Here at the Jewish Organizing Initiative, we are very proud of our newest class of JOI Fellows. With 13 Fellows, it is our largest class ever, hailing from all over the country and all over the spectrum on a number of levels: Jewish practice, class, age, race, gender and sexual identity. The diversity within this class echoes the diversity of the communities in which they will work this year as part of their Fellowship, developing leaders that will take action and make change. These pictures were all taken by Maglen Kaiser at their orientation retreat. As part of orientation, they participated in a voter registration drive with the MIRA Coalition and registered over 70 new citizens to vote!
A native of Madison, Wisconsin, Liz Aeschlimann recently graduated from Carleton College with a degree in Cognitive Science. She has been involved in human rights education and advocacy in rural Thailand and Eastern Kentucky, and spent last summer compiling profiles of Kentuckians creating a more diverse, sustainable economy. Liz will be working with United Interfaith Action in New Bedford and Fall River.
Pen Bruskin joins the 2010-2011 JOI Fellowship class working at Keshet, a grassroots organization that works towards the creation of a fully inclusive Jewish community for LGBT Jews in Boston and nationwide. After graduating from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, Pen spent two years working as an AmeriCorps*VISTA member with The Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction in Milwaukee, WI and Madison, WI. Throughout the past five years, Pen has been involved in various LGBT organizing efforts in Madison, WI, including efforts to build gender-queer visibility and accountable spaces.
Although Sam Geller was born in Boston, he’s grown up and lived in the Bay Area of California for the past 22 years with brief stops in Mexico, Israel and Maine. As an undergraduate at Bates College, Sam served as a Tutor for America Reads and the Social Action Coordinator for Bates College Hillel. In addition to tutoring and activism, he has also worked with developmentally disabled youth while working during the summer for the Inclusion Program in his hometown of Berkeley, California. After graduating from college with a BA in American Cultural Studies in 2009, Sam moved to Boston to begin working as an AmeriCorps VISTA for Chelsea Neighborhood Developers in their Community Engagement Department. His organizing work in Chelsea was focused on building communtiy ownership through social events, civic engagement and leadership development. Sam is excited to take what he’s learned as an organizer into a more politically focused capacity with MassVOTE this year as a JOI Fellow. Outside of community organizing he enjoys trail running, biking, lacrosse and Boston’s Mexican restaurants.
Originally from Silver Spring, Maryland, Aliza Levine attended the University of Chicago where she studied anthropology and political science. There, she was actively involved in student solidarity with campus workers, a campaign for the University to divest from Sudan, and a group she founded to address disparities in the school’s sexual assault policy. After graduating in June 2009, Aliza organized a food security initiative in rural South Africa and then returned to Chicago to work as a paralegal at a public interest law firm. Aliza is thrilled to be joining the North Shore Labor Council and JOI this fall.
Michal Micner is from Vancouver, BC and graduated from Middlebury College in 2010 where she studied Political Science. While at Middlebury and during her summers, Michal was involved in Israeli-Palestinian peace building, working in the summer of 2008 with the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions (ICAHD) to advocate against house demolitions in East Jerusalem; with J Street in Washington in the summer of 2009; and started a chapter of J Street U at Middlebury College the following year. While studying abroad in India her junior year, Michal conducted research about and became involved in civil society peace building between India and Pakistan. The JOI Fellowship is her first formal organizing experience, and she will be working with Massachusetts Early Childhood Educators United (MECEU), an organizing working to create a non-traditional union of early childhood educators.
Nina Mukherji is an experienced organizer and advocate around environmental and social justice issues. A native of Brooklyn, New York, she went to Carleton College in Minnesota, where she got her B.A. in philosophy and then to the University of Wisconsin in Madison, for an M.S. in conservation biology and sustainable development. In Wisconsin, she worked with the cities of Madison and Milwaukee to create zoning and policy language to promote urban agriculture. Since 2009, Nina has worked with Boston Park Advocates, bringing together open space advocates to share resources and improve open space policy in Boston. This year she will also be working with Boston Mobilization’s Sub/Urban Justice program as a youth organizer.
Liora O’Donnell Goldensher is delighted to return to the eastern half of the state after a four-year stint in Northampton as a student at Smith College, studying Sociology and the Study of Women and Gender and organizing around queer, food justice and labor solidarity campaigns. As New Bedford/Fall River organizer with Massachusetts Early Childhood Educators United, Liora will work on a campaign to form a non-traditional union of early childhood educators.
Leora Perkins, from Needham, Ma, graduated from Brandeis in 2009 with majors in Women & Gender Studies and Economics. A true Brandeisian, she had not only two majors, but also two minors as well– Hebrew and Near Eastern & Judaic Studies. Last year, she studied Jewish texts at the Conservative Yeshiva in Jerusalem. This year, Leora is working at Gann Academy, her high school alma mater, in their Jewish and Student Life Office. Leora enjoys swimming, crocheting, swing and salsa dancing, and baking.
Originally from Newton, Michal Shapiro currently lives in Jamaica Plain. Michal moved here in 2004 when she graduated from Bowdoin College (Spanish and Latin American Studies double major). Upon graduating, she worked at Facing History and Ourselves’ national office in Brookline, MA for 2 years as the National and International Program Assistant. In 2006, she moved to Valpariaso, Chile (where she studied abroad during college) and taught English. After 1.5 years Michal moved back to JP and took a position as Program Coordinator of the AmeriCorps Urban Youth Leadership Corps at Boston Centers for Youth & Families for two years. The cohort comprised of young adults between the ages of 17-24. Their mission was to teach violence prevention and conflict resolution skills to 7-12 year olds at BCYF community centers.
This year, Michal will working as the Program Director of the National Collegiate Volunteers, a nonprofit based at Brandeis, Tufts and Tulane University.
David Schwartz is a Boston native who’ll be working this year with the Real Food Challenge, a national student organizing project working to get universities to invest in a fair food system. As a student himself, David worked at Brown to start a campus garden project, a grassroots food distribution scheme, and reform campus food purchasing policies. Also passionate about immigrants rights and fair labor issues, David hopes to use his JOI year to spread the food justice movement to youth across the nation.
Eliza Sparkes grew up in western Massachusetts and moved to Boston to pursue her undergraduate degree at Simmons College. She interned and then eventually worked as an immigration paralegal and community organizer at Centro Presente, a Latin-American immigrant rights organization. While at Centro Presente she became an active member of the Committee in Solidarity with the People of El Salvador. After leaving Centro, Eliza worked as a case manager with Section 8 housing assistance recipients. In 2008 Eliza decided that her passion was not social services and returned to the organizing world, at the Service Employees Internation Union Local 615, who represent property service workers Massachusetts and Rhode Island. Eliza has been with SEIU prior to joining JOI, and she is looking forward to her role as a fellow growing her capacity as an organizer.
Holly Stein’s JOI placement will be at SEIU Local 509. The past four years Holly was working as the High School Program Director for Project Morry a not-for-profit youth development organization. She’s had varied experience in community work, program planning and not-for-profit management. Holly was born and raised in Westchester, New York and holds a B.F.A from Arizona State University.
Adam Steinberg is a native New Yorker, with a B.S. in Development Sociology from Cornell University. During his undergraduate education, he became involved with social justice issues regarding international rural development. Mainly in the role of researcher and educator, he witnessed the effects of development on international immigration while interning with the Cornell Farmworker Program, and worked with a syndicate of artisan fisherman while studying abroad in rural Chile. After college, he served a year as an AmeriCorps volunteer in Washington State, working with at-risk youth and pursuing forms of community development in a rural county. This will be his first year working on urban issues as a JOI fellow with North Shore CDC.