The 2013-2014 Grace Paley Organizing Fellowship

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The Grace Paley Organizing Fellowship is the leadership development program of Jews for Racial & Economic Justice. The organizing fellowship is an opportunity for JFREJ leaders to develop their skills and political analysis, while doing work to support the campaigns, events, and infrastructure of JFREJ.

The Grace Paley Organizing Fellowship incorporates a variety of components to fully support and develop the skills of leaders. The initial retreat is designed for participants to start to build a joint analysis by learning from one another’s political and personal experiences. The monthly day-long workshops are divided between reflections on readings, anti-oppression training on gender and sexuality, anti-racism, Jews and class, and anti-Jewish oppression, as well as organizing skills trainings on leadership development, base-building, facilitation, campaign development, and fundraising. In addition, the fellowship has a mentorship component in which social justice leaders throughout New York work with fellows to continue leadership development and political analysis.

The Grace Paley Organizing Fellowship is led by alumni members Avi Rose, Zachary Wager Scholl, Briana Carp, Alana Krivo-Kaufman, Rye Young, and Katie Goldstein, with support from Yasmeen Perez and staff support from Rachel McCullough.


Meet the 2013-2014 Grace Paley Organizing Fellows!

Eli Schmitt came to NYC in late summer 2011, shortly after his college graduation and before the beginning of the Occupy encampments across the country. That fall he became an editor of the n+1 OCCUPY Gazette, a movement newspaper. Since then he's worked on various social change projects, coming to JFREJ Campaign for Police Accountability in the spring of 2013. During daylight hours, he runs communications at Ma'yan, a feminist, Jewish, social justice program of the JCC in Manhattan. At other hours, he might be bike-riding, screed-writing, or just staying up late.

Becky Wartell found herself living in NYC quite by accident due to a whirlwind chain of events started by the beginning of Occupy Wall Street and what became the Occupy movement that took her away from Maine two years ago. She is now the third generation to be doing social justice work in NYC and found roots she didn't realize she had. She has been wanting to get involved with JFREJ since the sukkah went up in Zuccotti park, and this fellowship seems like the perfect window to enter through. Becky also does political puppetry with the OWS Puppet guild, legal activism and advocacy with Mutant Legal, and juggles 4 part-time jobs. She is a fiber artist and massage therapist with a strong interest in radical self-care and wellness and a love for bright colors and bad puns.

Zahara Zahav grew up on a little island near Florida, where she spent most of her time swimming and reading. Zahara went to the University of Florida, studied journalism and Judaism, and wrote about politics, crime, crime by politicians, and the arts. After graduation, she moved to Jerusalem and then NYC to study Jewish texts, first at Pardes and then at Yeshivat Hadar. Zahara was an Avodah Fellow last year at Footsteps, an organization that works with people transitioning out of ultra-Orthodox Judaism, and is currently working at Rabbis Without Borders. She is passionate about community, learning, faith, and action.

Maddie Reichman: In the summer of 2012, I interned with JFREJ, where I helped to coordinate the new campaign meetings that eventually chose police accountability as JFREJ's new campaign. I also was introduced to the Shalom Bayit campaign and helped coordinate the newsletter. I'm interested in learning fundraising skills and doing support work for the organizing that people most directly impacted by systems of oppression are doing, as well as learning how to be influential within circles of people who hold the same privileges that I hold. I hope to continue working with the Shalom Bayit campaign and also gain a clearer political analysis that I can bring to other areas of my life including legal advocacy and community lawyering.

Martine Wisotsky: I've been involved with JFREJ since I first joined the Campaign for Police Accountability last fall, and it's been a really revitalizing experience after being in New York for several years and not really sure where to plug in around local organizing work. 
I'm generally driven by the values of justice and human rights and a deep sense of wanting to see those realized. I'm frustrated by the ways that institutionalized racism continues to stymie those values and interested in how we can counter that as individuals and collectively when we live in a supposedly "post-racial" society that is deeply uncomfortable with acknowledging our painful history of oppression.
Being part of the CPA campaign has already pushed my thinking around the role of allies in solidarity organizing, and through the fellowship I hope to learn strategies for bringing that to the campaign. I'm also excited to build my skills as a community organizer with an anti-oppressive lens. Lastly, I'm interested into developing more knowledge of horizontal organizing strategies and structures in order to apply those to CPA so that we can continue to be an effective and thriving campaign. (And in general I'm excited to spend more time with the amazing JFREJ community and feel very privileged to have the opportunity for this fellowship!)

Sasha Raskin started organizing around queer issues in college where she focused on intersectional anti-oppression and solidarity work.  Between activist meetings, political education trainings, and awareness-raising workshops, she spent many hours researching Jewish immigration in dark basement libraries and wondering why none of her activist friends ever talked about the fact that we were all Jewish.  After moving to NYC to pursue a Master's in Anthropology, Sasha came to a JFREJ meeting hoping to put some of the pieces together.  She first worked on JFREJ's former housing justice campaign, and then switched to the new Campaign for Police Accountability from its inception in October, 2012.  As a Grace Paley Organizing Fellow, Sasha hopes to build her facilitation, base-building, and community support skills to help grow JFREJ's campaign work and build a strong platform for lifelong participation in social justice organizing both personally and professionally.

Erica Cohen-Taub: I am a full-time nanny and I am passionate about pursuing justice for those I work alongside, whose stories I hear every day.  I value my participation in JFREJ and its alliances with domestic worker and domestic employer organizations.  By participating in the Grace Paley Organizing Fellowship, I hope to build on my contributions to the Shalom Bayit Campaign for Justice for Domestic Workers.  In addition, I am interested in engaging in solidarity with other labor movements seeking justice and welcome opportunities to support the work others in JFREJ are doing in the Campaign for Police Accountability.   Through my experiences as a Grace Paley Organizing Fellow, I hope to become a better leader, ally, and organizer.

James Schaffer: I first got organized into JFREJ in the mid-2000's. My friend was on staff and I was starting to develop some political inclinations, so I gave $18 per month. I came to Meyer a bunch. Taschlich. I was moved at the prospect of a community of peers that were serious about feeling whole in one's Jewishness and rooted in action for justice and thinking hard about ally-ship. I donated some professional services and meanwhile got connected to national domestic employer organizing in the wake of the 2010 Domestic Worker Bill of Rights victory. JFREJ suddenly, quickly became a place I wanted to call home. I did some fundraising. Now, I am looking to jump into organizing work, gain campaign experience and learn about the legacy of NYC's Jewish left. I am looking to build and nest in political community and continue to join my ritual and political lives! My political interests include: The rights and power of undocumented people; Anti-racism, and Jewish healing and liberation; organizing people with class privilege; spreading the word that the movement is a better party than capitalism.

Robin Blanc grew up in Philadelphia, where she sang Yiddish songs and did social justice projects at the Jewish Children's folkshul. (She also did her Bat Mitzvah "project" on the history of Jews and socialism.) After graduating from Reed, where she was a leader the feminist and anti-capitalist student organizing, Robin taught English in two countries (France and China) and traveled to 20 others. She also spent 9 months working at a Philadelphia-based coalition of public education activist and advocacy groups. Robin moved to New York in 2010 to participate in AVODAH, and has been working as a college advisor at the Urban Assembly School for Law and Justice since then. In addition to organizing with JFREJ's Campaign for Police Accountability, Robin is an organizer for RISE, a radical collective that builds and supports anti-racist and anti-capitalist social service work in New York City.  Robin is excited to be participating in the Grace Paley Organizing Fellowship to further develop her skill-set as an anti-oppressive, solidarity organizer. She is particularly excited about GPOF's balance between political analysis and concrete skills-building, as well as the chance to think critically about her own role in the non-profit industrial complex as she searches for next steps in her career as a public education activist.

Keren Sharon is a Queens native and newcomer to JFREJ. Most of her experience in social justice work has focused on preventative education as a foundational model for substantive change. She has been developing and facilitating workshops through various New York-based organizations on HIV/AIDS prevention, sexual health and safety, dating and domestic violence, and healthy relationships since 2006. As an educator, Keren comes to GPOF hoping to gain more specific skills in community organizing and campaign building, and to finally reconcile a relationship between her conservative Jewish upbringing and more recent commitment to racial and economic justice that has, up until now, only felt in conflict. Some of her passions include talking about femme-inism, thinking of creative responses to street harassment, and adding avocados to everything.

Sam Shuman is a former JFREJ intern, who rallied rabbis to support the NYC Paid Sick Leave Act and join the JFREJ Rabbinic Council.  Sam likes to fancy himself a contemporary zamler.  Inspired by the queer revolutionary-ethnographer-cum-playwright, S. An-sky, who recorded coal miner songs in Russia and niggunim by Jews living in the Pale of Settlement, Sam straddles a precarious line between oral history, theory, ethnography, and activism.  He seeks to reconstitute some of the shattered vessels left by the Bundists, Territorialists, and Jewish Anarchists (whose identities can be found in the backwaters of Jewish memory).  In the past 2 years, he has edited testimony about torture at Guantánamo Bay and recorded stories around the gravesite of Rebbe Nachman in Ukraine.  He is thrilled to return to JFREJ to experiment with youth political performance education and advocacy as a GPOF fellow!

Leo Ferguson is an New York-native musician and commercial artist with a long history of working for social justice. He was was active in the Riot Grrl feminist movement of the 1990s, was Director of Marketing for a large human-services non-profit organization and has many years of involvement with, a non-profit that spreads awareness about mixed-race relationships and civil rights. He has also led many small affinity groups working to examine and heal from racism and other oppressions.

Danielle Frank is an artist and organizer who is currently enrolled at Smith College School for Social Work. Danielle is working with JFREJ on the Shalom Bayit campaign and is particularly interested in the 1:1 micro-level aspects of community organizing. She looks forward to participating in GPOF to further develop her strengths as an organizer and activist, specifically to utilize them in a focused, team-driven community-building campaign. Danielle's trajectory from artist to educator to social work masters candidate speaks to her commitment to change through interpersonal and community based efforts. She is excited to bring her passions and varied areas of experience to JFREJ.


You can also meet the 2012-2013 Grace Paley Fellows here!