Detroit Jews for Justice (DJJ) organizes the Metro Detroit Jewish community to participate in movements for racial and economic justice. We draw strength from Jewish tradition, history, thought and culture to deepen and sustain our work. We believe that our history as an oppressed people compels us to act in solidarity with other communities who face oppression. At the same time, we recognize that today the Jewish American community has a responsibility to use our power and resources for social change. We envision a region that is more sustainable, equitable and joyous for all, with a particular emphasis on supporting the rights and leadership of people of color, low-income workers, the unemployed, women, LGBTQI folks, immigrants, and others struggling against systemic bias.
1. We are grounded in Jewish culture, tradition, and relationships.
Judaism demands we not turn our back on our neighbors and that we commit ourselves to the pursuit of tzedek (justice) beyond charity. We look to our tradition for sustenance, inspiration, and challenge. We continue the legacy of resistance to antisemitism among other forms of oppression. In our strategy, we build from the strength of an existing community structure. In families, community centers, congregations and agencies, we see the potential to organize. Just as importantly, we foster a community where each individual feels welcome in their personal approach to Judaism.
2. We believe community is the foundation for change.
The slow work of building relationships is at the center of DJJ. Organizing as a collective, we value democratic processes, striving to include all voices and practice transparent decision-making. We honor the tensions, frustrations, and intensity of building community. It is only through being rooted in a strong community that we can have strong relationships with others. We envision a metro Detroit where Jews in city and suburb are bonded through grassroots action to one another and to other communities. In a segregated and fractured region, strong and lasting relationships are critical to moving us forward.
3. We think critically about power & privilege.
We recognize the intersection of many systems of oppression. Interwoven threads of race, class, and gender appear in every realm of injustice. We examine these intersections in our personal identities, those we build coalition with, and those we seek to influence. Aware that many of us hold privileges in race, class, and background, that positionality shapes our choices. In Metro Detroit especially, struggles for justice must include a deep understanding of history of systemic racism.
4. We embrace learning and education.
We are humbled by our vast access to information and knowledge. In order to organize effectively, we nurture a dynamic culture of learning, acknowledging that we are always students. We seek out and create opportunities for issue-based education and training. We strive to understand the complexities of injustice in our region, best practices for movement building, and the current moment. We are grateful for the wealth of expertise held by our partners and leaders and we create spaces for sharing that knowledge, internally and externally.
5. We focus on local issues.
We practice doykayt or “hereness,” a philosophy that compels us to engage in our immediate community, working alongside our neighbors. For DJJ, doykayt means organizing in metro Detroit at the city, regional, and state level. This choice is both strategic and spiritual. We believe our work is most meaningful and effective when we struggle against the injustices that are right in front of us and impact those around us. We seek a balance of engagement in Detroit, metro, and statewide issues.
6. We challenge destructive narratives about Detroit.
We are committed to listening to the chorus of diverse voices which continuously remind us that Detroit is not a blank slate, nor does it need saving. We are grateful to center our work in a city with an inspiring history of powerful social movements -- a history that continues with the visionary leaders and communities in Detroit today.
7. We follow the lead of our partners.
We honor the long and rich history of activism that has come before us. We build solidarity in our Jewish community for established and growing local movements, rather than creating our own. We are blessed to work with partners with vast knowledge and experience. We embrace the leadership of those who are directly impacted by injustice, as they are the best advocates for change. In particular, we seek to follow the direction of Detroiters, people of color, and low-income communities.
8. We believe that systems of oppression hurt us all.
The Torah states that all people are created b’tzelem elohim - in the image of the divine. While our leaders approach these words in different ways, we all share a belief in the inherent dignity of every human. We are connected to one another, to marginalized populations, as well as to those who perpetuate oppression -- we all have a stake in the struggle for justice. We are committed to changing our region, our communities, and ourselves.
9. We raise up the diversity of our Jewish community.
We are proud to belong to a diverse people and we challenge the perception of our community as a monolith. The differences between Jews are infinite and beautiful - and they make us stronger when we unite. DJJ includes Jews who hail from suburbs, city, and other regions. We come from many socioeconomic, ethnic, and racial backgrounds, and each of us has a unique relationship with Judaism. We represent a spectrum of ages, genders, sexualities, and abilities. We seek to create spaces that center those who are marginalized in our community, including Jews of color, low-income Jews, elders, and young people.
10. We support one another while working for systemic change.
We are in this for the long haul. While the process of building community is rewarding in itself, it is in service of our most important mandate: to mobilize towards a tangible goal. Aspiring towards a better world, we choose work that is actionable, winnable, relevant to the lived experience of folks in our region, and addresses root causes of injustice. We create space for affirming one another, processing losses, and celebrating victories, large and small. We follow the direction of our partners and leaders before our funders, and in order to do so we build grassroots funding from our own leadership and base.
Statement of Intergenerational Commitment
DJJ seeks to be an intergenerational community, a rarity in our society. DJJ recognizes that success at this goal requires hard work and much intentionality. DJJ values the contributions of leaders and supporters of all ages, striving to raise up voices across many generations. To that end, DJJ commits to:
- Actively recruiting to create a good balance of ages in our leadership
- Creating age diverse work groups, committees, and leadership in all structures we utilize
- Holding events, educational and social, to proactively share voices and perspectives of all leaders
- Keeping in mind the needs of various age constituencies when planning programs
- Asking younger leaders to understand the terrible impacts that ageism has on our society and community
- Asking older leaders to understand that adultism, as it includes discrimination + power, impacts the daily lives of younger leaders
Statement on Antisemitism
As Detroit Jews for Justice, we are building a region which is more sustainable, equitable and joyous for all. While many of us have experienced antisemitic prejudice, we are not exempt for perpetuating racism. We need to acknowledge our painful histories while remaining accountable to our partners in organizing.
In this time, we are witnessing a rise in attacks on synagogues, Jewish owned businesses and individuals. On both the national and local stage, white nationalist groups have been more visible and emboldened; we know that in times of economic distress, divisive ideologies can have broader appeal. This makes a Jewish presence in progressive social movements even more critical.
While the Jewish people are the primary target of antisemitism, we understand that it, among other forms of oppressions, limits our ability to mobilize and collaborate. Antisemitism is part of the machinery of division and fear created and used for political or material gain - leveraging suspicion, prejudice and miseducation. In driving a sharp wedge between/among allies in progressive movements, both racism and antisemitism benefit the existing systems of oppression and undermine efforts to build multi-racial, cross-class, interfaith and multi-ethnic solidarity.
Like the broader Jewish community, Detroit Jews for Justice is made up of people who have a variety of different class, ethnic and racial backgrounds. Internally, we work to dismantle white supremacy by building a welcoming and accepting culture, and by staying accountable to one another. We build trust and confidence within our community and with our partners by providing education about antisemitism, so that we all have the tools necessary to address it as it arises both internally and in movement work.
We uplift our common interest in collective liberation for all people. When Jewish people join together with our neighbors across differences, as we have in the past, we can shut down the fear factory and protect each other. Together we can build a Metro Detroit in which all can be free and thrive.