Reflection on a dozen years of organizing as a progressive voice among Jews, a Jewish voice among progressives.
From conference organizer Clare Kinberg:
New Jewish Agenda was founded in 1980—the year Ronald Reagan was elected and American conservatism moved from the fringes to the mainstream. The organization lasted just 12 years, but it was a bridge for its members: a bridge from the Jews and activists we were in the 50s, 60s and 70s to the Jews and activists we are today.
We have yet to set aside real time to reflect, with each other, on the experience we gained, and the experiences we had and created for others. NJA was a grand experiment in national, grassroots, democratic, multi-issue progressive Jewish organizing that has not been replicated, and to be clear, the organizers of this reunion are not seeking to revive NJA or start something new. We do feel that the plethora of new Jewish progressive organizations that are active today, in 2015, are built on NJA’s bones, yet often unconsciously. We want to create, with this NJA reunion, opportunities for younger activists to learn from our experience, and for us all to explore what our experiences in NJA can bring to the present moment. Read More »
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.
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.”
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.
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.
“[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.”