Justice. Working towards achieving social and economic justice is no easy task. It requires tremendous dedication, support, knowledge, vision, empathy, direction, friendship, humor, sprit, and much more. JOI provides fellows/participants all of these things and the ‘much more.’ It is an immensely unique program that allows its participants to direct and create for themselves and also be guided by talented teachers and community members in the life-long process of determining how to make change and bring about justice. We all have something to offer in this plight and JOI helps people discover, cultivate, grow, celebrate, and explore both what they can offer their community and what their community can offer them. JOI was a truly transformative experience for me; I use lessons learned from JOI in my personal and professional life every day.
JOI has changed my life! I knew that I wanted to help people before JOI but I didn't know that really I wanted to organize the communities around me to create systemic change. I cannot thank JOI enough for the positive experience I have had from my fellowship year and the ever-lasting sense of community they create. JOI helped me share my story with others, and reflect personally on what type of leader I want to be. I now know that I want to spend the rest of my life working in the Jewish community. JOI takes leaders and give them the tools to empower those around them to work towards a better world.
JOI is uniquely poised to train young adults to develop their own leadership skills and strengthen both the Jewish and secular communities from the ground up. As a fellow, I was given the invaluable opportunity to work and reflect weekly alongside other Jewish young adults with different levels of observance and different political and social values, but a shared passion for tzedek (justice) and tikkun olam (repair of the world). As a result, I came to examine my own Jewish beliefs and values and finally found a way "back in" to the Judaism I'd been growing apart from since becoming bat mitzvah. While I'd previously frequented synagogues and Jewish events in the community, no other Jewish program connected my core values and beliefs with Jewish education and skills-building in a concrete, experiential, identity-shifting way. Later, I volunteered as a "mentor/buddy" to two current fellows for 2 years and assisted in developing and facilitating the training for other buddies. I've experienced both first-hand and as a volunteer how JOI transforms lives--both the lives of the fellows and those who are engaged by fellows to transform and impact their communities. For the past 4 years, I've shared lessons learned at JOI in my work building Jewish community with college students. An investment in JOI is an investment not just in the lives of the individual fellows, but in the communities and lives of all that those fellows will shape throughout their lifetimes, and all that the impacted leaders they've developed will go on to change, etc. etc.
In three different years I met with the volunteers to lead a seminar on the role of Jewishness and of Israel in their lives. Those seminars were fascinating and exciting. The volunteers were extremely thoughtful people with good access to their own emotional and intellectual processes. They were serious and mature. It was clear that their internships would be important in their own further growth and that they would be serious assets to the host organizations in which they would work. JOI itself is an excellent organization. Their selection process had been first=rate, and the programs are first-rate. It is a pleasure to recommen JOI strongly and with no resergvations.
bs"d In one sentence: the eye-opening experience of a lifetime. JOI is not only an organization. It's a caring, warm, welcoming and empowering community. With a carefully planned pedagogical syllabus, and a passionate and knowledgeable staff, JOI puts together a hands-on community building and community organizing program led by some of the most experienced community organizers and scholars who join efforts in creating an environment that fosters open, heated and intellectual debates. Its network of mentors, past alumni and volunteers is a most resourceful tool to promote personal and social change that is long-lasting and effective. One of the most fascinating aspects of my experience at JOI is that we DO make a difference. Every Friday before Shabbat (the Jewish Sabbath), we sit together, learn from each other, exchange information and create a support group that causes a great impact in the grassroots work that we do. You feel Tikkun Olam (the Jewish ideal to repair and make the world a better place) is not an abstract concept but rather is a reality and its pursuit becomes a lifestyle. Many times I walked into communities whose degree of exposure to Jews ranged from a feeling of hostility and animosity to complete ignorance and lack of awareness. My work in low income communities not only helped improve the condition of populations that lacked public health awareness or knowledge of workers' rights, but also helped break stereotypes and stigmas. It was a truly transformative experience to walk into Churches, community centers, local community gatherings and underserved areas and see that our work is empowering people, challenging views and even saving lives. All that I owe to JOI. And JOI is not only limited to the 50 states. Its impact can be felt anywhere from Argentina and the slums of Brazil to Russia and the Middle East as some of its volunteers like myself, return to their countries to impact local communities after having contributed to the beautiful fabric of the Human Rights and Social development efforts in the US.
The Jewish Organizing Intiative (JOI) enabled me to immerse myself in the Jewish community for a whole year. I learned about social justice through a Jewish lens, interacted with other fellows who were part of various Jewish denominations and movements and took a closer look at my life to better understand my cultural heritage. JOI has a long lasting impact on its participants, and I would highly recommend this organization and its fellowship program.
I had the honor of being a JOI Fellow during the '07-'08 Fellowship year. It would not be an overstatement to say that doing JOI was one the best decisions that I have ever made. Not only did I learn an incredible array of practical tools to do better social justice work I met an incredible array of people and was transformed Jewishly. During my fellowship year we were trained by some of the most thoughtful and talented organizers and Jewish leaders that I have ever come across. I have been able to use the things I learned at every turn in my work as a community organizer and had my Jewish identity strengthened in the process. As an active member of the JOI alumni community I continue to learn a lot from my relationship with JOI and I continue to grow as a Jew and as a person.
I am a graduate of the JOI fellowship program, class of 2008. My year with JOI was the most meaningful, powerful, and informative experience of my life; and one that gave me the skills and passions to thrive in the social justice community. As fellows, Every week we received extensive training in community organizing, worked with rabbis to explore the social justice ideals inherent to Judaism, and worked together on an organizing project which we designed ourselves to strengthen our own community. Since my JOI year I have gone on to law school, where the skills I learned in JOI to build and strengthen a progressive community of law students and you lawyers.
I am a JOI alumnus (05-06). JOI is an incredible organization! I gained so much as a fellow, both personally and professionally, that I still seek to give back. I am currently a buddy to a current JOI fellow and co-chair of the PR committee. JOI has changed the face of progessive Jewish Boston. JOI fellows and alums are deeply involved in local social change work in Jewish communities and beyond.
I am currently a fellow with JOI. Even before I started my fellowship year, I saw how JOI had created a network of progressive young Jews working for change and I wanted to be a part of it. The JOI program is even better than I ever imagined. I loved school and attended a great University (Wesleyan) but the intentional learning community created by JOI far exceeds these past educational experiences. It's shocking to realize how much I've learned and grown in just a few weeks of JOI. Not only have I made progress as an organizer, but JOI really opened my eyes to a way practice Judaism meaningfully, something which I hadn't even realized I was missing. The only major change I would make to JOI is that it should be bigger and in more places. I know they have the desire and ability to make that leap, if they can just find the funding.