As the days grow quieter and cooler, with an old Jewish year just finished and a new one freshly unfolding, it feels like just the right moment to share some big news: after more than 13 years, this will be my last week on staff at JUFJ.
In 2009, I was a newly-minted rabbi joining JUFJ as the third employee of a tiny organization. We all played multiple roles in those early days. I was our Program Director, rabbi, community organizer for all of our campaigns, Jeremiah Fellowship leader, event planner, coalitions representative, Labor Seder coordinator, supplies schlepper, resident grammarian (some things never change…), and more. With each year, JUFJ’s impact grew: we learned the art of legislative campaigning during the winning Paid Sick days for All campaign, and, alongside our partners, went on to organize successfully for higher minimum wages, paid family and medical leave, increased police accountability, affordable housing, ending local law enforcement collaboration with ICE, and so much more in Maryland and DC. Our staff grew, my role evolved, and eventually I became Managing Director, with responsibility for the wellbeing of our whole organization. JUFJ and I have grown together into who we both are today.
It has been a kavod (honor) beyond measure to have helped build and nurture an organization that is now such a powerful catalyst for social change in our region. It has been a privilege to shape the culture of an organization that is both deeply Jewish and fully at home in the public square; that is hopeful and humane; that considers deeply the right balance between the prophetic and the pragmatic at any given time; and that is devoted to Jewish values, equity, integrity, and results. It has been a rare blessing to have spent so many years knowing that each day I went to work was a day I was helping to build a more just, more compassionate society right where I lived. My time at JUFJ has been a concrete expression of my Judaism and my rabbinate.
Now, 13 years later, I am feeling called to take on new challenges and new ways of serving as a senior organizational leader and rabbi. I’m not able to share what’s next for me just yet, but I’m excited to do that when the time comes.
I am proud to be leaving a JUFJ that is stronger than ever, powered in innumerable ways by this ever-growing community of people like you who feel ownership of our shared work for justice. I am excited to watch — and to be organized! — as JUFJ continues to change, grow, and thrive.
Please be in touch — I would love to hear from you or be reminded of a favorite JUFJ memory, even and especially if it has been a while since we last connected. You can reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org or at my personal email: earichman (at) gmail (dot) com.
With abundant gratitude and an overflowing heart,
A note from our Executive Director, Jacob Feinspan:
This is a bittersweet moment. I am intensely grateful for everything that Rabbi Elizabeth has brought to JUFJ, so excited to see what will come next for her, and deeply sad — all at the same time.
Over the past 13 years, Rabbi Elizabeth has had a hand in nearly every aspect of our organization: our culture, our systems, our organizing model, our growth, our approach to partnerships, how we speak and teach about our work, and so much more. Dozens of JUFJ staff members and hundreds of leaders have learned and benefited from the deeply caring, thoughtful, and strategic approach that she brings to her rabbinate and role as a senior leader at JUFJ. On a personal level, Rabbi Elizabeth has been my partner in this work for nearly my entire tenure at JUFJ and I will miss her tremendously.
Rabbi Elizabeth’s departure is a significant moment for her and for JUFJ. And while this is a big change for JUFJ, it’s also one that we are well positioned to navigate. We have a phenomenally talented staff, skilled leaders, a committed community, and strong financial footing. We are excited and prepared to continue building on everything Rabbi Elizabeth has brought to the work.
Rabbi Elizabeth: On behalf of everyone in this community, thank you for being such an incredible role model as an organizational leader and teacher. JUFJ would not be who and what we are today without you.
With deepest gratitude,