If you’re curious about how the Tzedek Social Justice Fellowship got it’s start, this article highlights the early days. First published by the Jewish Funders Network and then cross posted in eJewish Philanthropy in October 2015, the article describes the program, then called the Tzedek Social Justice Residency, as it was from it’s inception in 2012.
When Jennifer Langton was hired as the first full-time employee of the Amy Mandel and Katina Rodis Fund (The Fund), she didn’t know how she’d use all of her work time. “They weren’t sure there would be 40 hours of work.” Jennifer said. “Now we have another part-time employee, almost full time.”
Now, half of Jennifer’s time is spent building relationships with grantee organizations and managing the grant-making activities of The Fund.
The program that evolved to fill Langton’s time (and now also the time of her colleague, Nancy Asch) is now known as the Tzedek Social Justice Residency, a civil rights leadership development program in Asheville, North Carolina based on Jewish values and committed to empowering the LGBT community, and other marginalized communities. Each year, the Residency selects young adults to do meaningful, full-time work in Asheville within a local nonprofit organization. Residents are also mentored and trained on issues at the intersection of race, class, gender, sexuality, faith traditions, and ethnicity.
Curriculum for Residents
The program began with just two self-identified straight Jewish individuals who were committed advocates. Now looking forward to its fourth year, the Residency has tripled in participants. In 2016 there will be six Tzedek Residents working with a variety of nonprofits and academic institutions, and participating in an educational curriculum, administered by Langton and Asch, to learn more about acting as effective advocates. Residents are also encouraged to attend as many conferences and convenings as possible to expand the scope of their knowledge and experience. All residents are required to attend the annual Creating Change Conference, now in its 28th year and welcoming 4,000 extremely diverse participants. The year-long curriculum includes workshops on various aspects of nonprofit work provided by the Duke Nonprofit Management Program and the local Community Foundation of Western North Carolina. All residents must also participate in their local Toastmasters club to gain practice in public speaking.
The curriculum is ever-evolving and includes training by local community experts, trainers, and facilitators in addition to Jennifer and Nancy. Residents also participate together in a personal growth group to help them further develop their emotional intelligence. They develop an understanding of the many types of personalities, including their own, and how interacting personalities effect social justice work throughout their careers.
The LGBT Rights Movement and the Tzedek Social Justice Residency
Speaking with Amy Mandel and Katina Rodis, principals of the Fund that bears their names, we learned a great deal about the history of the modern LGBT rights movement. Mandel and Rodis stress that their work is part of a broader struggle for justice, and despite focusing much of their work on their home state of North Carolina, their commitment to making positive change on the global, national, and local scale keeps their lens open to a larger picture.
The Tzedek Social Justice Residency expresses the deep commitment of the Foundation to the values of repairing the world (tikkun olam), equitable giving (tzedakah), and leadership (hanhagah). The Mandel family also has a longstanding tradition of supporting leadership development, and the Residency is a clear extension of that tradition. The program is based in Jewish values and incorporates the learning of these values with local Jewish leaders and rabbis, but it is not exclusively Jewish, and accepts young adults from all backgrounds who are interested in effecting change around civil and human rights in the United States, and beyond. “We want to graduate people who know how to be leaders of, or allies to, all marginalized communities,” says Rodis. “Jews and gentiles learning with and from each other can be a powerful force against antisemitism,” Langton adds.
Mandel and Rodis believe that philanthropists can continue to effect change in LGBT issues by engaging in meaningful conversations about values. The Obergefell v. Hodges victory at SCOTUS was the result of a national change in the hearts and minds of the public, informed by the basic values LGBT advocates invoked as they sought access to their basic human rights. Moving forward, the Amy Mandel and the Katina Rodis Fund aims to support more conversations that will lead to a broader set of rights for all minorities, including the LGBT community.
Mandel and Rodis see the marriage ruling as the just “the tip of the iceberg.” They will continue to advocate for the resolution of more and deeper LGBTQ issues such as poverty, LGBTQ safety and rights in rural communities, employment security, and treatment in the criminal justice system to name a just a few.
To read the entire article, Spotlight: The Amy Mandel & Katina Rodis Fund, visit eJewish Philanthropy’s October 14, 2015 issue.