Rabbi Jill Jacobs is the executive director of T’ruah: The Rabbinic Call for Human Rights and Rabbi Guy Austrian is the spiritual leader of the Fort Tryon Jewish Center in Washington Heights and Inwood, Manhattan. Join them in donating to MRNY here.
What’s your hometown?
Jill: I grew up outside of Boston and came to New York for college in 1993.
Guy: I was born in Israel and grew up in Cleveland area. I’ve been in NY since 1988.
How have you worked to make New York City a better place?
Jill: T’ruah has put the issue of modern day slavery and trafficking in the U.S. on the agenda of the Jewish community, and we involve rabbis in fighting for better working conditions, like in the Florida tomato fields.
Guy: At the Fort Tryon Jewish Center, we are building a religious community that holds up the values of diversity, inclusion and collective action as spiritual values.
What is your family’s immigrant story?
Guy: Growing up in an Israeli immigrant family, I was aware from a young age of differences in language and culture. I became sensitized to the challenges people face when they’re trying to make a home in another culture, and the struggles that come with it, but also the joys and possibilities.
Jill: My grandparents came around the beginning of the 20th Century from the Ukraine and Lithuania during the wave of immigration before the U.S. closed its borders. Until World War II, they were in touch with family members back home, but after the war began they lost touch with their family and nobody knows what happened to them. It’s possible that they survived, but it’s more likely that they were killed. There was a moment when people could still have left Germany but the U.S. had closed its gates.
How did you first hear about MRNY?
Guy: Around 2002, I was living in East Williamsburg and volunteering at a local immigrant worker organization. I had the opportunity to visit Make the Road’s space on Grove Street. I remember one time going to a demonstration with young leaders from MRNY’s Youth Power Project to protest a juvenile detention center in Brooklyn and just being so impressed with their leadership and the joyful spirit that I could sense from what MRNY was doing.
Jill: I was in rabbinical school and was really interested in social justice work in New York, Make the Road had just started up and I talked to the co-founders about getting involved.
What inspired you to give to MRNY?
Jill: I see MRNY as doing some of the most effective organizing in New York. All the campaigns — such as language services in the hospitals, wage theft — it is very clear that there is an impact and the people in the communities that are being effected are the ones organizing. It directly impacts them.
Guy: As the leader of a congregation, I appreciate Make the Road’s ability to build relationships between community, government, and faith. There’s a genuine authenticity to the partnerships they create and the work they do.
Thank you Jill & Guy for being such strong supporters of Make the Road New York! Join them by donating to our summer fundraising appeal.
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