The Jewish world has never trumpeted its connection to the late Saul Alinsky, the father of modern community organizing. Maybe it’s because his methods — he called his signature work “Rules for Radicals” — have long been controversial. He’s still a target, drawing contempt from Newt Gingrich and Sarah Palin decades after his death.
Yet Alinsky’s legacy is coming home. On April 29 and 30, a new group, JOIN for Justice, debuted at a conference it hosted, which it called the first Jewish community organizing summit. And JOIN itself, whose acronym stands for Jewish Organizing Institute and Network, was created late last year to train Jewish groups in community organizing, or the work of supporting a group of people creating social change.
“There’s an inherent risk in billing this as ‘organizing,’” said Jordan Namerow, a communications consultant for JOIN who is also a writer at the American Jewish World Service. “We’re trying to de-stigmatize” the term.