Justice justice, thou shalt pursue (Deut 16:20) – or at least, that’s how the folks at Pursue see things. Founded in 2006 as a partnership between two powerhouse Jewish service/social justice organizations, AJWS and AVODAH, the newly named Pursue has evolved into an online and on-the-ground initiative for young (20s-30s) Jewish change-makers.
Their programming – everything from founding a social justice book club and the popular Inside the Activist’s Studio series, to co-sponsoring innovative events like Love, Hate & the Jewish State – works to invigorate a new generation of Jewish leaders engaged in creating a more just world.
Pursue’s new blog, PursueAction is the online home for the conversations around Jewish life and social change. Over the next several months, Repair the World will feature a series of “Pursue profiles,” interviews with active Pursue participants who are doing world-repairing work. To get things started, here’s an interview with Nathaniel Berman, an inspiring young professional and committed volunteer.
Tell us what you’re doing right now.
I’m an attorney working at the U.S. Department of Labor. I’m also a Jeremiah Fellow, one of a cohort of 16 socially conscious Jewish individuals in the D.C. area who are in a nine-month course developing organizing skills, storytelling skills, and learning about affordable housing and immigration issues.
How did you first become involved with Pursue?
My connection to Pursue goes back to when I did the AJWS Volunteer Summer program a number of years ago. It was incredible. It really opened my eyes to what one person can do and expanded my view of the power of the Jewish community to make change. I moved to D.C. about three and a half years ago, after law school, and I was always looking for Jewish groups to volunteer with and to make a difference with. I also got involved with Jews United for Justice (JUFJ), the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society (HIAS), and the Anti-Defamation League (ADL).
Pursue often works with JUFJ and HIAS in D.C. Have you seen them interact in interesting ways?
Oh, absolutely, especially in an activity like Inside the Activists’ Studio that has happened for the last couple of years, introducing us to local Jewish activists, having small group discussions about organizing and activism. Working in coalition is a tremendous thing and I think that’s something that Pursue does very well. Working with other groups that are similarly inclined and passionate about this work just amplifies what a positive impact all these groups can make together.
There is such an overlap and unity in the Jewish social justice community in D.C. that just helps me come back for more. I see the same faces and hear about the next steps for a campaign over and over again, and I think that helps drive the point home that the community is very strong, mobilized, and unified. There is a network to work within and bounce around in. All these groups are playing some part in this work together in addition to talking about their own organizations’ missions.
What does Pursue mean to you?
I just think it’s a great group of people overall, some of the strongest people that I’ve ever met who are really involved, aware, and committed. There hasn’t been a single person whom I haven’t wanted to engage in conversation. The network’s just been expanding and expanding as far as I can see since I’ve been here over the last three and a half years.
I’m a government employee and that’s how I chose to express myself with public service, but it does leave me enough time in the evenings and on the weekends to help out–to either show up at a rally, go to community meetings, or just get more involved and informed in general. And if I see that there’s a Pursue event happening on a Sunday afternoon or a Thursday evening, to hear a community activist or members of different boards around town speak about their experiences and their organizations, I go. I’m glad to be where I am, having my public service day job and also having time to expand that in my free time.