Local fellows for Bend the Arc, a national Jewish advocacy organization, are helping to bring the fight for racial justice to Milwaukee Jews.
The fellows’ first event was “Milwaukee Jews for Black Lives Matter Action,” a July gathering with speeches from Jews of color. The local group’s next event will be remote, with a date to be determined.
Anna Goldstein, Ariel Kohll, Nicole Gorelik, Sahar Steiner and Joey Allis are among the local fellowship participants. This is the first year Bend the Arc has had fellows in Wisconsin.
Those interested in joining the events can message Ariel Kohll on Facebook or email BendTheArcMilwaukee@gmail.com.
As part of the fellowship program, the group attends monthly online leadership classes. Kohll said the main thing she’s learned from the training is that “you don’t need to be on the front lines to feel like you’re doing something.”
Next, the group plans to host a remote, social-justice oriented Torah study and an online “action hour.” Participants will be invited to call representatives, sign petitions and collect donations throughout the call.
The group is holding its next program virtually because of the pandemic. Besides showing up in-person to protests, Kohll said people can get involved from home by organizing bail funds and “talking to racist family members.”
“I’m learning that there are a million and one ways to help a movement, and COVID has been really powerful in teaching that,” Kohll said.
In addition to planning their own events, the fellows are working on getting Jews to show up at events planned by other communities. The group had a presence at the Women’s March in Milwaukee and at the Kenosha Pride March.
“We have a really strong community in Milwaukee of Black organizers who are doing the work and asking us to show up,” Kohll said. “Sometimes it’s as easy as that: listening to what we’re being asked to do and showing up for those people.”
The fellows are also planning a response to President Trump’s announcement that he would send federal law enforcement forces to Milwaukee. The group is working with Bend the Arc fellows from other cities where Trump has also promised to send forces.
“There have been many times throughout history where Jews could’ve really used some strong allies,” Kohll said. “When any community goes through a traumatic event, they need other communities to be there and stand up for them.”