Rabbi David Jaffe was a young organizer working with the homeless community in San Francisco. The work was rewarding and heartbreaking at the same time. For every victory changing a city policy or helping someone into a job there were numerous defeats. David felt completely committed to working for social change but wondered how he could possibly have the internal resources to face so much suffering over the long haul. He looked around and noticed that the people who stayed in social justice work the longest seemed to have powerful personal spiritual practice, particularly the Franciscan nuns who were a fixture in the city’s shelters. Thus began a decades long search for the spiritual resources in his own Jewish tradition to support a lifetime commitment to social change.
Inspired by the Jewish wisdom traditions of Mussar (applied Jewish ethics) and Chassidut (applied Jewish mysticism) and others experimenting with how to integrate their spiritual lives and their justice work, Rabbi Jaffe wrote Changing the World from the Inside Out to articulate a Jewish path of personal and social change. The Inside Out Wisdom and Action Project builds on these teachings and seeks to support change makers to access deep Jewish wisdom to make their work more spiritually grounded, nourishing and sustainable.
Our broken world is in desperate need of ancient wisdom and bold action, grounded in personal integrity. Developing these qualities takes time, patience, and persistence. It also demands teachers who can model a life of activism coupled with spiritual practice, and who coach people in exploring their own hearts and minds. I endorse this project with all my heart... The Inside Out Wisdom and Action Project promises to bring wholeness to people who seek hope for humanity's future.
-- Rabbi Barbara Penzner
Our world is full of instability and many of us are fighting hard to try to make it more whole. To do that work, we must show up as grounded and nourished selves, able to connect to something bigger.
We need tools that will help us lead from our hearts to make transformational change. Jewish spiritual wisdom offers these powerful tools. The IOWA Project's work is to make those tools and practices accessible to the social justice leaders of today.
The Inside-Out change method supports social justice leaders to explore Jewish spiritual wisdom and develop Jewish spiritual practices. It helps people making social change integrate deep spiritual wisdom into their justice work in order to lead from a place that is more visionary, creative, sustainable, and grounded. We're helping people build bridges between their spiritual lives and their activist lives.
Rabbi David Jaffe
Rabbi David Jaffe is the founder of the Kirva Institute and leads the Inside Out Wisdom and Action Project. He is the author of Changing the World from the Inside Out: A Jewish Approach to Personal and Social Change, which won the National Jewish Book Award for Contemporary Jewish life.
His teaching, writing, organizing and consulting explore the intersection of moral and spiritual development and ethical action in the world. He teaches Mussar (applied Jewish ethics) and Jewish spiritual wisdom widely throughout North America with organizational and social change leaders, educators and spiritual seekers of all ages.
David was a founding board member of Avodah: The Jewish Service Corps and helped start the Greater Boston Interfaith Organization, an IAF affiliate. He has a masters in social work from Columbia University and private rabbinic ordination from Israel. He is a senior faculty member with the Mussar Institute, a visiting research fellow at Boston University and adjunct faculty at the Hebrew College Rabbinical School. David serves on the Board of Directors of the Brockton Interfaith Community and lives in Sharon, MA with his partner, Janette and two teenage boys.
Dan was born and grew up with his three siblings in Boston Massachusetts and was raised in Greater Boston's Jewish Community. He studied history and religion at Wesleyan University, and received a Master's in Education from Queens College.
Dan taught for three years
in the New York City public school system, focusing on social movements. He returned to Boston in 2007 to begin the Jewish Organizing Initiative (JOIN) where he received community organizing training and began his career as a youth organizer at Dorchester Bay Youth Force.
During his ten years as the Youth Force Director, Dan co-founded the Youth Jobs Coalition. Most recently, he has been interested in how to connect his spiritual path and his organizing work. Dan is currently exploring this and other key questions through his work at both the IOWA Project and Episcopal
Mimi Micner is the Rabbinic Intern at IOWA, and is in her final year Rabbinical Student at Hebrew College in Boston. During Rabbinical School, Mimi has prioritized Jewish spiritual practice and social justice work. She has taught Mussar through IOWA in multiple contexts to young people, young adults, and elders, and developed the first IOWA Vaad Curriculum. She has previously served as the Rabbinic Intern at Brown Hillel, Keshet, and Temple Tifereth Israel, where she brought spiritually-rich and justice-oriented approach to teaching, prayer, and advocacy.
Before attending Rabbinical School, Mimi was the Senior Campus Organizer for J Street U, and organized early childhood educators with the American Federation of Teachers. Mimi is from Vancouver, BC and now lives in Jamaica Plain, Massachusetts.
Sam is the Communications and Operations Coordinator at the Inside Out Wisdom and Action Project, based on the other side of the country in Los Angeles. She is a storyteller, designer, artist, and organizer, inspired by art's transformative ability to influence social movements and drive change.
Sam began organizing in 2016 with IfNotNow, and has continued using art as a tool within many Jewish organizing spaces. She has worked to develop communications strategies for various grassroots campaigns, allowing them to reach more folks with an impactful message. Sam loves coming up with a catchy hashtag, creating short animations, and exploring hiking trails in and around LA. She also cannot get enough of chocolate pretzel challah, from Los Angeles staple Got Kosher.