The power of partnerships — especially now 

I’ve noticed a pattern over the last few months. At shul, at conferences, when catching up with friends and colleagues within the Jewish community — whenever people ask me how things are going, it seems like they expect the answer to be that things are terrible, that I’m feeling alone and isolated. But that’s not true. Since Oct. 7, dozens of partners and colleagues have reached out to me with a call, text, email or hug to see how I’m doing and how Jews United for Justice is doing. 

Here’s a note from Jonathan Jayes-Green — a racial justice leader I met more than a decade ago. We worked together to win marriage equality and DREAM Act ballot initiatives in Maryland in 2012.

Hello Jacob, 

I’ve been thinking about you…  It’s been a really difficult time for so many reasons. One of those ways includes the fact that now I have friends who are Israeli and Palestinian and my heart has been aching for how their families and loved ones are in the cross fire of this moment… 

I’ve been thinking a lot about working towards peace and combating Islamophobia and antisemitism. As someone deeply committed to anti-racism, I feel like my responsibility is to educate myself, ask questions and take meaningful action where appropriate. And that brings me to you. 

Our friendship has forever changed me. When I think about the work we got to do together around the DREAM Act, I think fondly of the many meetings and conversations we had around identity and the progressive values we share. I also think about the fact that the first time I experienced what it looked like to be both religious and LGBT-affirming, it was in a synagogue. That experience forever shaped who I am in the world. My commitment to fighting antisemitism was in part shaped by our interactions and our friendship. 

So I have a few questions for you:

How are you doing? 

What do you need? How can I support you? 

Are there any resources you recommend I read through as I work to more deeply educate myself? 

You can respond to this whenever it makes sense to you. There’s no rush. Just know you’re in my heart. 


Jonathan’s note brought tears to my eyes and warmth to my heart. Messages and gestures like this support me each day as I get up, go to work and keep building relationships, coalitions and communities.

We are living in hard times. I know that, in contrast with my experience, many in the Jewish community are feeling alone right now; and when we feel alone or afraid, our brains are wired to shout “Danger!” at anything that might be threatening. 

In this moment of incredible pain and hurt, I see people pulling away from each other, but this is precisely the time that we must run toward each other. Working together with partners across difference — partners like Jonathan — is foundational to the future that we envision. If we want to build a space where all of us can thrive and where all of us are treated with respect, there is literally no way to get from here to there unless we come together.

My organization, JUFJ, works in partnership with other local organizations, both Jewish and not Jewish, on advocacy campaigns here in Washington, D.C., and Maryland. JUFJ’s relationships with our partners undergird everything we do. We work with all kinds of organizations, and we don’t all agree all of the time about strategy, policy or even some core fundamental issues. Despite challenges, difficult emotions and profound disagreements, we work together when we can. That approach to partnership powers our ability to have a meaningful impact that has improved the lives of millions of people in our region. 

At their best, our partnerships are characterized by mutual respect, deep listening and understanding of each other’s complementary strengths and expertise about our own experiences. When we listen to each other, our relationships can withstand moments of disagreement, pain, and fear. That doesn’t mean it’s always easy — in fact, it frequently isn’t. Over the past six months, I’ve been part of dozens of conversations with people trying to make sense of the horror of this time — often painfully, and often starting from dramatically different personal experiences. And in almost every case, we can have these difficult conversations and continue to work together. 

It is precisely these kinds of relationships that enable us to learn and grow together. JUFJ has made mistakes — I have made mistakes — that caused our partners to feel disrespected or undermined. The way I’ve learned and grown in those moments is through the honesty, grace and support of our partners. And when we think a partner has missed the mark, we get on the phone to offer them the same.

The care and support I have received over the past few months from partners like Jonathan — and which I have tried to offer in return — have transformed how I think of JUFJ’s place in our community. Care and support don’t lead to the dramatic headlines that horror and violence do, but they are the reality that I live out every day at JUFJ. That is the power of the relationships that we form with our partners, even the relationships that can sometimes be fraught, or complicated by our differences. When things are hard, having partners who take the time to reach out and say “I’ve been thinking about you” reminds me that I am not alone. 

Jacob Feinspan is the executive director of Jews United for Justice.