The 2024-2025 Eisendrath Legislative Assistant Fellowship Focuses on Racial Equity, Diversity, Inclusion, and Belonging

February 2, 2024Yolanda Savage-Narva and Jacob Greenblatt

For more than six decades, the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism (RAC) has worked to educate, inspire, and mobilize the Reform Jewish Movement to advocate for social justice both within our Jewish community and outside of it. Key to that work are the emerging leaders of the Eisendrath Legislative Assistant Fellowship, a year-long fellowship for recent college graduates and individuals with equivalent academic and/or professional experience who care deeply about Judaism, social justice, and public policy.

Each legislative assistant takes on a portfolio of policy issues, steering the Reform Movement's advocacy on key issues of the day. Legislative assistants (LAs) are responsible for monitoring legislation, executive actions, and Supreme Court cases; representing Reform Movement partners to Congress, the White House, and coalitions; and acting as the voice of the Reform Movement's nearly 850 congregations, 2,000 rabbis, and more than 1.8 million Reform Jews. Legislative assistants also train and empower the next generation of Reform Movement leaders through L'Taken Social Justice Seminars, lead our communications and digital organizing efforts, assist with community organizing in our nine state-based affiliates and Movement-wide campaigns, and partner with the Commission on Social Action to develop policy resolutions that guide our work.

The LAs are at the heart of every aspect of the Reform Movement's social justice work, and we recognize the program's power to introduce LAs to influential leaders, communities, and networks, setting them on a path for future success. Throughout the Reform Movement, the LAs are known as a talented and innovative cohort, often seen as Jewish communities' future lay and institutional leaders. The range of experiences and relationships formed during the fellowship pave the way for graduate school and future careers in Jewish professional life, politics, advocacy, law, and many other fields.

But for many years, the Eisendrath Legislative Assistant Fellowship has not fully reflected the diversity of the Reform Movement and wider Jewish community. In 2015, the Union for Reform Judaism began its focus on racial equity, diversity, and inclusion through the efforts of Audacious Hospitality - ongoing work to address oppression both internally and externally and to better embrace our Movement's diversity. This work is part of a larger, continuous effort to identify and examine our practices, policies, budget, and daily actions through the lens of racial equity, diversity, inclusion, and belonging (REDI Communities of Belonging).

In early 2021, recognizing that one of our primary goals was to recruit and sustain a diverse staff, we were proud to announce a two-year partnership with the Jews of Color Initiative (JOCI), which is dedicated to the professional and communal advancement of Jews of Color. Through this partnership, we were able to better prioritize equitable recruitment practices and hired two Legislative Assistants of Color for the 2021-2023 legislative assistant cohort supported by JOCI funding. The partnership with JOCI also inspired us to provide culturally responsive professional development, mentorship from Leaders of Color, and an additional and a more equitable cost-of-living stipend. We are grateful to JOCI for their generous financial support and remain committed to investing in and engaging with applicants from underrepresented and marginalized backgrounds.

Recognizing that these fellows and other Employees of Color work in a primarily white-dominated organization, we also require REDI training for all staff to help create a safer environment and learn how to affirm a wide range of identities, including Employees of Color. Trainings occur at all levels of our organizations (including the executive team, management, camps, and staff from all departments). The training is mandatory during the first three months of employment for new staff. Trainings focus on privilege, access to power, and the common microaggressions and racism that Jews of Color, trans folks, people with disabilities, and other underrepresented groups experience in our communities. We recognize the importance of creating a fellowship experience that is equitable and affirming so that our Movement's diverse voices and contributions can be better recognized and honored.

Amid today's divided climate, our commitment to racial equity, diversity, and inclusion is more important than ever. Affirming the diversity of the Jewish people is one of our greatest strengths, and we must work to disrupt years of oppression inside and outside of our communities. As we strive to build a world in which Judaism enables all people to experience peace and wholeness (shalom), justice and equity (tzedek), and belonging and joy (shayachut and simcha), we are committed to ensuring the Eisendrath Legislative Assistant Program fully represents the broad and essential diversity of our Reform Movement and the entire Jewish community. This includes People of Color, people with disabilities, people coming from lower socioeconomic backgrounds, members of the LGBTQ+ community, and those who live at the intersection of these and other marginalized identities. No specific academic or Jewish background is required to be a legislative assistant.

Over the past year and a half, we have made several changes to make the application process more inclusive and accessible. These changes are designed to improve equity and reduce barriers for applicants who may not be affiliated with the Reform Movement or other Jewish institutions, and who have historically been made invisible or experienced discrimination in organized Jewish spaces. The salary has also been raised to reflect an increased cost of living and more closely align with peer organizations.

Applications for the 2024-2025 Eisendrath Legislative Assistant Program are open through March 3, 2024. Visit our LA page to learn more and apply.

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