Meet Carmen Perez #AmplifyVoices

Carmen Perez

Carmen Perez has been an activist nearly her entire life.  After the death of her 19 year-old sister when she was just 17, Carmen began to restore herself by dedicating her life to transforming the lives of young people. After graduating from UC Santa Cruz with a degree in Psychology in 2001, Carmen was dedicated to the pursuit of advocating for young men and women, and providing comprehensive leadership training and opportunities for individuals in and out of the criminal justice system.

Her work in Santa Cruz became well-known in the community and across the country.  Carmen is the founder of the youth leadership group R.E.A.L. (Reforming Education, Advocating for Leadership) and Co-Founder of The Girls Task Force, which is dedicated to improving gender-specific services to better support all girls in our communities.  She created and supported the “Youth Summit” concept where young people came together to discuss solutions on serious topics such as drug and alcohol reform, detention alternatives, gangs, and violence. Recommendations that came out of the group discussion were often presented and adopted by community and state-wide policy makers throughout California

In 2002, Carmen went to work for Barrios Unidos in Santa Cruz – an organization dedicated to providing non-violence training and re-entry services for the incarcerated, and establishing an Institute for peace and community development in Santa Cruz and across the country.   In 2005, while working for Barrios Unidos, Carmen met the man who would influence the next decade of her life – Harry Belafonte.  Mr. Belafonte was forming The Gathering for Justice, and was organizing huge masses of marginalized communities in non-violent settings across the country – and he invited Carmen to be a part of it.  Through her work at Barrios Unidos, and a member of The Gathering, Carmen served both organizations while continuing to build her own programs focused on young girls and youth justice.  In 2006, Carmen went to work for the Santa Cruz County Probation Department as a bilingual Probation Officer. With an all-female intensive caseload, Carmen worked tirelessly to provide appropriate programs and re-entry services for young women in the juvenile justice system.

In 2008 Carmen became the National Organizer of The Gathering for Justice and in 2010 she was promoted to Executive Director of the organizer.  As Executive Director of The Gathering, Carmen has crossed the globe promoting peace, interconnectedness, and alternatives to incarceration and violence while collaborating in national policy presentations.   In 2011, after moving her base of operations to New York, Carmen was tapped to help develop Purple Gold, a young worker’ s program that engages and cultivates the membership of 1199SEIU’s 35-and-under members, while setting the future for the Labor Movement. For two years she directed Purple Gold’s operations and program development across the boroughs of New York City.

Carmen has been featured on several TV programs and in numerous articles, and is the 2008 recipient of United Way’s “Community Hero Award,” and Santa Cruz County Women’s Commission “Trailblazer’s Award in Criminal Justice.”  She was presented a Certificate of Special Congressional Recognition for Outstanding and Invaluable Service to the Community, and received the “Zaragoza Award” from the Committee for the Mexican Culture at D.V.I. Prison in Tracy, for her contribution and dedication to bringing hope to incarcerated men.  In May of 2014, she had the opportunity to share her life’s work and delivered her 1st TEDx Talk inside Ironwood State Prison hosted by Richard Branson and produced by Scott Budnick. She has recently been accepted into the Women’s Media Center Progressive Women’s Voices Class of 2014.

Carmen Perez2

We connected Carmen Perez with Rabbi Jill Jacobs, in a conversation about criminal justice, faith, and taking action.

Follow @rabbijilljacobs@msladyjustice1 on Twitter to learn more about these stellar leaders, and look out for the powerful #AmplifyVoices interview between Jill and Carmen coming tomorrow!

In the #AmplifyVoices campaign, we are pairing leaders in the Jewish community in conversation with activists for racial and social justice to further discussions on equality and social good, and to invite our audience to take action through volunteerism. Learn more >>

Meet Rabbi Jill Jacobs #AmplifyVoices

Rabbi Jill Jacobs

Meet Rabbi Jill Jacobs.

Rabbi Jill Jacobs is the Executive Director of T’ruah: The Rabbinic Call for Human Rights, which mobilizes 1,800 rabbis and cantors and tens of thousands of American Jews to protect human rights in North America and Israel. She is the author of Where Justice Dwells: A Hands-On Guide to Doing Social Justice in Your Jewish Community (Jewish Lights, 2011) and There Shall Be No Needy: Pursuing Social Justice through Jewish Law and Tradition (Jewish Lights, 2009).

Widely regarded as a leading voice on Jewish social justice, she regularly lectures at synagogues, Jewish community centers, and conferences and has written about Jewish perspectives on social justice and human rights for more than two dozen publications.

Rabbi Jacobs has been named three times to the Forward’s list of 50 influential American Jews, to Newsweek’s list of the 50 Most Influential Rabbis in America every year since 2009, and to the Jerusalem Post’s 2013 list of “Women to Watch.” She holds rabbinic ordination and an MA in Talmud from the Jewish Theological Seminary, an MS in Urban Affairs from Hunter College, and a BA from Columbia University. She lives in New York with her husband, Guy Austrian, and their daughters Lior and Dvir.

We connected Rabbi Jill with social activist Carmen Perez, in a conversation about criminal justice, faith, and taking action.

We’ll meet Carmen on our blog tomorrow, so stay tuned.

Follow @rabbijilljacobs@msladyjustice1 on Twitter to learn more about these stellar leaders, and look out for the powerful #AmplifyVoices interview between Jill and Carmen coming this Friday!

In the #AmplifyVoices campaign, we are pairing leaders in the Jewish community in conversation with activists for racial and social justice to further discussions on equality and social good, and to invite our audience to take action through volunteerism. Learn more >>

Tu Bishvat Across America (Find an Event Near You)

New Year’s Eve has come and gone which means it’s time for 2016’s first Jewish holiday: Tu Bishvat! Commonly called the holiday for the trees (or Jewish Arbor Day), Tu Bishvat is an ancient holiday that has evolved and changed throughout the centuries into a celebration of tikkun olam (repairing the world), connecting to the environment, eating seasonal and ancient biblical fruits, and having fun at seder celebrations.

Over the last decade, celebrating Tu Bishvat has moved from the fringe to the mainstream. There are lots of great opportunities and events to honor Tu Bishvat around the country. Whether you’re a synagogue goer or more of a nature lover (or both), find one near you and plug in!

New York City (with Repair the World!): On January 24, join Repair the World and Kolot Chayeinu for a mystical Tu Bishvat seder experience. Meet our awesome NYC Fellows, sing, sample a delicious variety of fruits and nuts, and get hooked into the interconnectedness of all things.

New York City: If you are looking for something truly unique this Tu Bishvat, head to the 92Y’s Enchanted Rainforest Tu Bishvat Dinner on January 22. This earth friendly dinner includes lots of locally sourced fruits and veggies and tropical sounds to highlight some great singing.

New York City: Love great music? Celebrate the holiday of the trees on January 25 at the Manhattan JCC with a concert featuring some of the city’s most compelling artists.

Chicago: On January 26, head to the Chicago Botanical Garden for a family freindly Tu Bishvat celebration. Plant a seedling, enjoy a special Tu Bishvat book reading, and explore the trees in the greenhouse.

Philadelphia: The City of Brotherly Love’s own Morris Arboretum is celebrating Tu Bishvat. From January 24-31, student groups can take part in an interactive tree education program. They’ll even get to take home a birch tree seedling.

Washington DC: The DC JCC is hosting multiple Tu Bishvat events this year – a family seder on January 25 and a brunch on the 31st that’s equal parts earth-friendly and entertaining.

Berkeley: Urban Adamah’s “divine sensory” seder (featuring farm crafted libations and a six course local, kosher menu) is sold out for the year. But check it out online because it looks amazing – and mark your calendar to get tickets early next year!

San Diego: On January 24 the Leichtag Foundation will host the Food Forest Festival, an all-day celebration featuring tree planting and a live concert.

Seattle: Have a little person in your life? On January 21 take them to The Seattle Public Library for a special Tu Bishvat story time co-sponsored by PJ Library.

Redwoods, California Join Wildnerness Torah on January 24 for an experiential and totally natural Tu Bishvat seder in the Redwood forest. Where better to celebrate than amongst the trees?

DIY / Anywhere: Don’t see an event in your area? Make one yourself! The awesome Jewish sustainability organization, Hazon put together a great collection of resources on their website to help you plan your own amazing Tu Bishvat seder.

Meet Mike de la Rocha #AmplifyVoices

Our first #AmplifyVoices interview is here!

Meet Mike de la Rocha.

Mike de la Rocha is a renowned musician, writer and speaker in the fields of criminal justice, spirituality and self-development. With more than 15 years experience advancing public policy and empowering community stakeholders,Mike has facilitated strategic coalition-building efforts, drafted groundbreaking legislation and implemented innovative youth development programs nationally and internationally. Mike is a featured artist for Rock the Vote and has presented lectures and performed at various high profile events including Clinton Global Initiative University, TEDx, Chicago Ideas Week, and other events in Mexico, France, Germany, Ireland, South Africa, the United Kingdom and Canada.

Through this #AmplifyVoices interview by David Katznelson, learn more about Mike and the power of using music for social change.

Questions by David Katznelson
Responses by Mike de la Rocha

DK: What is it about music that, in your mind, is a primal force for cultural/social/political evolution? What is an example of one of the greatest pieces of music that has triggered change?

MDLR: Growing up music was my vehicle to learn about love, life and the world around me. It was bands and musicians like U2, Public Enemy and John Lennon who helped me better understand who I was through sharing stories of resiliency, struggle and courage. It was their lyrics and determination to create a different world that inspired me to become an artist committed to using my music for social awareness and social good. As a child growing up in Ventura, CA punk bands like Fugazi and Minor Threat made me feel as if I wasn’t alone and that I was a part of a community bigger than myself. It was the music of Lauryn Hill and Jeff Buckley who made me feel comfortable sharing my own stories of love and loss. And it was in those moments of listening to their vulnerability that I really experienced the transcendent and healing power of music and art.

For me, one of the biggest examples of an artist using his or her platform to bring about social change can be found in the music and life of both Nina Simone and Bob Marley who literally brought millions of people, neighborhoods and countries together through their lyrics, life and music. They personified for me, on a very human and basic level, the way that I could utilize my music to educate people about the historical struggles of people of color while at the same time really using love as the driving force behind my music and my message.

DK: How do you balance creating art for art’s sake and creating art as a change agent, with that idea that art needs to affect people in a more visceral way before the meaning can be unlocked?

MDLR: Music and song are central to social movements for change and transformation. Historically, artists have always helped me — and I would argue helped the broader public — think differently about identity, about culture and about our individual and collective ability to change the world.
I personally believe that some of the most impactful artists have simply been courageous enough to share their own stories and in turn have been able to speak to the lived experiences of so many of us. Whether that be a story about growing up feeling isolated or a story about the realities of life in a war-torn country, music has always been a universal language to help us see ourselves and our shared connection to each other. That’s why to me, music and song are central to our ability to recognize, embrace and transcend our differences. In the realm of song we are brought together by common experiences and reminded of the words of Subcomandante Marcos, one of the many leaders of the Zapatista Movement, who said that “We are the same because we are in fact different.”

DK: How has the internet, and other new modes of music consumption changed/enhanced the work you do? What would your advice be to up-and-comers on how to maximize effectiveness with the new platforms out there (e.g. Twitter, Facebook, etc.)?

MDLR: Today’s technology has allowed anybody to have direct access with people worldwide. Before, you needed big marketing budgets and a huge label, but today you can literally utilize Facebook or Twitter to get your music out there. I think that this direct access has benefited independent artists and that it’s now incumbent upon us to create great art and to hustle in getting our music out.
Stories are central to humanity and technology has made art even more accessible than ever before. Therefore, I’m hopeful in the future of music and the ability for artists to have a broader platform to share their message and music with the world. I would simply encourage others to keep speaking their truth, to be authentically themselves and to keep pushing to get your music out there.

DK: Can you let us in on a big goal that you have with your work? A goal you are working on, a goal that you have not yet achieved?

MDLR: In terms of goals, I want to continue using my art as a vehicle to have people see different perspectives and to learn about various issues that may or may not impact them directly.
I’m currently working nonstop on building Revolve Impact, a social impact firm that I founded last year, to become one of the leading companies working to utilize art and culture as a way to end mass incarceration and create safer and healthier communities worldwide.

DK: What was your favorite record of 2015? Does it tie into your work?

MDLR: My favorite album of 2015 was Kendrick Lamar’s “To Pimp a Butterfly.” But I would be remiss not to mention that 2015 was also the most difficult and memorable year of my life with the loss of my father and the starting my own company. It was a year of huge highs with the launch of John Legend’s  #FREEAMERICA campaign to a year of extreme lows where I was forced to re-examine everything. And again, like in so many moments of my life before, it was music that helped me get through it all. It was the music of James Bay’s “Let It Go” to Jack Johnson’s “Adrift,” to Death Cab for Cutie’s “Transatlanticism” to listening to the big banda music of Banda El Recodo that helped me grow and heal in 2015.


In the #AmplifyVoices campaign, we are pairing leaders in the Jewish community in conversation with activists for racial and social justice to further discussions on equality and social good, and to invite our audience to take action through volunteerism.

Meet David Katznelson #AmplifyVoices

David Katznelson

Meet David Katznelson.

David Katznelson is a Grammy-nominated music producer and a director at the Jewish Community Federation. He spent a decade at Warner Brothers and another operating Birdman Records, focusing a big part on the San Francisco underground music scene and reissue projects. He co-founded the San Francisco Appreciation Society as well as the Idelsohn Society.

We connected David with the amazing Mike De La Rocha (@mrmikedelarocha), in a conversation about social change and the power of music.

Learn more about David on his Twitter @oakiedog, and look out for the powerful #AmplifyVoices interview between David and Mike tomorrow!

In the #AmplifyVoices campaign, we are pairing leaders in the Jewish community in conversation with activists for racial and social justice to further discussions on equality and social good, and to invite our audience to take action through volunteerism. Learn more >>


This January, Repair the World is asking you to join us in our #AmplifyVoices campaign to Act for Racial Justice.

In this campaign, we are pairing leaders in the Jewish community in conversation with activists for racial justice to further the discussion on racial equality and invite our audience to take action through volunteerism.

Our interviewers have each come up with 5 questions to ask our interviewees, to inspire service and to become active participants in creating solutions for issues we face today.

We hope to #AmplifyVoices loud enough to incite action, and open hearts and minds.

Join the conversation at:

We’re hoping to stir a healthy conversation around social justice and your voice is important.

The first #AmplifyVoices interviews are here! Click through the list below to learn more about these outstanding leaders and activists.

David Katznelson & Mike de la Rocha

Meet Rabbi Jill Jacobs

Meet Carmen Perez

Jill Jacobs & Carmen Perez: The #AmplifyVoices Interview