Dear DJJ Leaders and friends,
As I enter my final week as an intern at DJJ, I’d like to take a moment to reflect on my time here, to illuminate what I think makes DJJ special, and share what I’ve learned from these two semesters of fieldwork.
I know that it can be hard to remember to appreciate all that we have access to in our lives. So I need to start by saying that DJJ is incredibly special. The expanse of progressive Jewish work in the world is abundant and growing, but the amount of people doing this work (and doing it well) is small. I feel so fortunate to have had a backstage pass, watching staff and leaders in action. Not only do DJJ leaders feel genuine ownership of DJJ’s work, the model is such that each DJJ leader and DJJnik can have a hand (or an arm, or a corner of their brain, or their whole heart) in the work. There is space for every progressive Jew in Metro Detroit to contribute in a way that will meaningfully challenge them.
DJJ is driven by a clear, shared vision that empowers our people to invest their time and talents into the belief that we can build something better than what we’ve inherited. Staff and leaders’ love of Detroit and commitment to relationship-building across difference has created an organization that contributes significant people power to the movement for justice. To be able to look at our work and not only be proud of what we do but the way we do it is an experience to be savored and replicated in all aspects of our lives.
I’ve learned the importance of building a community with mission and compassion at the core. I’ve learned that sometimes the work is slow and sometimes the work is fast. I’ve learned that each of us can bring our whole selves to the table. There is no need to push away any part of ourselves in order to get things done - we are most effective when we uplift our skills, strengths, and talents and process our pitfalls, challenges, and growing edges. I’ve learned that a continued practice of intention-setting and examining our reasons for showing up in the ways we do yields the most just results. I’ve learned how to interrogate my place (and our place) in the landscape of justice movements. I’ve learned that all of these practices evolve through lifelong learning.
Perhaps most importantly, I’ve learned that being Jewish and progressive is as natural and inherited as it is subversive and novel. Our organizing can and should be distinctly Jewish - Jewish in the way we gather, Jewish in the way we take action, Jewish in the way we mourn, and Jewish in the way we celebrate.
It’s obvious to me that my fieldwork placement was extraordinary in many ways, especially in comparison to those of my peers in the social work school (sorry, peers), and I know this is because of the trust that was placed in me, the community that embraced me, and the way that DJJ’s mission is infused into every aspect of the work. DJJ’s core principles inspired and energized me not only while I was marching through Campus Martius on Chanukah, but also while I was writing blogposts with my nose in my laptop. It’s deeply gratifying to wholeheartedly believe in the work, down to the most tachlis of tasks.
Thank you to everyone who took the time to invest in my growth, for being honest and transparent for the sake of my learning, and for the love and kindness that was shown to me by staff, leaders, and DJJniks from day one. It means a lot to me to have had this experience and I am excited to spread DJJ’s vision of racial and economic justice for all in my future work.
I have one more year of JCLP left, so I’ll be around! For the summer, I will be doing fieldwork full time at National Council of Jewish Women in DC. I’ll be working on their government side, getting policy advocacy experience that will pair very well with all I have learned at DJJ. Can’t wait to report back when I return!
With love and gratitude,