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.
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 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 applied to JOI last year because previous fellows and organizations familiar with JOI told me time and again that the program really does teach you how to be an effective community organizer--that through retreats and weekly sessions one not only learns useful skills like building leadership, holding efficient meetings and strategic campaign building, but also explores how to organize from a place of priviledge/power and gain confidence in oneself and connect with people across race, gender, religious and ethnic lines. In my two months with JOI, not only has all of this proved true, but I have been instantly connected to an extensive, supportive network of JOI supporters, past fellows and partner organizations that are invested in fomenting my growth as a Jewish organizer and giving me access to the resources, skills and support that I need to do that. One of the most surprising results for me is that I am finally feeling part of a Jewish community that has the same values as I do and have begun to explore how to integrate my cultural/historical/religious background into my private and professional life. Our weekly group trainings challenge me and keep me motivated and eager to learn, while simultaneously giving me tools that I can immediately put into practice in my work organizing tenant's in public housing.
The Jewish Organizing Initiative is a marvelous organization that puts money, in the form of people and financial support, where the mouth is, on social justice issues. JOI sent us the most wonderful Fellow who did vital tenant organizing in public housing for a year. We could never have afforded to bring her on without JOI's financial assistance, and the support, training, encouragement and resources that JOI provided to our Fellow made her experience, and ours, extremely rich. The whole endeavor was so very worthwhile that we have taken on that Community Organizer as a permanent employee. It would not have happened without JOI.
The Jewish Organizing Initiative not only equips each year's class of fellows with the skills to be effective community organizers, it also instills in them a deep commitment to the principles of organizing. Fellows go on to pursue careers in a variety of fields, but all of them continue to make principles of justice, equity, cooperation, and sustainability central features of their work.
Being a JOI fellow completely changed the way that I think about the world, and the ways in which I act for change within it. JOI allowed me to get my first job in the non-profit sector, while giving me the skills, training and support that I needed to stay in it over the long term. I would recommend this fellowship to anyone who is interested in organizing for social change. The boost that I got professionally from JOI is invaluable, and the friendships that I made along the way are wonderful. Thank you JOI!
I was a fellow in JOI this past year, and am blown away by the care, thought, and expertise in this small organization. Each year, JOI trains a class of young adults in community organizing, and I have seen firsthand the change they make in peoples' lives. The alumni go on to become the movers and shakers in the Boston social justice scene (and beyond).