My work at the Moishe Kavod House falls directly in line at the intersection of the kehilla and tzedek propositions of Sid Schwarz’s thesis. We integrate arts, learning, Jewish spiritual practice, and social justice work to build Jewish community that is personally meaningful and deeply engaged with the world.
We approach our work through a community organizing and leadership development framework, which aims to empower community members to have ownership over our programming and vision. We have a community-led board through which community memberships themselves direct the finances, development, communications, and membership structure of the organization. Community members run our events and meetings. We gather together on Friday evenings for lay-led Shabbat services and potlucks that include social justice topics and speakers.
Our social justice work is rooted in supporting local racial justice movements through moving our money and showing up for Black, Brown, Muslim, and immigrant-led actions and organizations. We sponsor anti-racism trainings for Jewish communities. Our new house is located in a neighborhood and city that many Black and Latino people are being displaced from and we are working to support housing justice campaigns in the city.
One of the ways I see Jewish communities today advancing areas of Jewish life outside of the four propositions is in the realm of making our communities relevant and accessible to people who have traditionally been pushed out of and maligned in Jewish communities. I’ve seen this in the “inclusion” and “access” teams working to make congregations and Jewish events accessible to people with disabilities. I’ve experienced this at SVARA’s Queer Talmud Camp which brings together queer and trans Jews to develop their skills and confidence in traditional text study. This approach allows us to bring our full selves into the bet midrash. Jews of Color, Sephardi, Mizrahi, and Romaniote Jews are organizing together and confronting the white-Ashkenazi domination of many of our organizations. This work is vital and imperative for Jewish communities today.
I don’t agree that there is a strict dichotomy between “tribal” Jews (who understand Jewish identities on ethnic and political terms and our focused on threats to our survival and assimilation) and “covenantal” Jews (who have a weaker commitment to Jewish group identification and are more universal in their focus). The growing power of white supremacists and neo-Nazi’s in the US today and the publicity of their threats, demonization, and targeting of Jews, has led many “covenantal” Jews to organize together in the form of “group solidarity” to confront these threats, while also organizing to support other resistance movements. Ashkenazi Jews, young and old, have been reclaiming the Yiddish language and culture that was looked down upon in the past. In this way, I don’t agree that we are decidedly “post-tribal.”
Ari Pomerantz is a resident organizer at the Moishe Kavod Jewish Social Justice House and a recent alumna of the JOIN for Justice Fellowship and the Adamah Jewish Farming Fellowship.Is this post useful and interesting? Please consider sharing it with your social networks, and leave a comment below telling us your thoughts!