Marni on the Fight for Detroit Schools

As a teacher, I know that education is the key to anyone’s future.  Everyone got to where they are today at least partially because of their schooling.  Many can remember a teacher who inspired them and helped shape who they are.   I chose to work in Detroit Public Schools because I believe in public education as a necessary part of ensuring a bright future for the next generation and for our city. Everyone deserves opportunities to succeed.  It starts in our schools.  And we have a lot of work to do to improve them.  I continue to fight for DPS, because I believe that the children and teachers of Detroit deserve a quality public school system.

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Why We Think It's Time to Care!

When I was a kid and had to stay home sick from school, my mom always made me the classic challah toast with cinnamon and sugar and we would watch movies together. When I got older, and had just gotten back from a Jewish youth group weekend and was overwhelmed with homework, every now and then I would take a day off school just to have a break. My mom called it a “mental health day.” Now, through the MI Time to Care initiative, I’m learning that not every child is blessed to have a parent that can stay home and care for them when they are sick, and not every adult has the flexibility or financial stability to take the day off if they or their children are ill. 

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Our upcoming DJJ Purim party promises to be as complex as the social issues we take on: the event will include a potluck banquet, a shpiel, a costume/dish contest, musical performances and a dance party.

Rabbi Alana shared that "we're taking inspiration from sister organizations in New York and Boston who have been doing raucous, politically poignant Purim parties for years, The holiday lends itself perfectly to talking about fighting injustice and the power of organizing. And it's super fun, which is so important for building community and doing justice work for the long haul.”

The 2016 shpiel, written by me, Phreddy Whischusen, and DJJ staff Blair Nosan, uses the story of Esther to highlight the water crises in Detroit and Flint. Phreddy shared that, “Last year’s shut-offs in Detroit and this year’s Flint crisis are intrinsically linked — to the Emergency Manager Law, It’s miraculous how a story that is over 2,000 years old seems better at demonstrating that connection than much of today’s media.”


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People Power!

People power. That’s my personal mantra for the Organizing Team, and a two word explanation for why I love Detroit Jews for Justice. Just when I’m feeling at my wits end about the political landscape, I get to show up for a meeting with my Organizing Team co-chair, Oren Brandvain, and DJJ’s organizer, Eleanor Gamalski and together we navigate the complexities of this work through laughter, French fries, yoga, and wildly stimulating conversation. I have to end each meeting letting them know just how smart I think they are.

Organizing Team is made up of much more than Eleanoren though (Eleanor, Oren, and Nora…get it?!). Our work is steeped in the leadership and planning of Rabbi Alana Alpert and Blair Nosan as well as our burgeoning TEAM! We’ve had two gatherings so far, and (as you’ll find out if you keep reading) we are diving head first into shaping and implementing the political work of Detroit Jews for Justice.



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Hello from Eleanor!

Hello to our DJJ family! It's probably a little overdue for me to introduce myself, but better late than never!


I jumped into my position as DJJ's Community Organizing Intern at the beginning of the year, and two months in, I'm feeling pretty great.

A little bit about me: I grew up in Bloomfield Township and went to the Roeper School for nursery through 12th grade. I'm so indebted to Roeper and my incredible parents for raising me with social justice values and a relationship to Detroit -- two things that have come to shape my life trajectory. I didn't often attend Temple nor did I do much Torah study, but my family did give me a sense of what it meant to be an American Jew. I always felt this was a central aspect of my personal identity and my place in the world - but I had yet to really ask why.


"Enjoying" the weather while representing DJJ at the MLK., Jr. Day rally!

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Keeping the Flame Burning at DJJ's Festival of Rights!

by: Anna Kohn

As the former Director of the last freestanding synagogue over the past three-plus years, I’ve had an opportunity to witness a lot of the different Jewish movements around social justice in Detroit, but none were so close to my heart as that of December’s “Festival of Rights” sponsored by Detroit Jews for Justice.

 A lot of my Jewish peers struggle with identity and purpose. Hell, even my non-Jewish peers struggle with identity and purpose. That’s the beauty of Detroit Jews for Justice. In the face of that struggle, DJJ offered me a safe space to express those social justice causes that I feel most connected to – and in the case of the “Festival of Rights,” I was so honored to be presenting a Jewish take on MY most passionate passion, prison reform. (Pirkei Avot 1:6) Yehoshua ben Perahia says “make for yourself a teacher, acquire for yourself a friend, and judge every person with the benefit of the doubt.” Because what if, in Judaism’s culture of community-oriented thinking, we as Jews, had not?


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Standing with Syrian Refugees

On January 26th, Rabbi Alana testified to the State Senate, opposing the resolution to support Gov. Snyder's proposition to halt the welcome of Syrian refugees to Michigan. You can read her testimony below.


I would like to thank the Governor and the legislature for the care you have shown the Jewish community. The memory of the horrors of the Nazi Holocaust are alive and well -- it’s traumas handed down from generation to generation, it’s aftershocks still reverberating. It means so much to us to have the State of Michigan proclaim Days of Remembrance. Here is an excerpt from your proclamation:

“WHEREAS, the people of Michigan should always remember the terrible events of the Holocaust and remain vigilant against hatred, persecution, and tyranny; [...] WHEREAS, the Days of Remembrance have been set aside for all people to remember the victims of the Holocaust as well as to reflect on the need for respect of all peoples; and [...]


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MLK, Jr. Day Talk at Frankel Jewish Academy

Last month we were honored to be invited to Frankel Jewish Academy in West Bloomfield for their annual MLK, Jr. Day Assembly. DJJ Community Organizing Intern Eleanor Gamalski presented to the students about the Jewish tradition of working for social justice, and how DJJ hopes to be a part of that legacy. You can read her speech below.

Hello to everyone - thank you so much for hosting me in honor of the approach of Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. It’s one of my favorite days of the year and I think one of the most important. I’m very grateful to have this opportunity to speak with you. I thought I’d start by talking a bit about the Jewish impetus to work against injustice, as well as Jewish involvement in social movements throughout history and here in metro Detroit. I’m also excited to tell you about the work we’re doing today with Detroit Jews for Justice.


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Standing For a Higher Minimum Wage!

By: Rachel Lerman

On November 10, 2015, workers and supporters in cities all around the country joined together to support the Fight for $15- a national campaign fighting to raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour. In Detroit, a large rally took place downtown in front of the Coleman A. Young Municipal Center with over 300 people in attendance. A group of DJJ members met at the rally to stand in solidarity with workers, organizers and other faith groups who were there.


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Tshuvah and Police Accountability

Last year, Rabbi Alana was invited to speak at a Michigan United Justice Assembly discussion on Police Accountability & Civilian Oversight. Her comments are included below.

Good evening.
It’s an honor to be sharing a few words with this powerful gathering
I was asked to speak on the theme of repentance.
Repentance is a concept which sounds a little foreign to Jewish ears…
The closest word we have for repentance is Tshuvah –
it means turning, or to return, or to go in the opposite direction
It operates on the assumption that the person doing t’shuva is GOOD,
good at their core;
that if they just turn around – RETURN,
then they will return to goodness and righteousness.
The word sin also does not translate easily to the Jewish faith.
it seems to assume intentionality.
Our word for sin, Chet, means “to miss the mark”
it assumes we meant to do right.
We aimed for goodness and we missed.


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