Who is JFREJ?
Mission | To pursue racial and economic justice in New York City by advancing systemic changes that result in concrete improvements in peoples daily lives. We engage individual Jews, key Jewish institutions, and key Jewish community leaders in the fight for racial and economic justice in partnership with Jewish and allied people of color, low-income and immigrant communities.
Jews for Racial & Economic Justice (JFREJ) was founded in 1990 to address the increase in racial and ethnic tension and economic disparity within our city. In the past 24 years, JFREJ has become a vital resource inside the Jewish community and an important source of support for a diverse array of community-based organizations in New York. JFREJ’s membership has strengthened a progressive Jewish voice in debates over our city’s future and has activated the established Jewish community as a partner in citywide struggles for justice. Through educational fora, workshops, grassroots political campaigns, and a weekly radio program, JFREJ is committed to revitalizing a Jewish ethic of social justice, cooperation and mutual struggle for human dignity. In coalition with communities of color and labor organizations, JFREJ works to achieve economic equality and an end to all forms of oppression by organizing for social programs, housing, education, fair labor practices, accountable policing, and immigrants’ rights. JFREJ’s educational programs and activism make connections between anti-Semitism and racism, and between Jewish and other radical histories and contemporary movements for justice.
We have provided a progressive Jewish voice on issues when conservative voices too often seem to speak for the entire community.
JFREJ is a member-based, diverse, feminist, explicitly anti-racist, and strongly LGBT-affirming community of progressive Jews. JFREJ’s membership is a cross-section of the diversity that is Jewish New York. This diversity is JFREJ’s greatest strength. The JFREJ community includes over 1,200 active dues-paying members, more than 4,500 subscribers to our email list, and more than 12,000 people in our database. As a membership-based organization, JFREJ members engage in every level of our decision-making. Members choose our campaigns, set our goals, determine our strategies and execute and evaluate our work.
Marjorie Dove Kent (Executive Director) comes to Jews for Racial and Economic Justice with nine years of experience in issue-based, identity-based, and neighborhood-based organizing. She has worked as an organizer for the Massachusetts Affordable Housing Alliance, for the Boston Workman’s Circle, and as a neighborhood organizer in St. Louis. Marjorie has also organized a coalition of Boston Jews to support the construction of a mosque in the city, worked with the Massachusetts Immigrant and Refugee Advocacy Coalition to build a diverse support base for the DREAM Act, and led a year-long secular Havurah on Zionist and Palestinian Nationalist histories. She is a graduate of the Hebrew College Me’ah Program in Jewish Learning, the Jewish Organizing Initiative Fellowship, and the Jewish Social Justice Workers learning circle. Contact at marjorie [at] jfrej [dot] org
Rachel McCullough (Community Organizer, Shalom Bayit: Justice for Domestic Workers Campaign) has been a member leader with the Shalom Bayit campaign and an ally to Domestic Workers United since 2008. Originally from Brooklyn, Rachel has been working and organizing in struggles for immigrant and workers' rights, youth empowerment, and LGBTQ and gender justice in Los Angeles and New York since 2004. She graduated from Scripps College in 2008 with a degree in History and later interned for one year as a Know-Your-Rights trainer with domestic worker organizations in Lima and Cusco, Peru. She is thrilled to join the staff of a transformative organization and to pursue implementation and enforcement of the hard-won Domestic Workers Bill of Rights. When she's not learning how to build power at the grassroots level, Rachel likes to sing classical music, play accordion, and eat pizza. Contact at rachel [at] jfrej [dot] org
Nikki Morse (Director of Development) has been involved with JFREJ as the chair of the Fundraising Committee, and is excited to bring her experience and energy to the organization. She recently graduated with her MSW from Hunter, and has over 12 years of experience in non-profits, including fundraising for Jobs with Justice, the Massachusetts Senior Action Council, and the Center for Campus Organizing. Most recently she was the Interim Executive Director and National Organizer for Military Families Speak Out, an organization of families with loved ones in the military speaking out against the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. When she is not pursuing funding for effective solidarity organizing, she explores her passions in baseball, reflection, playing pool, and the creation of interesting costumes for the annual Purimshpeil. Contact at nikki [at] jfrej [dot] org
Ethan Heitner (Administrative Coordinator) has been a Jew for racial and economic justice since his mother sang the Internationale to him for the first time, but he has only recently joined the staff of JFREJ. Before that he pushed pixels and arranged electronic files for the political arts co-operative Beehive Design Collective and the radical comics magazine World War 3 Illustrated, where he still contributes as a cartoonist and editor. He has also worked for Cairo magazine, TomPaine.com, and South Brooklyn Legal Services, and publishes comics and illustrations on his own website at freedomfunnies.com. Yes, he would love to discussion Brooklyn politics, comic books, and/or vegan baking with you. Contact atinfo [at] jfrej [dot] org ( info [at] jfrej [dot] org)
Leo Ferguson (Leadership Development Coordinator) is a New York-native musician and commercial artist with a long history of working for social justice, ever since his involvement in the Riot Grrl feminist movement of the 1990s. Leo's background includes anti-oppression trainings for JFREJ as well as leading affinity groups and caucuses exploring internalized anti-Jewish oppression, race and racism, patriarchy and heteronormativi
Lizzie Busch has been excited about JFREJ since she found them on the internet in 2008 and learned about "solidarity organizing." She grew up in New York City and attended Wesleyan University, where she got her start taking part in student-labor organizing and queer activism. After graduating from Wesleyan in 2010, Lizzie went to Washington, DC to do AVODAH: the Jewish Service Corps and be a community organizer for the local social justice group Jews United for Justice. She then worked at the United Food and Commercial Workers as a research assistant. In August 2013, she moved back to her hometown to be closer to her family and attend graduate school. She is currently in NYU's dual-degree program for a Master's in Jewish Studies and a Master's in Public Administration. Lizzie is also part of the POOR Magazine Solidarity Family and Resource Generation. She likes writing and going to the beach.
Maddy Popkin joins us this summer having just graduated from Barnard College with an interdisciplinary degree in critical studies of race, gender, ethnicity, sexuality, and Spanish. While at Barnard, she organized around resource and policy issues that queer and trans* students face, as well as working as a peer health educator and leading the Student Government Association. She grew up in a mix of New Jersey, Maine, and Tokyo, loves the water and succulent plants, and having just moved into her first post-grad apartment, is currently very excited about DIY house-decor opportunities for drill usage
Alex Skolnick loves working as an activist for social justice and
standing up for the underdogs. He was introduced to this world because
of his family's deep roots in both Jewish and labor activism. His
great-grandmother Pearl helped create the I.L.G.W.U., while others in
his family worked at Freyheit, a Yiddish labor newspaper. He grew up
attending peace rallies with his parents and grandparents and has a
lifelong connection to the Workmen's Circle. Currently he works at the
Teen Activist Project of the New York Civil Liberties Union and is
a sophmore at Metropolitan Expeditionary Learning School (MELS).
Join the JFREJ Staff! Click here for open staff positions and internships.
Board of Directors
Sarra Alpert is the NYC Program Director at AVODAH: The Jewish Service Corps and is an AVODAH alum as well. She also teaches social justice education for the Foundation for Jewish Camp Cornerstone Fellowship. Previously, she taught in the Expository Writing Program at NYU and worked as an educator in the Kolot Chayeinu Learning Program. She enjoys Shabbat dinners, reading on the subway, and walking around New York, and she is very happy to be joining the JFREJ leadership team.
Julie (JD) Davids is a queer activist who came out in the HIV/AIDS movement some time ago and has remained ever since. After many years in ACT UP Philadelphia, JD founded the Community HIV/AIDS Mobilization Project (CHAMP), which built a mobilizing network at the intersection of HIV/AIDS and social justice, and continued that work as director of the HIV Prevention Justice Alliance (HIV PJA). Currently, JD is Managing Editor of TheBody.com, a comprehensive source of online HIV and AIDS information and perspectives. JD is also a member of the Aftselokhes Spectacle Committee collective.
Shira Eve Epstein began her work with JFREJ when she distributed leaflets about labor rights outside of an Upper West Side store in 2002. Then, after serving on the Shalom Bayit campaign, she joined the JFREJ board of directors in 2008 where her key commitment is to monitor board development. Professionally, she is an assistant professor at the City College of New York (CUNY) in the Department of Secondary Education. Her research agenda focuses on citizenship education and what happens when adolescents and teachers work together to advocate for social change during the school day.
Melissa Extein is an organizational consultant working toward social justice by helping activists, organizations, and movements understand themselves better and implement changes to become even more effective. She mainly works with international human rights grantmakers, but also supports other non-profits, both in and outside the US. On the side, Melissa teaches philanthropy, leadership, group dynamics, and emotional intelligence to graduate students at New York University and the University of Pennsylvania.
Rebecca Fox works as a Program Officer at Wellspring Advisors, a donor advised firm that coordinates grantmaking programs that advance the realization of human rights and social and economic justice for all people. Prior to coming to Wellspring, she was the Executive Director of the National Coalition for LGBT Health, leading organizations nationwide to work together to improve the lives and health of LGBTQ people through advocacy, outreach, and education. She was also an Adjunct Professor of Human Sexuality at the George Washington University. She is currently vice-chair of Funders for LGBTQ Issues. She has served on the board of Choice USA, a national organization that mobilizes and supports the diverse, upcoming generation of leaders who promote and protect reproductive choice, and Generations Ahead, which worked to engage a diverse spectrum of social justice stakeholders about the social and ethical implications of genetic technologies.
Daniel Rosza Lang/Levitsky is a puppeteer, designer, organizer and agitator based at Brooklyn's Glitter House. 3rd-generation radical; 2nd-generation queer. Active in JFREJ since 1999, on the Board since 2010. Co-founder of Jews Against the Occupation/NYC, Palestine Activist Forum (now Adalah-NY), and NYC Direct Action Network (z"l). Enthusiastically secular, predictably bookish, presently somewhat-able-bodied, identifying with more than as. Af yidish, a oysterlisher gendertreyf apikoyrus un mischling. Currently: dancing with the Rude Mechanical Orchestra; making Purim Extravaganzas with The Aftselokhes Spectacle Committee; touring several puppet shows; indulging an obsession with ubiquitous queer boundary-crosser Carl Van Vechten; making custom leatherwork.
Audrey Sasson is the director of Walmart-Free NYC, a labor-community coalition that is committed to increasing economic opportunities, preserving local businesses, and bringing more and better jobs to communities across New York. Prior to joining the United Food and Commercial Workers union – the coalition’s anchor – she spent close to 7 years at American Jewish World Service in various capacities, most recently as a senior organizer, working to build a base of Jewish activists fighting for US policy change in the area of international human rights. Before moving to NY, she worked for three years at a community based anti-poverty organization in Montreal, providing direct services and doing community organizing with low-income tenants, welfare recipients, immigrants, and seniors. She’s a founding member of the Community/Farmworker Alliance and a member of the board of Brandworkers International. She holds a Bachelor of Arts and a Bachelor of Social Work as well as a Master's of International Affairs.
Rusty Stahl is a leading voice on leadership development in philanthropy and the nonprofit sector. He is Director of the Talent Philanthropy Project, which encourages funders to invest in nonprofit leadership. Rusty is Founder and Executive Director Emeritus of Emerging Practitioners in Philanthropy, a membership association of young and new foundation professionals. He has work at Ford Foundation making grants to support the health and impact of philanthropy and nonprofit sector. Rusty holds a Masters in Philanthropic Studies from Indiana University, and helped found Central Indiana Jobs with Justice. He also serves on the boards of Idealist.org and Bikkurim: An Incubator for New Jewish Ideas.
Elizabeth Wilson is the director of College Now at Hostos Community College (CUNY). She has been involved with JFREJ since 2001.
For the past thirty years, Karen Zelermyer has been a steady and vital force in many social justice movements. In addition to working in the philanthropic and LGBT communities, including nine years as Deputy Director at the Astraea Lesbian Foundation for Justice and seven years as President & CEO of Funders for LGBTQ Issues, she has worked in the peace, women's and children's rights movements going back more years than she wants to count—holding titles ranging from Executive Director and board member, to Development Director and consultant, to street activist. In her work with foundations, Karen has been a leader in developing grantmaking strategies that work at the intersection of identity, issue and place and that institute inclusive and welcoming foundation cultures. Karen is a frequent presenter at philanthropic, LGBT and women’s conferences in the U.S. and internationally. She also sells real estate in Brooklyn, is a welder and wood-worker, and a spouse, mother and grandmother.
Congregations and organizations are listed for identification purposes only
Rabbi Marcelo Bronstein, B'nai Jeshurun
Rabbi Carie Carter, Park Slope Jewish Center
Rabbi Ayelet Cohen, JCC-Manhattan
Rabbi Michael Feinberg, Greater New York Labor-Religion Coalition
Rabbi Rachel Grant-Meyer, Rodeph Shalom
Rabbi Jo Hirschmann
Rabbi David Ingber, Romemu
Rabbi Sharon Kleinbaum, Congregation Beit Simchat Torah
Rabbi Chava Koster, Village Temple
Rabbi Dov Linzer, Yeshivat Chovevei Torah
Rabbi Ellen Lippmann, Kolot Chayeinu/Voices of our Lives
Rabbi Marc Margolius, West End Synagogue
Rabbi Roly Matalon, B'nai Jeshurun
Rabbi Felicia Sol, B'nai Jeshurun
Rabbi Nancy Wiener, Hebrew Union College
JFREJ is a proud member of Right to the City
JFREJ is a proud member of the New York Immigration Coalition
JFREJ is a proud member of the Jewish Social Justice Roundtable
Partners & Allies
We are grateful for the support of all of our members and supporters, including:
Andrus Family Fund
Dobkin Family Foundation
Elias Family Foundation
Left Tilt Fund
Jewish Women's Foundation of New York
North Star Fund
The Valentine Perry Snyder Fund
List includes current foundation support