Last month, our community came together to complete a three month long membership decision-making process to determine the future of our police accountability work over the next five years. Thank you to everyone who joined us at our 2018 Membership Assembly in November and the participatory process leading up to it. The clarity and alignment in our membership that came out of this process is nothing short of historic: not only in moving forward with focus and rigor in our critical work to hold the NYPD accountable; not only for implementing new models for decision making, democracy, and transparency that we can continue to use and adapt in our work ahead; but also for arriving collectively at a truly bold and visionary direction for this work to take in the years ahead.

TL;DR, let’s get to work! Will you join us for our first Community Safety Campaign meeting on Tuesday, January 29th? RSVP here.

From September to November, our members jumped into this process in so many different ways:

We completed a membership survey about experiences and attitudes with 911 to get a better sense of where our community is at related to these questions;

We joined webinars to dig deeper into the framework and strategy of Invest/Divest, learned about CPR’s 5-year plan, and considered the specific Jewish case for Invest/Divest;

We attended 7 different house parties across the boroughs, for Social Workers and Health Practitioners, Teachers and Educators, Young People, People with Disabilities, and Rabbis and Clergy, to learn about the history of the police accountability movement in New York City and JFREJ’s participation in it, to dig into the issues up for a vote, and to talk about what it could mean for our organization to formally adopt Invest/Divest as the overall strategy for our police accountability work.

Photo of a woman in a party hat speaking into a mic

Then, at the Membership Assembly itself, we celebrated the near 30-year history of JFREJ’s organizing against police brutality, including, in our more recent history, as part of the city-wide coalition, Communities United for Police Reform (CPR). We reviewed the membership process from the beginning, and our planning team shared learnings from the surveys, house meetings, and webinars. We announced that our members are clearly ready for an Invest/Divest strategy: a strategy in which we fight for the overall shrinking of size and scope of punitive systems such as police and prisons, and instead create, prioritize, and invest in the systems and institutions that actually keep us safe and help all communities thrive–like health care, housing, education, and employment.

And so we formally adopted Invest/Divest and Freedom to Thrive as the overall strategy for our work! Our ritual team led us in a Shehecheyanu blessing to mark the historic transition moment for our community as we stepped boldly into new ideological and material frameworks for our organizing moving forward.

Then, with the help of our voting navigators and issue experts, our members cast their votes using a weighted voting system that took into account whether we were directly affected by policing and whether we had interest or capacity get involved. We voted for two issues out of these five from CPR’s 5-year plan:

  • Ending police jurisdiction in public schools (a.k.a. getting cops out of schools)
  • Ending gender-based and sexual violence by police
  • Legalizing and regulating marijuana
  • Ending surveillance abuses by the NYPD
  • Ending the use of police as first responders for people with psychiatric disabilities and/or people in emotional distress

And our membership spoke. Our two clear winners for our core priorities over the next five years were:

  • Ending surveillance abuses by the NYPD
  • Ending the use of police as as first responders for people with psychiatric disabilities and/or people in emotional distress
Photo of people in party hats sitting at a table

So what’s next?! Now it’s time for us to get together and begin developing our strategy for these new campaigns. At the same time, we will continue our ongoing work within CPR: fighting for the families of those who have lost loved ones to police violence, implementing the hard-won Right to Know Act, and continuing to fight for transparency at the state level through our ongoing legislative priorities (the repeal of 50-a, passing the #PoliceSTAT Act, strengthening the Special Prosecutor Executive Order, and reducing Unnecessary Arrests).

Join us for two important upcoming ways to jump into this work:

Our first Community Safety Campaign Meeting: Tuesday, January 29th from 6-9pm at the JFREJ office, where we’ll talk about next steps for this work within CPR, Hate Free Zones, and organizing our synagogues to divest from police and invest in new practices for community safety and security in the wake of Pittsburgh. There will be dinner! RSVP here.

CPR Albany Lobby Day: Tuesday, February 12th, all day (transportation provided). Lunch will be provided. Get on the bus with our allies to lobby legislators for our state priorities for police accountability (the repeal of 50-a, passing the #PoliceSTAT Act, strengthening the Special Prosecutor Executive Order, and reducing Unnecessary Arrests). RSVP to join JFREJ’s contingent here.

I’m so grateful to continue building a powerful grassroots movement for dignity and safety for all New Yorkers in the years to come with all of you, and hope to see you at one of these upcoming events soon. Thank you again to our brilliant Assembly planning team for pulling off such a significant process for our membership: Martha Ackelsberg, Melanie Flaxer, Sara Goldberg, Rachel McCullough, Sarah Klevan, and Sierra Spingarn.

If you want to catch up on the learning we did through the webinars, you can access the recordings to all of them here:

What is Invest/Divest?

What’s Next for New York’s Movement for Police Accountability?

What’s the Jewish case for Invest/Divest?

You can also check out this Community Safety Pledge that we developed after 11 elders in our community were murdered in Pittsburgh nearly two months ago. It aims to increase safety in our Jewish communities at this difficult time for all our members and friends, with less reliance on police. We’re thankful for the longtime work and organizing of Communities United for Police Reform, SURJ Faith, Jewish Voice for Peace, Hinenu Baltimore, Kavod Community Boston, Kohenet, Kol Tzedek, and others, all of which helped shape this document. If you have access to an institution that might want to make this commitment, we encourage you to share it with them. So much of our work for police accountability has to start in our own Jewish community, and we know we have the ability to create communal spaces that prioritize keeping all of us safe, especially Jews of Color, disabled Jews, and trans and gender non-conforming Jews.