I met Jordan and heard all about his work as a participant of the Jeremiah Fellowship. I thought he would be a great addition to our blog so I asked him a few questions. Learn more about Jordan Bleck, this week’s Jewish Community Organizer of the Week! (Or as he may call himself, a “Justice Jew.”) Read on to find out more:
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Jackie: What first brought you to DC?
Jordan: Back in 2010, all that I wanted to do was international development work. My impression of DC before moving here was that it was all business and had no spirit of its own, and I have never been happier to be wrong. I spent several years working with an NGO that sent me to Uganda to teach people how to build bicycles out of bamboo. That project has now ended and I’m focusing my energy on building up our local communities, and celebrating the breadth and diversity that DC has to offer.
Jackie: You just bought a new house. What excites you most about the community you’re living in?
Jordan: The community in Brookland is a really wonderful place and is unlike anywhere else I’ve lived in DC. Even though we’ve only just moved here, my housemates and I feel like we’re getting to know our neighbors quickly and easily. Before we moved in, the whole block put together a party to say goodbye to the previous owner (who moved down to Arizona with his partner after they met across the backyard fence), and to get to meet all of us. My housemates and I were totally blown away; this feels so far beyond the idyllic motif of being able to knock on a door to borrow some sugar, and I feel so lucky to have found it.
Jackie: You just finished the Jeremiah Fellowship. Can you explain what this Fellowship is and
share what your experience was like doing this work?
Jordan: The Jeremiah Fellowship is a social justice organizing training program. It’s run by Jews United for Justice, which is an organization that strives to attain justice and equality for all DC residents through a lens of Jewish values. They are some of the most driven and impactful people I’ve ever met. The Fellowship is all about learning how justice work is such an integral part of Jewish culture and how to do it in a sustainable way. I started Jeremiah with no organizing background at all, and through the Fellowship, have participated in both of JUFJ’s current campaigns: DC Affordable Housing and Paid Family and Medical Leave. I feel like I learned an incredible amount through the Fellowship and am excited to put it to good use to make DC a better place for everybody to live.
Jackie: What is the biggest thing you will walk away from the Fellowship with?
Jordan: The best thing that I got out of the Jeremiah Fellowship is an incredibly powerful support network. Organizing can be really scary, and sometimes social justice campaigns feel like they’re an uphill battle. However, through the Fellowship I really feel like I can wield the strength of a vast network of justice-minded folks, especially the other people from my fellowship. Sharing that experience with a dozen people–all with different backgrounds, but all fighting for the same thing–was incredibly powerful.
Jackie: Where is your favorite place to spend time in DC?
Jordan: I am always happiest when I’m outside, so any favorite place is going to reflect that. I think if I had to pick just one it would be the C&O Canal trail (where I absolutely love to take my bike and go camping). Trail running in Rock Creek Park or a picnic in the Arboretum are also close to the top of that list so it’s really hard to say.
Jackie: You are a huge biker, anywhere you like to bike with Jews?
Jordan: The havdallah bike ride, run every other month by DC Jews on Bikes, is a fantastic event and a great way to connect with the Jewish community. It is actually the brainchild of Lisa Kaneff, who started the ride while doing Gather’s Open Doors Fellowship, and it’s brought together a really stellar group of people. We leave from Sixth & I, ride for a bit, have a havdallah service, and end up at a bar to welcome in the new week. It’s also a really gentle ride, so anyone who has any interest in riding bikes should do it. To anybody reading this: bring your bike or check out a Bikeshare and join us!
Jackie: Who are your favorite Jews?
Jordan: I’d have to say that Justice Jews are my favorite Jews. I’m living with three of them (who had all done Jeremiah before I did) and they make up a huge portion of my network here in DC. If I had a nickel for each Justice Jew I know who is working on an incredible project here in DC, elsewhere in the country, or abroad, I’d have…a heck of a lot of nickels. Instead, I have a wealth of people inspiring hope everywhere I look. Therefore, I can continue to believe that, despite all of its chaos, the world is still moving in the right direction.
Jackie: Finish the sentence: When the Jews Gather…
…the world will be repaired (as soon as we’ve all had bagels and coffee).