Alumni Spotlight: Mark Greenfield
Mark Greenfield participated in an AJWS delegation to Guatemala with Congregation B'nai Jeshurun and was a group leader for a delegation to El Salvador with Capital Camps, both in 2008. He will be starting a graduate program for social work at Hunter College in September.
What motivated you to join the City Team?
I have been, for a very long time, inspired by AJWS's work around the world. I participated in two delegations, and I have been attending events through the City Team and the AJWS-AVODAH Partnership over the past year, so I thought it would be a wonderful opportunity to continue my involvement with AJWS here in New York. I'm particularly passionate about programming and organizing among young Jewish leaders committed to social justice and human rights. I'm excited to be a part of that community and to help strengthen the relationships in it.
Had you done similar work before?
In New York I've done most of my organizing through Congregation B'nai Jeshurun (BJ). I organized environmental activism and engaged the 20s and 30s community in social justice. This has involved community organizing and congregational education on living healthier, greener lives and greening the facilities. Externally, we've been doing a lot of large events and campaigns to educate the public about environmental activism and global warming and to try to get the community involved in shaping policy to affect climate change.
What are you most looking forward to doing as part of the City Team?
I am looking forward to meeting people in the Jewish community. Over the course of the year the City Team's most consistent role will be doing relational meetings and outreach to young Jews living in New York. That's something that I've done before in other settings, and I really enjoy networking and finding out what motivates people to fight for social justice, especially from a Jewish perspective.
What might be challenging in doing that outreach?
I think it will be challenging in the sense that it's still relatively new—the City Team is only a year old and the AJWS-AVODAH Partnership is only a couple of years old, so I think people are still learning what it's all about. Building networks takes time and effort. I don't expect it to happen easily and overnight, but I think people who are generally passionate about social justice will want to make these connections. I'm excited for it. I think it will be a great opportunity and I'm looking forward to meeting people in the community and to helping facilitate networking and programming.
What are you working on right now with the City Team?
The first event of the summer is going to be a film screening and discussion that connects Judaism and social justice. I'm also interested in incorporating the global movement to stop violence against women. If there's any room for that to happen within the City Team this year, that would be wonderful, because that's one issue that's become important to me.
How does Judaism play a role for you, whether in your life or in this type of work?
Judaism and social justice for me are extremely interconnected. Without the social justice component, Judaism doesn't nearly have the same meaning for me. I get a lot of strength and passion for Judaism through social justice and I get a lot of comfort and strength for social justice through my Judaism. I'm not an overly religious person—I consider myself spiritual—so I look at my connection to Judaism and social justice also in a spiritual way. When I was doing organizing before, without the Jewish component, it was sometimes difficult to stay grounded and connected to what I was doing because I didn't have a strong community or an underlying spiritual component, and Judaism has really brought that in for me.
What do you do when you're not at City Team meetings?
I'm at a crossroads right now. I'm going to grad school in September for social work at Hunter College, focusing on community organizing and development and planning. I've been doing more direct service work with people who have sports injuries as a massage therapist and a rehabilitative personal trainer. I'm looking forward to transitioning professionally into more global, macro social justice-focused work, and I think grad school will be a really great next step.
Contact Mark and the NY City Team at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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