Turn Congress 180 Online Training: How to build a powerful team & coalition in the era of Trump

We just launched Turn Congress 180: A national effort built of local volunteer-led campaigns across the country that give key Representatives a choice — continue enabling an immoral agenda or turn 180 degrees towards protecting our democracy and our lives.

If you’ve been looking for a way to step up, this campaign is your moment to use your Jewish voice to demand change. We’re offering a series of interactive online trainings to give you the skills you need to succeed with your local Turn Congress 180 campaign.

At the training, you will learn:

  • Why a strong leadership team is crucial to your campaign’s success
  • The core elements of building your campaign team
  • Why it’s powerful to work in coalition
  • How to be a good coalition partner

If you’re leading a Turn Congress 180 campaign or want to learn more, join us on August 24 to gain practical skills in team and coalition building.

All Jewish Congresswomen Join NJDC’s Women’s Leadership Network

Senators Barbara Boxer (left) and Diane Feinstein (right).

The National Jewish Democratic Council’s (NJDC) newly-launched Women’s Leadership Network (WLN) proudly announced today that all Jewish Democratic women in the Senate and House of Representatives, as well as former Representative Gabrielle Giffords (D-AZ), have signed on as Honorary Co-Chairs of the new group. Representative Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL) said:

I am thrilled to be an honorary co-chair of the NJDC’s new Women’s Leadership Network — an opportunity for us to stand up as women, as Jews, and as Democrats for the priorities we share. From safeguarding our civil and reproductive freedoms, to strengthening our health and social safety net, to ending preventable gun violence, and bolstering support for the U.S.-Israel relationship, NJDC’s WLN will serve as a valuable resource and powerful voice on the issues that matter to our community.

More after the jump.
Representative Jan Schakowsky (D-IL) added:

NJDC’s Women’s Leadership Network will mobilize Jewish American women to support strong Democratic candidates and will ensure that all female Jewish Democrats have a voice at the table. It is critical that NJDC’s Women’s Leadership Network raises the concerns of Jewish Democratic women and helps them influence the outcomes of national and international issues.

Women’s Leadership Network Co-Founders Ann Lewis and Barbara Goldberg Goldman stated:

We are so honored that all of the Jewish women serving in the House and Senate, as well as former Representative Gabrielle Giffords, have signed on as Honorary Co-Chairs of the Women’s Leadership Network. We look forward to working with our Honorary Co-Chairs as we fight to maintain and expand women’s rights and protect the future for our children, grandchildren, and future generations.

WLN’s full line-up of Honorary Co-Chairs includes:

  • Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA)
  • Senator Diane Feinstein (D-CA)
  • Representative Susan Davis (D-CA)
  • Representative Lois Frankel (D-FL)
  • Representative Nita Lowey (D-NY)
  • Representative Jan Schakowsky (D-IL)
  • Representative Allyson Schwartz (D-PA)
  • Representative Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL)
  • Former Representative Gabrielle Giffords (D-AZ)

NJDC Launches New Women’s Leadership Network

— by David Streeter

The National Jewish Democratic Council’s Women’s Leadership Network hosted a panel discussion for its first-ever event in Washington, DC. The panel was led by Representative Susan Davis (D-CA) and former White House Communications Director Ann F. Lewis, and featured nonpartisan political analysis from The Jerusalem Post’s Hilary Krieger. Representatives Lois Frankel (D-FL), Nita Lowey (D-NY), and Jan Schakowsky (D-IL) attended the luncheon and added their voices to discussion.

Washington Jewish Week reported on the event and featured coverage of the event in its weekly email to subscribers:

Full report after the jump.

Barbara Goldberg Goldman worked tirelessly to get President Barack Obama re-elected.

There wasn’t a moment unaccounted for last summer and fall. All her energies were focused towards November and election day. When this reporter tried at times to track her down, she was either knocking on yet another door in a Northern Virginia or Maryland neighborhood or making sure that recognized Jewish leaders were writing op-eds to release to the nation’s newspapers.

Last Friday, Goldberg Goldman along with other key national Democratic Jewish women, announced in Washington, D.C., the formation of the National Jewish Democratic Council’s (NJDC) Women’s Leadership Network.

‘The Women’s Leadership Network will ultimately build on NJDC’s previous success mobilizing Jewish Americans and augment NJDC’s mission of maximizing Jewish support for Democrats. I and other Women’s Leadership Network co-founders are very excited that NJDC has a new mechanism to mobilize female Democrats, and we look forward to starting a conversation in the Jewish community.’

Last Friday’s event featured a panel discussion on the issues facing women following the 2012 election. Rep. Susan Davis (D-Ca.) and Ann F. Lewis, NJDC Chairman’s Council member and former White House communications director, spoke as Democratic leaders in the Jewish community. The Jerusalem Post’s Washington bureau chief Hilary Krieger offered nonpartisan political analysis.

‘We heard a lot about the women’s vote making a difference in the 2012 election for Democratic candidates,’ said Lewis. ‘We have the same dynamic in the Jewish community, with a significant gender gap, reflective of important issues, but too often Jewish women’s voices were left out of the debate. NJDC’s voter contact program spoke to these issues and highlighted women’s voices. The NJDC Women’s Leadership Network will build on what we learned in 2012 and ensure that Jewish women’s voices are included in the next political campaign.’

Davis said that she was honored to have been a participant in this opening event.

‘It is critical that Jewish women mobilize across the country,’ she said. ‘In order to protect the progress made under President Barack Obama and to pave the way for more policies that advance women’s rights. NJDC’s Women’s Leadership Network is a significant step that will ensure that voices of female Jewish Democrats are heard.’

Prior to Friday’s event, both Goldberg Goldman and Lewis spoke to WJW.

‘There was a lot of attention in 2012 given to the women’s vote,’ Lewis told WJW. ‘The numbers showed us that women were more likely to vote for certain issues. So there was a similar dynamic within the Jewish community. The majority of Jewish voters are women. As part of NJDC, we watch the votes on issues concerning Israel and others such as equal pay for women and women’s health.

‘We’re learning from the 2012 election,’ she continued, ‘and we’re building on what we achieved. It’s important for women’s votes to be part of the national conversation. We want to raise the visibility and advocacy of women.’

Lewis added, ‘What we know is that women like to hear from other women. When we have a debate that doesn’t have women’s voices, we lose an opportunity to reach out to our community and to make our case. Once we start hearing from women, we get a much better response. We are encouraging women to be advocates and to understand the power we have as leaders in the community.’

Goldberg Goldman said that the group’s mission is to amplify the goals of Jewish Democrat women.

‘We’ve never been shy,’ she said. ‘We’re encouraging our colleagues and our sisters and our mothers and our nieces to speak out and to get involved and engaged in an organized fashion.’

Lewis also told WJW that the fiscal health of the nation is a matter of great importance to everyone, not just to men. Other issues important to Jewish women is the securing of a strong democratic Israel living side by side with a Palestinian state.

‘There isn’t one issue that doesn’t resonate among women,’ Lewis said.

Federally funded lunch programs, the special supplemental aid program for women, infants and children known as WIC is a Jewish women’s issue.

The area of women’s reproductive freedom is a Jewish women’s issue. Violence against women, again a Jewish women’s issue. Fiscal issues are also an issue for Jewish women as well. ‘It’s clear that we will have an active group of women for forums, fly-ins to Washington and access to members of Congress. Local and regional concerns are all important to Jewish women and women of all faiths.’

‘The last election illustrated the significance of the women’s vote not only in numbers but in helping to define the issues that were critically important, and those issues critically important for women, cannot be ignored. NJDC has the leadership to bring this together,’ said Lewis.

New Leadership Program For Young Russian Jewish Families

The Klein JCC in the Northeast section of the city is partnering with the American Jewish Committee (AJC) in the development of a unique new leadership program earmarked for young Russian professional Jewish families.

More after the jump.
Once enrolled, the young professionals will participate in a special series of lectures and seminars embracing Israeli history, culture and politics, as well as local philanthropy. The leadership development program will culminate with a subsidized week-long trip to Israel to experience first hand the history, culture and people of the Jewish state.

In making the announcement, Andre Krug, president & CEO of the Klein JCC, states:

We are seeking 10 young Russian professional Jewish families between the ages of 30 and 45 years with young children to take part in this special new leadership program. This program will provide is a very rare and stimulating opportunity for all of its participants to gain a deeper and more meaningful understanding of Israel and its people.

The mission of the American Jewish Committee is to enhance the well being of Israel and the Jewish people worldwide, and to advance human rights and democratic values in the United States and around the world.

Now celebrating its 37th anniversary year, the non-profit Klein JCC provides social, educational and cultural programs, as well as vital social services for people living in Northeast Philadelphia and its surrounding communities.

Any young Russian professional Jewish families in the area who are interested in participating should contact Krug at the Klein JCC: 215-698-7300.

A Semester-Long Leadership Program For American Youth In Israel

“Jewish communities around the world are in need of young leaders who are strong in their Judaism, active in their communities and possess first-hand knowledge of Israel, both her beauty and challenges”, says Sivan Bamberger, Director of Dror Leadership High School.

Dror Leadership High School, a semester study-abroad program for North American 10th and 11th graders in Israel, is an incredible opportunity to experience all Israel has to offer. Located in the Galilee city of Karmiel, students study as a separate American class within a larger Israeli high school. Through the experiences of making long-lasting friendships with both Israeli and North American peers, volunteering in the local community and exploring Israel’s most important sites, students gain independence, responsibility and self — and social — awareness in a supervised environment.  

More details after the jump.
Bamberger remembers her experience: “as a graduate of a similar program I know there is no better way to cement a vision for the future and live the adventure of a lifetime than to spend a semester of high school in Israel. And of course, this program makes for a great college essay!”

Students at Dror Leadership High School travel throughout Jewish history, from ancient to modern times, shape their Shabbat and Jewish festive and holy days and discover how each person’s Jewish identity compares to that of their peers, while connecting Jewish practice with the Jewish homeland.

Together, students actively engage in Israel, take part in service learning and live as independent and responsible maturing young adults. All of this while continuing to excel academically according to the required curriculum of each student’s home school!

For more information, contact Sivan Bamberger or call her: 972-54-673-5372, or learn more at the Kibbutz Program Center at (212) 462-2764. Visit us on facebook or look us up online.  

What Do We Need From Our Jewish Leaders?

— By Hannah Lee

As part of a lecture series at the National Museum of American Jewish History, this past Tuesday evening was a session titled, “Challenges to American Jewish Leaders Today.” The featured panelists were Dr. Erica Brown, scholar-in-residence at the Jewish Federation of Greater Washington and winner of the esteemed Covenant Award for her work in Jewish education, and Dr. Steven Cohen, research professor of Jewish Social Policy at Hebrew Union College and director of the Berman Jewish Policy Archive at NYU.

More after the jump.
Brown started the conversation with a quote from Leon Wieseltier, literary editor of the New Republic: “American Jews are the spoiled brats of the 20th century.”  Cohen explained that viewpoint as such: American Jews are ignorant and they don’t even know it.  But he, Cohen, is not as concerned about Jewish literacy–  as defined by the ancient rabbinic texts– but chooses to define and measure Jewish engagement and identity.  Brown declared that American Jews have accomplished a tremendous amount for American culture, but less for the legacy of Judaism.  Once they are finally introduced to their Jewish legacy, they do learn to appreciate the reservoir of Jewish wisdom that is applicable and relevant to their communal roles.  Cohen countered thus: Jewish knowledge comes from being effective.  It’s not essential to know the rabbinic texts.  Furthermore, he said, Jewish knowledge also includes cooking skills.  So, would you come to a program on chicken soup? quipped Brown.  Yes, but only to taste, retorted Cohen, I cannot cook and that makes me a deficient Jew.

Turning to Israel as another indicator of Jewish identity, Brown noted with dismay that American Jews cannot have a civil discourse over issues these days.  Cohen, who’d made aliyah (emigrated to Israel) in 1992, considers  himself  a learned Jew because of his intimate knowledge of Israeli life and politics.  He outlined the two camps of Jews in America thus: one that feels an obligation of loyalty to Israel and the other that is concerned primarily with human rights.  The former is concerned that the human-rights camp undermines the security of Israel while the latter camp is worried that the Zionist hawks undermine the democratic and moral character of Israel.  (Cohen considers himself  a security-driven dove.)  Brown regards incivility as representative of American politics today, as shown in vituperous anonymous exchanges on the Internet and sometimes even in person.  Cohen was more concerned about the lack of knowledge of policies than incivility.  Later, he noted that three comparison groups- American Jews of old (early 20th century), the Orthodox, and Israelis– are all defined by strong passion.  It’s not incivil to be passionate about an issue.

In Cohen’s 2000 book, The Jew Within: Self, Family, and Community in America, he refers to “sheilaism,” a term coined by Robert Bellah and Richard Madsen in their monumental study, Habits of the Heart: Individualism and Commitment in American Life to encapsulate the egoistic adoption of ritual– Brown called it “the religion of one”– and the resultant breakdown of communal religious life.  Another term they bandied was “journeyism,” to refer to the expectations of the disaffected to be supported in their journeys of spiritual exploration.  They, and we, lose the communal and social reasons for religion.  So, how do we create community for these disaffected youth?  Cohen advocates the growing success the Jewish community has achieved in delivering personal meaning through new venues, such as minyanim and havurot.  Drawing upon semantics, he noted that observant Jews used to greet each other with chag kasher v’sameach for Pesach (Passover), but now we tell each other, “Have a meaningful fast.”  He was wowed by the inclusion of “meaningful” in the Artscroll machzor (High Holiday prayer book) that is widely accepted in the Orthodox community.    According to Cohen, we have moved from the normative system of “This is the right way to live” to an aesthetic system with an enriching culture.

A hot topic is conversion; current debates focus more on who has the right to determine who is a Jew than who is Jewish.  Brown cited Joseph Caro’s 16th century seminal work in traditional Judaism, The Shulhan Aruch, for posing the test question: Are you willing to accept the fate of the Jewish people?  If so, then the proselyte can be taught the mitzvot (commandments).  She claimed  that there is a big price to be paid for taking out the Jewish content.  Cohen said that we should welcome more converts.  He estimated that 10% of intermarried couples will have grandchildren who identify as Jews and only 50% of Gentile inter-married partners do convert.   He proposed cultivating conversionary-minded rabbis.  Brown retorted that a lack of teachers was not the obstruction but communal lack of acceptance.  She taught that the Biblical Ruth was ignored by the women of Bethlehem when she arrived there with her mother-in-law Naomi– and this was after Ruth’s dramatic and poetic declaration of faith.  Cohen agreed that prejudice against converts was morally wrong but its removal would be insufficient to increasing the incentive for conversion.  He thinks there is a sizeable cohort of non-Jews who are connected but would not convert.

Cohen then proposed the radical idea of dropping the God part of Ruth’s oath and calling for Jewish affirmation, not conversion.  Brown protested that this would unfairly narrow the definition of who is a Jew.  Cohen said that it would be gambling a loss of people choosing the cheaper, more accessible product– Birthright, for instance, instead of the more intensive and demanding six-weeks’ stay in Israel– but we’ll be compensated by a wider reach to those who would not have been tempted outright.  Brown quipped that he was offering wholesale instead of retail.  Cohen admitted  it’s a half step toward conversion.  It’s thus not a burden for rabbis and teachers, but we have not yet shown the love to motivate these non-Jewish partners for further engagement.   What is most important is inclusion, to keeping the tent opened wide.  Brown bemoaned the current culture of self-esteem and consumerism, in which our youth do not see themselves as stakeholders, but treat Judaism as “fee for service.”  They will attend High Holiday services but they would not pay dues, which cover the rabbi’s salary and the utility bills.

Regarding Jewish leaders under the age of 40, Cohen noted a major shift from people to purpose, from belonging to judging everything–  family, institutions, Israel–  according to our interests and passions.  

What does it mean to be a Jewish leader nowadays?  Without minimizing Jewish literacy, Cohen extorted us to also recognize other forms of Jewish knowledge.  More than the rabbinic texts, there is an additional corpus of knowledge not recognized by our Biblical scholars and seminarians, but is represented within the gallery space of the new National Museum of American Jewish History. That is also Jewish content, Jewish knowledge.