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!
I attended the University of Michigan's Residential College and graduated a year early with a major in International Studies, focused on Haitian history, and a minor in Urban Studies. I also participated in and later worked for UM's Semester in Detroit, an immersive living-and-learning program. My experiences in both Haiti and Detroit struck a huge chord with me. Although they are very different, in both places I saw communities struggling against enormous, interrelated forces -- poverty, lack of services, and loss of control to white decision-makers, to name a few. I encountered activists and everyday citizens carrying on a long history of fighting for both basic needs and systemic change. I knew these were communities and people I had to learn from.
After college, I spent a year living in Detroit, engaging in conversations around food justice, water rights, and police brutality. I strengthened relationships and built new ones with amazing people working on these causes. But I remained unsure of how (and whether) I should plug in - especially as a young, white native of the suburbs. I then decided to pursue my Master's in Public Affairs at Brown University. I thought that an education in public policy could help me to understand systems of oppression and how to dismantle them. I also saw the value of an opportunity to reflect on what was important to me before choosing my next step.
It was to my surprise that this decision led me to DJJ. My master's program includes a practical component where students intern at an organization of their choosing for three months. I had already connected with Rabbi Alana, and through conversations with her and my mom (a DJJ pioneer), I developed a plan to work with DJJ and to support the Organizing Team in shaping and implementing DJJ's political work. It is difficult to express how moving this experience has been so far. I am absolutely astounded by the intelligence, passion, and kindness of all I have met in the DJJ community and what they have created together. I am so lucky to do this work with them!
Through countless experiences over the past two months, I have started to explore - essentially for the first time - why being Jewish is important to me and to my outlook on the world. As I settle into this incredible group of Jews young and old, suburban and urban, I'm beginning to understand that my Jewishness is not adjacent to my social justice values - much more than that, it is completely intertwined. It is a perspective I can bring to the table in fighting injustice. Conversations with Rabbi Alana and others have illuminated the amazing history of the metro Detroit Jewish community, and Jewish organizations across the country who have organized around faith, in all senses of the word.
I have yet to solve the puzzle of where I fit in the world and the struggles of our time, and maybe I never will. But I know that my Jewish identity was a missing piece - and it's helping me to approach social justice work with a new clarity, with excitement, and most importantly, with love. I know this is only the beginning of my relationship with DJJ, and I'm so excited for what's to come.
I hope to meet you all of you soon - please feel free to reach out!
P.S. An example of the unique work I'm getting to do -- right off the bat, Rabbi Alana assigned me a Jewish baptism by fire, asking me to speak at Frankel Jewish Academy in West Bloomfield. Meshuggeneh, right? Luckily, it turned it okay. You can read my remarks here!
P.P.S. Example #2 of my exciting work -- mobilizing DJJ for MI Time to Care's Earned Sick Time campaign! Join us. Learn more by getting in touch with me or visiting mitimetocare.org!!