Repair the World’s blog is focusing on building a movement this month. We’re delving into why build movements at all? How do you do it? And what does it feel like when you’ve succeeded?
To tackle these questions, we reached out to some of our favorite world-changing organizations to ask them to share powerful moments from the movement-building work they do – meaning, times when they realized their work was contributing to something much larger. Their thoughtful, inspiring responses might just, ahem, move you.
Rabbi Rachel Kahn Troster, T’ruah
In March, 2013, I went with my older daughter to join the Coalition of Immokalee Workers for a few days of a two week march for farmworker rights. T’ruah and I had been partnering with the CIW for two years at this point, bringing delegations of #tomatorabbis to Immokalee to meet the CIW and go home and organize. I had a sense that there was a bigger fair food nation out there, but I had never seen it in action. On the March, I saw everyone coming together: people of all ages, from all over the country. Students, clergy, people of faith, hippie farmers, everyone. I was overcome with awe at the grassroots power–filled with determination and joy–that CIW had built, and tremendous privilege to be the Jewish voice in the mix. We are part of something historic. Onwards!
Phil Aroneanu 350.org
One major “a-ha” moment for me was at an action 350.org helped organize called Turn the Tide. We’d been doing a lot of work with labor unions, community groups and environmental justice organizations around Hurricane Sandy and making sure communities in NYC were recovering from the storm and preparing for future climate disasters. I knew it was a diverse crew, but when the action actually took place, it blew me away that so many different kinds of people from so many different backgrounds were there, from union carpenters to nurses to racial justice leaders, and it made me realize that the climate movement was actually a lot larger and more diverse than I’d previously thought.
Cassie Peña, Jewish Farm School
Every year Jewish Farm School runs programs with Hillel and Repair the World to send college students to urban agricultural projects in New Orleans and Baltimore, and every year at our educator training retreat I hear stories of students, educators and farmers being inspired, awed and excited by how much Judaism has to say about the land and living in it. I work behind the scenes, where my daily work is largely disconnected from the populations we serve; it’s really at this moment, through the excitement of our educators, that I understand that our work does make an impact and inspires those we teach and work with.
Esther Gottesman, Edible Schoolyard NYC
Our students learn that nothing exists in a vacuum; every meal, every food wrapper, and every drink of water is connected to everything else and taking care of our bodies and our planet means getting educated about our choices and their impacts. I can see that this is working everyday in a million ways, but one particular “a-ha moment” is a lesson about our “garden community” that we did with our 1st grade students a few weeks ago. In the lesson students play a game to understand the ways in which everything, from the roly poly to the apple tree has an important job that is connected to everything else’s important job. At the end of the lesson, my co-teacher and I ask the students “And what is our job in our garden community?” The students, usually barely able to contain their excitement at having an answer, say things like “We are the gardeners! We help everything grow.” I work at one school with 600 students and that can sometimes feel small-time in the face of a looming broken food system. But I know that if my co-workers and I can impart an attitude of environmental responsibility to our students then that will have huge impacts on our food future.
Adina Mermelstein Konikoff, AJWS
AJWS has engaged rabbis in our work since 2004. Through immersive experiences with activists and leaders in the developing world and through advocacy for policy change, we have trained rabbis to be leading voices in ending poverty and promoting human rights for women, girls, LGBT people and other marginalized groups. Last week, in less than five days, AJWS mobilized 500 rabbis to sign a letter urging the president of Uganda not to sign the Anti-Homosexuality Bill, a hate-filled piece of legislation that, if passed, would criminalize same-sex relationships and put LGBT Ugandans in prison for life. Some of these rabbis joined with AJWS activists in five cities to personally deliver this letter to Ugandan embassies and key decision-makers. More than ever before, the level of engagement, both online and on the ground, and the urgency with which these rabbis acted, represented a turning point in our work to mobilize the American Jewish community to speak up for the dignity and human rights of all people, not just those in our own community.