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.
JOI changed my life forever. Before my fellowship year, I worked at a marginally effective non-profit and was frustrated with how slow and imperfect our efforts at change were. Once in JOI, I learned the real skills necessary for tikkun olam, practiced them, and developed those skills as a spiritual practice that connected my to long-ignored Judaism. Now my pursuit of justice is more powerful, effective, and personally transformative. I cannot imagine how empty my life would be without everything and everyone I've learned from at JOI.
My experience as a JOI Fellow was wonderful. JOI, while a small organization, uses the resources, including alumni, community members, experienced organizers, and the Boston Jewish community, at its disposal incredibly effectively to achieve its goals of training Jewish social justice leaders. Throughout the year I was a JOI Fellow, and now, as an alumna, I am very aware of the resources I have access to that will help me continue to develop as an organizer and a leader. JOI is well grounded in its values, and that is apparent in everything that JOI does.
I was looking for a way to be active in community-based action after college, and a friend and JOI fellow convinced me that JOI was an experience worth having. Not only does the fellowship train young Jewish leaders to be exceptional organizers, but it produces its own community within each cohort and with the alumni community nationwide. I had a wealth of great experiences, and the people who interacted with all of the fellows became active advocates for their own needs within the political system. I am currently living in LA attending rabbinical school,and I am still involved as a part-time organizer out here because I know that the work of community organizing is vital to the equitable functioning of our political system.
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 fabulous organization that is slowly transforming the social justice world in Boston---through the intentional cultivation of young leaders in organizing. JOI has changed the way that I look at the world and given me a radical new set of skills with which to address injustice. Never before have I been in a community that challenges me as persistently and effectively as this.
I have been involved with a number of organizationsn that have had JOI fellows and I have known a number of JOI fellows. Each fellow has made, at a young age, a major impact on the organization they serve and directly on the people at the organization. There are few non-profits that can claim that and mean it. If we could clone JOI and have in every major city, the impact would really be transformational. I think the aspect of JOI that I really love is the connection between organizing and its roots in Jewish history and text. This makes so much sense to me and can strentghten both the Jewish and the organizing communities at the same time.
My experience at JOI was one of the defining moments of my early career and has critically impacted the way I approach my work and see the world! Learning how to develop others' leadership and organize around issues impacting a community are skills that have greatly benefitted me in my subsequent jobs and experiences. I also gained a new awareness of how inequalities manifest themselves in society and what we can do to change the status quo. Being part of JOI also enabled me to plug into a vast network of social justice and Jewish resources and organizations in the greater Boston community, and gave me the opportunity to meet amazing community leaders, activists and friends.
I have had the pleasure of interacting on a personal and professional level with many of the JOI current and former fellows. They are an incredibly thoughtful group dedicated to social justice and Jewish community. The Boston Jewish and non-Jewish communities have been positively impacted by their work.
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 is an incredible program. It trains jewish young adults to be leaders in the jewish community, and act effectively for real lasting social change. It has re-engaged me into the Jewish world, help me understand my own Jewish identity and has taught me valuable leadership skills. I am a much better organizer because of JOI.