JFREJ to Receive “Living Traditions Award”

The NYC-based organization will be honored at Stony Point Center’s Farm-to-Table Gala on September 10th for carrying on the living Jewish tradition of fighting for economic sustainability and racial justice into a new generation.
The Community of Living Traditions at Stony Point Center is pleased to announce that our fourth annual Living Traditions Award will be presented to Jews for Racial & Economic Justice (JFREJ). For more than 25 years, JFREJ has advanced systemic changes that result in concrete improvements in people’s everyday lives, with special attention to building the leadership of Jewish elders, Jews of Color, Mizrahi and Sephardic Jews, and poor and working-class Jews. In this work, they are inspired by the living Jewish tradition of fighting for a sustainable world with an equitable distribution of economic and cultural resources, and political power.

The Living Traditions Award was established in 2014 to honor the work of an individual or group that exemplifies the values of the Community of Living Traditions: justice, peacemaking, earth-consciousness and radical hospitality.

JFREJ was founded in 199JFREJ10 based on the belief that Jews have a vital role to play in this the movements for economic justice. “JFREJ’s work is very exciting to us because it builds on over a century of Jewish involvement in immigrant rights and workers’ organizing efforts in the greater NYC region,” said Joyce Bressler, a member of the Jewish Cohort of the Community of Living Traditions. “Lots of folks don’t really know about this history, but it was really integral in shaping the progressive movement in this country, and we are grateful that JFREJ is carrying this living tradition forward.”

“At JFREJ, we understand that the movement to dismantle racism and economic exploitation will be led by those most directly targeted by oppression,” said JFREJ Executive Director Audrey Sasson. “We work to center, at all levels of the organization, the leadership of Jews most directly targeted by injustice through investing deeply in base-building and leadership development to empower directly targeted communities for the sake of our broader struggles for justice.”

In the last few years, JFREJ has led the multifaith community in grounded solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement, rooted in the leadership of Jews of Color and drawing from the power of Jewish spiritual practices to speak into the current moment. The future JFREJ hopes for depends on Jews forging deep and lasting ties with its partners in struggle. In long-term partnership with organizations representing NYC’s most marginalized communities, JFREJ has helped win union contracts and back pay for low-wage workers, countered the rising tide of Islamophobia, and secured legislative and popular support for police reform.
What started as a small and defiant group of progressive Jewish New Yorkers has grown into a strong and effective organization with a member base of over 2,000 and over 200 in leadership on campaigns and committees. The organization consistently turns out hundreds of members for mobilizations on issues ranging from affordable housing and police reform to long-term care and aging justice. In the process, JFREJ is cultivating and nurturing the growth of a robust, inter-generational, multi-racial, multi-ethnic, and cross-class community of Jews in cultural celebration, political education, and targeted leadership development, fostering a Jewish identity with justice at its core.

The Community of Living Traditions will present the 4th annual Living Traditions Award on September 10, 2017 at the Farm-to-Table Gala, a harvest festival and fundraiser to support the continued development of Stony Point Center as fertile ground for organizing in the areas of social and economic justice, peacemaking, earth-care, and radical hospitality. As recipient of this award, Jews for Racial & Economic Justice will receive $1000 to support their continued work towards a more just and sustainable economy, as well as a voucher for complimentary day use of Stony Point Center’s conference facilities.

Stony Point Center is a national conference center of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) in Rockland County, that offers affordable accommodations and a welcoming environment for activists and visionaries of all stripes to convene, discern, learn and plan. The campus is also home to an intentional multifaith community called the Community of Living Traditions, which strives to put in practice the legacy of hospitality and strategic nonviolence that exists within each of the Abrahamic faith traditions.

For more information about Jews for Racial & Economic Justice, visit jfrej.org

For more information or to purchase tickets to the Farm-to-Table Gala, please visit stonypointcenter.org/gala

All photos courtesy of JFREJ.

ALEPH leaves its mark on SPC

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Another guest group has joined the SPC/CLT family! Starting with a connection through CLT Jewish Cohort member Kathy Orchen, and bolstered by our dear friends Rabbi Arthur Waskow and Rabbi Phyllis Berman, the Alliance for Jewish Renewal or “ALEPH” chose to hold two weeks of programming at Stony Point Center this summer: the first called Smicha Week; and the second, Ruach Ha'Aretz (meaning “Spirit of the Earth”). For the SPC campus community, these gatherings created a frame for a wonderful connection.

To prepare for ALEPH’s visit, we undertook for the first time the process of "kashering" - making the kitchen kosher by following the Jewish dietary laws. ALEPH extended the opportunity for CLT members and Summer Institute students to participate in several of their class sessions, as well as in the chanting and Shabbat ceremonies. The space was literally bursting with the colors and creativity of ALEPH’s sacred art and liturgical decorations, which SPC staff worked hard to help arrange, and to which every person on campus was blessed to treat their eyes. Finally, artist and Ruach Ha’Aretz staff member Sandy Pond (pictured) donated her time to paint a series of decorative murals on each of the lodges, depicting the trees for which they are named: Maple, Beech, Walnut, Magnolia.

Kashering our kitchen was a major undertaking, which was both challenging and galvanizing fo the community. Our Food Service Manager, Donna Costa, learned all she could about the requirements of kashering the kitchen and the religious reasoning behind the rules. Our community and staff supported the effort by agreeing to adhere to the strict policy around food and participating in only a dairy kosher kitchen serving vegetarian fare and fish during their time here. Many staff members joined in the massive effort to clean all surfaces and items in our kitchen under the direction of Rabbis Victor Gross and Channah Leslie.

The project was born out of necessity: Kashering the kitchen was a must-have for ALEPH because of the duration of their event, the size of the group and the exclusive contract. “For years we thought we could never really pull off kashering our kitchen,” said Costa. “But thanks to an amazing team effort across all departments, including the CLT community, we tested our limits and succeeded!”

“The amount of energy people put into it truly touched me,” said DeDe Adika, a member of the Jewish Cohort of the Community of Living Traditions. “A Presbyterian conference center with a kashered kitchen… it’s really a small miracle!”

ALEPH’s leadership and participants were so grateful for the project and the gesture it represented. Rabbi Victor Gross, who supervised the process said: “From the moment we asked about kashering the kitchen, the Stony Point Center’s commitment to and capacity for radical hospitality became fully visible. The Stony Point staff and community embraced our needs with such grace and willingness, engendering trust in the outcome. From the doing to maintaining to understanding, the Stony Point community and ALEPH/Ruach Ha’Aretz efforts were exemplary.”

ALEPH has also extended special energy to give something back to SPC as an indicator of the meaningfulness of their time here. Artist and Ruach Ha’Aretz staff member Sandy Pond reached out to SPC Co-Director Kitty Ufford-Chase to ask if there was some way the group could participate in an art project that would ‘leave a mark’ on our campus. After some conversation, they settled on a small mural painted on the front of each of our guest lodges, depicting leaves and blossoms that represent the name of each lodge: Maple, Beech, Walnut, Magnolia. “Not only are these little bursts of color just beautiful,” said Ufford-Chase, “but they will assist guests in finding the lodge they are assigned to. I shared with Sandy how deeply moved I am by the talent, skill and love she poured into the murals.”

“The exchange of energy that has flowed through these projects has impacted our lives and our campus in ways that will bear fruit for years to come.” said General Manager Paula Sandusky. “Managing a complex event where 200 people come and go over a two week period and classes are held in nearly a dozen meeting spaces has its logistical challenges for sure! My experience with ALEPH’s leadership and participants reminds me that trust in relationships empowers us to overcome obstacles, understand and allow for differences, and open up to the possibility of deeper sharing. Our campus, staff and resident volunteers are changed by each guest group, and we are especially grateful to ALEPH/Ruach Ha’Aretz for the ways in which they have impacted us with the compassion they bring to the world.”