This is the fifth profile in a series highlighting the work Jewish Organizing Fellows and alumni are doing to fight for justice.
Pen Bruskin, current Fellow:
Pen Bruskin came to the Jewish Organizing Fellowship program after working for 2 years as an AmeriCorps*VISTA member with the Department of Public Instruction in Wisconsin where he organized in libraries to make job/education and community resources more accessible and locally-run.
Pen moved on from organizing in this capacity to working with Keshet as a community organizer because he wanted to focus his work more on gender justice within the Jewish community. Pen describes gender justice as a social movement that advocates for a broader understanding of sex and gender that moves beyond identity politics and gender dichotomies.
With Keshet, Pen is organizing the Jewish GLBT community to create more space for Jewish and social events, doing GLBT trainings in Jewish spaces, and working with the Interfaith Coalition for Transgender Equality to pass statewide legislation for transgender civil rights.
“Before doing the Fellowship, I really enjoyed working as an organizer outside of my Jewish and queer communities, but my fellowship really opened up an incredibly valuable opportunity for me to organize within communities that have always been so important, yet inaccessible for me as a genderqueer and trans Jew.
Throughout college, I spent a lot of time creating and engaging in queer spaces that felt welcoming and inclusive to me. But when it came time to celebrate Hanukkah or the liberation struggle at Pesach, I had no community with which to share these practices, rituals, and cultural identity. This was because I never felt welcomed as a queer person into the Jewish spaces that existed in my community. This is something I had always struggled to balance – was there even space in my Jewish community to bring my whole queer and trans self?
With Keshet, I have not only found this active and engaged community, but the organization is also always working to create more spaces with Jewish community and Jewish practice for GLBT and queer people and ideas. In addition to all this, doing this work allows me to engage with my Jewish and queer identities in ways I’ve never been able to engage with before.”
Through the Fellowship’s trainings on storytelling, holding tension, and exploring Jewish texts for social justice and queer elements, Pen has been able to incorporate his Jewish exploration and identity into the organizing he is doing for GLBT community and gender justice.
Pen Bruskin is fighting for gender justice. What will you fight for? Join the conversation at facebook.com/jewishorganizer or on Twitter @jewishorganizer #whatwillufight4