By rabbi Leah Jorda
If you’re American like me, your knowledge of ‘community organising’ is something like ‘that sexy thing Barack Obama did on the streets of Chicago before he went into politics’.
If you’re British, your associations may cluster more around trade union organising. The UK Jewish community’s work (specifically the Masorti, Reform and Liberal Movements) with Citizens UK, the organisation which calls itself the home of community organising in the UK, is perhaps the most exciting endeavour we have succeeded in doing cross-communally.
Community organising aims to create meaningful, sustainable change in our society.
In Citizens’ own words, “Community organising is based on the principle that when people work together they have the power to change their neighbourhoods, cities and ultimately the country for the better.
“We work with people who want to transform the world from what it is to what they believe it should be. To do this, we listen to our members, asking them about their concerns and developing strategies to improve our communities. We ensure that civil society is at the negotiating table alongside the market and state.”
Along with three other rabbis (Danny Rich, chief executive of Liberal Judaism, and Charley Baginsky and David Mitchell, congregational rabbis at Kingston Liberal Synagogue and West London Synagogue), I just returned from a six-day training course in community organising with Citizens. Our synagogues and communities have worked with Citizens for over a year.
Take one example – six congregations across the Liberal Movement organised to support increasing the UK’s intake of refugee families from 750 to 1,500. Kingston Liberal Synagogue along with other local faith communities built a sukkah in the middle of Kingston town centre to symbolise the fragility of shelter in our world.
They invited the council leader and requested that Kingston should house more refugees and the communities would all play their part in helping settle them. The request was accepted. • Rabbi Leah Jordan is a student and young adult chaplain of Liberal Judaism
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