Board Meeting: Andrea Jacobs

Edward Hoffman

- What do you do for a living?

That is an interesting question….It is a complicated answer.  I am an organizational consultant, and I wear two separate but related hats. 

I have a consulting practice with a friend, Rally Point for Collaborative Change, which consults with organizations to develop their collaborative capacity.  That means helping people break down silos that might develop within organizations or networks, so that they can identify where their best ideas may come from - bringing together people who don’t all do the same thing to share their ideas.  Some of what we focus on are leadership development, cultivating and supporting organizations to be learning organizations – not just evaluating programs and reporting to funders, but understanding what’s working, what’s not working, how we can do it better and more impactfully, what resources do we need for our staffs and for our stakeholders.  So we come in and work with organizations to help them think about how they track decision-making, how they track learning, so that organizations are better at integrating and learning across the different projects that may be going on.

he other piece is focused on primarily but not exclusively Jewish nonprofit social justice organizations, with a focus on anti-oppression education with youth and young adults.  I do a lot of facilitation in that area.  For the past three years I have worked with Repair the World, and different organizations will bring me in to do diversity training workshops.  Some of this is a continuation of the work I did when I was director of education and training for Keshet, an LGBT organization in Boston.  But instead of focusing only on LGBT issues, I work on racial diversity and gender diversity as well as sexuality, class and identity – many ways that oppression might show up in the culture of an institution. 

And with both of these hats on, I also do strategic vision and planning for organizations.

 - What is your Jewish background?

I grew up in Wilmington, in the Conservative movement.  I was very active in the youth movement, and went to Gratz’s satellite Hebrew High School program through 12th grade because I am that much of a nerd.  I worked as an assistant teacher at Beth Shalom in Wilmington, and went to Jewish summer camp - which was actually not a highlight – but I got some good grounding.  It led me to go to Brandeis U., which was a mixed bag.  I got a phenomenal education, but when I was there in the 80’s the level of internalized anti-Semitism that was thriving at that institution, particularly with the first whiff of multicultural and multiracial education and gender studies in its nascent period.  I worked in the Jewish community on and off throughout my career, spent four years in Israel, and did my doctoral research in language and ideology issues, first among American Jewish women and then in the Israeli feminist movement.

 - Where did you go to summer camp?

 Camp Ramah in the Poconos.

 - Were you a bat mitzvah?

 I was a bat mitzvah at Beth Shalom in Wilmington.

- Are there particular progressive causes that interest you?

The larger progressive agenda in general is interesting to me.  Particular issues that have guided the work that I do are gender issues.  During and right after college, I worked at a shelter dealing with domestic violence.  I have been active in feminist movements since college, and this has broadened to gender diversity writ large – gender identity, sexuality, but also tying into economic justice and racial justice and environmental justice.  These things all intersect and are interconnected.

- When you are not thinking about JSPAN, what other interests do you have?

I am the managing director of an improv theatre company called “Yes … AND Playback Theatre.  This is a multi-ethnic, multi-racial, multi-cultural, multi-faith group that is aiming at creating opportunities for people to examine issues that touch on these things.  It’s an international community that was founded in the 70’s to push back against the cult of celebrity and believe that everyone’s stories should be told. 

I just signed up for a creative non-fiction writing class.  I love to read and to garden – every year it’s a miracle that the seeds come up.  And I love going for walks on the Wissahickon.

- What book is presently on your night table?

Someone just gave me Colson Whitehead’s “The Underground Railroad” which I have started, and I just finished a book by feminist blogger/activist Lindy West – “Shrill: Notes from a Loud Woman” – which I inhaled.

- Thank you.