Kibitznik’s Choice: Jews For Racial and Economic Justice
by Alyssa Goldstein
Last week I told you all about the Boston Workmen’s Circle, but this week’s Jewish organization is great for those of you in New York. Jews for Racial and Economic Justice has numerous worthy campaigns to combat Islamophobia, work for affordable housing, and fight for justice for domestic workers. They press prominent Jewish figures and Jewish community organizations to lend their support to these struggles.
JFREJ has worked for almost a decade on Shalom Bayit: the Justice for Domestic Workers campaign. Partnered with Domestic Workers United, they fought for the creation of a Domestic Workers’ Bill of Rights, which passed in 2010. JFREJ notes that their “work organizing synagogues, rabbis, Jewish legislators, employers, and Jewish community organizations was instrumental in this landmark victory,” which sets a precedent for the legal recognition of domestic workers’ rights in the rest of the country.
However, JFREJ did not stop organizing after this victory. They also founded the Employers for Justice network, made up of employers of domestic workers “who have made concrete improvements in their employment practices and taken action in support of domestic workers’ rights.” The leaders of this organization in turn founded Hand in Hand: The Domestic Employers Association, “a national organization invested in supporting domestic employers to build positive working relationships with the domestic workers who they employ and improving the living and working conditions of domestic workers across the industry.” JFREJ and DWU’s creative efforts to organize the oft-exploited workforce of domestic workers was recently profiled in The Nation.
JFREJ also works to ensure affordable housing and fight gentrification through the Right to the City Alliance. They organize to “stop the loss of hundreds of thousands of affordable housing units from rent-regulated to market-prices, and require that new development projects do not pass without the creation of more affordable housing.” In the past three years they have focused specifically on the Lower East Side, so that the neighborhood can be a “an affordable home to immigrants, low-income folks and communities of color.”
Though other organizations might say “dayeinu!” after so much activism and organizing, JFREJ doesn’t stop here. They also worked with Jewish Voice for Peace and Jews Say No! to form the Jews Against Islamophobia Coalition, in response to the opposition to the Park 51/Cordoba House mosque and community center. The JAIC called on the Simon Weisenthal Museum of Tolerance to speak out against the anti-Muslim bigotry that pervaded debates over Park 51. They also work against the NYPD’s surveillance of Muslim students, as well as all of the NYPD’s abuses of power.