Sometimes we realize the world is not perfect, but we do not know how to fix it. Recently, I actually got some training on how to start. I am lucky enough that I get to go on training seminars and conventions from time to time, in order to refresh my practice and give me new perspectives. In June, I had the privilege of attending the national training of the Industrial Areas Foundation. It’s a national group which trains people to be Community Organizers and Nevadans for the Common Good, of which we are a member. This often misunderstood term, Community Organizer, is the name given to a person who makes relationships with other people in order to gain more power and act on issues they and others care about.
For example, I was with a very diverse group of people from Connecticut to Florida to Maryland to Texas to London, U.K. and they all had their own stories of Community Organizing. One Catholic Priest was arrested when he filmed the police beating two of his congregants. He worked with others in his community to take the officers to task. A women in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, worked with fellow inhabitants to ensure the city was not broken in two, thereby separating and isolating rich and poor neighborhoods. A third person, a woman in Baltimore, Maryland, had had enough of her Community Association neglecting her neighborhood so she, along with other locals, created a new Community Association which directly met the needs of her and her neighbors.
All of them were equally impressed when I told them about the work we had done in Nevada, fighting human trafficking and helping public education. What a week. To be surrounded by people who not only cared about their local communities but were also prepared to act on it! The list of victories that had been won around the whole country was truly amazing. Even more than that, these groups train people to be leaders and effective leaders at that, finding talented people and helping them achieve their dreams in order to make as many neighborhoods the best that they can be. Lastly, they help folks to realize that while there are plenty of good politicians out there, we need regular people like you and me to be involved in the democratic process to hold them accountable. Nothing could be more Jewish than being proactive in fixing the world.
If you want to find out more about the training I did, how it might impact the congregation and how you can get involved, come and find me at Temple and I can tell you more.
Rabbi Malcolm Cohen