Thank You Judy and Frank
You are not obligated to complete the work, but neither are you free to desist from it.
Rabbi Tarfon, Pirkei Avot 2:21
Carolina Jews for Justice’s founders Judy Leavitt and Frank Goldsmith have shepherded the organization from its humble beginnings in 2013 to the robust state organization it is now. We are enormously grateful to them for their vision and leadership, as they have worked tirelessly to establish a Jewish grassroots network working towards a just, fair, and compassionate North Carolina. As they step back from their leadership now and transition to new revised roles, they share their wisdom about CJJ.
Judy: CJJ was my first time working with other Jews to engage in social justice work outside of a temple group. It has been an opportunity to use Jewish teachings to work across Jewish denominations and focus on local and state social justice issues. It has been a chance to be engaged with Jews and non-Jews, to put into action the teachings of Judaism. The commitment feeds my soul.
CJJ provides creative opportunities to work in community with others who are committed to the same goals. I love the challenges that it provides because it’s always done with caring, respect and honesty, and there are not a lot of places in our world where we can be challenged and grow together. CJJ has offered that for me.
I also love the intergenerational aspect of the organization. I’m usually the oldest one in the room, but through CJJ, I have been able to work with younger people. Many of us at this point in our lives don’t get the opportunity outside of our families, to be involved with younger, smarter, and creative folks. I’ve been challenged and taught by them. And it’s enabled me to understand what the world is like from their perspective. So many issues, from gender identification to equity in organizational management have allowed me to grow and be supportive to their perspectives. I doubt I could have had such opportunities otherwise.
Lastly, CJJ has enabled me to learn about and work with different communities. Whether they are Black or brown communities, immigrants, Muslims or other marginalized and oppressed folks, I have been able to participate and share in the beauty of those communities and find ways in which I can be supportive. It’s pushed me out of my comfort zone to understand their struggles and hopefully be a true ally.
Frank: CJJ also satisfies my soul. It offers me the opportunity to combine my love for Judaism with my passion for social justice in a way that no other community can match.
Unlike others of my colleagues, CJJ has not been my primary connection to Judaism. I cherish our tradition; I find value in our ancient mode of searching for the transcendent, the idea that there is meaning in life beyond its mere enjoyment. I experience that connection when I stand reading from the Torah scroll, or daven, or study a text.
My commitment to pursuing justice is even older than my commitment to Judaism. I have fought for social justice since the 1960s and devoted my professional life to pursuing justice as a civil rights lawyer.
To my delight, CJJ has allowed me to blend the two. Where else can I give expression to that Jewish voice for justice inside me that seeks to find new expression? I am grateful beyond measure to be a part of this organization, learning so much from our staff, board colleagues, and companions in the struggle.
CJJ is unique. There is no other statewide Jewish voice for such a broad spectrum of social justice. We are the Jews who will speak up for justice. But simply speaking up is not enough. CJJ must be an effective voice, making a difference in people’s lives, causing changes in state and local policies. Effectiveness is not easy. But this organization is strong, and I know the way will be found.