Bend The Arc: A Jewish Partnership for Justice (BTA) grew out of the June 2011 merger of the California-based Progressive Jewish Alliance and the New York-based Jewish Funds for Justice. Soon after that merger, Jews United for Justice (in Washington, DC) and Jewish Community Action (in St. Paul, Minnesota) became affiliated with BTA, which today has offices in New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Washington, Philadelphia, and Boston. BTA's mission is to “create a just, fair and compassionate America” by “mobilizing the full array of Jewish resources—human, financial and moral”—to promote “equality and justice for disenfranchised residents of our nation.”
In early 2012, BTA and the Jewish Organizing Initiative collaborated to launch the Jewish Organizing Institute and Network for Justice (JOIN for Justice), a national entity dedicated to training, supporting, and connecting Jewish organizers and their communities in order to advance “economic and social justice” and “positive social change.” JOIN's coreprograms today include: (a) the Jewish Organizing Fellowship, a year-long program where Jewish young adults are taught the community organizing skills “needed to build powerful communities and create a just world”; and (b) the Seminary Leadership Project, which provides rabbinic, cantorial, and education students at seminaries across the U.S. with mentorship and training as organizers and leaders.
BTA's work today consists of the following major campaigns and programs:
* The Tzedec Community Investing program seeks to “decreas[e] poverty” and “expan[d] economic opportunity” through long-term investments in low-income areas. For example, this initiative helps people buy back their homes after foreclosure; issues below-market-rate loans to small businesses; extends credit to local residents who create jobs in their communities; and helps finance “affordable housing,” medical clinics, and “places to buy good food at a good price.”
* The Grantmaking program supports a wide, culturally diverse range of community, labor, and congregation-based organizations that complement BTA's programmatic work in the areas of community organizing and leadership development. Its current grantees include groups based in New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, the Twin Cities, and the San Francisco Bay Area.
* BTA's Leadership Institute trains emerging leaders, community organizers, activists, and advocates to effectively lead social-change initiatives within “the Jewish and progressive communities.” For example:
The seven-month Jeremiah Fellowship gives young Jews who are committed to “economic and social justice” an opportunity to “explore how Jewish values, culture and community can support and further their goals.”
The Selah program, whose name means “Rock” in Hebrew, teaches Jewish social-justice leaders how to “cultivate the internal power and presence necessary to change external systems” and thereby achieve “social transformation.” Created in 2004 with financial support from the Nathan Cummings Foundation, Selah trained more than 275 leaders during its first decade of activity.
The Detroit Community Leadership Initiative—noting that the Motor City's Jewish population has declined precipitously since the late 1960s—believes that Jews “can and should play a role in rebuilding Detroit.”
* The Organizing & Advocacy program favors massive wealth redistribution, on the premise that “a nation divided into winners and losers, split into haves and have-nots, is un-American.”
The Community Organizing Residency places Jewish, Muslim and Christian residents with congregations, unions, or community groups in cities where BTA has a presence. Each resident is paired with a professional organizer who trains and mentors him/her in the tactics of congregation-based community organizing.
The Local Community Organizing (LCO) program claims to have: (a) helped some 4,000 hotel workers in San Francisco, Chicago and Hawaii obtain higher wages; (b) played a key role in securing a “living wage” for hotel workers in Emeryville, California; (c) pressured Hyatt Hotel management to end employment practices that compromised worker safety; and (d) helped Mexican supermarket workers in the Bay Area to secure such rights as meal breaks, paid overtime, and paid sick days. In 2010 the LCO program helped pass the nation’s first Domestic Worker Bill of Rights in New York State, which set hour and wage regulations for in-home nannies, caregivers, and housekeepers. The program is now striving to achieve a similar arrangement for domestic workers in California, who, according to BTA, are the victims of policies “rooted in discrimination against women and people of color.”
* BTA's Voting Rights program—lamenting that “discrimination in voting is not a thing of the past”—opposed the 2013 Supreme Court decision that struck down two sections of the 1965 Voting Rights Act. Further, BTA condemns Voter ID laws as barriers that “make it harder for communities of color, women, first-time voters, the elderly, and the poor to cast their vote.”
* The Immigration Reform program calls for: (a) “creating a path to citizenship” and ensuring “economic protections” for “the 11 million people who currently toil in the shadow economy … without access to many services, and in constant fear of persecution and deportation”; (b) instituting “a fair system to deal with the future flow of immigrants coming to pursue their own chance at the American dream”; and (c) ensuring that “immigration policies stay inclusive of LGBT people so that all Americans will be treated equally when it comes to immigration.” These policy prescriptions are founded on BTA's belief that “the Jewish collective memory speaks to our people as immigrants from the moment Abram was called to 'Go forth from your homeland' and down through the millennia.” By BTA's telling, “U.S. immigration law has evolved from a largely open door policy, as reflected in Emma Lazarus’ words inscribed on the Statue of Liberty, into a complex and daunting body of restrictions and requirements.”
* The Progressive Taxation program calls for the imposition of high taxes on the wealthy, as a means of creating “a just and equitable society.”