In this guest post, Sarah Rosenthal writes about her experiences volunteering for Jews for Racial and Economic Justice.
When I got involved in Jews For Racial and Economic Justice (JFREJ), I already had a strong identity as a feminist, progressive, observant and (occasionally) radical Jew. I was participating in AVODAH, the Jewish Service Corps, after 13 years of Jewish education and additional four years active in my college’s Hillel where I’d been the social justice chair. To say I was firmly ensconced in the progressive Jewish community was a bit of an understatement. Yet despite the amazing work I was doing at AVODAH (direct service as a paralegal dealing with elder issues) and the full-scale immersion in the Jewish nonprofit world in New York, I still felt that something was missing. As much as I talked about advocacy work, grassroots organizing, and systemic change, I was still only helping a one client and problem at a time, and I kept seeing the same issues repeating themselves.
At the ripe old age of 24, I was becoming cynical. I felt frustrated with the Jewish progressive movement, including the kind of issues it was willing to tackle and the scope of its work. But more than the institutional bounds, I was frustrated by myself. I had been imposing limits on the kind of work I thought I could do.