Ezra Berkley Nepon‘s Justice, Justice Shall You Pursue: A History of New Jewish Agenda is published by Thread Makes Blanket Press and distributed by AK Press. The book includes a history expanded from this website and two afterwords pieces: an essay by historian Rachel Mattson reflecting on why this history is so crucial, and an essay by JFREJ board member Daniel Lang/Levitsky reflecting on current Jewish activism in relation to NJA’s history. The book and poster feature original cover art by Abigail Miller.
Save the Date and Spread the Word!
From Clare Kinberg, Larry Bush, Gordie Fellman, and Martha Kransdorf:
An NJA reunion is in the works! A brief survey sent out to about 100 folks in March confirmed a real interest in getting together. After 30 some odd years, it’s time to look back at what we did and what’s become of us, our families, friends, comrades, and organizations.
[Editing to cut proposed date: new date TBA!]. That’s a year away. If you don’t think you can get to Brandeis that weekend, please save the date anyway. We are hopeful that people who can’t attend in person can do so virtually.
We envision gathering a planning committee, with some key people in the Boston area to take over logistics from Gordie now that he’s gotten the ball rolling. Do you have ideas for discussions, exhibits, or activities for a New Jewish Agenda reunion? If you would like to join our ad hoc planning group, let us know. Best way to help right now: SPREAD THE WORD to any people you think may be interested in a New Jewish Agenda reunion, including people who weren’t members then, but are doing related activism now.
Check out this first blog post from activist and oral historian Aliza Becker, who founded the American Jewish Peace Archive a year ago in order to document stories and lessons from activism of the 1960s through 2000s – including New Jewish Agenda members. Becker also created an online Peace Movement History Overview (1969-2012), a great resource that profiles 13 organizations: (in alphabetical order) Ameinu, Americans for Peace Now (APN), Breira, Brit Tzedek v’Shalom (BTvS), Committee on New Alternatives in the Middle East (CONAME), Israel Policy Forum (IPF), J Street, New Jewish Agenda (NJA), Partners for Progressive Israel (PPI), Project Nishma, Shalom Network, and Tikkun.
January 11, 2015 6PM
This event is part of JVP Philly’s ongoing reading group on Israel/Palestine and Jewish/radical politics. RSVP to firstname.lastname@example.org for address.
A story from the history of New Jewish Agenda, inspired by http://chanukahaction.org/
On the last night of Hanukah 1984 (also Christmas Day), New Jewish Agenda sponsored protests outside South African consulates in five U.S. cities, which received international press attention. In New York, four protesters were arrested in an NJA demonstration outside the South African Consulate. In Washington DC, three hundred members of New Jewish Agenda and a number of more mainstream organizations came to the consulate to protest. In a press statement, NJA explained: “This effort will permit Christian supporters of the Free South Africa movement the opportunity to spend the day with family and friends while sending the South African government the clear message that the struggle against their racist, apartheid policies will not cease even for a single day.”
In 1985, New Jewish Agenda published a groundbreaking pamphlet: “Coming Out, Coming Home: Lesbian and Gay Jews and the Jewish Community” — worth a read (or a re-read) during this year’s LGBT Pride month!
DISMANTLE: AN ANTHOLOGY OF WRITING FROM THE VONA/ VOICES WRITERS WORKSHOP
VONA was founded by Elmaz Abinader, Junot Díaz, Victor Díaz and Diem Jones in 1999 at the University of San Francisco, and now makes its home at the University of California at Berkeley for a week-long summer session and the University of Miami, for a 3 day January intensive. The VONA/Voices workshops are dedicated to nurturing writers of color.
The first ever VONA/Voices anthology, Dismantle, includes creative work from established and new authors who have either taught at VONA, or are alumni of the program. Over 55 prose and poetry writers are included in an attempt to capture the range of VONA voices. Keeping with the community spirit of VONA, work from Pulitzer Prize and National Book Award winners is next to work from authors who have never been published before.
Order from: http://www.akpress.org/dismantle.html
A condensed version of Junot Díaz’s introduction to Dismantlewas published on the New Yorker blog – check it out! http://www.newyorker.com/online/blogs/books/2014/04/mfa-vs-poc.html
Thread Makes Blanket is a small press that embarks on collaborations with artists and authors to produce works of substance and beauty. With a wealth of collective knowledge and effort supporting the press, Thread Makes Blanket comes out of community.
Great new review just out in the Spring/Summer 2013 issue (#13) of Make/Shift magazine. Justice, Justice… is reviewed along with Mary Patten’s Revolution as an Eternal Dream: the Exemplary Failure of the Madame Binh Graphics Collective (from Justseeds Artist Cooperative).
“[Both books are] singular gifts, full of little-known moments in the recent history of collective struggle and insights relevant for current fights for justice, dignity, and liberation…[The books] succeed in showing collective action, however flawed and complicated, as a viable alternative to the world we live in, and serve as valuable case studies for organizers and activists grappling with questions of effectiveness and solidarity in present-day movement work.”
The Autumn 2012 Issue of Jewish Currents, a progressive secular magazine, is out and features a great interview with Ezra Berkley Nepon by activist Ben Lorber. UPDATE: the article is now up online – check it out! A great in-depth conversation about the book and NJA’s relevance for today’s progressive Jews.
Ben Lorber: This summer you took your book on tour. What was it like to see former New Jewish Agenda activists and the next generation of Jewish radicals reflecting together on the past, present and future of progressive Jewish organizing in America?
Ezra Berkley Nepon: It was spectacular. For the most part we would have a great group of NJA veterans and a room full of younger activists. Sometimes there were also people who came from the same generation of Agenda activists but hadn’t been part of the organization, so there was more than one dynamic — but there was consistently this exchange happening between Agenda activists and a younger generation, which was very interesting and moving to witness.
In the book, I focused on the organization at the national level, because I was trying to give an abbreviated version of a very long and complex history. The book tour events gave us all a chance to learn the juicy local organizing stories. People shared what on-the-ground organizing for Agenda looked like, with specific details about local issues and the flavor of each community.
BL: In your introduction to Justice, Justice Shall You Pursue, you write that in 2003 you were reading “all the Jewish feminist writing I could get my hands on, and references to NJA kept showing up,” which led you to be “curious about this organization that so many profound movement builders, writers and thinkers had been part of.” But when you went “looking for a book or good long article to learn more,” you found “a strange lack of record.” How do you explain this amnesia that the present Jewish progressive movement displays towards its past?
We’re very happy to announce that Jewish Voice for Peace will use Justice, Justice for a reading/discussion group at their upcoming Northeast Regional Leadership Development Institute. Ezra will attend the institute to lead a conversation about the book. Thanks, JVP – can’t wait to dig in together!