The Avodah Blog

Advocacy? YES

By Allison Wessells

This is my last week of work as the online organizer at Jews United For Justice (JUFJ), which organizes Jews to take action in local action in the Greater Washington region. My work includes writing the JUFJ eblast: a weekly newsletter featuring updates from each of the campaigns and the organization itself – including the news of my departure (and soon, a warm welcome to the new AVODAHnik: Melanie Kesner).

Alli (at right) with her JUFJ colleagues.
Alli (at right) with her JUFJ colleagues.

To sum up my time with JUFJ and AVODAH, here are 10 reasons why I’m going to keep engaging in advocacy work:

1. Montgomery County, Maryland, passed one of the nation’s strongest paid sick days legislation last month. It passed unanimously because council-members knew the community wanted a bill that covered every single person that works in Montgomery County (over 97,000 workers).

2. My fellow AVODAH corps members who work in healthcare placements have patients who benefit from strong paid sick days laws, because it gives them the time they need to attend to their health, without worrying about missing a paycheck. However, Paid Sick Days policies are not nationally recognized (yet).

3. In May, the day before the 2016 Washington, DC budget was finalized, JUFJ learned about a line of proposed text re-allocating $9 million dollars from a fund for affordable housing. With just hours to spare, we used email and social media to push members of our community (including AVODAH alums and corps members!) to call DC Council and urge that money remain where it is—and it worked.

4. My fellow AVODAH corps members, who work in housing placements have clients that benefit from policies funding affordable housing, especially in Washington DC where rent is through the roof. Everyone benefits from affordable housing.

5. Our base in Baltimore held a Social Justice Labor Seder where a coalition fighting the construction of the toxic Curtis Bay Incinerator spoke to everyone about the need to stop the construction. At the end of our seder, 120 or so participants wrote letters urging different corporations not to buy energy from the incinerator because of how much it would destroy Curtis Bay, an already polluted low-income neighborhood. Almost two weeks after our solidarity action, Baltimore’s mayor announced that the incinerator project would be shut down. Now, there are families who can breathe a little bit easier.

6. We also held a Labor Seder in DC, where Black leaders and activists spoke about the need for racial justice, because (as Emma Lazarus and Dr. Martin Luther King said): “None of us is free until all of us are free.”

7. Right now, JUFJ is working on a Paid Family and Medical Leave insurance act for DC, a policy that stands to benefit everyone (and countless more) served by my fellow AVODAH corps members.

8. In addition to Paid Family Leave, JUFJ has other ongoing campaign work and actions, which reminds me that while I’ve seen many accomplishments this year, there is more to do.

9. Doing an action, however short, is more productive than posting a Facebook status complaining about the problem.

10. I started this AVODAH year the same week as parshat Shoftim. It seems fitting to end it with a verse from that parsha that informs my work in a nutshell: “Justice, justice, shall you pursue” (Deut. 16:20).

Allison Wessells is from Las Vegas, Nevada, attended Smith College, and is an Online Organizer at Jews United for Justice.

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