gives to their community, the more they get back. In today’s technological age, with the tremendous reach and power we have as individuals, everyone has the ability to make a significant impact on the world. Take the time to learn something online from your friends and community and share it with someone else.

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people in your community can take to get involved in social justice?

Tova Speter

Our generation is becoming more and more distracted by new media and technology that allows digital rather than personal interactions. Active engagement in social justice programs can happen online, but the community spirit and energy derived from direct experience is crucial to the development of our values and our role as future leaders who prioritize acts of community philanthropy.

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Bring It In – Israel looks to develop dynamic young leaders to serve as role models and coaches. The program gives participants the skills to use sports to connect Jewish children worldwide to Israel. In addition, participants hone their skills running educational sports days and mifgashim (cultural exchanges) for Israeli children from different demographics. Sports and play have tremendous power to teach and bring people together.

2 Why is it

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avid Lasday works as a sports-based youth development consultant for Global Game Changers. The PresenTense Global 2010 Fellowship provided David with the tools to create Bring It In Jerusalem - Israel, a program that trains Israel Sports Educators. David, a graduate of the University of Maryland, previously worked as program director for PeacePlayers International - Middle East (PPI-ME) and as assistant general manager for the minor league basketball team the Maryland Nighthawks.

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3 What is one step

It’s never been easier to get involved in social justice. Hundreds of great organizations offer meaningful volunteering opportunities in every community around the world. The Bring It In - Israel Twitter account (@BringItInIsrael) is constantly retweeting social action initiatives and opportunities. Moreover, if you are age 18-24, planning on being in Israel, and want to use sports to build community and teach life skills, apply for the Bring It In - Israel Fellowship.

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efore making aliyah and serving in the IDF, David Kramer was the head advisor for the Department of Informal Jewish Education for David Kramer 2010 CEO and Founder, NU Campaign the South African Jewish Board of Education and founder of the Jerusalem www.nucampaign.org Israel Information Department for the South African Zionist Federation. In Israel, David worked for the Jewish Agency and the World Union of Jewish Students until he decided to establish the NU Campaign— an Israeli social awareness clothing brand and organization dedicated to raising awareness and funding for important Israeli causes and charitable organizations. David is married to Tova and they live in Jerusalem with their three children.

NU Campaign aims to connect people worldwide to take action for important Israeli charitable causes. In Israel today, there are 26,000 nonprofit organizations and a tremendous movement for the betterment of our world. Not many people are aware of this side of Israel: a country whose citizens deeply care for global humanity and are willing to make sacrifices for its improvement. Far more than selling fancy designs on cotton, NU is about education and awareness. By printing the stories on the inside of every NU t-shirt, opposite the heart, we want to connect people to the human story behind our featured causes. We hope that wearers will internalize the message and be inspired to make a difference.

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Today one in three Israeli children live in poverty. One billion Africans live without access to electricity and running water. One in 100 children worldwide are born with a heart defect and most have limited access to medical help. Last year’s massive earthquake in Haiti left one million people without homes, who remain homeless one year later. The list goes on. Our work is clearly cut out for us.

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I am a strong believer in the power of small actions. For every NU shirt purchased, we donate up to 40% of profits to the charitable organization behind the cause, and we are working to increase that number to 100% through strategic partners. By wearing the shirt, you are empowered to carry the message wherever you go and spread the story. By lighting small sparks, one wearer at a time, we aim to create a global community of change.

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Bailie Aaron 2010 Boston Founder and Board Chair, Venturing Out www.venturingout.org

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aillie Aaron is a Phi Beta Kappa graduate of Harvard University, where she discovered her passion for identifying and reducing inequalities in the criminal justice system. In 2007, while working at Harvard’s Program in Criminal Justice, Baillie started volunteering at a county prison. Through this experience, she realized that many inmates exhibited an untapped, above-average talent for business and could benefit from formal business classes. In response, Baillie developed Venturing Out (formerly Entrepreneurship 101), a nonprofit organization teaching entrepreneurship courses to incarcerated and court-involved individuals to enable students to reach their entrepreneurial potentials.

An individual trying to impact his or her community can only do so much alone. My goal as a social entrepreneur is to create opportunities for people interested in social action to collectively make a difference. Organizations like Venturing Out connect people who have a passion for a particular cause with relevant positions, allowing them to give back in a meaningful, high-impact way.

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It is important for every generation to give back to the community. Nobody achieves success by himself or herself; instead, we rely on support from other people to help us reach our goals. According to the Jewish principle of tikkun olam, it is our responsibility to engage in social action to improve societal welfare; it is our obligation to use the resources, knowledge, and skills gained through our experiences to help other people in our communities achieve their dreams as well. Direct involvement with community-based social justice programs is one way for members of our generation to do that.

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Nonprofit organizations, including Venturing Out, regularly advertise through websites like Idealist.com or Craigslist.com as well as through university career centers. If you are interested in a cause, contact an organization with a related mission to ask about opportunities, or check out websites of foundations and funders with similar interests to see which projects they are involved with. It’s a great way to network with likeminded people! Keep in mind that social justice organizations are often underfunded and overwhelmed, so don’t be discouraged if you don’t hear back from them right away. Be persistent, and help them find you the perfect opportunity to get involved.

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2010 Jerusalem

Marla Gamoran

Founder, Skilled Volunteers for Israel skillvolunteerisrael.org

Through Skilled Volunteers for Israel, I aim to provide opportunities for North American Jewish adults— particularly those from the Baby Boomer generation— to volunteer their talents and expertise in support of the real needs in Israeli society. Through skilled volunteering, those who care deeply about Israel can make meaningful contributions, experience Israel firsthand, benefit from working side-by-side with their Israeli counterparts, and return to their home communities as ambassadors for the nonprofit organizations they worked with as well as for Israel.

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arla spent most of her professional life in nonprofit and higher education management, and is now launching her encore career through her new venture Skilled Volunteers for Israel. Marla’s passion for Israel has led her to discover the need to build the framework for baby boomers like herself to volunteer their skills and expertise in Israel.

I believe it is critical for every generation to engage in social justice activities. Skilled Volunteers for Israel targets older adults and will provide amazing opportunities for volunteer engagement, such as those available for younger Jews. I hope that our volunteers motivate children, grandchildren, friends, and community members to similarly volunteer and contribute to social justice. Furthermore, I hope that engaging Jews of all generations will result in multi-generational opportunities to work together to make a difference.

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My advice: Get involved now; don’t wait for the perfect time. We make time for what’s important to us, and getting involved through acts of social justice enriches us and our communities.

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fter a BA Honors degree from Manchester University in England and six years in Asia, Bradley returned to Israel, having rediscovered his 2008 Bradley Cohen Jewish roots and the profound spiritual insight of Judaism. As a PT India Projects Director, Lev Olam www.levolam.org fellow, he engaged Israeli backpackers in India in volunteer and Jewish identity work, running a highly successful pilot program in 2009 funded by the JDC. In 2010, he joined forces with Lev Olam, an Israeli humanitarian organization, and has just returned from four months in India, where he ran four programs for backpackers looking for meaning on their travels.

Some Jewish organizations help only Jews. Some help only non-Jews because it is seen as even more noble to help others. I want to show that we can and should help all people irrespective of race and religion. I also seek to strengthen the awareness that the people who actually gain the most are the volunteers themselves. Finally, I aim to teach that you can do social action through love, joy, and wonder at the world, not just through a harsh ‘battle for justice’ mentality.

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Social action is not just something nice to do. It is our role in the world: to fix ourselves (tikkun hamiddot) and fix the world (tikkun olam). Social action is a life-changing, empowering, meaningful experience, helping us to manifest our potential in the world - to serve something greater then ourselves, to go beyond ego, to use our time on this planet effectively, efficiently, and in a meaningful way.

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Find out what you see as the problem in society, have a strong feeling about it, build passion, and then do something about it. Either find organizations already dealing with that issue or find like-minded people and start something of your own. PT

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Melissa Scholten-Gutierrez is a Jewish communal professional, social worker, educator, writer, mikvah advocate, and the proud co-author of Redefining Rebbetzin. (RedefiningRebbetzin.com)

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For free consultation contact Itzhak Beery 212-533-0909 or email ibeery@bsadv.com issue thirteen 2011

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Woman To Watch joelle novey >> rachel krauser

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Here & Now

rmed with a serious mora l compass, plus a degree in socia l studies from Har vard U n i v e r s i t y, J o e l l e N o v e y is the director of Greater Wa s h i n g t o n I n t e r f a i t h P o w e r a n d L i g h t ( G W - I P L , h t t p : // w w w. g w i p l . or g / ). Prop e l l i n g he r i s a s e n s e of socia l responsibilit y coming from a deep understanding of tikkun olam (repa i r i ng t he world) a nd a bel ief in it s plac e at t he c ore of Jud a ism. “‘Thou sha lt not oppress a stranger: for you know the heart o f a s t r a n g e r, s e e i n g y o u w e r e on c e strangers in the land of Eg ypt’ ( E xo du s 2 3:9). T h i s i s a re m i nd e r that we should not oppress anyone, e v e n w h e n t h i n g s a r e b e t t e r f o r u s ,” Novey explains. B a s e d i n t h e Wa s h i n g t o n , D C a r e a , G W- I PL , o n e o f o v e r 3 0 I n ter f a it h Power a nd L i g ht prog r a m s a c r o s s t h e c o u n t r y, p a r t n e r s w i t h congregations from various denominations and educates them about how to be environmenta lly conscious in pursuing their mission. G W- I PL a l s o h e l p s c o n g r e g a t i o n s learn more about energ y and climate issues and spea k out on environmenta l advocac y ca mpa igns. Novey ma kes a clear connection bet ween fa ith a nd socia l action. “I a lway s felt t hat Jud a ism — t a ken seriously—would change the world. The theme I keep returning to in my w ork i s bu i ld i n g a nd s upp or ting religious communities that lead p e ople ( b ot h Je w s a nd non-Je w s) to socia l action and to truly live out t h e i r v a l u e s .” Ever y three week s, Novey helps to organize Tik kun Leil Shabbat ( h t t p : // t i k k u n l e i l s h a b b a t . o r g ) , a “song f u l, sou l f u l ser v ic e” foc u sing on socia l action followed by a pot luc k ve get a r ia n d i n ner. Not h i ng is disposable, and the evening ends with a communa l dish-wa shing a nd clea nup. A ll a re welcome, Jews a nd non-Jews a like. “Tik kun L eil Shabbat provides a space for our generation that places socia l justice at

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t h e h e a r t o f o u r c o n g r e g a t i o n . I t ’s so exciting in DC to have a whole communit y of folk s who embrace Jud a ism a s a spirit u a l prac t ic e a nd undertake social activism as core t o t h e i r i d e n t i t y.” A native of Ba ltimore, a cit y with a strong tradition of Catholic activism, Novey obser ved the Catholic communit y improving conditions for the less privileged s e g m e n t s o f t h e c i t y, c r e a t i n g schools in bad neighborhoods. “No one asked why Catholics were doing t hat. It just wa s pa r t of what it mea nt to be Cat holic. For a long time, many people in progressive religious traditions have fought injustice a s a natura l pa rt of how they participate in their religious c o m m u n i t y. I d o n ’t t h i n k w e a r e l i k e t h a t i n t h e J e w i s h w o r l d y e t .” B ut t he g a p s e e m s t o b e n a rrowing; the Jewish communit y is becoming more conscious about bringing t his spirit into a l l d ifferent a spects of life. A nswering this ca ll, Novey co-authored, a long w it h Rebec c a Sha lof f, Green and Just Celebrations, a loca l guide for the Jewish communit y on how to celebrate Jewish milestones in an e n v i r o n m e n t a l l y f r i e n d l y w a y. I n terspersed with Jewish teachings, it expla ins ways fa milies ca n ma ke choices which are conscious of laborers’ rights, anima l welfare, and the planet as a whole: from how to choose locations and culinar y opt ion s to r i n g s w h ic h c a n b e e xcha nged with a clea n conscience at w e d d i n g s . N o v e y ’s t i p s w e r e t r i e d a nd t e s t e d f i r s t h a nd w he n s he m a rr i e d E t h a n M e r l i n o n A u g u s t 17, 2 0 0 8 . “ We e m b r a c e d t h e o p p o r tunit y to ma ke green choices a s a way of sharing the ways we hope to l i v e l i f e a s a f a m i l y g o i n g f o r w a r d ,” Novey says. W hen Novey is not busy being a leader in the f ield of Jewish s o c i a l a c t iv i sm, s he i s a bu s y p a rticipa nt, wit h hobbies t hat involve making the world a better place.

“I always felt that Judaism — taken seriously — would c h a n g e t h e w o r l d .”

Photo provided by Joelle Novey.

Name: Joelle Novey Home: Washington, DC Watch her because: She’s connecting faith and social justice to raise environmental consciousness in our congregations and celebrations. She recent ly joined Songrise, a loc a l w o m e n ’s s o c i a l j u s t i c e a c a p pella group which sings at rallies, protests, and celebrations, raising money and awareness for various causes. N o v e y ’s a d v i c e f o r g e t t i n g i n v o l v e d ? “ Ta k e J e w i s h t r a d i t i o n s o f sanctif ying sma ll actions as an inspiration to pay attention to t hings y o u d o e v e r y d a y,” s h e s a y s . “ E v e r y choice is a n opportunit y to consider how we interact wit h t he world. W h o g r e w t h i s c o f f e e I ’m d r i n k i n g a nd how did its ha r vesting impact other people and the Earth?” She insists she persona lly still has a way to go. “Sometimes I get t i red a nd I’ l l t a ke t he ele vator. I tr y to remember my cup when I go t o a c o f f e e s h o p b u t I d o n ’t a l w a y s , a n d t h a t ’s O K . I t ’s a b o u t s e t t i n g yourself on that track and doing the best you ca n. With a ll of these t h i n g s , I ’m s t i l l o n t h e j o u r n e y.” PT Rachel Krauser has recently returned from living most of her adult life in Israel, and is currently enjoying rediscovering life in New York City. presentense.org/magazine Here & Now

Man with a Plan elie lowenfeld >> benjamin weisberger

d a r R a p i d s t o h e l p t h e c o m m u n i t y.” A s part of a relief effort in which ma ny dif ferent communities ca me t o g e t h e r, L o w e n f e l d “s a w a g l a r i n g e m p t y s p a c e w h e r e m y c o m m u n i t y, t h e J e w i s h c o m m u n i t y, w a s n ’t .” To e n g a g e m o r e A m e r i c a n J e w s in addressing such natural disasters, Lowenfeld founded the Jewish Dis a s t e r R e s p on s e C or p s ( J DRC ). T he JDRC org a n i z e s t he A meric a n Je wish communit y to provide ha nds-on assistance in the wa ke of domestic d isa sters. T he JDRC is c omprised of members who ma ke a one-yea r commitment to a ssist in recover y efforts, such as hanging sheet rock, pa inting houses, removing debris, and clearing trees.

Photo provided by Elie Lowenfeld.

Name: Elie Lowenfeld Home: New York City Watch him because: He’s relieving us from domestic natural disasters.

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lie Lowenfeld has always possessed a keen desire to help others. “I grew up in a home [w he r e] v olu nt e e r i n g a nd s e rv i c e t o o t h e r s w a s i m p o r t a n t ,” h e states. A s a youth, he delivered food to t he elderly a nd volunteered in a soup k itchen. Follow ing Hurric a ne K atrina, Lowenfeld traveled to New Orleans on more than one occasion to help with the relief ef fort. In 2008, Lowenfeld worked with A mericorps in Ceda r R apids, Iowa af ter record f looding. He saw ma ny Christia n volunteers —who came from nationa l organizations, loca l churches, a nd a s individua l s — b u t , d i s a p p o i n t i n g l y, v e r y f e w people from his own Jewish fa ith. He says, “In t wo mont hs, t here wa s not one Jewish group to come to Ce-

Here & Now presentense.org/magazine

begin to expand our work and grow i n s t i t u t i o n a l l y,” s a y s L o w e n f e l d . Lowenfeld explains that the m ission of t he JDRC d i f fers f rom that of most Jewish ser vice organizations. W hile these organizations may seek to educate or provide a Je w ish e xperienc e, t he JDRC is fo cused on helping disaster victims. He st ate s, “ T he JDRC wa s fou nded with one goa l: to help people in d i s a s t e r s .” For Lowenfeld, running the JDRC ha s been a f u l f i l l ing ende avor. He say s, “ T he g re ate st t h i ng about work ing on t he JDRC is t he p e o p l e t h a t I g e t t o m e e t .” T h o s e people include volunteers a nd members of a f fected communities, who

“If you see a problem that needs to be f i x e d . . . d o n’ t w a s t e y o u r t i m e w a i t i n g f o r o t h e r s t o j u m p o n b o a r d .” Sinc e it s inc ept ion, t he JDRC ha s achieved signif ica nt mobilizat i o n o f v o l u n t e e r s . I n 2 0 0 9 , 14 J D R C volunteers went to Ceda r R apids to help with f lood-recover y ef forts, including removing debris from a store in t he downtown a rea a nd participating in rebuilding projects. I n 2 010 , t h e J D RC b r o u g h t o v e r 5 0 v o l u n t e e r s t o G a l v e s t o n , Te x a s t o help repair the damage caused by Hurric a ne Ike. “T he college k ids traded their notebook computers for sledgeha mmers, pa intbrushes, maps, a nd ot her implements of recover y as they practiced new skills a s h o m e r e n o v a t o r s ,” t h e G a l v e s t o n Count y Daily News reported. The JDRC ha s helped rec over y ef for t s i n P r o v i d e n c e , R I , L o u i s v i l l e , K Y, and Nashville, T N, among other places. T he JDRC ha s rec ent ly t a ken a n impor ta nt orga nizationa l step. O n S e p t e m b e r 1, 2 010 , t h e J D RC became a part of the Bronfman Center for Jewish Student Life at New Yo r k U n i v e r s i t y. “ T h i s h a s h e l p e d u s

come together to help one another in times of crisis. For someone look ing to start a vent u re l i ke t he JDRC , L owen feld says that it is best to ta ke a proactive, leading role. He asserts, “If you see a problem that needs to be f i x e d … d o n ’t w a s t e y o u r t i m e w a i t ing for ot hers to jump on boa rd... Yo u c a n s t a r t m a k i n g a d i f f e r e n c e t o d a y.” Lowenfeld explains the motivation behind his work, “It is t he mora l a nd socia l responsibilit y of t h e J e w i s h c o m m u n i t y, j u s t a s a n y o t h e r A m e r i c a n c o m m u n i t y, t o e x tend a helping hand to these comm u n i t i e s d u r i n g t h e i r t i m e o f n e e d .” T h rou g h h is work w it h t he JDRC , L o w e n f e l d d o e s j u s t t h a t . PT Benjamin Weisberger lives in Jerusalem. He is a student at H e b r ew U ni ve r s i t y.

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Sourcing Service

jewish perspectives and approaches >> ezra shanken

Jon Rosenberg Jon Rosenberg is the CEO of Repair the World (www.werepair.org). He has a 20-year background in public education reform, civil rights, criminal justice, and related fields. Before joining Repair the World, he was the founding executive director of Roads to Success, a college and career readiness program for low-income youth. He has held senior positions at Edison Schools, the US Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights, and The Children’s Aid Society. Rosenberg has served as an adjunct faculty member at Teachers College and Columbia Law School, where he taught Children and the Law and Education Law. A graduate of the University of Pennsylvania and Columbia School of Law, he lives in Montclair, NJ with his wife and two children.

Rules of Engagement

Is service Jewish?

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There are few things more essentially Jewish than serving a cause greater than one’s self. Our rabbinic tradition places a great deal of emphasis on being an eved hashem— one who lives in service to the Divine. And it articulates that in order to serve the Divine, one must serve his or her fellow: her family, her community, her nation, and her world. That service is rendered in acts of chesed and tzedakah— loving-kindness and charity. In that sense, service is a Jewish imperative.

What is more righteous: to give of one’s time or money? Chesed and tzedakah need not be hierarchized nor pitted against each other: Together they are parts of a holistic approach to repairing the world. Both are essential Jewish obligations. But service unquestionably asks of the individual a deeper level of personal engagement and commitment than acts of charity require. This is not because it is more righteous than giving charity.

Who in the torah personifies service to you? Yitro, Moshe’s father-in-law, is like the romantic biblical prototype of a Peace Corps fellow. He’s on an alternative break trip to the

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Sinai desert. There he finds Moshe struggling alone to serve the needs of am yisrael (people of Israel) as its sole judge, and thus he’s identified a structural issue negatively affecting the community. He takes the initiative to address the problem: “You will surely wear yourself out both you and these people who are with you, for the matter is too heavy for you; you cannot do it alone.” He then helps Moshe establish a system of judges, “God-fearers, men of truth, who hate monetary gain,” to “bear” the burden, “thereby making it easier for you,” so that “this people will come upon their place in peace.” Yitro’s service on behalf of Israel— which, as a Midianite, is not even his nation— is an excellent example of how one’s efforts on behalf of another community can have an appreciable impact.

Is service to the greater community Jewish service?

What are three things young Jewish people can do to make service a priority in their Jewish life? 1. Identify your passion: Find the issue that most animates you and explore the ways in which you’re inspired to address that issue through acts of service. 2. Take a year off: Consider taking a year off between high school and college, or in between years of college, to do a year of service. 3. Lead a life of service: Service is a lifelong commitment, not a one-off activity. Make it a part of the orientation of your life. Just as we’re asked us to tithe our income, we also must tithe our time to do the necessary work of repairing the world.

It says in Talmud Gittin 61a: “We sustain the non-Jewish poor with the Jewish poor, visit the non-Jewish sick with the Jewish sick, and bury the non-Jewish dead with the Jewish dead, because these are the ways of peace.” As much as one is obligated to love and serve his fellow Jew, he is obligated to love and serve his fellow man, his fellow living creatures, and the Earth as a whole. The world isn’t going to get repaired by breaking it apart into more pieces.

presentense.org/magazine Rules of Engagement

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udaism and service have had an intimate relationship for thousands of years: from contributions to the mishkan in the desert to the recent participation of Jewish community members in everything from advocating the cease of genocide in Darfur to supporting workers’ rights in California. In this issue’s Rules of Engagement, PresenTense asked two experts in the field of service to tell us, “What is Jewish about service, anyway?”

Yonatan Glaser Yonatan Glaser founded B’Tzedek, whose flagship program is LIFE (www.LIFEprogram.org). He has extensive experience in young adult informal Jewish education and leadership development and served as North American Central Educational Shaliach (Emissary) to the Reform Movement. He graduated from the Mandel Institute’s School for Educational Leadership and holds degrees in law, economics, and Jewish thought. Glaser improved Israel’s policy on the influx of African asylum seekers and is experimenting with new forms of communitybased political organizing.

Is service Jewish? Service by itself is not Jewish. Creating justice is Jewish. So is learning and creating community. Creating links between these three is one way to think about, build, and enhance Jewish life. If we understand service as social change and the demand for justice, we are on the right track. This is in contrast to understanding service in the pshat (simple or straight-forward) sense of help and assistance. Judaism is about bridging the gap between that which is and that which should be: the aspirational, the messianic, the worthy, the just. Helping in the here-and-now while striving to change societal structures is the creative tension and dialectical ‘dance’ of Jewish life.

What is more righteous: to give of one’s time or one’s money? In an unredeemed, ‘broken’ world, it is impossible to be righteous, t o b e morally upright and blameless. We are all implicated in the myriad ills of society, and we internalize them. We should be more interested in taking responsibility and making a difference. I would argue that impact is situational. Chairing the refugee policy committee or collecting clothes for asylum seekers may be what is required one week, donating money to the women’s shelter the next. It is required of us to give both time and money according to the situation, our capacity, and what will make a difference.

Rules of Engagement presentense.org/magazine

Who in the torah personifies service to you? Nachshon Ben Aminadav. When the Israelites leave Egypt, Pharaoh changes his mind about freeing the Jews and decides to send his army to pursue them. While some Israelites thought they were history and others waited for God to save them, the Midrash describes how Nachshon Ben Aminadav sees a third way— beyond either despair or irrational hope. He plunges into the water and keeps going, pushing reality to its very limits. When the water touches the tip of his nostrils, when his very life is in danger, then the waters recede, allowing the Israelites to cross over onto dry land.

Is service to the greater community Jewish service? B’Tzedek’s LIFE program sends young adults to India for four months to learn about and contribute to some of the most seemingly intractable problems there. They come back to Israel afterwards for another five months. Is living and working alongside Indians in India Jewish? Service is Jewish to the extent it is motivated by or engages with Jewish ideas, experience, or community. Many Jews in the contemporary era move in and out of explicitly Jewish time and space, social and symbolic context, ritual and cultural modalities, narrative and meaning. And that is just fine with me. For when we are in a non-Jewish moment, we have not left our Jewish identity behind.

What are three things young Jewish people can do to make service a priority in their Jewish life? The following three things are most powerful when carried out in combination:

1. Discuss your service and tikkun olam passion and options with friends, and then act together with or in parallel to them. Their validation, support, and camaraderie will make a difference. It’s all about community. 2. Develop, critique, and refine your own theories of care and of social change. Include Jewish texts and ideas in that process. Studying Jewish texts is to have a inter-generational conversation with other Jews. Keep yourself honest about putting your commitments into action. It’s all about locating and connecting with your deepest self. 3. Use a diary. In Hebrew, ‘time’ is zman. From the same linguistic root we get zamin (available) and lzamen (to invite or convene). Realize that time according to Judaism is not just a measure. It is also, more significantly, an invitation. Time is not the issue; your use of it is. It’s all about your priorities. PT Ezra Shanken is the senior manager of the Young Adult Department at the Allied Jewish Federation of Colorado and a third-generation Jewish communal worker. issue thirteen 2011

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The young offenders on field day. Photo provided by CRC.

The 12-Legged Race

realism and hope >> michael getty

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Around the World

t ’s a s n o w y C h r i s t m a s D a y i n Sa int L ouis, a nd a few ca rs pu ll up to a gray building in the c i t y ’s w i n d s w e p t , d e p o p u l a t e d north. The words on the building a re simple enou g h: “Juveni le Det e n t i o n C e n t e r .” The Jews have arrived, a sma ll ba nd of volunteers from Centra l Refor m C on g re g at ion (CRC ), t he lone synagog ue inside the cit y limits. Inside the building is a jail, a school, and a temporar y home for about 50 young people, mostly teenagers but some who are as young a s 12. They a re a lmost a ll boys, almost all A frican-A merican, and a lmost a ll awa iting tria l on serious charges. “These kids are not in a detention center because t hey stole a b o t t l e o f n a i l p o l i s h ,” s a y s C R C ’s advocac y a nd communications dir e c t o r, Je n B e r s d a l e . “ S o m e o f t h e m are accused of ver y serious crimes, but ever y time we volunteer wit h them, we are reminded that in their h e a r t s , t h e y a r e s t i l l j u s t k i d s .” I n t h e f a l l o f 2 0 0 7, B e r s d a l e , n o w 31 , f a c i l i t a t e d a g r o u p a t C R C to ta lk out how to direct the cong r e g a t i o n ’s v o l u n t e e r e n e r g y t o w a r d youth a nd education in a cit y made ragged by decades of povert y and population decline. “L ots of orga nizations wa nt to

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w o r k w i t h c u t e t o d d l e r s ,” B e r s d a l e remembers one pa rticipa nt saying. “Fewer wa nt to help troubled teens, a nd CRC ha s t he re sou rc e s to do j u s t t h a t .” E v e n t u a l l y, the congregation sta rted work ing with Natha n Graves, now 34, whose job is to create programming for children in t h e c i t y ’s j u v e n i l e j u s t i c e s y s t e m . Graves coordinates with teachers a nd over 20 0 volunteers to enr i c h t h e s e y o u n g p e o p l e ’s d a y s i n c u s t o d y w i t h s u p e r v i s e d p l a y, t u t o r ing, resume workshops, and more. “ We n e v e r s e n d k i d s a w a y f o r l i f e ,” h e s a y s . “ H o w d o y o u w a n t t h e m b a c k ? A s k i d s w h o d i d n ’t l e a r n

red, green, blue, and yellow to ind ic ate a ge a nd gender. The volunteers fa n out a nd set u p t a b l e s w i t h U n o , M o n o p o l y, a n d checkers. The games begin. The laughter sta rts. Ever yone rema rk s a f ter wa rd how polite a nd appreciative the young people are, but the d a y ’s a c t i v i t i e s a r e s h o r t . B y f i v e o ’c l o c k , t h e r o o m i s e m p t i e d a s t h e st a f f prepa re s d i n ner. A sk a ny repeat volunteers from C RC for t hei r mo s t t re a su re d e xperienc e at t he Juveni le Detent ion Center a nd t hey will ta ke you back to Field Day la st summer: a n entire a f ternoon with outdoor ba sketba ll, footba ll, and one game that changed

“ We n e v e r s e n d k i d s a w a y f o r l ife . Ho w d o y o u w a n t t h e m [t o c om e] ba ck ? ” from the experience of being here? Or maybe as somebody who sharpened their sk ills, thought about who t hey a re a nd what t hey wa nt to do with their life?” T he CRC Ch rist ma s volu nteers have games, candy and cookies, and mu sic f or a h ip -hop d a nc e workshop. They line up on one side of the cafeteria as about 50 young of f e nder s f i le i n, d re s s e d i n s we atshirts, sweatpa nts, a nd strap-on s ne a k e r s t h a t a r e c olor- c o d e d i n

how ever yone saw things. The staff chose t wo teams of six kids. They were assembled in parallel lines, atop t wo wooden planks. Their left feet were on one plank and their right feet were on the o t h e r, t u r n i n g e a c h t e a m i nt o t w o big feet wit h si x adolescent bra ins a n d a s i m p l e t a s k : w a l k o n e w a y, turn around, then walk back. A tea m of volunteers mounted boards a longside the k ids, and the race was on. presentense.org/magazine Around the World

W hat not ever yone in the race knew was how apprehensive Graves and his staff were. “ T h e s e k i d s h a d a l o t o f f i g h t s ,” h e r e m e m b e r s . “ We w e r e h a v i n g t o pay a lot of attention to t hem leadi n g u p t o F i e l d D a y. T h e r e w e r e p r i z e s , a p i z z a p a r t y, a n d c a n d y t hat CRC brou g ht in, a nd t he k id s wa nted to win, so t here wa s some p r e s s u r e .” The k ids surprised ever yone. They organized. Leaders emerged and encouraged followers; the 12-leg ged of fenders lef t t heir hig h ly educated visitors in the dust. “It wa s a ma zing to see leaders emerge from a group made up of k ids who were in for robbing or s t e a l i n g c a r s ,” G r a v e s s a y s . “ F i r s t

p a s s , t h e y d i d n ’t d o i t , s e c o n d t r y, d i d n ’t d o i t . B y t h e t h i r d t i m e , they were able to be in step with e a c h o t h e r, l e f t l e g , r i g ht l e g , b a c k a n d f o r t h .” Ever yone remembers the bea mi n g f a c e s o n t h a t d a y. “They felt good about thems e l v e s ,” G r a v e s r e c a l l s . “ T h e y learned to set aside individual needs f o r t h e g r o u p . I t ’s c r a z y t o t h i n k t h a t a 15 - o r 16 - y e a r - o l d k i d m i g h t never have had the experience of a team success, but a lot of these kids have experienced more trauma tha n most adults experience their w h o l e l i v e s .” K im Rosenf ield, who has four kids almost the same age as these you ng of fenders, goe s to t he Juve-

nile Detention Center wit h what one might ca ll roma ntic rea lism. “ I t ’s a l i m i t e d i n t e r v e n t i o n ,” s h e says. “But I think if I can create a bond wit h someone at t hat moment a nd he lp t hem fe e l t h at t he y m att e r, t h a t c a n g i v e t h e m a g l i m m e r of hope. “ To m e , t h a t c o n n e c t s t o t h e f unda menta l Jewish va lue t hat ever y l i f e m a t t e r s ,” s h e c o n t i n u e s . “ We d o n ’t b a s e o u r l i v e s o n s o m e f u t u r e r e w a r d i n h e a v e n . I t ’s a b o u t w h a t we do to make the world a better p l a c e , e v e n i f i t ’s j u s t o n e l i t t l e s t e p a t a t i m e .” PT

Michael Getty is a writer and educator and lives with his husband in St. Louis, Missouri, where they are both members of Central Reform Congregation.

JTS NYC Study where Judaism is lived as well as learned, surrounded by the excitement and opportunities of New York City. Become immersed in the ancient texts of Judaism and communal issues of contemporary significance. The Jewish Theological Seminary offers undergraduate, graduate, cantorial, and rabbinical degrees to prepare religious, academic, educational, and lay leaders for the Jewish community and beyond.

3080 BROADWAY NEW YORK, NY 10027 (212) 678-8832 • www.jtsa.edu Albert A. List College of Jewish Studies The Graduate School H. L. Miller Cantorial School and College of Jewish Music William Davidson Graduate School of Jewish Education The Rabbinical School

Look into it.

Around the World presentense.org/magazine

issue thirteen 2011

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AVODAH volunteer painting. Photo provided by AVODAH.

The Jewish Service Mecca

new orleans and the jewish community >> joshua lichtman & moshe kornfeld

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erhaps we can think of New Orleans as a modern-day pilgrima ge site. Since Hurric a ne K atrina, the cit y ha s become a primar y ser vice-learning destination for A merican Jews. Michael We i l , e x e c u t i v e d i r e c t o r o f t h e J e w i s h Fe d e r a t ion of Gr e a t e r Ne w Orlea ns, frequent ly reminds visitors that New Orleans, according to the Ne w Yo r k Je w i sh We e k, i s now “ T he N e w M e c c a o f T i k k u n O l a m .”

creased since their peak in 2008, t he number of groups from congregations, loca l federations, and Jewish high schools has increased. Vo l u n t e e r E x p e d i t i o n s , a n o r g a n i z a tion founded by Chica go resident Pat t i Vi le a nd de voted prima ri ly to or g a n i z i n g s e r v i c e t r ip s t o Ne w O rlea ns, current ly ha s more requests tha n it ca n ha nd le. Vile considers her origina l involve me nt i n p o s t-K at r i n a work a s

Why are the Jews still traveling to New Orleans? This headline demands investigation. More than f ive years after Hurric a ne K atrina a nd well a f ter t he c omple t ion of i m me d i ate p o s tdisa ster ef forts, Jews continue to f lock to New Orleans to engage in volunteer projects. W hile Hillel trips to the Big Easy have de-

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an ef fort to involve Jews in the nationa l outpouring of support that brought millions of volunteers to New Orleans and the Mississippi Gulf Coast. “I told my rabbi, ‘There i s a l o t o f w o r k f o r t h e J e w s t o d o .’ My rabbi told me to go a nd do the w o r k ,” s h e s a i d .

In 2006, when Vile f irst started bringing groups, the question was why the Jewish communit y wa s not t a k i n g a more a c t i ve role i n p o s tK a t r i n a r e c o v e r y e f f o r t s . I n 2 0 11 , the question is, why are the Jews still traveling to New Orleans? We i l a t t r i b u t e s t h e c o n t i n u a t i o n o f J e w i s h “ v o l u n t o u r i s m ,” i n p a r t , to t he c it y it s e l f : “Pe ople l i k e Ne w Orlea ns. It is a k now n place a nd people know that there is work to b e d o n e .” T h e s u s t a i n e d i n t e r e s t i n ser vice a nd socia l justice work in New Orleans can also be understood a s a ref lection of a number of ongoing developments. First, a s a resu lt of K atrina recover y efforts, there is now a nonprof it infra structure that can easily and effectively accommodate la rge groups of volunteers. For trip leaders eager to facilitate meaningful trips, this ma kes New Orleans an idea l location. New Orleans is not only a convenient location but a lso a symbolic location t hat represents a nd a llows for communa l ref lection on Jewish enga gement in ser vice a nd socia l justice activities. The Jewi s h F e d e r a t i o n s o f N o r t h A m e r i c a ’s d e c i s i o n t o h o l d it s 2 010 G e n e r a l A ssembly in New Orleans, and the A s s e m b l y ’s u n p r e c e d e n t e d a t t e n tion to socia l justice a nd ser vice issues, is a ref lection of this symbolic capita l. Furthermore, tikkun olam work is not limited to New Orlea ns but is part of a nationa l Jewish A merican trend that emphasizes ser vice a nd socia l justice activities. This trend can be seen in the dramatic expansion of organizations such as Avo d a h: T he Je w i s h S er v ic e C or p s , A m e r i c a n J e w i s h Wo r l d S e r v i c e , Je w ish Fu nd s for Ju st ic e, a nd Rep a i r t h e Wo r l d . T h e r e c e n t f o c u s o n ser vice a nd socia l justice within the Jewish communit y helps to expla in why Jewish leaders are busy planning ser vice-learning trips in the f irst place and why there is funding available for such trips. T h e n o t i on o f a M e c c a , h o w e v e r, of a pilgrimage site where people come to be transformed in a week or ten days, does not fully capture what is happening in New Orleans. presentense.org/magazine Around the World

W hat is happening in New Orleans is not only about people coming from outside but a lso about the transformation of the New Orleans J e w i s h c o m m u n i t y. S i n c e H u r r i c a n e K a t r i n a , 1,4 0 0 Je w s , m o s t l y i n t he i r 20s and 30s, have moved to New

creation of a Jewish socia l justice reading group, a new Jewish LG BTQ group, a nd a n independent m i n y a n . A v o d a h ’s f o u n d e r , R a b b i David Rosenn, commented t hat “A v o d a h ’s a b i l i t y t o h a v e a n i m p a c t on Jewish life is much greater in

S i n c e Hu r r i ca n e K a t r i n a , 1,4 0 0 Jews, mostly in their 20s and 30s, have moved to New Orleans. Orlea ns. A s a result of this inf lu x, the cit y ha s experienced the establishment of a young Jewish communit y that va lues socia l justice a nd activism. Such communities ca n of ten be found in t he centers of A merican Jewish life but are rare in sma ll Jewish communities such a s t he one in New Orlea ns (pop. 8 , 0 0 0). T he p o s t-K at r i n a e x p a n sion s of Avo d a h a nd Moi s he Hou s e to New Orlea ns have contributed to this growing Jewish socia l justice c o m m u n i t y. T h o u g h n o t e n t i r e l y removed from the established Jewi s h c o m m u n i t y, i n d e p e n d e n t e f f o r t s on the pa rt of young socia l justice orientated Jews have included t he

sm a l ler c om mu n it ie s . Avo d a h C or p s members cannot have nearly the sa me impact on the Jewish comm u n i t i e s o f D C , N e w Yo r k , a n d Chicago where so much else is going o n .” J o r d a n A i k e n , f o u n d e r o f t h e new Jewish LGBTQ group and an Avo d a h a lu m n a , w a s e x plor i n g her Jewish a nd queer identities when she moved to New Orleans and was hoping to f ind some way to bring the t wo together: “I assumed that the JCC , the loca l Federation, and the synagogues would have somet h i n g f o r t h e Q u e e r c o m m u n i t y. Finding nothing, I decided to start s o m e t h i n g o f m y o w n .” More t h a n f i ve ye a r s a f ter Hu rricane Katrina, tikkun olam rep-

A volunteer at the 2010 GA in New Orleans. Photo provided by AVODAH.

Around the World presentense.org/magazine

AVODAH volunteer building a fence. Photo provided by AVODAH.

resents bot h a ba sis of one component of t he New Orlea ns Jewish communit y a nd a draw for Jewish o r g a n i z a t i o n s a r o u n d t h e c o u n t r y. It rema ins to be seen whet her t he long-ra nge orga nizationa l a f termath of Hurric a ne K atrina w ill give rise to a truly sustainable Jewish socia l justice communit y in New Orlea ns and, if so, what impact this constituenc y may have on the greater New Orlea ns Jewish communit y a nd perhaps e ven on A meric a n Jud ai s m . PT Joshua Lichtman is the New Orleans program director of AVODAH: The Jewish Service Corps. He has worked for a number of other Jewish organizations including Hillel and the Isabella Freedman Jewish Retreat Center and is an alum of Pardes, ADAMAH, and New York University’s Law School. Moshe Kornfeld is a doctoral candidate in cultural anthropology and Judaic studies at the University of Michigan. Moshe is currently on assignment in New Orleans, where he is studying Jewish social justice activism in the broader context of contemporary American Jewish philanthropy. issue thirteen 2011

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On June 6, 2010’s Community Mitzvah Day in New Orleans. Photo by Caitrin Gladow.

Preserving Memory, Healing Trauma storying as social action >> leah varsano & tamar toledano

“W

h a t ’s y o u r K a t r i n a s t o r y ? ” We w e r e asked this question on the second day of ou r y e a r-lon g c ommitment to socia l justice t hrough AV O D A H : t h e J e w i s h S e r v i c e C o r p s i n N e w O r l e a n s . Te n y o u n g t r a n s p l a n t s t o t h e c i t y, w e s a t o n r i c k e t y folding chairs in a circle in the back ya rd of our hou se in Uptow n. Wit h t he i n s t r u c t ion t h a t one p e rson ta lk for f ive minutes stra ight a nd the listeners sit quietly a nd focus only on what the spea ker was saying, we began sharing how we were affected when the levees broke. A l t h o u g h m o s t o f u s h a d n ’t c o n sidered even having a Katrina stor y—none of us were in New Orleans at the time —what emerged from the Stor y Circle were ten distinct

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responses to one event. It bec a me clear to us that people who lived in New Orlea ns before the storm must also have stories that we needed t o h e a r . A n d w h i l e w e c o u l d n ’t o f fer persona l accounts to relate to those experiences, we could offer

“ Tr a u m a i s t h e i n a b i l i t y t o s t o r y .” something else: our abilit y to listen—to hear and honor their stories of sur viva l in a n ef fort to facilitate healing. Indeed, t he menta l ha rm caused by events such a s Hurric a ne K atrina can rob an individua l of their voice a nd a me a n s of pro c e s si n g t hei r e xper ienc e. Ac c ord i ng to Dr. R ic h a rd Pringle, professor of psycholog y at

G o u c h e r C o l l e g e , “ Tr a u m a i s t h e i n a b i l i t y t o s t o r y.” But wh i le e x per t s l i ke Dr. Pringle emphasize the importance of psychological healing, the socia l action movement seems less equipped, and less willing, to address aspects of recover y that go beyond the physica l. Je w s , h o w e v e r, h a v e a u n i qu e opportunit y to be at t he forefront of a movement t hat ma kes t he process of healing through stor ying an integra l pa rt of socia l action. Our c o m m u n i t y, a f t e r a l l , h a s a l o n g tradition of telling stories. Ev e r y y e a r a t t h e Pa s s o v e r s e d e r, Jewish fa milies a nd communities are reminded that “in ever y generation a person is obligated to see t h e m s e l v e s a s i f t h e y l e f t E g y p t .” This instruction communicates a presentense.org/magazine Around the World

c ore v a lue t h at Je w i s h te x t enc ou ra g e s: pr e s e r v i n g me mor ie s a s m a rke r s o f o u r e x i s t e n c e — o r, s i m p l y p u t , stor ying. To d a y, t h e s t o r i e s o f H o l o c a u s t sur vivors have shaped the Jewish world. Through stor ying, sur vivors have been able to address profound persona l trauma a nd ser ve a s a vita l link connecting t he contempora r y Jewish world to our recent pa st. For a generation of Jews that grew up outside the Holocaust, these stories ensure that the tragedies of the past are not forgotten and that we rema in steadfa st in our commitments to combat intolera nce a nd promote justice. This puts us in the unique position of being able to recognize a nd respond to other communities

o t h e r h o w w e p u t t h i n g s t o g e t h e r .” There is also the Neighborhood Stor y Proje c t ( NSP), a nonprof it that work s with New Orlea ns residents to write a nd collect stories of their neighborhoods; their slogan i s “ O u r S t o r i e s To l d B y U s .” T h e NSP independent ly publishes t he f inal work to be sold and distribu t e d t h r o u g h o u t t h e c o m m u n i t y. In 20 05, t he NSP published The Combination, a book written by a high school student t hat tells t he stor y of the L a f itte Housing Project t hrough inter views, photographs, poems, and obser vations. To d a y L a f i t t e h a s b e e n e n t i r e l y demolished a nd its residents have been scattered across the cit y a nd t h e c o u n t r y, b u t T h e C o m b i n a t i o n

What if you hit the streets with notebooks and digital recorders instead of nails and hammers? grappling with a collective trauma. A nd yet, even with stor ying deeply rooted in our tradition, Jewish socia l action tends to focus its ef forts on physica lly ma nifested needs without addressing psychologically manifested needs, l i k e p o s t-t r a u m a t i c s t r e s s d i s o r d e r, menta l hea lt h, a nd loss of collective m e m o r y. A s a m o v e m e n t , w e c a n n o t afford to pick and choose which a spects of injustice to address. The need to focus on psychological trauma has been recognized by several groups in New Orleans t hat encoura ge pa rticipa nts to tell stories in order to f ight injustice a nd he a l. Ju nebu g Produc t ions, for example, is an arts organization t h a t a d d r e s s e s t he A f r ic a n- A me ri c a n e x p e r i e n c e t h r o u g h t h e a t e r, music, da nce, a nd stor ying. They facilitate Stor y Circles, a method developed to foster the sharing and shaping of persona l stories and to help pa rticipa nts see la rger trends that relate to their own experiences, including patterns of racism, classism, a nd se x ism t hat c a n be d i ff icult to discern. “ W h e n w e t e l l s t o r i e s ,” s a y s Ju nebu g Produc t ions fou nder Joh n O’Nea l, “we a re sha ring with each Around the World presentense.org/magazine

sur vives in the hands of many who ca lled L a f itte home. The NSP may not be rebuilding L a f itte, or even petitioning politicia ns to uphold the Fair Housing Act, but they are unquestionably responding to societa l inequities a nd f ighting for socia l justice in powerf u l ways. S o h e r e ’s a n i d e a : W h a t i f o n y ou r ne x t v olu nt e e r t r ip t o Ne w O rlea ns you hit the streets with note-

book s a nd digita l recorders instead of nails and hammers? W hat if your whole mission was to collect peop l e ’s s t o r i e s a n d t o l i s t e n t o t h e m ? W hat if you raised money to get t heir stories printed a nd distributed them throughout that communit y? W hat if you learned to moderate Stor y Circles and hosted them at c om mu n it y c e nt e r s , on s t r e e t c orners, a nd in churches? The Jewish activist communit y shou ld be leading t his movement. We s h o u l d t a k e t h e i n i t i a t i v e t o address psychological trauma directly by incorporating stor ying into our vision of repa iring t he world, and honor our own histories while f inding innovative ways to pursue socia l justice. It ha s become a n integra l pa r t of our lives in New Orleans to always consider the stories of whoever we m e e t . W h a t ’s y o u r K a t r i n a s t o r y ? PT Leah Var sano is a member o f AVO DAH: T h e J ewi s h S e rvice Corps in New Orleans, w h e r e she works as a community organizer on issues of neighborhood revitalization. Ta m a r To l e d a n o i s a m e m b e r o f AVO DAH in N ew O r l e an s where she works with local youth to create ar t projects that raise awareness of social justice issues.

An AVODAH corps member storying with kids. Photo provided by AVODAH. issue thirteen 2011

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Detroit

on the move >> liz kohn

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t did not ta ke long after the Great Recession hit in 2007 for Detroit to emerge a s a symbol of A merican crisis. Most of Det r o i t ’s y o u n g J e w i s h p r o f e s s i o n a l s have chosen to chase their dreams in more prosperous urban atmos p h e r e s . Ye t e v e n i n t h e w a k e o f d i s a s t e r, a s m a l l b u t v i b r a nt w a v e of Jewish renewa l is gathering momentum a nd providing hope for D e t r o i t ’s f u t u r e . European Jews f irst arrived in D e t r o i t a r o u n d 18 4 0 a n d w i t h i n the f irst generations began buying r a nc he s a nd f a r m s i n it s ne i g h b ori n g s u b u r b s . I n 19 6 7, t h e D e t r o i t R i o t s s p a r k e d t h e “ w h i t e f l i g h t ,” a sudden ma ss depa rture from the cit y c enter. T he u rba n Je w i sh popu lation has since dwindled to about 72,000, according to a 2005 Jewish Federation of Metropolita n Detroit s t u d y, i n c l u d i n g O a k l a n d , Wa y n e , a nd Macomb counties. “Detroit is a complicated, comp l i c a t e d p l a c e ,” s a i d B l a i r N o s a n , a 25 -y e a r- old r e s id e nt a nd Je w i s h f a r mer/food pre ser vat ion i st. A n advocate for food justice a nd the accessibilit y of hea lthy produce, Nosan does freelance food education work in both suburban and urba n communities a nd strives to forge connections bet ween the t wo. A f ter ei g ht mont h s at A DA-

M A H, a Jewish environmenta l fellowship in Connecticut, Nosan returned to Detroit out of neither guilt nor obligation but a desire to create a life in an urban environm e n t n e a r h e r f a m i l y. “ [ D e t r o i t ] d e f i n i t e l y w o n ’t g e t b e t t e r i f e v e r y o n e c o n t i n u e s t o a b a n d o n i t ,” s h e sa id, adding that it is the desire a nd motivation to participate — communit y involvement—t hat matters. W hat she describes as a “dearth of conventiona l out lets” ha s pushed i n nov at ive s olut ion s l i k e t he C orktown Communit y K itchen, with which she is involved. Started by the orga nization Detroit Evolution, it provides a communa l space for food education, outreach, and large communit y mea ls featuring fresh pro duc e. Nos a n hop e s it c a n “pro v id e a m o d e l f or c om mu n it ie s i nt e re s t e d i n h a v i n g s i m i l a r r e s o u r c e s .” Other creative happenings inc l u d e l a s t s u m m e r ’s c o m m u n i t y c h ic k e n r a c e , f e a t u r i n g l i ve c h ic ke n s . D e t r o i t ’s f i r s t r a c e o f t h i s nature, the tag-line humorously p r o c l a i m e d , “ c i t y c h i c k e n s o n l y.” T h e w i n n e r ’s p r o c e e d s w e n t t o t h e o r g a n i z a t i o n o f t h e i r c h o i c e ; Te a m A nt h e a w o n , r a i s i n g $ 255 f o r t h e St i l l Poi nt Budd h i s t C enter. Like Nosan, Zack S k l a r, 25 -y e a r- o l d c h e f /o w n e r o f C u t t i n g Edge Cuisine, ca me back to Detroit f rom Hyde Pa rk, N Y to be closer t o f a m i l y. F o r h i m , b r i n g i n g b a c k Jews is synonymous with bringing back jobs. He saw in his return an opportunit y to use his sk ills to sta rt a l o c a l c a t e r i n g c o m p a n y.

Miriam Liebman, another young D e t r oit e r, s a y s t h a t w h i l e m a n y v i e w De t roit a s a lost c au s e, “p e ople of o u r g e n e r a t i o n d o n ’t v i e w i t t h a t w a y.” S h e s e e s a n i n s p i r i n g l e v e l of dedication there, adding that with its sma ll, struggling Jewish c o m m u n i t y, i t i s p o s s i b l e t o f e e l a part of something specia l and rea l. She hop e s one d ay mor e s e r v ic e org a n i z a t i o n s , l i k e AV O D A H , w i l l come to Detroit. Nosa n de scribed Frid ay nig ht s a t D e t r o i t ’s I s a a c A g r e e D o w n t o w n Sy na gog ue, C onser vat ive by a f f i liation: “Ser vices are attended by an unpredictable mix of young and old, ne w a nd ret u rn ing… W hat I love a b o u t i t i s t h a t i t ’s a J e w i s h s p a c e t hat is rea l ly open-ended. Frid ay nights a re communit y-led, driven by demand and the knowledge of t h e p a r t i c i p a n t s . . . I t ’s w h a t I n e e d right now a s a young person. I wa nt to be surrounded by friends and communit y a nd singing a nd laughi n g , a n d i t r e a l l y s e r v e s t h a t n e e d .” W hile some young Jews continue to leave Detroit for economica lly hea lthier cities, others a re creating a g r o w i n g , e n e r g i z e d c o m m u n i t y. Wo r k i n g t o r e b u i l d a c i t y t h e y f e e l not indebted to, but excited about, they hope their example will somed ay s e r ve a s a mo d e l f or ot he r c iti e s . PT Liz Kohn is a master’s can didate at the University of Michigan School of Social Work and is enrolled in the new Jewish Communal Leadership Program.

Setting the Agenda

lessons from the jewish social action forum >> david brown

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hree years ago, the Jewish Social Action Forum ( JSA F—initia lly the Jewish Make Pover t y Histor y Coa lition) orga nized a s a for u m for professiona ls in the U K wit h a genera l interest or specif ic a genda i n s o c i a l j u s t i c e . T h e F o r u m ’s developments —including increa sed professiona l leadership, moving from ma inly link ing Jews with wider

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ca mpa igns to cultivating a distinct Jewish socia l action ca mpaign agenda, and establishing itself within the ma instrea m communa l landscape—have allowed for increased impact and a greater sense of direction, yet have posed their own cha llenges. Does ma inta ining s u f f i c i e n t c o n s e n s u s l i m i t J S A F ’s role in more assertive campaigning? With increa sed professiona lization,

how does JSA F mobilize lay and wider support? Here are lessons learned for communa l orga nizing for social change: C R EATE A C O M M UNAL FO R C E

J S A F ’s f i r s t a p p r o a c h w a s t o link up with wider socia l action ca mpa igns. JSA F built a relationship with the Fa irtrade Foundation (w w w. f a i r t r a d e . o r g .u k ), c u l m i n a tpresentense.org/magazine Around the World

ing in the production of the Jewish Gu id e to Fa i r t r a d e , 41 s y n a g o g u e s signing up to be Fairtrade, and a socia l enterprise selling Fa irtrade kippot, with over £6000 wort h of sales to date. W hile also employing this approach, t he most recent, la rgest c a m p a i g n o f J S A F, t h e B i g G r e e n J e w i s h We b s i t e ( w w w . b i g g r e e n j e w ish.org) & Big Green Jewish Ca mpaign—launched in the build-up to the Copenhagen Climate Change Conference — shifted from reliance o n c l i m a t e c h a n g e a s a ‘ h o t t o p i c ’. Instead, we set the agenda for our own broader campaign tack ling these issues within a Jewish communit y context— our current focus on food encompasses packaging, food miles, and sensible f ish and meat c o n s u m p t i o n . We f o c u s o n g e t t i n g synagog ues a nd communit y buildings to engage with edible ga rdens, reduce reliance on disposables for kashrut, and increase Jewish organ i z a t i o n s ’ u s e o f Ve g w a r e . W hereas previously professiona ls were t he ma in pa rticipa nts, rabbis from across the denominations work together on this agenda. In addition, it ha s been supported by senior members of government—Ed Miliband, then secretar y of state for energ y and climate change, was guest speaker at an Age of Stupid screening, and his successor Chris Hu hne endorsed our ed ible ga rden project for schools. C a p i ta l i z e o n T r e n d s o f t h e N e w G e n e r at i o n

A factor drawing communa l leaders and ser vice providers to JSA F is a perception that our work engages a younger demographic they are not reaching. W hile JSA F member organizations involve a range of ages, the demographic most commonly impacted through our work is in fact younger people who connect with the universa l dimension of Jud a i sm we seek to foster. A recent Internationa l Broadc a s t i n g Tr u s t s t u d y, G l o b a l G e n e r a tion: How young people in the UK connect with the wider world, found that world issues are increasingly a concern for young people. The challenge will be translating that Around the World presentense.org/magazine

concern into action. Nevertheless, the Jewish socia l action communit y shou ld be conf ident about motivating members of this new globa l generation. The report found some common factors a mong young people active, including encouragement from religious i n s t it ut ion s , c om i n g f rom i nt e rnationa l families, or experience of socia l injustice. Jewish educationa l approaches tend to be experientia l and underpinned by a sense of d u g m a i s h i t ( le a d i n g by e x a mple). Many Jews have direct or indirect experience of injustice, a nd ma ny of our narratives and customs link our experience with a wider push for justice, such a s placing a chanukiah in the window as a sign of hope for oppressed people ever y where. Jewish socia l action should have a fertile ground of young people for whom connecting wit h injustice is obvious. Li n k a n d S h a r e G l o b a l ly

JSA F has been keen to develop relationships with pa rtners in Europe, A merica, and Israel. Ruth M e s s i n g e r , A J W S ’s p r e s i d e n t , w a s the keynote speaker at the Darfur r a l l y. T h e J e w i s h G u i d e t o F a i r t r a d e was adapted to a Hebrew resource by t h e I s r a e l i o r g a n i z a t i o n B e m a ’a g l e i Tz e d e k . M e m b e r o r g a n i z a t i o n Tz e dek ha s worked with AJ WS, Jeneration and JCC have participated in Pa ideia a nd ROI conferenc e s, a nd Mitz va h Day—now in its f if th yea r —mobilized 20,0 0 0 volunteers worldwide. JSA F is the European pa r t ner work i ng on SI ACH (p. 22 23) a nd hope s t h i s net work w i l l enable this emerging sharing to build into concrete pa r tnership. D o n ’ t g e t d is t r a c t e d b y t h e elephant in the room

One cha llenge facing JSA F is Israel. W hile it may be expected t hat ma ny committed to Jewish va lues of justice wou ld be sympathetic to addressing the ma ny inequa lities i n I s r a e l i s o c i e t y, J S A F t o o k t h e pragmatic view that, to establish ourselves with ma instrea m orga nizations and enable the widest spectrum of religious denominations to feel comfortable on the forum,

The Fair Trade Campaign. Photo provided by JSAF.

Israel should be left out of the equation. Nevertheless, some insist this approach may not be possible lon g-ter m . R a bbi Jon at h a n Wittenberg, leader in the UK Masorti M o v e m e n t , r e s p o n d e d t o l a s t y e a r ’s uproar a mong U K Jewr y regarding some communit y leaders’ rema rk s o n I s r a e l ’s a p p r o a c h t o t h e p e a c e p r o c e s s . H i s N o v e m b e r 25, 2 010 comments in The Jewish Chronicle a l s o c h a l l e n g e d J S A F ’s h a n d l i n g o f Israel: “Ju st ic e a nd c ompa ssion a re t h e h e a r t o f J e w i s h e t h i c s … We d o not have the libert y of debating on o n e f r o n t o n l y… We c a n n o t a v o i d t h e i s s u e s .” A C T I VATE J E W I S HLY

By eng a g ing people w it h Jud ai s m ’s n e a r s i x - m i l l e n n i a l s t r u g g l e t o g r a p p l e w i t h l i f e ’s b i g g e s t q u e s tions, we not only shape a message on slaver y or wasteful destruction. We a l s o i m b u e t h o s e w e t o u c h w i t h a profound spiritua l a nd materia l purpose —not with forced dogma— but with a fra mework to support their journey of activism. Many questions remain. How do we eng a ge ac t iv ist s w it h Jud a ism because it provides a fra mework of va lues pushing us to pursue justice rat her t ha n bec au se we wa nt u na ff iliated Jewish activists to be more literate a nd maybe become more af f iliated? How do we articulate a distinct Jewish socia l agenda while participating in a broader globa l movement addressing injustice? We c o n t i n u e t o g r a p p l e w i t h such questions a s we work to cement Jewish socia l action a s a current communit y endeavour a nd eterna l t e n e t o f J e w i s h i d e n t i f i c a t i o n . PT David Brown is the Jewish Social Action Forum coordin a t o r. issue thirteen 2011

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Talmud meyve l’Maaseh: Learning inspires action at the 2009 Hazon Food Conference. Photo by Rudi Halbright.

Collaboration At Your Service siach connects the conversation >> dyonna ginsburg

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Ideas

n recent yea rs, Nort h A merica n Jewish socia l justice a nd environmenta l orga nizations have experienced a period of tremendous growth and increased v i s i b i l i t y. T h e m e t e o r i c r i s e o f t h e A m e r i c a n J e w i s h Wo r l d S e r v i c e ( AJ W S), f r om a ne a rl y d e f u nc t organization merely a decade ago to a $ 4 3 m i l l i on e nt e r pr i s e i n 2 0 0 9, i s the most obvious example. A longs i d e A J W S a r e a t l e a s t 15 0 o t h e r nonprof it orga nizations, which a re attracting increa sed numbers of young Jews and engaging them by combining ha nds-on activism with Jewish learning and experiences. Not only are individua l organizations thriving, but there is a growing recognition of the ex istence of a distinct f ield of Jewish environment a nd socia l justice work, dema nding attention a nd c u lt i v a t i on . I n 2 0 0 9, w e w itnessed a wide va riet y of exciting, n e w, f i e l d - b u i l d i n g v e n t u r e s : t h e l a u nc h of On1f o ot , a u s e r-f r ie nd l y website of Jewish texts a nd source book lets on contempora r y socia l

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justice issues; the creation of the Je w ish Socia l Ju st ic e Rou ndt able, a coa lition of leading Jewish socia l justice orga nizations; a nd the f o u n d i n g o f R e p a i r t h e Wo r l d , a new organization aimed at ma k ing ser vice a def ining part of A merican

a growing number of Israeli orga niz a t i o n s , s u c h a s B e m a ’a g l e i Tz e d e k ( w w w. m t z e d e k . o r g . i l ) , t h e H e s c h e l C e n t e r ( w w w. h e s c h e l . o r g . i l ) , Te v e l B ’ Tz e d e k ( w w w . t e v e l b t z e d e k . o r g ) , B I N A ( w w w . b i n a . o r g . i l ) , Te v a I v r i ( w w w. t e v a i v r i . o r g . i l ) , a n d M i z r a c h S h e m e s h ( w w w. m i z r a c h . o r g . i l ) , a r e a lso providing new avenues for Israelis to explore their Jewish identit y through practica l socia l action. If North A merica, Europe, and Israel have each spawned rapid lygrowing, Jewishly-inspired socia l change organizations, why has knowledge-sharing and collaboration bet ween these organizations been sporadic at best? It wa s in December 20 08 t hat I f irst began to understand the answer to this question. W hile spea k ing to a group of Jewish socia l justice professiona ls in midtown Manhattan, I looked around the room and thought: These people bear a strik ing resemblance to my own staff half way across the globe a t B e m a ’a g l e i Tz e d e k . T h e y a r e o f similar age, inspired by the same canon of Jewish texts, share similar experiences in advocating on beha lf of disenfranchised populations, and are equa lly passionate about leading systemic social change. But, my initia l feelings of camaraderie and connection were quick ly replaced by a sober rea lizat i o n : B e m a ’a g l e i Tz e d e k ’s n a t i v e -

There is a growing recognition of the existence of a distinct f ield of Jewish environment and social justice work, demanding attention and cultivation. Jewish life. A nd interest in socia l justice a nd t he environment wit hin a uniquely Jewish context ha s surged outside of North A merica as well. The Jewish Socia l Action Forum ( JSA F) in the UK, an umbrella orga nization uniting a va riet y of Jewish socia l justice orga nizations as well as larger Jewish organizations wit h dedicated personnel in the socia l justice f ield, is a promin e n t e x a m p l e ( p . 2 0 - 2 1) . S i m i l a r l y,

born Israeli staff will probably never interact wit h t hese Nort h A merican colleagues, since few opportunities ex ist for mea ning f u l communication a nd collaboration bet ween Israeli socia l justice a nd environmenta l orga nizations a nd t heir counterpa rts abroad. W hile in the US, I learned that some of the leading Jewish socia l justice orga nizations have a polic y —in some cases board-driven and fairly public, in other cases de facto presentense.org/magazine Ideas

I began imagining what an international network of Jewish social justice and environment professionals would look like.

and unspoken—not to collaborate with Israeli orga nizations. Due to t he Israeli-Pa le st inia n conf lict, Israel is considered to be too divisive, complicated, a nd politica llysensitive to be broached, let a lone pa rtnered with, even on issues that ostensibly have little to do with Isr a e l ’s t r e a t m e n t o f t h e P a l e s t i n i a n s . Back home in Jerusa lem, things were not muc h bet ter. A lt hou g h some Israeli organizations had tried to pa rtner wit h counterpa rts abroad, ot hers had little interest in doing so. Feeling minima l connection to Jews outside of the State of I s r a e l a n d /o r a l i e n a t e d f r o m J e wish discourse, they cou ld see little va lue in collaborating with Jewish communities in North A merica a nd Europe. It wa s t hen t hat I bega n ima gining what a n internationa l net work of Jewish socia l justice a nd environment professiona ls wou ld look like. This net work would tack le the “big picture” questions possible only in a n internationa l context: How can we ga lvanize the Jewish Pe ople to pl ay a d i s t i nc t role i n responding to climate change and fostering susta inabilit y before the n e x t S h m it t a y e a r (e n d of t he s e v e n ye a r s a bbat ic a l c yc le)? How c a n t he globa l Jewish communit y double the number of Jewish young adu lts on ser vice learning programs? W hat wou ld it ta ke for t he internationa l Jewish communit y to ra lly a round the cause of transforming Israel into t he f irst ca rbon-free countr y in the world? Exactly two years l a t e r, B e m a ’a g l e i Tz e d e k , a l o n g w i t h H a z o n i n N o r t h A m e r i c a (w w w. ha zon.org) and JSA F in the UK, is now in the throes of launching Ideas presentense.org/magazine

Siach: A n Environment a nd Socia l Ju st ic e C onversat ion, t ha n k s to the generous support of the UJA F e d e r a t i o n o f N e w Yo r k . S i a c h , a globa l net work of experienced Jewish socia l justice a nd environment professiona ls and lay people, will b e a nc hor e d i n a s e r ie s of c on f e rences rotating around the globe. One hundred t went y pa rticipa nts — approximately 40% from Israel, 40% from North A merica, and 20% from Europe —will attend t h e f i r s t c o n f e r e n c e i n M a y 2 0 11 at t he Isabel la Freed ma n Ret reat Center in Connecticut. The f irst a nnua l Siach conference, a nd t he ensuing net work, will enable Jewish socia l justice a nd environment activists to establish relationships a n d p a r t n e r s h ip s c r o s s - b o r d e r, f o s -

ter a more nua nced understa nding of environment a nd socia l justice work in Israel and the Jewish communit y a round the world, a nd create a n internationa l movement of Jews work ing toget her on environmenta l a nd socia l justice issues. By c o m i n g t o g e t h e r, Je w i s h s o cia l justice a nd environment profession a l s c a n mo de l a d i ver s e , re sp e c tf u l, a nd pa ssionate communit y t hat embodies tikkun olam in the truest sense of the term. In the words of Jud it h Bela sc o, d irec tor of food progra ms at Ha zon, “O ver recent years, there has been an incredible grow t h of Jewish environmenta l a nd socia l justice orga nizations. W hile f unda menta l goa ls such a s tzed akah, chesed a nd tikkun ol am are the same, knowledge-sharing and collaboration bet ween these organizations has been sporadic. Siach provides a powerful platform for Jews deeply engaged in these f ields to f ind common ground and ways to raise the whole of the work t h a t i s o c c u r r i n g .” PT Dyonna Ginsburg is the exec u t i ve dir e c tor of B e ma’ag l e i Tz e d e k ( w w w . m t z e d e k . o r g . i l ) and is in the process of launching Siach (w w w. siachc onver s ation.org )

Bema’aglei Tzedek partners with Jerusalem wheelchair basketball team to promote accessibility in Israel. Photo provided by Bema’aglei Tzedek. issue thirteen 2011

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Theory of Relevancy

a new reality >> adam simon

Group shot of REALITY participants in Israel. Photo provided by the Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Foundation.

“I

felt that something wa s missing, namely an understanding of what it f unda menta lly m e a n s t o b e J e w i s h .” These words were written by a y o u n g J e w i n h e r 2 0 s , a Te a c h F o r A merica corps member committed to ser vice, to educationa l equa li t y, t o t i k k u n o l a m — a l t h o u g h s h e d i d n ’t k n o w w h a t t h e l a t t e r m e a n t at the time she wrote them. Never feeling accepted by the J e w i s h c o m m u n i t y, n e v e r o f f e r e d opportunities to explore her Jewish i d e n t i t y, s h e d i d n o t c o n n e c t h e r commitment to ser vice to t he va lues that undergird Jewish life —to t he f unda menta l mea ning of what it mea ns to be Jewish. Yo u n g p e o p l e l i k e h e r — a n d t here a re t hou s a nd s of t hem, pa rticu la rly a mong those committed to socia l action— are unique in their focus on ask ing themselves fundamenta l questions about who t hey a re, what impact t hey wa nt to have on the world, how they def ine success, a nd what it mea ns to be happy and feel fulf illed. Blind acceptance is not an option. For them, being born Jewish is not reason enough to rema in c onnec ted to Jud a ism. The irony here — or perhaps the frustration—for a communit y that spends millions of dollars and

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count less hours tr ying to get young people to do somet hing — a nything! —Jewish in this world is that Jud a ism ha s a t remendou s we a lt h of thought on the ver y questions young Jews are ask ing themselves. It a lso hold s at its core ma ny of t he sa me va lues.

our foundation, together with the Sa mberg Fa mily Foundation, p l a c e d a b e t o n t h i s t h e o r y : L e t ’s t a k e a g r o u p o f Te a c h F o r A m e r i c a corps members— exactly the t ype of leaders, movement builders, socia l cha nge a gents, a nd role models we wa nt be investing in— on a free

Judaism has a tremendous wealth of thought on the very questions young Jews are asking themselves. A nd so it goes that perhaps pa rt of the answer to how we can engage young people in Jewish life is ma k ing a n explicit connection bet ween the va lues young Jews esp o u s e — n a m e l y, s o c i a l a c t i o n — a n d Jewish va lues. L e t ’s c a l l i t o u r T h e o r y o f R e l evancy: If we can f ind the things that young people are already doing that are rooted in Jewish va lues and help them connect that commitment to t he f unda menta l mea ning of what it is to be Jewish t o d a y, t h e n w e h a v e a t o u r d i s p o s a l a c o s t- e f f e c t i v e , i nc r e d i bl y p o w e rf u l opportunit y to engage young people in Jewish life in a deep, m e a n i n g f u l w a y. I n 2 0 0 9, a n d a g a i n i n 2 010 ,

1 0 - d a y t r i p t o I s r a e l . L e t ’s p r o v i d e them with what ca n only be considered a relatively sma ll a mount of exposure to Jewish ideas, say thank you on beha lf of the Jewish communit y for ma k ing the world a better place, and create a sense of communit y a mong these young Jews who are f ighting for the sa me i s s u e s , n a m e l y e d u c a t i o n a l e q u a l i t y. The result, we thought, would be a completely new def inition of Je w i s h l i f e — a c omple t e l y d i f f e re n t v i s i o n o f w h a t J u d a i s m i s . I t ’s no longer just obligator y Hebrew school classes and monotonous High Holiday ser vices where you wa lk out k nowing how many light bu lbs a re in the ceiling but little e l s e — i t ’s n o w a b o u t w h a t ’s m y r e presentense.org/magazine Ideas

sponsibilit y a s someone who ha s t o t h o s e w h o d o n ’t h a v e ? H o w d o I ha ndle conf lict bet ween communities and persona l needs? How do I ser ve wit hout turning the people a nd communities I a spire to help into props upon which I a lleviate t h e b u r d e n o f p r i v i l e g e ? A n d f i n a l l y, how do I craft a life for myself that is full of meaning, purpose, direction, f u lf illment, a nd f un? According to our sources— n a m e l y, t h e p a r t i c i p a n t s t h e m s e l v e s , Te a c h F o r A m e r i c a , a n d t h e i m p a c t study we commissioned—this trip, c a l l e d R E A L I T Y, s t r e n g t h e n e d p a r ticipa nts’ a lready-high commitment t o s e r v i c e ; o p e n e d t h e d o or t o s e rvice through Jewish organizations; streng t hened pa rticipa nts’ connection with Israel; a nd for those pa r t icipa nt s who sel f-ident i f ied a s Jewish, helped them connect their Jewish identities wit h t heir pa ssion for ser vice a nd civic engagement, reinforcing the importance of both within their lives a nd providing a deeper understa nding of what it means to be Jewish.

A ll of which brings us back to the young woman whose words op e ne d t h i s a r t ic le . She w a s a p a rticipa nt in t he f irst R E A LIT Y trip, and her ref lection ends like this: “I a m c u r r e n t l y… t u t o r i n g m y k i d s f o r t h e S A Ts a n d b e c a u s e o f t h e t r i p , I feel a renewed sense of tikkun olam. I n f a c t , I pl a n on c re a t i n g a p a i nting in t he center so I ca n wa ke up to that ever y morning. W hile I feel re-inspired to begin my work in the classroom, I a lso feel a strong sense of connection to Israel. W hile I am pla nning on eventua lly obta ining a P h D i n c l i n i c a l p s y c h o l o g y, I a m a lso seriously look ing into progra ms s u c h a s O T Z M A a n d Te a c h F i r s t I s r a e l . A s I lo ok f or w a r d t o w h a tever the future may bring, I feel a n e w f o u n d s e n s e o f e a s e .” That a young woman who had felt margina lized by the Jewish communit y her entire life cou ld f ind comfort and direction in a new found connection to tikkun olam and Israel is profound. R EA L I T Y— a nd socia l ac t ion prog r a m s in its vein— creates entr y points to

conversations about Jewish identit y and Israel for people who other wise might not seek out such experiences if run by Jewish institutions but do so because of the a f f iliation with a n orga nization they implicitly trust: Te a c h F o r A m e r i c a . We l i v e t o d a y i n a s e c u l a r i z e d world. That pendulum has sw ung, a n d i t ’s n o t s w i n g i n g b a c k . J u d a i s m ha s to adapt to, a nd connect with, modern times if our millennia of rich tradition a nd wisdom a re going to rema in releva nt rat her t ha n a q u a i n t r e l i c o f t i m e s g o n e b y. S o c i a l action, a nd its importa nt place in our heritage, ha s a huge role to play in creating t he ver y touch points t hat have t he potentia l to spa rk l i f e l o n g J e w i s h j o u r n e y s . PT Adam Simon is the associate national director for the Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Foundation’s DC office. His focus includes young Jewish identity development, facilitating the transformation of service to be a normative tenet of Jewish practice, and building diverse and inclusive Jewish communities.

Why Does Teach For America Care About REALITY? By Andrew Mandel We a t Te a c h F o r A m e r i c a a re tr ying to build a movement of leaders committed to ending educ at iona l inequ a lit y in t he United S t a t e s . To d o t h i s , f o r t h e p a s t 2 0 yea rs, we have recruited, tra ined, a nd supported recent college graduates of all academic majors to teach for t wo years in public schools in low-income communities a c r o s s t h e c o u n t r y. We b e l i e v e t h a t , a s a result of work ing to catch our students up, our corps members will gain the added conviction, commitment, a nd insight to spend their careers addressing the myriad rea sons why t he achievement gap bet ween students from low- a nd high-income backgrounds exists. R E A LIT Y represents t he f irst major progra m in recent memor y to enable our corps members to deeply ref lect for an extended period of time about their experiences in Ideas presentense.org/magazine

the cla ssroom, what it ma kes them t h i n k a b o u t r o o t c a u s e s o f i n e q u i t y, a nd what they wish to do with their lives. Ref lection is a critica l pa rt of ma k ing meaning, and doing so in a n immersive socia l setting, with peers who have had similar trials, while being exposed to impressive role models, has stirred the pot for pa rticipa nts in unprecedented ways. Israel was an ideal setting for t his ref lection. A countr y t hat a lso wrestles to achieve its idea ls of e q u a l i t y, I s r a e l s e r v e s a s a h e l p f u l mirror for the challenges we face in A merica. Combine that with the n a t i o n ’s i n c r e d i b l e e n t r e p r e n e u r i a l s pi r it a n d , i n p a r t i c u l a r, i m p r e s s i v e cadre of young socia l-justiceminded movers and shakers, and you have a great training ground for leadership. Of course, it is a lso a deeply spiritua l place where one c a n c o n s i d e r o n e ’s v a l u e s i n t h e

midst of a ncient sites a nd stories. At our la st interna l executive director conference, we saw a swell of excitement about expa nding such opportunities to other corps members, and we are now considering domestic versions of the R E A LIT Y trip. W hy t he interest? We h a v e n e v e r b e f o r e s e e n a s u r v e y w h e r e 10 0 p e r c e nt o f p a r t i c ip a nt s a t a Te a c h F o r A m e r i c a e v e n t s t r o n g l y agree that they would recommend it to a friend. This journey clea rly led people to feel more attuned to t heir own ta lents a nd interests, a nd more connected to our organization, which we believe will lead to a stronger movement of people leveraging one another to ma ke the cha nges we must enact in our c o u n t r y. PT Andrew Mandel is vice president of interactive learning and engagement at Teach For America.

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Special Needs

surpassing expectations >> dori frumin kirshner & meredith englander polsky Jennifer Levine with her students. Photo by Leah Mendyk.

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e n n i f e r L e v i n e w a s 17 y e a r s old as she watched her sister celebrate the milestone of becoming a bat mitz va h. She recalls feeling envious of her 13 - y e a r- o l d s i b l i n g a n d e v e n n o w, o v e r 2 0 y e a r s l a t e r, s h e r e m e m bers experiencing a sense of loss. She recognized that there was a place for her sister because she was “m a i n s t re a m”— s he le a r ne d i n t he same way as most other kids. But Levine, now the education direct o r a t Te m p l e E m a n u - E l o f C l o s t e r , NJ, had dyslexia— a nd so her Jewish identit y had a va st ly dif ferent evolution. At her core, Levine is a social activist. Her top priorit y is to ensure that no child is denied a meaningful Jewish education because of his/her learning needs— and she is not afraid to challenge the syst e m . S h e d o e s n ’t a s s u m e t h a t h e r 31 0 - s t u d e n t r e l i g i o u s s c h o o l h a s t o look like ever y other school, nor does she ma ke assumptions about the t ypes of learners who could or could not be included. “I used to s a y, ‘ I w a s d y s l e x i c a s a c h i l d ,’ ” s a y s J e n n i f e r . “ N o w I s a y ‘ I a m d y s l e x i c .’

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M i n i m a l l y , 15 0 , 0 0 0 s c h o o l - a g e d J e w i s h children in America grapple with some form of disability. I ’m r e a l i z i n g t h a t t h e d y s l e x i c b r a i n has these incredible gifts which relate to multisensor y education, which so closely relates to my pass i o n f o r t h e a r t s . I t ’s a n i n t e r e s t i n g t h i n g t h a t ’s h a p p e n i n g p e r s o n a l l y a n d p r o f e s s i o n a l l y. I t ’s h e l p i n g m e grow a progra m that is sensitive to a l l t h r e e o f t h o s e t h i n g s .” The L ea rning Disabilities A ssociation of A merica reports that 15 % o f t h e p o p u l a t i o n h a s a l e a r n i n g d i s a b i l i t y. O n e i n 11 0 i n d i v idu a ls — a nd one in 70 boy s —is diagnosed with autism. Approx imately 988,000 children in the US a re Je w ish. It is sa fe to a ssu me that the Jewish population mirrors t h e g e n e r a l p o p u l a t i o n ; m i n i m a l l y, 15 0 , 0 0 0 s c h o o l - a g e d J e w i s h c h i l dren grapple with some form of a d i s a b i l i t y. Ye t a s s e c u l a r A m e r i c a n e d u cationa l institutions a re ma k ing leaps and bounds in their efforts

to accommodate students of diverse lea rning capabilities, our Jewish educationa l settings lag behind. Facult y lack specia lized tra ining, background knowledge, and the tools to best ser ve students wit h specia l need s. Under t he pre ssu re to provide high-qua lit y education to ma instrea m students, t he needs of the many trump the needs of the f e w. F a m i l i e s a r e t u r n e d a w a y a g a i n and again from a Jewish education t hey so desperately wa nt a nd t heir children deser ve. This far too common occurrence is unacceptable and avoidable. L e v i n e r e c a l l s a t t e n d i n g Wo r k m e n ’s C i r c l e , a n A m e r i c a n J e w i s h fraterna l orga nization committed to socia l justice, Jewish commun i t y, a n d A s h k e n a z i c u l t u r e — a n d a creative a lternative to Hebrew school. In a low-pressure setting ( a c t u a l l y, a c h u r c h ) , L e v i n e p a r t i c i pated in stor y telling and holiday presentense.org/magazine Society

celebrations, a nd for her sevent hgrade commencement ceremony she memorized a nd recited “The L a st B u t t e r f l y.” T h i s e x p e r i e n c e w a s t h e f irst to connect her interest in a rt w it h her budd ing cu riosit y in Jud aism. It took ma ny yea rs for t hose t wo passions to cross paths again, b u t n o w, 25 y e a r s l a t e r, t h i s i s h e r mission for religious school. W h e n L e v i n e w a s h i r e d b y Te m ple Ema nu-El t wo a nd a ha lf yea rs ago, she ca me with a vision: to help students connect wit h t he spirit o f J u d a i s m . “ We a r e a l w a y s t r y i n g to f ind a moda lit y to awa ken that

Jewish education can and must be accessible to all types of learners. s p i r i t ,” L e v i n e s a y s — a n d s h e i s n o t a fra id to experiment. She immediately requested t wo things: one, a r o o m t o g e t m e s s y. T h i s r o o m b e came a laborator y where she worked wit h teens, testing out dif ferent creative progra ms a nd inviting o t h e r c l a s s e s t o p a r t i c i p a t e . Tw o , a c o n s u l t a t i o n w i t h M a t a n (w w w. m at a n k id s.or g ), a n or g a n i z at ion that supports Jewish communities, professiona ls, a nd institutions in educating children with specia l learning needs. This consultation helped concretize what she a lready

k new from persona l experience: Jewish education can a nd must be accessible to all t ypes of learners. J e n n i f e r ’s r e l i gious school, The Kesem Connection, looks nothing like the religious school of your childhood. W i t h M a t a n ’s h e l p i n re v a mpi n g c u rriculum, creating materials, and providing professiona l de velopment, classrooms that were previously lined with desk s a nd cha irs now have stations throughout the room. Children rotate in small groups, a nd teens a re a n integra l pa rt of t h e p r o g r a m ’s s u c c e s s . S t u d e n t s u s e their hands, bodies, and minds in a m u l t i - m o d a l (u t i l i z i n g a l l o f t h e s e n s e s) a ppro a c h a nd a re not a s k e d to sit for long periods of time. The younger k ids exercise in Hebrew b e t w e e n c l a s s e s a nd t e l l t he i r p a rents, “I wa s having so much f un I d i d n ’t k n o w I w a s l e a r n i n g a n y t h i n g .” C h i l d r e n a r e h a p p i e r a n d better behaved, teachers feel more p r o d u c t i v e , a n d p a r e n t s d o n ’t h a v e t o f i g h t w i t h t h e i r k i d s w h e n i t ’s time for religious school. According t o A n d i F l u g Wo l f e r , p r e s i d e n t o f t h e B o a r d o f E d u c a t i o n a t Te m p l e E m a n u - E l , “ J e n n i f e r ’s c r e a t i v i t y and vision have a llowed us to suc-

Levine’s students. Photos by Leah Mendyk.

cessfully teach the future of our s y n a g o g u e , o u r c h i l d r e n .” It is sa id t hat cha nge in t he Jewish communit y will only occur once a critica l ma ss ha s been reached. Those committed to the Jewish future — and in particular to a Jud a ism in f u sed w it h ne w a nd creative ideas that promote socia l ju s t ic e — mu s t lo ok at c u r re nt- d ay statistic s on children wit h specia l needs a nd understa nd that the critical mass has indeed been achieved. How many people like Levine has the Jewish communit y lost because we were unable to see their incredible gif ts, t heir potentia l to lead, and their unique way of look ing at the world? W hat Jewish issues could they have tack led if given the cha nce? With the proper support, determ inat ion a nd belief, ind iv idua ls with specia l needs will surpa ss your expectations. The rea l question is, can we surpass theirs? L e a r n m o r e a b o u t Te m p l e E m a n u - E l a t w w w. t e m p l e e m a n u - e l . c o m / P u b l i c / R E L I G I O U S S C H O O L . PT D ori Frumin Kir shner, exe cu tive director of Matan, holds a master’s degree in Jewish education. She is a former day school and Hebrew school teacher and Federation professional. Meredith Englander Polsk y, special needs coordinator and co -founder of Matan, holds master’s degrees in special education and social work. For her work with Matan, she was in the fir st cohor t of the Joshua Venture Group Fellowship.

Levine’s students, with artwork that Levine painted in the background. Society presentense.org/magazine

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Givon Detention Center. Photo by Laura Berger.

In a Refugee Nation israel faces a new refugee wave >> laura berger

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b d i , a s h e p h e r d b y t r a d e , w a s 19 w h e n h e f i n a l l y r e a c h e d I s r a e l ’s b o r d e r i n F e b r u a r y 2 0 0 9 . To g e t t o I s r a e l, he h a d p a i d a t r a f f i c k e r $1, 8 0 0 to drive him, hidden in a secret compa rtment with other ref ugees under piles of ref use, from his homeland, Soma lia, across Ethiopia, Sudan, and E g y p t . B u t a s s o o n a s h e a r r i v e d t o s a f e t y, h e w a s a r rested a nd placed in t he Ketziot Detention Center in the Negev desert. I m e t A b d i i n t h e G i v on D e t e nt i on C e nt e r, w h e r e h e a n d o v e r 10 0 o t h e r r e f u g e e s a n d m i g r a nt w o r k e r s w e r e b e i n g k e p t “ p r i o r t o d e p o r t a t i o n ,” w h i c h o f t e n a d d s u p t o y e a r s o f w a i t i n g . We s a t a c r o s s a p i c n i c t a b l e a n d h e t o l d m e h i s s t o r y. I t w a s n e a r l y 9 0 d e g r e e s a n d t here wa s no a i r c ond it ion i ng i n t he detent ion c enter. The sun streamed down through wire netting that took the place of a ceiling, in order to give the prisoners “ o u t d o o r t i m e .” A b d i s a i d t h e c e l l s w h e r e t h e p r i s o n e r s s l e e p , s o m e t i m e s 16 t o a r o o m , a r e e v e n h o t t e r. This is not a n unusua l welcome for ref ugees t hat a r r i v e i n I s r a e l f r om t he b or d e r w it h E g y pt . T he c u r-

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rent wave of ref ugees from A frica sta rted in ea rly 2006, after a protest by thousands of Sudanese ref ugees in Ca iro aga inst their living conditions a n d t h e U N H C R ’s s u s p e n s i o n o f t h e i r R e f u g e e S t a tus Determination Process. These refugees, after ca mping out in front of t he U NHCR of f ice for t hree mont hs, were forcibly removed by Eg y ptia n aut horities in a violent incident t hat lef t 28 ref ugees dead, including severa l children. Ever since, thousa nds have crossed the Sina i desert despite t he da nger of being shot by Eg yptian soldiers or being traff icked b y t h e p e o p l e t h e y p a y t o h e l p t h e m a r r i v e s a f e l y. In Israel, they face xenophobia a nd hostilit y from government of f icia ls who fea r t hat treating t h e r e f u g e e s w e l l m a y c a u s e m o r e t o f o l l o w. W h i l e m a n y r e f u g e e s a r e f l e e i n g w a r, g o v e r n m e nt o p p r e s sion, or other life-threatening dangers, Eli Yishai, t h e M i n i s t e r o f t h e I nt e r i o r, c a l l s t h e m “ i n f i lt r a tors” a nd attack s huma n rights orga nizations that t r y t o h e lp t h e m . Ya a k o v K a t z , t h e C h a i r m a n of t h e K n e s s e t C o m m i t t e e o n F o r e i g n Wo r k e r s , h a s published articles stating that A frican refugees are a t hreat to t he Jewish state, wit h statements like, “The leaders of Suda n a nd Eritrea, in collaboration with the Eg y ptia ns, a re conquering the State of I s r a e l .” I n f a c t , t h e I s r a e l i g o v e r n m e n t h a s a l r e a d y begun construction on a barrier a long the Eg yptian border to prevent f uture ref ugees from crossing. Abdi, shy and thin, only k nows that for some rea son t he Israeli government ha s decided t hat he is a threat. “If I go back to Soma lia, I have no protection and I will probably be k illed. Many triba l a n d p o l i t i c a l g r o u p s a t t a c k e a c h o t h e r , a n d I d o n ’t k now why they targeted me. But t wice a lready I was beaten by the Shababi Fighters, the most dangerous g r o u p , a n d t h e y l e f t m e f o r d e a d i n 2 0 0 8 .” S o o n a f t e r h e r e c o v e r e d , h e l e f t t h e c o u n t r y, wit hout a pa ssport or a ny travel documents, hoping to reach Israel, where he hea rd it wa s sa fe. Instead, I s r a e l ’s M i n i s t r y o f t h e I n t e r i o r t r i e d t o g e t h i m to sign a form agreeing to be returned to Soma lia. Israel, a nation of refugees, was one of the leading c o u n t r i e s i n d r a f t i n g t h e 19 51 C o n v e n t i o n o n t h e Status of Ref ugees, inf luenced by the Holocaust. Acc o r d i n g t o o n e o f I s r a e l ’s l e a d i n g H o l o c a u s t s c h o l a r s , Ye h u d a B a u e r , “ I t i s a s c a n d a l f o r t h i s g o v e r n m e n t

“I know it’s dangerous back in Somalia, but I’ve h a d e n o u g h h e r e .” to a dopt a p ol ic y of re f ou l me nt [d r i v i n g t he m b a c k], w h ic h i s e x a c t ly w h a t t he Sw i s s g ove r n me nt d id du ri n g Wo r l d Wa r I I t o m o s t l y J e w i s h r e f u g e e s .” T h e H o t l i n e f o r M i g r a n t Wo r k e r s , a n o r g a n i z a t i o n t h a t helps A frican refugees as well as traff icked women a nd migra nt workers in Israel, ha s stated t hat by detaining or returning refugees, Israel is violating presentense.org/magazine Society

t his internationa l convention. The convention gives g uidance in the case that refugees enter unlaw f u lly into t he countr y of refuge—in this case, Israel cannot impose pena lties on ref ugees simply on account of t heir illega l entr y or presence, a s long a s t hey present t hemselves to aut horities and show good cause for their presence. Detention is only to be used w h e n n e c e s s a r y, a n d o n l y u n t i l t h e y gain status. But in Israel, fewer t h a n 1% o f r e f u g e e s h a v e b e e n g i v e n a ny reg u la r status, the majorit y bei n g d e t a i ne d or g i ve n “c ond it ion a l release” visas, which allow them

to rema in in t he countr y wit hout being deta ined, but with no other forma l rights. Things are only getting worse f o r r e f u g e e s . I n N o v e m b e r, t h e I s raeli government a nnounced t hat employing asylum seekers would be considered illega l. In Decemb e r, t h e K n e s s e t a n n o u n c e d a p l a n to build a n even la rger detention c e n t e r f o r “A f r i c a n i n f i l t r a t o r s ” near the border bet ween Israel and Eg ypt. For Abdi and other refugees like him, these signs are leading to a choice to return to dangerous situations in t heir home countries rather than spend another year or

more in prison in Israel. “ I ’m j u s t w a i t i n g t o b e d e p o r t e d ,” h e s a i d . “ I h a v e a p p l i e d t o e v e r y organization, and no one can help m e . I k n o w i t ’s d a n g e r o u s b a c k i n S o m a l i a , b u t I ’ v e h a d e n o u g h h e r e .” A b d i ’s n a m e w a s c h a n g e d a t h i s r e q u e s t . PT Laura Berger is a current second-year student at Fordham L aw, hoping to pr ac tic e immigration law af ter graduating in 201 2. S h e s p e nt l a s t summ e r interning at the Hotline for Migrant W o r k e r s i n Te l A v i v .

The Case for Asylum not just a refuge for jews >> mollie gerver

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inc e mov ing to Rwa nd a for t h e y e a r, I h a v e b e e n s t r u c k by t he c ou nt le ss Rwa nde se who decided to return to Rwa nd a from Canada, EU cou nt rie s, t he United St ate s, Uganda, South A frica, and more countries in order to help rebuild Rwa nd a . Ma ny c ou ld a nd wa nted to return specif ically in order to utilize the skills, experiences, and education t hey ga ined while living in t heir respective countries of asylum.

from South Sudan, eagerly wish to return when it is sa fe. The ref ugees did not leave their homes in order to obta in stable jobs a nd hea lth insurance. W hile some would happily accept these benef its, ref ugees lef t because they were persecuted due to t h e i r e t h n i c i t y, r e l i g i o n , p o l i t i c a l i d e n t i t y, o r g r o u p i d e n t i t y. Not only is this a limited pool, it is a group of people who have lef t t heir countr y for rea sons t hat ca n become irreleva nt if t he situation i n t h e i r c o u nt r y c h a n g e s . Ho w e v e r,

What is of ten ignored is that many refugees... eagerly wish to return when it is safe. A common a rg ument in Israel is that, if Israel accepts some refugees, more refugees will come than Israel ca n ha ndle. A s a result, Israel d e p o r t s s o m e a t t h e b o r d e r, a n d lets others stay without a ny longterm promise of recognizing them a s of f icia l ref ugees, with the rights to education and to seek a job that wou ld come with such a ref ugee status. W hat is often ignored is that many refugees, especia lly those Society presentense.org/magazine

they need skills to assure that returning is good for them and good f o r t h e i r c o u n t r y. T h e i n i t i a l r e f u gees who take the chance and volunta rily repatriate t hemselves a re often those who have the education and skills obtained while living in t heir countries of a sylum, a nd it is t hese ref ugees who contribute t o t h e w e l f a r e , s e c u r i t y, a n d j o b opportunities that ma ke returning e ven sa fer for ot hers. Ju st a s

one saw a ma ss in f low of Rwa nd a ns c om ing home to Rwa nd a in t h e l a t e 19 9 0 s a f t e r i t w a s c l e a r that that their lives were not in da nger in t heir countr y of origin, many South Sudanese —who ma ke up the second-largest refugee group in Israel—hope to take back skills, funds, and family to South Sudan once they k now they will not be persecuted there. I have had the honor of living in t wo c ou nt rie s — Israel a nd Rwa nd a —where refugees did return home to create and see a better future. Individua ls who received asylum returned to their homeland and contributed to ma ssive job grow t h, improvements in education, a nd s a f e t y. S u c h a f u t u r e i s o n l y p o s sible if we respect our ethical, legal, and practica l obligations and assure that asylum seekers can apply for a sylum to begin with, to ga in the rights that will save their lives now a n d r e b u i l d t h e i r c o u n t r i e s l a t e r . PT Mollie Gerver is founder of Advocates for Asylum (www.asylumseekers.org) and was a 2010 PresenTense Global Fellow. She is currently a JDC Jewish Service Corp fellow at the AgahozoShalom Youth Village in Rwanda. issue thirteen 2011

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Community volunteers work with Nashville youth at the January 17, 2009 King Day of Service, part of the Re/Storing Nashville youth initiative. Photo provided by Community Food Advocates.

Food, Faith, and Justice what’s your grocery story? >> miriam leibowitz

C Food Justice

oncepts of tikkun olam and tzedakah are instilled in Jewish children from an early age. They learn to put a coin in the pushke, to say prayers before and after eating, to share mishloach manot (gifts for f r ie nd s) on P u r i m, a nd on Pa s s over to invite Elija h— a nd a nyone who is hungr y— so that they may join and eat. The indignit y of having to a sk for cha rit y ca n be a mended through communit y action; this is not a condemnation of soup k itchens or food pa ntries, but rat her a ca ll for a new model. Religious tradition steeped in cha rit y ca n shif t to a susta inable food justice model, but it is essentia l t hat a ny cha nges towa rds susta inabilit y be identif ied and shaped by those who lack direct transportation to grocer y stores, only have highly-priced, low-qua l-

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it y foods ava ilable, a nd have a n i n t e r e s t i n e a t i n g m o r e h e a l t h f u l l y. Re/Storing Na shville is ded icated to attracting grocer y stores t o N a s h v i l l e ’s f o o d d e s e r t n e i g h borhoods through communit y organizing a nd outreach to fa ith-ba sed communities. The ca mpa ign a rose

synagogues, and large Buddhist, Ba ha’ i, a nd Hindu c om mu nit ie s. Strong religious ties, dedicated worshippers, and respected clerg y point towa rd t he pa lpable power o f t h e “ c h u r c h ,” w h i c h i s t h e c e n ter of many Nashvillians’ socia l a nd spirit u a l live s. Underst a nd ing

The owner will not carry fresh produce b e c a u s e “ p e o p l e w i l l n o t b u y i t ,” t h o u g h Edgehill residents say otherwise. f rom i nc re a si n g r ate s of d ie t-re l ate d d i s e a s e s i n N a s h v i l l e ’s f o o d d e s erts and from a demand for fresh f o o d . I n it i a l f u nd i n g f or R e /St oring Nashville was provided by the R o b e r t Wo o d J o h n s o n F o u n d a t i o n . Na s hv i l le , t he proverbi a l buc kle of the Bible Belt, is home to 10 0 0 + c hu r c h e s , f o u r m o s q u e s , f i v e

t h i s d y n a m i c , a n I n t e r f a i t h Wo r s h i p To o l k i t w a s d e v e l o p e d b y t h e R e / Storing Na shville Interfa it h Pla nning Council— a diverse group of clerg y members and lay leaders. The toolk it wa s created to help educate and activate congregations about food desert life a nd tra nsition from pure cha rit y to food justice. presentense.org/magazine Food Justice

Over the past t wo years, Re/ Storing Nashville staff and Leade r s h i p Te a m ( r e s i d e n t s o f N a s h v i l l e ’s f o o d d e s e r t s ) h a v e w o r k e d t o re-energize grocer y campaigns in North, South, and East Nashville. These a rea s under went urba n ren e w a l p r o j e c t s i n t h e 19 5 0 s -19 7 0 s which aimed to clean up blighted neighborhoods a nd build lowincome housing. In the Southern Nashville neighborhood Edgehill, t his mea nt t hat ma ny single-fa mily homes were replaced with mu lti-unit complexes, changing the dynamic of the historically middle-class, A frica n-A merica n neighborhood. With t he later conversion of homes into Music Row—recording studios a nd

at the register that is labeled on t he shel f, if t he expirat ion d ate on the can of green beans has not passed, and if an EBT card is not mista kenly ta xed or double swiped — charging you t wice for your food stamp purchase. A t h i r d o f N a s h v i l l e ’s f o o d d e s ert residents do not own ca rs, relying on public transportation, the generosit y of fa mily a nd friends, a nd mor e of t e n t h a n not , u nd e rg r o u n d t a x i s e r v i c e s c o s t i n g $10 $ 4 0 p e r t r i p , g a s m o n e y, o r p u r chases of groceries—usua lly from t h e r i d e r ’s l i m i t e d f o o d s t a m p b u d get. For a senior on a f ixed income a v e r a g i n g $55 0 0 p e r y e a r, t h i s i s an unreasonable expense.

It is time to start some new traditions in Jewish food justice. other music industr y businesses — Edgehill became segregated from o t h e r p a r t s o f t h e c i t y, m o s t i m mediately from t he majorit y-white universities surrounding the neighborhood. Prior to urban renewal, E d g e h i l l h a d 15 g r o c e r y s t o r e s ; n o w, t h e o n l y f o o d s t o r e s w i t h i n three miles or more are convenience stores. Edgehill residents have been working for decades to attract and retain supermarkets to the area. “I’d rather have a banana than t h e c h i p s ,” p r o n o u n c e d D e b b i e Smit h, Edgehill Resident A ssoc i a t i o n Tr e a s u r e r a n d R e / S t o r i n g N a s h v i l l e L e a d e r s h i p Te a m m e m b e r, i n a c on v e r s a t i on a b o u t t h e neighborhood store t wo blocks from her home —which does not sell bananas, or any other fresh produce. Shelves a re lined with pre-pack aged foods from a discount grocer y cha in across town and the rest of the store is full of hair products, clothing, a nd a pi z z a c ou nter. T he ow ner w i l l not carr y fresh produce because “ p e o p l e w i l l n o t b u y i t ,” t h o u g h Edgehill residents say ot her wise. I n N a s h v i l l e ’s f o o d d e s e r t s , a f fordabilit y a nd qua lit y a re priorities; the best you ca n get is a shriveled, overpriced peach, a box of green f ish sticks, and rancid meat t h a t ’s l a b e l e d : “ M e a t D e p t .” O n e is luck y if charged the sa me price Food Justice presentense.org/magazine

It is pa r t of Je w ish trad ition to take care of those in need, but our tradition a lso includes glea ning, or leaving crops in the f ield for t he poor a nd t he t raveler. O ver the past few years, gleaning projects have ta ken hold in farmers’ m a r k e t s a c r o s s t h e c o u n t r y, a s w e l l a s a t f a r m s . A t t he e nd of t he m a rk e t d a y, v o l u n t e e r s c o l l e c t b r u i s e d a nd wilted fruits a nd vegetables to bring to soup k itchens a nd feeding programs for processing and distribution. At f irst glance, this is an incredible gift—utilizing reclaimed f o o d . Ho w e v e r, c ont r o v e r s y e x i s t s over w he t her t here i s d i g n it y i n e ating bruised food, especially when unblemished items a re the norm in a f f luent neighborhoods.

Keeping a ll of this in mind, the Jewish communit y ha s a responsibilit y to be awa re, to ma ke noise, and to get involved. R ide the bus to the grocer y store. Find your communit y ga rden— or sta rt one! Share recipes for hea lthy mea ls on a budget. Educate your polic ymakers and elected off icials about w h a t ’s h a p p e n i n g i n y o u r c i t y. I f you have a fa rm sha re, work with your farmer to accept food stamps, sliding sca le payment, a nd food desert markets. Ensure that farmers’ markets take food stamps and are easily accessible. Jewish holidays are a ll about food— and celebrating not being annihilated one more time. Throw a part y on one of our many holidays to ra ise awa reness about food just i c e w o r k i n y o u r c o m m u n i t y. P l a n t t h e s e v e n s p e c i e s f o r Tu B ’s h e v a t and apple trees for Rosh Hashana (or t r y b e e k e e pi n g ! ), he lp p a s s u rban gardens and chicken ordinances to legalize growing your own food, and change Shabbat oneg to include l o c a l , o r g a n i c f o o d . PT It is time to sta r t some ne w traditions in Jewish food justice. Miriam Leibowitz is the Re/ Storing Nashville program coordinator with Community Food Advocates, an alumna of the Jewish Organizing Initiative, and a member of Congregation Sherith Israel Synagogue (where she star ted a garden and teaches Sunday School). Please share your Grocer y Stor y at w w w.re storingnashville.org.

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Let all who are hungry fighting hunger through food rescue >> asher weiss

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rom t he M idd le E a s t to E a s tern Europe to the A mericas, Jews are k nown for placing a ver y high premium on food. A nd even if jokes about Jewish mothers and their tendency to pl y t he i r c h i ld r e n (a nd e ve r y one else in t he v icinit y) w it h a n u nending supply of food a re a bit overblown, the stereot ype of the food-loving Jew exists for a reason. It shou ld come a s no surprise t hat food is centra l to a people whose religion includes ritua l mea ls on t h e f i r s t t w o n i g ht s o f Pa s s o v e r, a Purim feast, the prescribed diet of kashrut, and whose sacred text tells the fa mous stor y of a hungr y f i r s t-b or n s on w ho s e l l s h i s bi r t hright to his younger brother —for a bowl of soup. Perh ap s it i s b e c au s e a fo o dcentric cu lture breeds a mong its ad herents a n acute awa reness of t he importance of food that many at t he forefront of t he internationa l war aga inst hunger are Jews. In fact, Jews have been obligated to f ight hunger for at lea st a s long a s t h e To r a h h a s b e e n a r o u n d — a p prox imately 2,500 yea rs. L evitic u s 19 : 9 -11 c o m m a n d s : “A n d w h e n y o u r e a p y o u r l a n d ’s h a r v e s t , y o u shall not f inish off the edge of your f ield, nor pick up the gleanings of your har vest. A nd your vineyard you sha ll not pluck bare, nor pick up the fa llen fruit of your vineyard. For the poor and for the s o j o u r n e r s h a l l y o u l e a v e t h e m .” Jewish a nti-hunger activist Joseph

Leket rescues food to fight hunger. Photo by Leket.

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What’s on your plate? The Corktown Community Brunch. Photo by Blair Nosan.

Food rescue is likely to become a leading strateg y in f ighting hunger. Git ler honored t he injunction to leave the poor gleanings—leket in Hebrew—in naming the organization he founded Leket Israel. Leket is an Israeli organization t h a t e mploy s a hu n g e r-f i g ht i n g strateg y called food rescue, which, a s its na me suggests, involves the “r e s c u e ” of nou r i s h i n g f o o d t h a t would other wise be thrown away by restaura nts, catering ha lls, a nd cafeterias. Leket was inspired by Cit y Ha r ve st, “t he gra ndd addy of f o o d r e s c u e ,” a c c o r d i n g t o G i t l e r . I n d e e d , s i n c e C i t y H a r v e s t ’s f o u n d i n g i n N e w Yo r k C i t y i n 19 8 2 , t h e food-rescue model ha s steadily g a i n e d t r a c t i o n . N o w, a l o n g s i d e t h e more established model of donation a llocation, employed by a variet y of prominent orga nizations including the A merican Jewish organization Mazon, food rescue has become accepted as one of the most effective met hod s for c ombat i ng hu nger. L eket (formerly Shu lcha n leS h u l c h a n o r Ta b l e t o Ta b l e ) w a s founded in 2003 when Gitler bega n

phoning loca l catering companies a nd restaura nts, a sk ing if he cou ld “r e s c u e ” u ntou c he d nut r it iou s f o o d that would go to waste. The response was over whelmingly positive, and soon he was delivering the rescued food to Israeli soup k itchens a nd food ba nk s. Only s e v e n y e a r s l a t e r , L e k e t i s I s r a e l ’s Nat ion a l Food B a n k . It h a s a $5 million budget, 80 paid employees, severa l t housa nd volunteers at a ny given time, and provides at least one mea l a day to 20,0 0 0 -30,0 0 0 people at over 230 soup k itchens, home le s s s he lt e r s , s e n ior- c it i z e n centers, a nd ot her socia l ser vice organizations throughout Israel. G it l e r, a 3 6 -y e a r- o l d A m e r i c a n b o r n J e w, m a d e a l i y a h (i m m i g r a ted to Israel) in 2000 and settled i n t h e a f f l u e n t c i t y o f R a ’a n a n a , with a job a s a ma rketing executive at an Israeli high-tech f irm. Despite or perhaps because of his relatively comfortable life, Gitler could not overlook the povert y he s aw a l l a rou nd h i m . “Pover t y i n presentense.org/magazine Food Justice

Israel is similar to povert y in the U S ,” h e s a y s . “ P e o p l e a r e n ’t s t a r v ing but have to make sacrif ices in w h a t t h e y ’r e e a t i n g o r h o w m u c h t h e y ’r e e a t i n g .” It is sma l l consolation to Git ler t h a t t h i s “ We s t e r n p o v e r t y,” a s h e describes it, is not a s severe a s povert y in many parts of the developing world. He may not be seeing sta r vation, but ma lnourishment, especia lly for babies and young children, is a persistent concern. “ I ’m n o t f o c u s e d o n a b o v e o r b e l o w t h e p o v e r t y l i n e ,” h e s a y s . “A s m u c h a s w e ’r e d o i n g , y o u n e v e r r e a c h e v e r y o n e w h o n e e d s a h a n d .” One might a ssume from its biblica l na me that Leket is a Jewish orga nization, but Gitler is less sure. “ We a r e i m p a c t e d a n d i n f l u e n c e d by Jewish culture, but L eket is a n I s r a e l i o r g a n i z a t i o n ,” r a t h e r t h a n a religious one, Gitler says. Most of t he sta f f a nd volunteers a re Jewish, and food and fundraising drives are of ten planned around the Jewi s h c a l e n d a r, b u t t h i s i s a f u n c t i on of the fact that Leket exists in a

Food Justice presentense.org/magazine

societ y t hat is predomina nt ly Jewish. In fact, L eket is intentiona lly mu lticu ltura l: 20 members of its paid staff are Israeli-A rab women who for the f irst time are earning more tha n the minimum wage a nd have f u ll hea lth benef its. “The mission of this organization was never c o e x i s t e n c e , b u t w e ’r e p r o u d t h a t we seem to have created it through o u r w o r k ,” s a y s M o s h e K i n d e r l e h r e r , director of development for A meric a n F r i e n d s o f L e k e t I s r a e l , L e k e t ’s pre senc e in t he United St ate s. M o r e o v e r , L e k e t ’s g o a l i s t o h e l p a s m a n y c o m m u n i t i e s i n I s r a e l ’s ethnically diverse society as poss i b l e . “ We r e a l l y b e l i e v e t h a t t h e goa l of this organization is to ser ve the Israeli-A rab, Druze, and Bedouin popu lations” in addition to Je w i sh one s, say s Git ler. L eket a l so provides food for a group of around 10 , 0 0 0 C h r i s t i a n a n d Mu s l i m r e f u gees from Eritrea a nd Da rf ur who recent ly a rrived in Israel. That the food-rescue strateg y has resonated beyond the US and I s r a e l i s e v i d e n c e d b y A u s t r a l i a ’s

O z H a r v e s t , C a n a d a ’s S e c o n d H a r v e s t , a n d G e r m a n y ’s B e r l i n e r Ta f e l , among many others. Food rescue is successful in many parts of the world because it simu lta neously f ights food insecurit y ef fectively a nd ma inta ins low orga nizational overhead—Leket, for example, c l a i m s t h a t e v e r y $1 d on a t e d g e ne rate s $5 wor t h of food — m a k i n g it highly effective any where there is a surplus of food. Such surpluses e x i s t , a c c o r d i n g t o G it l e r, i n a l l of the developed world and even large parts of the developing world. Hence, food rescue is likely to bec ome a le a d i n g s t r ate g y i n f i g hti n g h u n g e r . W h i l e i t ’s d i f f i c u l t t o imagine that the world will see an e n d t o h u n g e r i n G i t l e r ’s l i f e t i m e , wit h t he continuing success of food r e s c u e , i t ’s r e a s o n a b l e t o d r e a m . PT A sher Weis s is a Brooklyn based singer- songwriter who also writes on politics and the Middle East. He plans to attend a master’s program in international r e l at io n s in f all , 2011 .

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Tzedek Ba’sadeh

jewish food justice >> jakir manela & daniel kieval Urba n Ad a ma h in Berkel e y, C A i s a p r o g r a m t h a t trains young adults to grow f r e s h, he a lt hy f o o d i n a n u rban setting, partners them with loca l food justice organizations to do ser vice work, and provides Jewish perspectives on issues relating to our modern food system. Tz e d a k a h i s o f t e n r o ma nticized, but dignit y is not g ua ra nteed. R abbinic literature accounts for desperation a nd potentia lly violent competition a mong the hungr y and homeless. In M i s h n a h P e ’a h 4 : 4 w e r e a d , “P e ’ a h m a y n o t b e r e a p e d b y the poor with sick les, nor uprooted with a xes, so that they should not strike one a n o t h e r .” T h e p e ’ a h g a t h e r ers have a responsibilit y to gather in peace, one that is p e r h a p s e q u a l t o t h e f a r m e r ’s r e s p on s ibi l it y t o le a ve p e’a h.

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o d a y, t h e J e w i s h i m a g e o f p h i l a n t h r o p y i s of ten associated with the typical photo - op of a donor handing over a check. But in truth, the tithe — that 10 % donation of income to charity— originally grew in the fields.

In ancient Israel, Jews were farmers, and crops w e r e c u r r e n c y. T h e To r a h c o m m a n d e d d i s t r i b u t i o n of food throughout society as an expression of t z e d a k a h — l i t e r a l l y, “ j u s t i c e .” T h r o u g h b i b l i c a l mandate and tradition, Jews were farmers for j u s t i c e, a n d t h e M i s hn ah, t h e f i r s t c o d e o f J e w is h l a w a f t e r t h e To r a h , w a s t h e p e r f e c t f o o d j u s t i c e manual. The most familiar aspect of Jewish food justice is ma’a s er ani: 10 % of t he har vest was c ont r ibu te d to the poor ever y third and sixth year of the sevenyear agricultural cycle. The act of har vesting, to o, w as a n exe r c is e in t ze d akah. I n t h e B o o k of Ruth, we are reminded of the laws of leket, ( g l e a n i n gs) a n d s hi c h e c h a , (f o r go t t e n c r o p s) which require that produce dropped or overlooked d u r i n g h a r v e s t t i m e i s l e f t f o r t h e h u n g r y. P e ’ a h , ( l i t e r a l l y, c o r n e r ) c o m m a n d s J e w i s h f a r m e r s t o leave the corners of their fields unhar vested so t h a t t h e p o o r c a n c o m e a n d e a t . P e ’a h , l e k e t a n d shichecha require the tzedakah recipient to be active in the process. This is not a hand - out: the poor must go out into the fields themselves and har vest if they want to receive produce. There is s t r e n g t h i n t h a t t r a d i t i o n , s h a r e d r e s p o n s i b i l i t y, and perhaps greater dignity as well.

K ay a m Fa r m i n R e i s ters t o w n , M D p r a c t i c e s m a ’a s e r ani by donating a portion of its produce to a loca l fa mily shelter. T he fa rm, a prog ra m of t he Pe a rl s tone C on ferenc e & R e t r e a t C e nt e r, a n a g e nc y of t he A SSOCI AT E D: Je w ish Communit y Federation of Ba lt i m o r e , p r o m o t e s To r a h - b a s e d food justice by teaching agricultura l laws and practices to thousands of people each ye a r. Su m mer Kol lel i m merse s young Jews in Jewish food just i c e - f a r m i n g , s t u d y i n g To r a h , and learning to create more just a nd equitable food systems for all people. Leket Israel has updated Jewish food justice practices to meet contempora r y needs. The Israeli organization collects millions of pounds of food that would other wise have gone to waste and distributes produce to organizat i o n s t h a t f e e d I s r a e l ’s p o o r (s e e p.32).

W hat happens when other laws in a societ y conf lict with acts of tzedakah? I n 2 0 1 0 , P a n i m ’s P B & J The grassroots organization ( P o v e r t y, B r e a d , a n d J u s t i c e ) Food Not Bombs prepares progra m broug ht 70 Je w ish a n d s e r v e s f r e e v e g e t a r - W e l e a r n i n M i s h n a h P e ’ a h 1 : 2 , “ O n e s h o u l d n o t t e e n a g e r s t o Wa s h i n g t o n , D . C . i a n m e a l s i n p u b l i c p l a c e s g i v e p e ’a h l e s s t h a n o n e s i x t i e t h , a n d … e v e r y t h i n g f o r f i v e d a y s t o m e e t w i t h g o v a r ou nd t he world . Pol ic e d e p e n d s o n t h e s i z e o f t h e f i e l d , t h e n u m b e r er n ment re pre s ent at ive s , p era n d h e a l t h a u t h o r i t i e s h a v e o f t h e p o o r, a n d a c c o r d i n g t o t h e e x t e n t o f t h e f o r m c o m m u n i t y s e r v i c e , a n d a t t e m p t e d t o s h u t d o w n t h e c r o p .” O u r r e l i g i o u s r o o t s a s s e r t t h a t w e m u s t e x p l o r e J e w i s h a n d n o n - J e w i s h group for distributing food give according to our means and our communities. texts relating to food justice, without proper licenses a nd n u t r i t i o n , a n d s u s t a i n a b i l i t y. permits. Its members defend O ur f ields ar e sm all bu t our c r op s ar e f lour ishin g. Such prog ra ms g u a ra ntee t he their right to sha re freely The time is rip e for Jews to practice food justice continuation of food justice with others, cla iming that f or the hungr y a n d p oor in local com munitie s awareness a mong f uture Jewgovernmenta l ef forts to f ight a n d a r o u n d t h e w o r l d. ish leaders. hunger are inadequate. The i nc ident s h ave sp a rk e d he atJakir Manela is the founder and ed debate over issues of food waste, Daniel Kieval recently completed his undirector of Kayam Farm, transdergraduate degree at Wesleyan Universocia l justice, a nd public hea lth, with forming our community through sity and two seasons at Kayam Farm. He communities a nd authorities struggling hands-on Jewish agricultural education. is about to begin studying at Kibbutz Lotan. to f ind a balance bet ween them.

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presentense.org/magazine Food Justice

Leaders singing Dalit freedom songs at a Dalit Foundation workshop in Ahmedabad, Gujarat, India. Photo by Abby Bellows.

Features

Lessons from India

a new context for community organizing >> abby bellows

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fter f ive years of organizing clerg y a round socia l justice issues in the Bronx, I headed to India intensely curious. Wo u l d t h e g r a s s r o o t s l e a d e r s t h a t t h e A m e r i c a n J e w i s h Wo r l d S e r v i c e Vo l u n t e e r C o r p s m a t c h e d me with f ind my practice of comm u n i t y o r g a n i z i n g r e l e v a n t ? Wo u l d I be able to extract lessons from t he India n socia l movements t hat had long inspired me? A fter four mont hs of teaching a nd lea rning from Indian activists, I was amazed by the fruitf u lness of our excha nge. I d i s c ove r e d t h a t m a ny I nd i a n orga nizing practices ca n nurture t he J e w i s h c o m m u n i t y ’s s w e l l i n g i n t e r est in organizing.

Ta k e risks – w h e n s t r at e gic A s I entered t he site of t he Chengara Land Struggle in southern India, accompanied by Indian leaders I was training, I noticed colorful f lags hanging from the trees. They gave way to black pla stic tents; wir y children within sta red out at us. Some 20,0 0 0 Da lit s (formerly “Untouchables”) and indigenous people had occupied these 6,000 acres for the past three years demanding land t hat t hey were lega l ly due. By doing so, t hey had prevented t his government la nd from being turned over t o a r u b b e r c o m p a n y. O n e o f t h e leaders explained to me that when t he government tried to evict t he la nd le s s f a m i l ie s, 25 Da l it s c l i mbed trees, fastened saris to branches, and tied the other end around their neck s. They threatened to jump to their deaths if the police forced them out. I rea lized with a shudder t hat t he fabric s at t he entra nce to Chengara were these same saris— their battle f lags. I found myself singing under m y b r e a t h — M a h n o r a h a’ m a k o m h a’ z e h , H o w a w e - i n s p i r i n g i s t h i s place. A ll the L etters-to-the-Editor and demonstrations I had helped organize in college, in the Bronx, a nd with my synagog ue cou ld not compa re to the risk s these Da lit leaders had taken. At the same time, I worried that the Indian leaders I was training

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Members of the Chengara Land Struggle, taken in April 2010 in Kerala, India, with sari seen in the trees. Photos by Abby Bellows.

would resort to dire measures too q u i c k l y. I h a d a l r e a d y m e t s e v e r a l leaders on hunger strike for “Da lit rights” who could not articulate a specif ic demand, deadline, or the na mes of releva nt decision-ma kers. They had passion and courage but l i t t l e s t r a t e g y. I t a u g h t t h e m o r g a nizing strateg y a s I had lea rned it in the US —analyzing power structures, pick ing winnable goa ls, and escalating pressure. A s they jotted notes, I realized that the methodica l strategies we use back home cou ld benef it from their boldness and vice versa.

Be yond “Give a man a f is h …” W hen I led trainings on Metho d s of S o c i a l C h a n g e for Avo d a h or Je w ish Fu nd s for Ju st ic e, I c ontrasted direct ser vice and organizing. Direct ser vice —volunteering at a soup k itchen, for exa mple — addresses vita l needs today but does not address the sca rcit y of good jobs that drives the same people to t h e s o u p k i t c h e n t o m o r r o w. S e r v i c e i s of ten done by a “prov ider” to a “ c l i e n t ,” w h e r e a s o r g a n i z i n g a i m s to be driven by the people most affected by the problems at hand. A d m i t t e d l y, t h e w o r k s h o p s I l e d were sla nted towa rd orga nizing. Like others, I was concerned that so many synagogues focus solely on Mitz va h Day instead of a lso tapping

i n t o t h e J e w i s h c o m m u n i t y ’s p o w e r for lasting organizing victories. Socia l change in the Indian context unravels this whole paradigm. If a socia l worker helps a village sec u r e f o o d t o d a y, t h i s “ s e r v i c e ” w i l l have lit t le la st ing impact. If, on t he other hand, the socia l worker helps the village secure la nd suitable for fa rming from t he government, t his “ser v ic e” c a n h ave t he la st i ng i mpact a ssociated with orga nizing. Furthermore, rather than assume that a ser vice-provider encourages d e p e n d e n c y, t h e q u e s t i o n i n I n d i a i s what approach the provider takes. If a social worker f ills out land applications on beha lf of residents, t h e y r e m a i n d e p e n d e n t “ c l i e n t s .” Ho w e v e r, i f t h e s o c i a l w o r k e r t r a i n s communit y members to see government la nd a s t heir lega l right, a s it is in India, a nd together with them f iles land applications, then long-term leadership ha s been built. Therefore, the deva luation of direct ser vice in pa rts of the Jewish socia l justice world must be reconsidered. Certain t ypes of dir e c t s e r v i c e , i f d o n e t h e r i g h t w a y, can produce the lasting change and leadership usua lly attributed to organizing. This can inform the t ype of direct ser vice that Jewish communities engage in a s well a s the relationship bet ween various methods of social change.

presentense.org/magazine Features

One of the street children who participates in Khoj, an organization that builds the skills of children who live in the street medians of New Delhi. On this day, the children made butterflies.

I n sis t o n I - T h o u r e l at i o n s h i p s The f irst step of communit y organizing is usua lly connecting pe ople to one a not her. W het her i n la rge syna gog ues, tra nsient colleges, or a neighborhood of Russian immigra nts, building relationships is a precondition for identif ying common concerns and amassing the people power necessar y to produce change. Nonetheless, this stage can also be exhausting. So I was thrilled to discover in India that connecting people to e a c h o t h e r w a s o f t e n u n n e c e s s a r y. In a cou nt r y where 70 perc ent of t he population lives in villages, people Features presentense.org/magazine

in a pa rticu la r communit y a lready k now e ac h ot her. For i n st a nc e, when I made a f ield visit in Ha r ya na, a loca l leader ca lled an impromptu meeting and 50 people showed up that evening. I had never seen such an easy mobilization before. Ho w e v e r, I f o u n d t h a t s i m p l y being connected is not a recipe for socia l change. The best illustrat ion come s f rom Pa nd iya n, a Da lit l e a d e r i n Ta m i l N a d u . H e v i s i t e d a Sel f-Help Group, t he term for a village savings collective. For f ive years, the same women had come together ever y week to do f inancial transactions. “W hat is the impact of the group?” Pa nd iya n a sked t hem. T he y

r e s p o n d e d e n t h u s i a s t i c a l l y, “ N o w we are economica lly sound because w e s a v e t o g e t h e r .” Pa nidya n a sked whet her t heir children were in school. The women said some were, but some grazed g o a t s f o r m o n e y. “ B u t y o u j u s t t o l d m e t h a t y o u ’r e e c onom ic a l ly s ou nd ! ” Pa nd i y a n e xclaimed. There wa s a long silence. Eventua lly one woma n spoke up. “My h u s b a n d i s a n a l c o h o l i c ,” s h e e x plained, tears starting to well up in her eyes. “He stands outside our meetings —he is wa iting a round the corner right now— and when I leave the meeting, he ta kes my money to go drink. W hen I protest or tr y to s p e n d i t f i r s t , h e b e a t s m e .” “Have you tried to go to someo n e e l s e ’s h o u s e t o c o o k f o r y o u r s e l f and your children and not feed him, a s pu nish ment?” Pa nd iya n a sked. “ Ye s ,” s h e r e p l i e d . “ I c o o k e d a t a f r i e n d ’s h o u s e a n d d i d n o t m a k e a ny for my husba nd. But when I g o t h o m e , h e b e a t m e e v e n w o r s e .” “Did you tr y to go to the police?” “ I c a n ’t ,” s h e s a i d . “ I w o u l d b e terribly ostracized if any man saw m e t h e r e a l o n e .” A f t e r s o m e t i m e , s h e c o n t i n u e d . “ I t ’s n o t j u s t m e . A ll these women have a lcoholics a s husba nds. They beat us a nd we c a n ’t g o t o t h e p o l i c e .” The other women slowly nodded. Ot hers sta r ted to confess. It wa s a h u g e p r o b l e m i n t h e i r c o m m u n i t y, and for all these years they had never talked about the fact that the money they dea lt with each week in t he Sel f-Help Group wa s not re a l ly g o i n g t o w a r d t h e i r f a m i l y ’s w e l l b e ing or their economic independence. A f ter listening for a t ime, Pa ndiya n a sked, “W hat do you wa nt to do about it?” It wa s a s if he had relea sed a cork. They bega n coming up wit h strategies to address the problem. “ We c o u l d i n v i t e a d o c t o r t o t a l k t o the men about the medica l conseq u e n c e s o f a l c o h o l a b u s e . We c o u l d convene our husba nds for you to t a l k to t hem, Pa nd iya n. T he y mig ht l i s t e n t o a m a n ’s a d v i c e a b o u t h o w t o b e a g o o d h u s b a n d . We c o u l d a s k the NGO to f ile police charges on issue thirteen 2011

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Near the Chengara Land Struggle are Chinese fishing nets in the city of Cochin, Kerala, India. Photo by Abby Bellows.

o u r b e h a l f t o a v o i d g o i n g p u b l i c l y t o t h e s t a t i o n .” T h e r o o m b u z z e d w i t h e n e r g y. A s P a n d i y a n helped them develop next steps, he rea lized they had been connected for f ive years but were not organized around the issues that really kept them up at night. I rea lized that, in this case, the Indian context was more similar to the A merican Jewish c onte x t t h a n it s e eme d at f i r s t g l a nc e . Perh ap s w e k n o w e a c h o t h e r ’s n a m e s b u t n o t o u r d e e p e r s t o r i e s . We c a n a l l s t r i v e t o w a r d B u b e r ’s i d e a l o f p e r s o n a l a n d h o n e s t I -T h o u r e l a t i o n s h i p s . Those trusting relationships are what enabled the landless people of Chengara to tie those saris around their throats as the police approached. Their strength and resiliency can inspire us to deepen our organizing, enriched b y c r o s s - c u l t u r a l i n s i g h t s . PT Abby Bellows works at Jewish Funds for Justice, where she runs a campaign for more constructive public discourse focused on Glenn Beck. Previously she was the director of congregational organizing at the Nor thwest Bronx Community and Clerg y Coalition and is active in independent havurot and minyanim.

Direct Service or Community Organizing? choosing a model for change >> rachel van thyn

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origina lly hail from the world of direct ser vice — getting into the trenches and getting my h a n d s d i r t y, d o i n g t h e w o r k on t he front lines. The resu lts are immediate and you feel like change is possible because you see i t e v e r y d a y. But in a class offered to semina r y students t hrough Jewish Funds for Ju st ic e a nd t he C enter for Je wish Organizing, this year I was presented wit h a dif ferent model: communit y orga nizing. This involves a slower process of building socia l capita l through ta k ing on a set of one-to-one relationa l conversations, learning what ma kes a person tick, what they care about, and the issues upon which they are motivated to act. Once you have

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gathered multiple stories from variou s p e ople (w h ic h c a n b e done i n a s a lon or hou s e me e t i n g ), you f i g u re out what issue people have in common a nd leverage it to enact cha nge i n t h e i m m e d i a t e c o m m u n i t y. “W hile we do need to provide f o o d t o p e o p l e w h o a r e h u n g r y, p r o viding that kind of direct ser vice again and again does not actually cha llenge t he root c auses of pove r t y. We h a v e t o w o r k f o r s y s t e m i c c h a n g e ,” s a i d M a r i l y n S n e i d e r m a n , e x e c u t i v e d i r e c t o r o f AV O D A H : The Jewish Ser vice Corps, a oneyear trans-denominationa l program for young Jews t hat involves a ntipovert y direct ser vice work, comm u n i t y b u i l d i n g , a n d s t u d y. “ Yo u c a n ’t a d d r e s s t h e c a u s e s w i t h o u t engaging and organizing those

w h o a r e s u f f e r i n g f r o m s o c i e t y ’s inequities. By integrating ser vice work and organizing for systemic change, we can help people move f r o m p o v e r t y, h o p e l e s s n e s s , a n d d e spair to become activists who seize control of a nd cha nge t heir lives, t h e i r c o m m u n i t i e s , a n d s o c i e t y.” A s f a r b a c k a s t h e To r a h , w e have stories and laws surrounding c a r e f o r t h e w i d o w e d , t h e h u n g r y, and the stranger in our midst. “There ha s a lways been hunger and homelessness, and there is a long histor y of people who have dedicated themselves to ser ving the p o o r, a n d o t h e r s w h o h a v e f o u g ht a ga inst injustice... Core religious va lues inspired and guided their a c t i o n s ,” S n e i d e r m a n s a i d . Communit y orga nizing, too, ha s presentense.org/magazine Features

been around as long as there have been people acting collectively tow a r d s a c o m m on g o a l . Ho w e v e r, i n t h e 19 4 0 s , S a u l A l i n s k y l o o k e d t o what was happening in the world of organizing and saw room for change. Previously the focus had been on gathering individua ls and building groups one person at a time. A linsky saw the wisdom and power of institutions. He wa nted to develop a model based on institutions, not individua ls, to demonstrate to people that they have more power than they think, and

“One question is, as young people are being inspired by these incredible experiences they are having in direct ser vice opportunities, a re there then going to be institutions they ca n be a pa rt of as they get older that ref lect the same sense of mission and fundamenta l va lues?” a sked Meir L a kein, a communit y orga nizer with over 20 years of experience in the f ield, who is current ly pa rt of a n ef fort to build a new nationa l center for Jewish organizing being led by both the Jewish Orga nizing Initiative

“ Y o u c a n’ t a d d r e s s t h e c a u s e s w i t h o u t engaging and organizing those who are s u f f e r i n g f r o m s o c i e t y’ s i n e q u i t i e s .” t o s h o w t h a t “ p o w e r ” d o e s n ’t h a v e t o b e a d i r t y w o r d . I n t h e 19 6 0 s , this approach was being used in c on g r e g a t ion s a nd f a it h-b a s e d org a n i z i n g . B y t h e 19 9 0 s , t h e r e w a s a new shif t, with more a nd more individua ls ta k ing on roles of leadership with a sense of ownership a nd mission, rather tha n just focusing on gat hering members into t heir c o n g r e g a t i o n . To d a y, t h e f o c u s i s a l s o o n s u s t a i n a b i l i t y, r e a c h i n g o u t to young people, and adapting to changes in technolog y and communication.

a nd Je w ish Fu nd s for Ju st ic e. “If a young person gets rea lly passionate about direct ser vice and then gets older and feels synagogues are stale, t hen we lose a ll t hat potentia l a nd e n e r g y… O u r o r g a n i z a t i o n s n e e d t o be able to draw in t he new ta lent a n d p o t e n t i a l .” Lakein has his own ideas for how to achieve that goa l. “For the Jewish world, if we rea lly wa nt to t r a n s f o r m t h i n g s … w e c a n ’t j u s t look at organizing as our social j u s t i c e p r o j e c t . We h a v e t o l o o k at it a s how we ca n collectively

March through Boston’s Back Bay to demand full-time jobs. Photo by Amy West. Features presentense.org/magazine

live out these idea s… ta k ing what w e ’r e l e a r n i n g a n d a p p l y i n g i t t o strengthen the whole of our lives, and the lives of our children and f a m i l i e s .” R a b bi Jo e l M o s b a c h e r, w h o s e r ve s a t c on g re g a t ion B e t h H ave rim Shir Sha lom in Ma hwa h, NJ, talked to me about putting in practice t he integration of t he communit y orga nizing model into his congregation, which is a lso wellk nown for its contribution in t he world of direct ser vice. W hen I asked how this balance bet ween communit y orga nizing a nd direct ser vice worked, he shared, “One aims to address immediate needs and the other attempts to get at root causes… Both are needed a nd both a re models t hat spea k to dif ferent sel f-intere st s t hat people have, d i ff e r e nt le v e l s of p a t ie nc e a nd t ole ra n c e … I t ’s n o t r e a l l y c o m p e t i n g for the same core of people like sometimes happens in synagogue life… It increa ses t he nu mber of p e o p l e d o i n g j u s t i c e w o r k .” The f uture of the socia l justice movement of fers dif ferent but not contradictor y approaches to build and leverage power to create lasting cha nge. “W hat is exciting is that more a nd more young Jewish adults a re paying attention to t he world a round t hem, seeing injustice in t he world a nd wa nting to do somet hing about it. A nd it ma nifests itself in d i f f e r e n t w a y s ,” S n e i d e r m a n s a i d . “ T here a re p e ople w ho a re outra ged t hat, in t he richest countr y i n t h e w o r l d , p e o p l e c a n ’t a f f o r d for their kids to go to the doctor or receive the education they need and deser ve; there are young people saying, ‘I wa nt to get in t here a nd m a k e a d i f f e r e n c e .’ ” W hat matters is that we continue to pursue tikkun olam a nd f i g ht a g a i n s t i nju s t ic e , w it h w h a te v e r m o d e l s p e a k s t o u s t h e m o s t . PT Rachel Van Thyn was an AVO DAH C o r p s M e mb e r in 2004-2005. She is currently studying for rabbinic ordination at Hebrew Union College -Jewish Insti t u t e o f R e l i g i o n i n N e w Yo r k C i t y. S h e i s p a s s io n ate ab o u t c hap l ain c y, the arts, social justice, and Jewish summer camp. issue thirteen 2011

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Jews and Social Justice

complicating the narrative, learning from our past >> judith rosenbaum

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n a h o t J u l y n i g h t i n 19 6 4 , H e a t h e r To b i s B o o t h — a young Jewish college student spending t he summer as a civil rights activist in Ruleville, Mississippi—wrote a let ter to her brot her. B oot h wa s on e of a ppr ox i m a t e l y 1, 0 0 0 y ou n g people who came to Mississippi as pa r t of t he Freedom Su m mer Project to register voters, r u n Freedom Schools for A frican-A merican children, and build the Mississippi Freedom Democrat ic Pa r t y a s a n a l t e r n a t i v e t o t h e s t a t e ’s a l l - w h i t e D e m o c r a t i c P a r t y. I n h e r l e t t e r , s h e described the fear she faced daily as an activist in Mississippi, the power of singing freedom songs like “ We S h a l l O v e r c o m e ” t o d i s s i p a t e t h a t f e a r, a n d h o w h e r e x p e r i e n c e provoked religious feelings: “There is almost a religious qua lit y about some of these songs, having little to do with the usua l concept of a god. It ha s to do w it h the miracle that youth has organized to f ight hatred and ignorance. It ha s to do w it h t he holiness of the dignit y of ma n. The God that makes such miracles is the God I do believe in when we sing, ‘God i s o n o u r s i d e ’.” Most Jewish socia l justice activists today probably cannot relate to the fear that Booth felt in Mississippi, k nowing that three of her peers had a lready been murdered for their activism. But the questions she raises about the role of God and religion in work ing for justice echo in our own time. To d a y, a n e w g e n e r a t i o n o f a c tivists a re turning t heir attention both to the spiritua l a nd textua l roots of t he Jewish commitment to justice a nd their application to c o n t e m p o r a r y s o c i e t y. M a n y y o u n g Jews learn about tikkun olam and t he biblica l injunction to pursue

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Heather Tobis Booth playing guitar for Fannie Lou Hamer during the Freedom Summer Project in Mississippi, 1964. Copyright Wallace Roberts.

It’s time to broaden the narrative. justice, studying rabbinic laws about how to treat workers, stranger s, a nd t he poor. A l o n g t h e w a y, w e m a y a l s o h e a r about the Jewish role in A merican socia l justice movements: “Jews built the A merica n labor movement!” “Jews made up more t ha n ha l f of t he wh ite Freedom R iders!” This legac y is usua lly presented in celebrator y terms, without explora-

tion of the complex ities, obstacles, and fears A merican Jews experie n c e d i n t h e s e m o v e m e n t s . We d o n ’t usua lly hear the voices of people l i k e B o o t h , a n d w e ’r e p o o r e r f o r i t . I t ’s t i m e t o b r o a d e n t h e n a r rative, f illing in the historical context of Jews a nd socia l justice a nd e x a m i n i n g not on ly t he le a d e rship of Jews in ma ny socia l justice movements but a lso t he cha llenges they have faced. Their stories are releva nt to our own identities a s Jews and as A mericans and can help illuminate t he contempora r y politics of social change. Consider the Civil R ights Movepresentense.org/magazine Features

ment. W hile some Jews —like Boot h a nd her ma r t y red fel low Freedom Summer activists —were on t he front lines, others, such as some Southern Jews, were a mbiva lent at best, struggling to ba la nce ethic s with concerns for their own physica l and e c o n o m i c s e c u r i t y. I n 19 5 6 , f o r e x a mple, t he Hebre w Union C ongreg ation in Greenville, Mississippi, wrote a letter to the Ref o r m M o v e m e n t ’s Union of A meric a n Hebrew Congregations, defending segregation and u rging “t hat you r f ine organization not embarrass and injure t he Jews of this communit y and other Southern communities who feel as we do, by having it broadca st that the Jews as a whole are actively work ing to desegr e g a t e t h e S o u t h .”

trowitz, joined t he Movement to seek refuge from the superf icia lit y of their Jewish communities. She reca lls the initia l impetus to her commitment to civil rights, “In t he Civil R ights Movement, I cou ld escape Flatbush, my pa rents’ c lot h i n g s tore , t he world of worki n g- a nd low e r-m id d le - c l a s s Je w s , a world I thought of as materia listic... A ga inst materia listic stood t h e w o r l d o f s t r u g g l e a n d c h a n g e .” So how do these more varied accounts help us in our ow n activism today? First of a ll, we learn to l i s t e n to d i f f e re nt voic e s to u nd e rstand the tapestr y of experiences t h at br i ng a movement toget her. We h o p e t h a t J e w i s h a c t i v i s t s t o day are inspired by the texts of our tradition, but we must a lso ack nowledge and respect those Jews who are motivated to activism by negative experiences within the J e w i s h c o m m u n i t y. Though the texture of the relationship bet ween Jews and black s h a s c h a n g e d i n t he 35 y e a r s s i nc e the height of the Civil R ights M o v e m e n t , w e ’r e s t i l l s t r u g g l i n g

The stor y of Jews and the Civil Rights Movement demonstrates how to practice what may be the key political s k i l l o f t h e 21 s t c e n t u r y . Despite what we might prefer to r e m e m b e r, A m e r i c a n Je w s w e r e n o t of one mind about civil rights. C e r t a i n l y, s o m e J e w s w e r e d r a w n to civil rights by Jewish va lues or by the memor y of Jewish persecution. Freedom Su m mer volu nteer a nd jou r n a l i s t Pa u l C ow a n r e c a l l s ove rhea ring a girl at t he Freedom Su mm e r t r a i n i n g i n J u n e 19 6 4 s h o u t i n g to her pa rents on t he phone t hat of course she was still going to pa rticipate despite the murder of her three colleagues: “If someone in Nazi Germany had done what w e ’r e d o i n g , y o u r b r o t h e r w o u l d s t i l l b e a l i v e t o d a y.” Others, like Melanie K aye/K anFeatures presentense.org/magazine

with some of the sa me dyna mic s and cha llenges, such as suspicion of the other or the sting of high expectations that have not been m e t . T h e w o r d s o f L e w, a Fr e e dom Summer activist who wrote home about the lack of trust among whites a nd black s in t he Movement, m i g h t r e s o n a t e w i t h t o d a y ’s a c t i v ists negotiating the rocky terrain of interracia l cooperation: “R ight n o w w e d o n ’t k n o w w h a t i t i s t o be a Negro and even if we did, the Negroes here would not accept us. I t ’s t h e o l d c a s e o f h a v i n g t o p r o v e o u r s e l v e s … I n t e l l e c t u a l l y, I t h i n k ma ny of us whites ca n understa nd t he Negroes’ resentment, but emo-

t iona l ly we wa nt to be ‘ac c epted ’ a t f a c e v a l u e .” The Civil R ights Movement ca n a lso help us better understand how to work in our current mu lticu ltura l context. Debra Schu ltz, aut hor of G oing S out h: Je wi sh Wom e n in t he Civil Rights Movement, explains what the experience of Jews in the Movement ca n teach us today: “The stor y of Jews and the Civil R ights Movement demonstrates how to practice what may be the key pol it i c a l s k i l l o f t h e 21s t c e nt u r y — t h e abilit y to empathize with a nd be an a lly to people who differ from oneself on the basis of race, ethnici t y, r e l i g i o n , n a t i o n a l i t y, g e n d e r , s e x u a l i d e n t i t y, s o c i o e c o n o m i c s t a t u s , a n d g e o g r a p h i c l o c a t i o n .” I n a n increasingly diverse and globalizing world, this lesson will only become more essentia l. F i n a l l y, t h o u g h i t ’s g r e a t t o celebrate Jewish heroes, sometimes celebrating ordinar y folks can be even more inspiring. Barbara Rosenblit, a f if th-generation Sout herner a n d t e a c h e r a t t h e We b e r S c h o o l , a Jewish high school in At la nta, recent ly taught about t he Civil R ights Movement using Living the Legacy, a n online socia l justice curricu lum f r o m t h e J e w i s h Wo m e n ’s A r c h i v e . “ We n e e d t o k n o w w h a t d e e p l y o r dinar y fellow huma n beings ca n achieve —heroic behavior modeled by ordinar y people, demonstrating what it mea ns to be in a complicated situation a nd k now that there a re t i m e s t h a t a c t i o n t r u m p s d e b a t e ,” she says. Being a Jewish socia l justice activist can raise more questions t h a n a n s w e r s : W h a t ’s J e w i s h a b o u t t h i s w o r k ? W h a t ’s t h e r o l e o f r e l i gion in socia l change? W here is God in a ll of this? These questions are p r e s s i n g , b u t t h e y a r e n o t n e w. I n seeking answers, we will enrich the conversation if we a llow the voices o f h i s t o r y — v o i c e s l i k e B o o t h ’s — t o m i n g l e w i t h o u r o w n . PT Judith Rosenbaum, PhD, is director of public histor y at the Jewish Women’s Archive and co - author of Living the Legacy: A Jewish Social Justice Education Project ( jwa.org /livingthelegacy). issue thirteen 2011

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Spirituality and Activism

meditating on change >> alison laichter Meditation at the Isabella Freedman Jewish Retreat Center. Photos provided by the Isabella Freedman Jewish Retreat Center.

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y f irst job out of college w a s w it h a nonprof it organization that had an a ma zing vision statement, e x t r e m e l y h i g h s t a f f t u r n o v e r, a n d a boss that viewed a “ live-work ba la n c e ” a s l a z y. I t ’s n o t a n e w s t o r y : Orga nizations built on missions of p e a c e a n d j u s t i c e o f t e n d o n ’t h a v e either in their work cu lture or sta f f relations. Activists burn out after yea rs of work f ueled a lmost entirely b y o u t r a g e . We s e e c y c l e s o f a c t i v ism and apathy generationa lly and in our own lives, but there seems to be something new happening. A younger generation of Jews is f inding deep meaning and relevance in using contemplative a nd meditation practices not only to go searching for inner peace, but also to use that sense of rootedness and engaged Jewish spiritua lit y to inform their work in the world. I spent my teens a nd most of my t wenties protesting, f ighting for

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change, tr ying to save the world (w h ate ver t h at me a n s), a nd t he n at some point I got tired of being a n g r y. T h r o u g h m y o w n p e r s o n a l meditation practice, I sta rted to see that my outrage was not rea lly ser ving me, or the world. A s R achel Cowan, executive director of the Institute for Jewish Spiritua lit y ( I JS), told me onc e , “a n g er i s a g r e a t c a t a l y s t a n d h o r r i b l e f u e l .” “ I n t h e k i n d o f a c t i v i s m I ’v e

o f B r o o k l y n . “ I ’v e s e e n t h e d i v i siveness that comes from activism f u e l e d b y a n g e r , a n d i t ’s v e r y d i s t a s t e f u l . To t h e e x t e n t t h a t o u r generation is more exposed to meditative practices and more willing to i n t e g r a t e i t i n t o o u r o w n l i v e s , w e ’r e looking for a new way to achieve t h e s a m e r e s u l t s .” Jud a ism ha s a ver y long h istor y of practices that involve ref lection a nd meditation. For thousa nds

Activists burn out af ter years of work fueled almost entirely by outrage. been involved in, the pursuits that have involved spiritua lit y like ca nd lelit vigils a nd interfa it h relations have sha rply contra sted wit h goi n g t o a D a r f u r o r l a b o r r a l l y. T h e f o r m e r a r e n ’t m o t i v a t e d b y a n g e r ,” s a y s L e e L e v it e r, a 25 -y e a r- o l d l a w student a nd active pa rticipa nt at t he Jewish Meditation Center ( JMC)

of years, there have been Jewish teachers in ever y part of the world teaching meditation, K abba la h, mysticism, and deeply meaningful a nd persona l Jewish contemplative practices. Ref lective practices have been introduced into cutting-edge leadership progra ms such as Jewish F u n d s f o r J u s t i c e ’s S e l a h p r o g r a m presentense.org/magazine Features

for Jewish socia l justice leaders, t hroug h ret reat s at Isabel la Freedm a n Je w i s h R e t r e a t C e nt e r, a n d by organizations like IJS, JMC, Awa kened He a r t Projec t, a nd ot he r s . We ’ v e r e a l i z e d t h a t w e n e e d leaders who have the capacit y to listen and feel supported in their work and world. “ I t ’s t o t a l l y a g e n e r a t i o n a l t h i n g ,” s a y s R a b b i B r e n t S p o d e k , 35, f ou nd e r a nd d i r e c t or of E m e k Project. “In earlier generations, t h e r e w a s a s e n s e o f ‘ I ’m J e w i s h , b u t I ’m n o t r e l i g i o u s ,’ m e a n i n g ‘ I ’m secular and have a histor y and cult u ra l relat ionsh ip w it h Jud a ism a nd a b e l i e f i n j u s t i c e t h r o u g h t h a t .’… Our generation wa nts to mine t he Jewish tradition for mea ning f u l e x p e r i e n c e . We a r e i n t e r e s t e d i n forma l Jewish practice only if it brings us deeper spiritua l mea ni n g . We a r e m u c h m o r e c o m f o r t a b l e with that la ng uage tha n previous

w h a t i m p a c t y o u m a d e . I t ’s h a r d t o s e e w h a t ’s r e a l l y g o i n g o n , a n d I ’ v e q u e s t i o n e d w h e t h e r I ’m w a s t i n g m y t i m e ,” s a y s D a n S i e r a d s k i , 31 , a digita l strategist for Jewish nonprof its, Jewish communit y activist, a n d N Y C P r e s e nTe n s e f e l l o w . Meditation is one way to preve nt or me d i a t e bu r nout . “G e ne ra l l y, p r a c t i c e s t h a t h e i g h t e n a w a r e ness of mind and awareness of body encourage a heightened abilit y to t r a c k s t r e s s a n d e x h a u s t i o n ,” s a y s Benja min Ross, chief of f ield operat ions of Je w ish Fu nd s for Ju stice. “My meditation practice ha s become the grounding from which I act in the world. A s my practice ha s deepened, so ha s my capacit y t o h o l d t e n s i o n a n d u n c e r t a i n t y, c o m m u n i c a t e a u t h e n t i c a l l y, a n d b e more compassionate. A ll of this has made me a more skillful and effect i v e l e a d e r f o r c h a n g e .” “[ Je w i sh c ontemplat ive prac-

W e’ v e r e a l i z e d t h a t w e n e e d l e a d e r s who have the capacity to listen and feel supported in their work and world . g e n e r a t i o n s .” Many of us have been inspired by stories of R abbi Abra ha m Joshua Heschel ma rching with MLK a nd “ p r a y i n g w i t h h i s l e g s ,” a n d G a n d h i ’s c a l l t o “ b e t h e c h a n g e y o u w a n t t o s e e i n t h e w o r l d ,” b u t i t ’s dif f icult to f igure out how to do it a ll without getting swept up in the f ight and not feel the combination of the world on our shoulders a nd our inabilit y to do enough. Operating under the Jewish fra mew o r k o f R a b b i Ta r f o n — “ Yo u a r e not obligated to f inish the work; neither a re you free to desist from i t ” ( P i r k e i A v o t 2 : 2 1) — c a n b e c o m pletely over whelming and lead to burnout. Often burnout stems from not seeing results. “Burnout ha s a lot to do with not seeing t he fruits of your efforts, not being able to measure your impact in meaningful ways. I ca n a ssume a nd ta ke credit for whatever I wa nt to ima gine my act i v i s m b e i n g r e s p on s i b l e f o r, b u t a t t h e e n d o f t h e d a y, y o u d o n ’t k n o w Features presentense.org/magazine

sacrif ice ever y thing for a cause. M e d i t a t i o n d o e s n ’t n e c e s s a r i l y r e place the motivation of outrage; it helps cha nnel that impetus in a h e a l t h i e r a n d m o r e e f f e c t i v e w a y. Contemplative practice may seem ver y individua l-focused, but when you feel connected to your source, t o d i v i n i t y, t h e r e ’s n o d i s c o n n e c t i o n bet ween you and ever y other being in the world. Learning to live fully in t he present tense streng t hens your abilit y to tru ly see the whole picture, to approach injustice wit h compassion. Through that practice comes the strength to sustainably prac t ic e tikkun ol am a nd hold su ffering a long w it h hope. By creating lives a nd work inf used with ref lection, we are creating the world in w h i c h w e w a n t t o l i v e . PT Alison Laichter is the executive director of the Jewish Meditation Center of Brooklyn.

t ic e] c a n rem i nd u s that we are not a lone and that ever ything is not up to us a lone t o f i x ,” R a b b i S h e i l a P e l t z We i n b e r g , a l e a d ing Jewish meditation t e a c h e r, a c t i v i s t , a n d facult y member of IJS, says. “Spiritua l practice nourishes our abilit y to ride the storms of life, to assess when to act and when to rela x. There is a rhy thm to life that we learn and develop through our practice, which can be nourishing when engaged in challenging and demanding w o r k .” This idea of being nourished and engaged by activism is ver y dif ferent from the t ypica l image of a martyr willing to issue thirteen 2011

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Shades of Gray book review: hush >> emily k. alhadeff

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Reviews

hen I wa s t went ythree years old, I beg a n w r i t i n g H u s h ,” the author of Hush w r it e s i n a p o s ts c r i p t t o t h e n o v e l . “ I t w a s n ’t a b o o k b a c k t h e n ; i t w a s o n l y a s t o r y. M y s t o r y. I t b e c a m e m y s t o r y w h e n I f irst learned what the words sexual a b u s e m e a n t .” W r i t i n g u n d e r t h e p s eudony m E i s he s C h ay i l (wom a n o f v a l o r), t h e a u t h o r, w h o g r e w u p within the invisible wa lls of Cha ssidic Brook lyn, boldly and authorit a t i v e l y s p e a k s t h r o u g h t h e b o o k ’s m a i n c h a r a c t e r, G it t e l . Gittel a nd Devor y a re only nine y e a r s o l d w h e n D e v o r y, a v i c t i m o f sexual abuse, takes her own life. From t hat moment on, Git tel st r uggles with t he right course of action: to re ve a l t he t r ut h, t hereby hu r ting her communit y a nd cha llenging ever ything she has ever believed, or to concea l it a nd live with her own complicit y in the crime. G i t t e l ’s u l t i m a t e d e c i s i o n t o tell the truth— and the way she employs the written word to do s o — p a r a l l e l s E i s h e s C h a y i l ’s o w n rea l-life decision and action. Both are called to bring awareness to a per vasive problem and to bring the wrongdoers to justice. In this w a y, H u s h d e m o n s t r a t e s t h e p o w e r of the arts as a vehicle for social change and action. But Hush is so much more tha n a ca ll for justice, a nd it is fa r from a s i mpl i f ie d a nd v i nd ic t i ve p or-

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tra it of heroes a nd villa ins. Emb e d d e d i n t h e n a r r a t i v e i s G i t t e l ’s s t r u g g l e w i t h c o m m u n i t y, t r u t h , a n d u l t i m a t e l y, G o d . T h e q u e s t i o n o f G o d ’s r o l e i n t h e w o r l d i s b o t h a basic and profoundly challenging one for activists of fa ith. W here is God among the shards of a broken world, and a ll the more so among a b r o k e n c o m m u n i t y, a b r o k e n f a m ily? W hat role do huma ns play in this cosmic drama? A c c o r d i n g t o y o u n g G i t t e l ’s bl a c k- a nd-w h ite world , G o d l i ve s i n Brook ly n; t he goyishe (non-Je w i sh) world outside is unholy and unsafe. A s G it t e l i n f o r m s t h e r e a d e r, “ I h a d never been outside of Brook lyn, but a ll Jews k new that Borough Pa rk wa s t he most holy place a f ter Jerusa lem. Hashem was right here,

tion at the most opportune moments —is centra l, a nd t he aut hor ha nd les it with grace. Nea rly ever y cha llenge from minor to major that Gittel faces spea k s to the relationship bet ween huma ns a nd God, from her f irst aghast understanding of how babies are made to her confrontation wit h bot h Cha ssidic a nd atheist Holocaust sur vivors. O n e a n s w e r, a t l e a s t , i s g i v e n b y G i t t e l ’s f a t h e r , o n e o f t h e n o v e l ’s heroes, who smiles at her tears and a ssures her that Ha shem is ever ywhere righteous Jews are. W i t h i n t h e m a i n c h a r a c t e r ’s n a r rative are the dyna mism a nd warmth of Cha ssidic life, spiritua l crisis and yearning, grace, fall, and redemption. A s the chapters oscillate b e t w e e n G i t t e l ’s s w e e t a n d c o m e -

Where is God among the shards of a broken world ... among a broken community, a broken family? i n o u r m i d s t , b e c a u s e t h a t ’s w h e r e a l l t h e C h a s s i d i s h ( a n d o k a y, e v e n L i t v i s h ) Y i d e n w e r e .” Ye t G o d ’s f a c e i s h i d d e n i n H u s h . O u t o f G i t t e l ’s c h a r m i n g l y innocent, spiritua lly bif urcated world, shades of gray begin to emerge. Gittel watches a s her fat h e r ’s s h t r e i m e l ( h a t ) — w h e r e G i t tel believes God lives—is stolen a nd t hrow n into oncoming tra ff ic: “Maybe Ha shem, rea lizing His d a n g e r, w o u l d m a k e t h e g r e e n l i g ht t u r n r e d . . . B u t H e d i d n ’t .” E p i sodes like this one cha nge Gittel: “I wa nted to tell my fat her t hat it wa s a ll my fau lt—my fau lt that Devor y wa s dead, my fault that Hashem was crushed completely b e n e a t h t h e w h e e l s o f t h e c a r .” T h i s p a r a d o x — b e t w e e n G o d ’s ha nd in a ll things, a s Gittel ta kes f o r g r a n t e d , a n d G o d ’s l a c k o f a c -

dic child hood with Devor y a nd her young womanhood coming to terms w i t h h e r p a s t — w i t h D e v o r y ’s d e a t h a s t he apex—t his ta lented stor y teller embeds the polarized possibilit i e s o f e f f i c a c i o u s p r a y e r, m i r a c l e s , j u s t i c e , a n d a b o v e a l l , G o d ’s r o l e in the world. Eishes Chayil masterfully employs a refreshingly aut hentic voice wit hout a ntagonizing her own commu n it y or dow npl ay i n g t he c omple xit y of the spiritua l process. W hen Gittel f ina lly does spea k out, it is her new a nd equa lly sheltered a nd fearf ul husba nd who turns out to b e h e r b i g g e s t a l l y : “ ‘ Yo u a r e t h e E i s h e s C h a y i l ,’ h e s a i d . ‘ Yo u a r e t h e r e a l o n e .’ ” PT Emily K. Alhadeff is a writer and editor based in Seattle, WA.

Eishes Chayil, Hush. New York: Walker and Company, 2010. 368 pp. presentense.org/magazine Reviews

Just Cheap

book review: in cheap we trust >> suzanne lipkin

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r o w i n g u p , L a u r e n We b e r r a t ione d s howe r t i me , wore e xtra sweaters indoors to fend of f t he c h i l l of her f a i ntly heated house, and was driven a round town with her father using hand signals during turns to extend t h e l i f e o f t h e c a r ’s l i g h t s . We b e r ’s fa mily wa s neither poor nor ecoconscious a head of its time. Her f a m i l y w a s , t o p u t i t b l u n t l y, c h e a p . We b e r ’s I n C h e a p W e Tr u s t : T h e Story of a Misunderstood American V i r t u e , i n s p i r e d b y h e r o w n (u n d e r ) spending habits a nd child hood of s c r i mpi n g at t he b e he s t of her “m an i a c a l l y c h e a p” f a t h e r, t r a c e s t h e pendulum swing bet ween fruga lit y a nd conspicuous consumption t h r o u g h A m e r i c a n h i s t o r y. We b e r ’s b o o k w a s r e c e n t l y d i s c u s s e d at t he Pe ople of t he B o ok Club, where pa rticipa nts read a nd discuss f iction and nonf iction work s with a theme of justice. For the A J W S a n d AV O D A H s t a f f , a l u m n i , and other members of the Pursue: A c t i o n f o r a J u s t Wo r l d c o m m u n i t y who attend, it is a n opportunit y to relate to one another beyond work or formal settings where they other wise interact, sha ring persona l ref lections on litera r y texts. The formation of the book club was inspired by the Jewish tradition of grappling wit h text a nd with other people, in an expanded notion of hevruta study: lea rning with others, rather than a lone, expands the discover y of new insights. A ll discussions are led by a k nowledgeable f a c i l it a t o r, a n d t h i s c on v e r s a t i on w a s n o e x c e p t i o n : We b e r h e r s e l f joined t he group. Cheapness a s a justice issue brought up for pa r ticipa nts ever ything from the strik ing economic i ne qu it ie s i n t he US t o d a y t o p e rsona l struggles wit h displays of wea lth in their own communities. “I wish there was more of a movement in Jud a ism to live w it h in you r m e a n s ,” o n e p a r t i c i p a n t e x p r e s s e d . Reviews presentense.org/magazine

Lauren Weber, In Cheap We Trust: The Story of a Misunderstood American Virtue. New York: Little, Brown, and Company, 2009. 320 pp. On t he other ha nd, a n item discussed in the book that resonated wit h t he pa rticipa nts wa s t he stereot y pe of Jews a s cheap. W hole sections on religious approaches to fruga lit y—from Jesus’ teachings of simplicit y to the Budd hist empha sis on not concerning oneself deeply with world ly things —had been cut from the book prior to publication. Ye t We b e r , w h o i s J e w i s h , n o t e d that this chapter on the Jewish stereot ype —which also applies to a nother successf u l minorit y group, Chinese A mericans—had been the most compelling part of the book t o w r i t e . “ W h a t ’s m o s t i n t e r e s t i n g to me is my sha me around Jews and m o n e y,” s h e c o m m e n t e d . T h i s s e n t i ment may resonate wit h t hose concerned wit h potentia l a nti-Semitic criticisms of Jews’ behavior a round m o n e y, p a r t i c u l a r l y i n t h e e r a o f Bernie Madoff. Ye t f o r t h e m a n y J e w s w h o a r e p o o r, b e i n g c h e a p i s n o t a c h oi c e . “ We g e t $ 2 c h e c k s i n t h e m a i l ,” s a i d A J W S s t a f f m e m b e r L a u r e n M i l l e r, 32 , who vouched for t he generosit y of Jewish donors to phila nt hropic causes at a ll income levels. Sta rting with the Purita ns a nd B e n j a m i n F r a n k l i n , We b e r t r a i n s her sharp historica l eye on the interna l struggles with wea lth that have def ined US culture over the centuries. In wa rtime, it is traditiona lly a mora l imperative to save money and materia ls; in peacetime, t h o s e w h o d o n o t b u y, b u y, b u y c a n be considered persona lly responsib l e f o r t h e s t a g n a t i o n o f t h e n a t i o n ’s e c o n o m y, n o t t o m e n t i o n u n p a t r i ot ic. In add it ion, A meric a ns’ saving rates have plunged drastica lly over the years, especia lly among

the middle and working classes, le a v i n g p e ople e ve n mor e v u l ne rable to f inancia l turmoil. No wonder the tension bet ween spending a n d s a v i n g r e m a i n s f o r m a n y t o d a y, especia lly in t he wa ke of recent recessions. More than a matter of managing persona l f inances, ideas for ta k ing steps toward a thriftier lifestyle may be the motivation and means for responding to an increasingly inequitable, materia listic way of living. In a culture that empha sizes the thrills of persona l consumption, the rising notoriet y of the freegans — w ho s c ave n g e f o o d f rom c a s t- of f s of overproduction— accentuates t he environmenta l unsusta inabilit y of current production a nd consumption rates. We b e r e x p l a i n e d t o t h e g r o u p that she hopes the book will inf luence conversations about our economy and cause people to rethink consumption. She hopes her readers will ask, “W hat is a meaningful life?” “ I ’m n o t o p p o s e d t o s p e n d i n g ,” s h e s a i d , “ b u t i t ’s a b o u t d o i n g s o t h o u g h t f u l l y a n d c a r e f u l l y, t h i n k i n g a b out s hor t-ter m w a nt s ver s u s l o n g - t e r m g o a l s .” PT Suzanne Lipkin works for Pursue: Action for a Just World, a p r o j e c t o f A J W S an d AVO DAH: The Jewish Service Corps. issue thirteen 2011

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Blind Taste Test

blackout: dining in style in the dark >> melissa meyers

Food Column

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mer Sela and his team of chefs are experts in creating appetizing meals designed to be enjoyed without being seen. Sela is the manager at BlackOut, an upscale restaurant i n Te l A v i v ’ s N a l a g a ’ a t C e n t e r w h e r e patrons eat in the dark. Founded on the basic belief that every human being has the right to contribute to s o c i e t y, t h e N a l a g a’a t C e n t e r (n a l a g a’a t m e a n s “ p l e a s e t o u c h” in Hebrew), works with blind, deaf, and deaf-blind folks from across Israel, empowering them to be pro ductive members of society while promoting expanded awareness in the c o mmunit y. So how does one eat in a pitchblack restaurant? Guests are led conga-line style to the table by their waiters, who explain how to navigate through the dining room. Once seated, waiters instruct guests on the finer points of dining in the dark, such as pouring a g l a s s o f wa te r. S i n c e th e r e i s n o t enough time to learn Braille before d inn e r, m e a l s a r e p r e - o r d e r e d — a n d once the meals arrive, things start to get intere sting . It ’s clumsy work eating in the dark for the first time. A s B e c c a N a g o r s k y, 3 0 , s a y s , “ Yo u sort of eat half with your hands because if food falls off your fork, you don’t really have any way to l o c a te i t .” L u c k i l y, B l a c k O u t p r o vides plenty of napkins to avoid trouble when customers’ hands and palates are on adventure.

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Upscale touches, like cloth napkins and attentive, dedicated wait staf f, are one way BlackOut creates a more sophisticated atmo sphere. Another is the menu, which relies heavily on textures to make up for traditional visual cues like garnish and presentation. Inventive dishes include endive boats filled with radish sprout and red onion c e v i c h e (a r aw f i s h s a l a d “c o o ke d ” i n c i tr u s j u i c e s a n d c h i l i e s), p i s t a chio gnocchi in a creamy poppyseed almond sauce, and chocolate walnut ice - cream with crispy coriander seeds. Each dish features a

How does one eat in a pitch-black restaurant? different crunchy element. Just across the dark divider i n N a l a g a’a t ’s r e n ov a t e d w a r e house are the tall ceilings and whitewashed walls of Café Kap i sh, BlackO ut ’s si ster c of feehou se, where the staff is deaf or hearing impaired. Without giving away too much, it ’s wor th the visit . In addi t i o n to t h e t w o e a t e r i e s , N a l a g a’a t hosts a performance center featuring a troupe of deaf-blind actors. The center also offers an array of seminars geared toward a greater understanding of the deaf and blind experience, including a one - day

sign language course for children and wine -tasting and clay molding workshops held in the dark. Sela, 36, worked his way up the ranks of restaurant management before he took the helm at BlackO u t a n d C a f é K a p i s h i n 2 0 0 7. H e says that most blind Israelis are encouraged to pursue “hands - on” c a r e e r s l i ke m a s s a ge o r r e f l exo l o g y, while their deaf counterparts are often ushered into chef programs. A t N a l a g a’a t , t h e g o a l i s to o f f e r expanded career opportunities to their deaf and blind staff while concurrently offering opportunities to the community for greater aware ness of day-to - day life for blind and deaf people. The key to their success is their specialized, timeintensive training programs. Back at BlackOut, 20 -something Brenna Stein says she loved the food and the natural way the meal got her thinking about everyday life without sight. She was so enamored with her experience that she would like to head back for a “get-to know-you” date. Judging from all the laughter and the empty plates alone, the community is gaining from the experience as well. Check out all the latest hap penings, including dinner times, at w w w.nalagaat .org .il. T hank s to Omer Sela for sharing the pistachio g n o c c h i r e c i p e . PT Melissa Meyers lives in Tel Aviv and loves crunchy food. Yum!

Pistachio Gnocchi (6 servings) Gnocchi

Sauce

1 kg (2lbs) potatoes 1 egg 200 g (7 oz.) flour 100 g (3.5 oz.) ground pistachios 50 mL (1/5 c.) olive oil Salt and pepper Dash of nutmeg

260 mL (8 oz.) heavy cream 1 T butter 1.5 tsp poppy seeds 130 mL (0.5 cup) sliced and roasted almonds 1 tsp diced fresh sage 1 tsp diced fresh rosemary Dash of nutmeg

1. Bake the potatoes until they are soft.

1. Melt the butter and add sage and rosemary and sauté for 1-2 minutes.

2. Peel the potatoes and mash them. 3. Mix with all other ingredients; if the mixture is too sticky, add some flour. 4. Round the mixture to long round strips 1 cm (0.5 inch) wide and then cut to small cubes of about 1-2 cm (0.5 - 1 inch wide).

2. Add the almonds and poppy seed for another 2-3 minutes. 3. Add the cream and spices for 3-4 minutes. 4. Add the gnocchi and fry for 2 minutes.

5. Bake the gnocchi for about 12 minutes until they stiffen. 6. Put the gnocchi in boiling water for 2-3 minutes until they float— they are ready!

For a BlackOut experience at home, give yourself a blindfold and let the tastes and textures work their magic! When you’re done, sign onto the PT website and tell the Nalaga’at staff how it went. B’tayavon! Theatrical performance at the Nalaga’at performance center. Photo provided by Nalaga’at.

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Strength in Community Backpage

Elke Reva Sudin is an illustrator and contemporary Jewish art advocate based in Brooklyn, New York. View her work on ElkeRevaSudin.com and follow her Jewish art news and resources site at JewishArtNow.com.

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PT13: Social Action