Meet Michaela: Jewish Community Organizer of the Week

by Allison Friedman / July 8, 2021

Michaela Friedman has discovered a deep passion for community organizing and advocacy, and cares about doing what she can to make DC a better place for all. Learn more about this DMV-native, what Jewish organizations have been fueling her passion, and how you might be able to get involved too! Read on.

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Allie: Tell me how you wound up living in this area.

Michaela: I grew up in Maryland and I went to the college locally as well. I finished grad school in 2015 and in 2016 I was excited to move into DC to work as a social worker at a charter school. I found that a school space felt the most meaningful to me at the time. I have lived in DC for 5 years and currently live on Capitol Hill near Pie Shop.

Allie: What led you to your career in social work?

Michaela: I come from a family of social workers. My mom and dad have worked on the field for thirty years, and my brother does social work as well. My sister is an artist.

When I started to take courses in social work, it was something that I had an innate connection with, and it felt really meaningful. What drew me in is knowing that when you see a person and witness their behavior, there’s so much that brings them to where and who they are today. I also want to be someone who makes people feel listened to.

Allie: I know you are also big into volunteering, tell me about that.

Michaela: I’m in a transitional place career-wise, and have been spending a lot of my time volunteering. In the last year and a half during the pandemic, I was looking for ways to fill my time that felt meaningful. That’s why I got involved with Jews United for Justice, and JOIN for Justice’s Jewish Organization Fellowship and mutual aid.

Getting involved in organizing and engaging with different communities gives me hope that we can get through times of uncertainty and darkness in the world. I really care about making DC a more just and equitable city.

Allie: For people who might not know about Jews United for Justice or JOIN for Justice – can you share a little bit about these organizations?

Michaela: Sure, Jews United for Justice or JUFJ is a Jewish organizing community that does local advocacy campaigns for social, racial, and economic justice. They connect with partner organizations locally to advocate for policies and amplify the needs of other groups, support campaigns, and publicize different work. There’s something very special about being in a Jewish organizing space.

JOIN stands for the Jewish Organizing Institute & Network, and I learned about through JUFJ. JOIN has a Jewish Organizing Fellowship which is an organizing education cohort connected to Jewish values and organizing. It’s a virtual ten-week program with a cohort of 18 people in the DC / Maryland area that I’ve been really enjoying.

Allie: What led to your passion for community organizing work and advocacy?

Michaela: When you look at policy and organizing, there’s a lot of disconnect between people’s experiences and policy. People on the higher levels of policy often forget that people aren’t numbers and things directly impact individuals. I’ve worked with clients who immediately lost access to critical services when there was a government furlough. What drove me to move away from direct service was my experience seeing major systems bring a lot of inequities and unequal access. I realized I wanted to learn more about and help change these bigger structures that impact so many individuals.  I’ve been learning how to follow the lead of existing DC organizers who have been doing the work for generations.

I get excited about empowering and connecting with others. For me, intentional community building is really important. Organizing isn’t going to fix everything in one day, but you need to keep working for the long term.

Allie: Describe your dream day in the DMV from start to finish.

Michaela: I’m going to pretend I get up early–my roommate’s going to laugh at me for saying that. In the morning, I would go to the cute farmer’s market that’s a few blocks from me. I would try different foods, I really liked trying all the samples pre-COVID. I would then walk around Union Market with a friend. Then, I would hang out with a small group of friends on a rooftop. I love potlucks and smaller gatherings because I find it easier to form meaningful connections. At night, I would stay up late and go to a cool art show or music performance.

Allie: When Jews of DC Gather…

Michaela: …we make a difference in our communities.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity. The views and opinions expressed in this blog and on this website are solely those of the original authors. These views and opinions do not necessarily represent those of the organization GatherDC, the GatherDC staff, the GatherDC board, and/or any/all contributors to this site.