Alumni partner with Hiatt Career Center to conduct Feb. 23 community organizing training for students

Workshop will be led by Jewish Organizing Initiative Fellows Elyssa Cohen '08, Miriam Farber '08 and Ben Kuss '07

Elyssa Cohen '08

On Monday, Feb. 23, Jewish Organizing Initiative Fellows Elyssa Cohen '08, Miriam Farber '08 and Ben Kuss '07 will lead an on-campus community organizing training session. The workshop is geared for anyone who is interested in thinking more strategically about the social justice work they’re already involved in, or for students who hope to engage in social justice work after college. BrandeisNOW talked with Elyssa Cohen about how she got involved in community organizing, and why she thinks current students would benefit from Monday’s workshop.

BrandeisNOW: Tell me about the community organizing training session.

Elyssa Cohen ‘08: The event has two purposes. The first purpose is really to help students learn what community-organizing skills are. So that incorporates things such as relational meetings where you meet with someone one-on-one to discover what their interests are and tell them a little bit about yourself, which is really just a great networking tool. Building relationships is something that the fellowship I’m a part of really emphasizes as a strong community organizing skill, especially in the non-profit world, but it can work for any type of work that any student is doing. The second purpose is to let students know about opportunities available for them after college.

BrandeisNOW: What is the fellowship you’re a part of?

EC: The fellowship is the Jewish Organizing Initiative. The program involves a year of leadership training that includes working for social and economic justice, Jewish learning, training in grass roots community organizing skills, and Jewish community building. Simultaneously, we are placed in organizations where we can apply those skills.  I am currently working at Keshet. The mission of this organization is working for the full inclusion of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender Jews within Jewish life.

BrandeisNOW: How did this Brandeis event come together?

EC: Currently, the Jewish Organizing Initiative is recruiting for next year’s fellowship class. And because I have strong connections with Brandeis, I thought it would be a great opportunity for students to have a training where they were exposed to these skills while they’re still on campus, and also give them the chance to look at different career opportunities and different fellowships and service organizations that they can go into. 

BrandeisNOW: What’s going to be happening at the event?

EC:  The workshop is going to consist of a discussion about what we in organizing call “how the world is and how the world should be.” And that will sort of highlight students’ passions and what they want to be an advocate for. What are the issues that they care about? And then we’re going to talk about how to use different skills to have an impact on that particular issue. We’ll talk about relational meetings: how to meet with someone one-on-one and connect with them so that they also become passionate about the issue the student cares about.  We’ll also be focusing on story telling: how to effectively tell your own story about your own passion.

BrandeisNOW: As a recent alum, you know that social activism is important here at Brandeis. So is this a workshop that you feel will resonate with students?

EC:  I do. I think that is why I felt it was so important to have a workshop not just for graduating students but also for students who are just starting their careers of activism at Brandeis. To give them the skills to be successful because during my time at Brandeis, I saw people who were excellent leaders, but I also saw people who didn’t have the skills they needed to really be effective because it’s often not something that people are intentionally taught. I think after going through a fellowship like this, it’s great to be able to give advice to people on how they can run a great cause for any social action that is happening on campus.

BrandeisNOW: How do students get involved- can they just show up to the event or do they need to sign up for it?

EC:  Students can sign up through the Hiatt Career Center's NACElink Web site, but in addition to that, we will welcome anyone who shows up at the event.

Community Organizing Training
Monday, Feb. 23, 2009
Pearlman Lounge
6 - 7:30 p.m.
Register today on Hiatt NACElink
For more information contact

Return to the BrandeisNOW homepage