We are inspired by the desire to make the world a better place for all, but may have difficulty determining how to proceed. This is true whether it is our first steps on an issue, or the next step in our engagement with it. There is so much we can do to help those in need, but before we can act, we need to be educated. Thus, the WRJ Education to Action (E2A) Advocacy Committee was formed to help us in our advocacy journey. You can get ideas from WRJ’s key advocacy issues from our website: https://wrj.org/advocacy-giving/advocacy-social-justice. There are WRJ resolutions, alerts and statements, and advocacy and action guides that include background information, relevant Jewish teachings, and education, action and advocacy ideas. Even older material can point you in the right direction for action today. You do not need to be Wonder Woman and tackle everything all at once, and you can do some things on your own and others together with a WRJ sisterhood, your congregation or in your community.
You have an hour and want to get started? Educate.
Do you know who your local, state and national representatives are? You can research online to find out. Put their names and phone numbers in your phone. Then you’ll be ready to contact them quickly when the need arises. Research your representatives' voting records. Know where they stand on the issues important to you. Already have this information? Share this information with others. Seek out experts or established groups in your area that advocate for your issue. We all know more can be done together.
Consider dedicating the hour to research. Start with an issue you are passionate about such as diversity, immigration, education, healthcare or pick an issue you don’t know much about. Learn what others in your community are doing to address the issue. Sign up for newsletters and/or blogs or follow social media groups dedicated to the cause. Create a folder to store the information you receive so you’ll have materials ready to read the next time you have a free hour to focus on advocacy.
Get ready to act. You may want to find a webinar or community event to attend when you have another free hour to focus on advocacy. Join a campaign to write, text, call, fax or post on social media about your issue.
Spend an hour doing self-reflection. Think about your own personal biases or about issues you don’t know much about. Be open minded and challenge your preconceived ideas. Think about how you can improve your listening skills, and ultimately become a better advocate.
In follow-up, keep educating and encouraging others to help advance the issue. Share the interesting ideas you learned through your research or invite others to join you at a webinar or event you found online. Find out what others are passionate about, and what skills they may have to offer. For example, during our Sisterhood Schmooze Event to promote our activities to prospective members, we discovered women with amazing skills; one is a grant writer, one runs a food pantry, and another makes things from recycled bags. Engagement is a two-way street. Keep the discussions going and you will see the results of your efforts. Ongoing discussions both in person and online with friends are a nice way to turn plans to action.
Whether you are new to advocacy work or have been an advocate for years, there is always more to learn, and much more to do. As you gather resources, you’ll be more prepared to help and act when the need arises. WRJ has taken a stand on a variety of issues since 1915, elevating and amplifying the voices of women. We can make an impact, especially when we work together to tackle issues that are important to us individually and collectively.
Dana Spiel is from Temple Emanuel in Tempe AZ and currently serves as WRJ Pacific District Yes Fund Chair. Beth Levin is from Congregation Schaarai Zedek in Tampa FL, where she serves as the VP of Membership. Beth and Dana are members of the WRJ North American Board and serve on the WRJ E2A Committee.
E2A (Education to Acton) is the Board Committee of the WRJ Advocacy Portfolio, leading our collective Advocacy work and supporting the Advocacy efforts of our members, sisterhoods and districts. Please join our Advocacy Yammer Page for regular updates as well as Education, Action and Advocacy information and opportunities from across North America. You can subscribe to our Advocacy Matters eNewsletter, and the WRJ Weekly Digest frequently includes WRJ Advocacy updates as well.