Moving Forward With Our Grassroots Base

This month, Brit Tzedek celebrates grassroots Chapter Organizer Carinne Luck's first year with us. Grassroots organizing is central to Brit Tzedek's work.  We need a base of tens of thousands of people committed to our goals in order to change US policy. In Washington, DC our elected officials repeatedly reminded us of the central importance of organizing people in their districts. As Chapter Organizer, Carinne acts as the liaison between the local chapters and the national organization, helping us in our aim to balance a nationwide reach with an authentic grassroots structure. During Carinne's first year, Brit Tzedek increased our constituent base by nearly forty percent growth to 27,875 supporters. Two-thirds of this growth was chapter-based. 
National Chapter Organizer Carinne Luck

Born in Israel, raised there and in England, Carinne moved to the US as a high school student. She has extensive background in social justice, youth and grassroots organizing. Carinne comes from a long line of Jewish activists: she's the great-great granddaughter of Zalman David Levontin, founder in 1882 of Rishon Le'Zion, considered the first Zionist community in Eretz Yisrael. 

We're very pleased to have Carinne on board, and wanted to use the occasion of this anniversary to take a look back on the incredible work she and the chapters have been doing over the year. 

Moving Forward

Carinne spent the year working daily with local activists to maintain and develop their chapters. As a result, a total of 115 chapter meetings and 103 public events have been held, largely in synagogues and other Jewish venues.

Over the course of the year, we've held individual and group trainings (in-person or via conference call); provided extensive educational and advocacy materials; coordinated speaker tours, many of which garnered considerable press; helped to develop chapter infrastructure; and promoted many activities. The latter included our Listening Projects, national speaking tours, media alerts, Jewish community outreach projects, and advocacy meetings with Senators and Congressional Representatives. 

Because Carinne is in regular contact with all our chapter leaders, she serves as an essential two-way conduit for information, not only providing assistance but also receiving vital feedback on petitions, campaign messages, and the overall direction of the organization. One of the things that appeals to her most, in fact, is Brit Tzedek's grassroots nature. "We encourage our volunteers to do the talking," she says.
Boston chapter members at "Talk, Walk and Rock for Israel," sponsored by Combined Jewish Philanthropies

In 2004, says Carinne, Brit Tzedek became a more tight-knit organization: "I think we've created a greater feeling of connectedness between the chapters and the organization." She notes that while online technologies have greatly enhanced the range and speed of political advocacy, "It's easy to lose what really matter to an organization, the personal relationships." To keep our activists and group leaders informed and united, Carinne leads the monthly chapter leaders' conference call.
 
Also, as part of an on-going effort to expand the reach of Brit Tzedek's grassroots network, chapters can access a chapter leaders' resource webpage. This includes links to reference materials, sample petitions, a Listening Project guide, a sample press release, transcripts and audio files from chapter leaders' conference calls and trainings, and information on elected representatives for home district advocacy.

The chapters accomplished remarkable things this year, from hosting successful speaking events to bridging gaps within the Jewish community. Some of Carinne's highlights include: 

  • Joining a panel of local rabbis in a discussion supporting
    Bloomington chapter members at "Israelpalooza Walk for Israel," sponsored by the Hillel Center at Indiana University
    our Open Letter campaign in St. Louis;


  • Helping the New York chapter to found a young adults' monthly discussion group for 20- and 30-somethings;


  • Organizing a 12-city national tour with pilot refuser Yonatan Shapira — who knew a number of Carinne's Israeli relatives (so Jewish!);


  • Participating in a listening project organized by the Madison chapter following a dispute over a city council resolution to name the Palestinian city of Rafah a sister city;


  • Training chapters to conduct effective home district advocacy visits which have multiplied since her involvement.

 Looking Ahead

In the coming year, Carinne plans to work on a comprehensive training plan to enable chapters to address anticipated needs. "Thus far," she says, "the Chapter Organizer position has served as a mainly reactive position — meeting the needs of chapters as they come up. But we have now developed such a system that the position can now become proactive and creative." A chapter training manual will be distributed to local groups, enabling them to take a more hands-on approach to organizing. 

Carinne believes that the chapters' primary challenge will be maintaining and increasing their numbers of members and active volunteers. "This is obviously the greatest challenge of any grassroots, volunteer-based organization," she says. "But we think that if more and more chapter activists participate in our trainings, both on conference calls and at regional conferences, they'll have a better grasp of what it takes to build a volunteer group." 

Conclusion 

This year, we've seen thousands and thousands of members and volunteers getting the word out, changing minds, and acting as agents for peace. It's hard work, and we've been lucky to have Carinne right there with us, helping us to achieve our goals — but as she herself points out, it's really the volunteers who deserve the lion's share of the credit. Thank you for a great year!


Brit Tzedek v'Shalom, The Jewish Alliance for Justice and Peace
11 E. Adams Street, Suite 707
Chicago, IL 60603
Phone: (312) 341-1205
Fax: (312) 341-1206
info@btvshalom.org
www.btvshalom.org


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