Who is JFREJ?
Mission | To pursue racial and economic justice in New York City by advancing systemic changes that result in concrete improvements in peoples daily lives. We engage individual Jews, key Jewish institutions, and key Jewish community leaders in the fight for racial and economic justice in partnership with Jewish and allied people of color, low-income and immigrant communities.
Jews for Racial & Economic Justice (JFREJ) was founded in 1990 to address the increase in racial and ethnic tension and economic disparity within our city. In the past 20 years, JFREJ has become a vital resource inside the Jewish community and a sought-after source of support for a diverse array of community-based organizations in New York City. Our consistent, active participation in local social justice struggles and citywide coalitions has resulted in growing interest in JFREJ as an ally. We have provided a progressive Jewish voice on issues when conservative voices too often seem to speak for the entire community.
JFREJ is a member-based, diverse, feminist, explicitly anti-racist, and strongly LGBT-affirming community of progressive Jews. JFREJ’s membership is a cross-section of the diversity that is Jewish New York. This diversity is JFREJ’s greatest strength. The JFREJ community includes over 1,200 active dues-paying members, more than 4,500 subscribers to our email list, and more than 12,000 people in our database. As a membership-based organization, JFREJ members engage in every level of our decision-making. Members choose our campaigns, set our goals, determine our strategies and execute and evaluate our work.
Marjorie Dove Kent (Executive Director) comes to Jews for Racial and Economic Justice with nine years of experience in issue-based, identity-based, and neighborhood-based organizing. She has worked as an organizer for the Massachusetts Affordable Housing Alliance, for the Boston Workman’s Circle, and as a neighborhood organizer in St. Louis. Marjorie has also organized a coalition of Boston Jews to support the construction of a mosque in the city, worked with the Massachusetts Immigrant and Refugee Advocacy Coalition to build a diverse support base for the DREAM Act, and led a year-long secular Havurah on Zionist and Palestinian Nationalist histories. She is a graduate of the Hebrew College Me’ah Program in Jewish Learning, the Jewish Organizing Initiative Fellowship, and the Jewish Social Justice Workers learning circle. Contact at firstname.lastname@example.org
Rachel McCullough (Community Organizer, Shalom Bayit: Justice for Domestic Workers Campaign) has been a member leader with the Shalom Bayit campaign and an ally to Domestic Workers United since 2008. Originally from Brooklyn, Rachel has been working and organizing in struggles for immigrant and workers' rights, youth empowerment, and LGBTQ and gender justice in Los Angeles and New York since 2004. She graduated from Scripps College in 2008 with a degree in History and later interned for one year as a Know-Your-Rights trainer with domestic worker organizations in Lima and Cusco, Peru. She is thrilled to join the staff of a transformative organization and to pursue implementation and enforcement of the hard-won Domestic Workers Bill of Rights. When she's not learning how to build power at the grassroots level, Rachel likes to sing classical music, play accordion, and eat pizza. Contact at email@example.com
Carolyn Klaasen (Administrative Coordinator) moved to New York City in August after living and working for two years in the Community of Living Traditions, a multifaith residential community dedicated to nonviolence and activism. In addition to working for JFREJ, Carolyn works to change the world by organizing with Young, Jewish and Proud, the young adult wing of Jewish Voice for Peace. Carolyn graduated from Davidson College in 2009 with a degree in Religion, and is currently pursuing a Master's Degree in Bible from Union Theological Seminary. Her other favorite activities include baking challah and occupying Wall Street. Contact at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Join the JFREJ Staff! Click here for open staff positions and internships.
Board of Directors
Sarra Alpert is the NYC Program Director at AVODAH: The Jewish Service Corps and is an AVODAH alum as well. She also teaches social justice education for the Foundation for Jewish Camp Cornerstone Fellowship. Previously, she taught in the Expository Writing Program at NYU and worked as an educator in the Kolot Chayeinu Learning Program. She enjoys Shabbat dinners, reading on the subway, and walking around New York, and she is very happy to be joining the JFREJ leadership team.
Shira Eve Epstein began her work with JFREJ when she distributed leaflets about labor rights outside of an Upper West Side store in 2002. Then, after serving on the Shalom Bayit campaign, she joined the JFREJ board of directors in 2008 where her key commitment is to monitor board development. Professionally, she is an assistant professor at the City College of New York (CUNY) in the Department of Secondary Education. Her research agenda focuses on citizenship education and what happens when adolescents and teachers work together to advocate for social change during the school day.
Melissa Extein is the associate director of grants for knowledge management at American Jewish World Service. She also provides independent consulting to social justice and non-profit organizations, teaches as part of the leadership faculty of the Aresty Institute of Executive Education's Executive Development Program at The Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania, and is core group member of the food-justice focused Brooklyn Bridge CSA. Melissa holds a Psy.D. in Organizational Psychology from the Graduate School of Applied and Professional Psychology at Rutgers University.
Daniel Rosza Lang/Levitsky is a puppeteer, designer and occasional rabble-rouser based in Brooklyn. Third-generation radical; second-generation queer. Active in JFREJ since 1999, since 2003 as part of the core Purimshpil crew, since 2010 as a Board member. Co-founder of Jews Against the Occupation/NYC, Palestine Activist Forum (PAFNY; now Adalah-NY), and NYC Direct Action Network (z"l). Just another enthusiastically secular, predictably bookish, presently somewhat-able-bodied, oysterlisher gendertreyf apikoyrus mischling fem who gets off on long strings of identity terms, especially af yidish. Currently: dancing with the Rude Mechanical Orchestra; making theater with Aftselokhis Ladies Auxiliary and Department of Transformation; touring several puppet shows; indulging an obsession with ubiquitous queer boundary-crosser Carl Van Vechten.
Audrey Sasson is a Senior Program Officer at Pursue: Action for a Just World, a project of American Jewish World Service and AVODAH: The Jewish Service Corps. Before joining Pursue, she worked for three years at a community based anti-poverty organization in Montreal, providing direct services and doing community organizing with low-income tenants, welfare recipients, immigrants, and seniors. She’s a founding and active member of the Community/Farmworker Alliance, with more than five years experience doing solidarity organizing for the Coalition of Immokalee Workers' Campaign for Fair Food. She holds a Bachelor of Arts and a Bachelor of Social Work as well as a Master's of International Affairs.
Lucas Shapiro is a Senior Organizer at FUREE (Families United for Racial & Economic Equality). He came to FUREE after working for a housing justice non-profit rooted in Hell's Kitchen and prior years as a national organizer for a radical youth and student organization. As the staffer coordinating FUREE’s Accountable Development Campaign, he works with members to fight for living wage jobs, affordable housing, access to healthy food, and a seat at the table in shaping local development. He lives in a cooperative house in Fort Greene and enjoys reading articles, watching film, playing games, going on bike adventures and visiting friends and family in Spain.
Rusty Stahl is a leading voice on leadership development in philanthropy and the nonprofit sector. He is Director of the Talent Philanthropy Project, which encourages funders to invest in nonprofit leadership. Rusty is Founder and Executive Director Emeritus of Emerging Practitioners in Philanthropy, a membership association of young and new foundation professionals. He has work at Ford Foundation making grants to support the health and impact of philanthropy and nonprofit sector. Rusty holds a Masters in Philanthropic Studies from Indiana University, and helped found Central Indiana Jobs with Justice. He also serves on the boards of Idealist.org and Bikkurim: An Incubator for New Jewish Ideas.
Elizabeth Wilson is the director of College Now at Hostos Community College (CUNY). She has been involved with JFREJ since 2001.
For the past thirty years, Karen Zelermyer has been a steady and vital force in many social justice movements. In addition to working in the philanthropic and LGBT communities, including nine years as Deputy Director at the Astraea Lesbian Foundation for Justice and seven years as President & CEO of Funders for LGBTQ Issues, she has worked in the peace, women's and children's rights movements going back more years than she wants to count—holding titles ranging from Executive Director and board member, to Development Director and consultant, to street activist. In her work with foundations, Karen has been a leader in developing grantmaking strategies that work at the intersection of identity, issue and place and that institute inclusive and welcoming foundation cultures. Karen is a frequent presenter at philanthropic, LGBT and women’s conferences in the U.S. and internationally. She also sells real estate in Brooklyn, is a welder and wood-worker, and a spouse, mother and grandmother.
JFREJ is a proud member of Right to the City
JFREJ is a proud member of the New York Immigration Coalition
JFREJ is a proud member of the Jewish Social Justice Roundtable
Partners & Allies
We are grateful for the support of all of our members and supporters, including:
Andrus Family Fund
Dobkin Family Foundation
Elias Family Foundation
Left Tilt Fund
Jewish Women's Foundation of New York
North Star Fund
The Valentine Perry Snyder Fund
List includes current foundation support