With the arrival of Rabbi Michael Lezak last year, GLIDE’s Center for Social Justice (CSJ) has been able to expand and deepen the ways we emphasize truth and reconciliation in our efforts around advocacy, staff development, and community building. In April, CSJ welcomed police departments and district attorneys’ offices from around the western United States for our first “An Officer and a Mensch” training. This curriculum seeks to instill greater understanding and care between law enforcement and the people of historically oppressed communities like the Tenderloin.
Rabbi Michael leads the initiative in partnership with Chief Matt Carmichael from the University of Oregon Police Department, and Yolo County District Attorney Jeff Reisig.
“I look at GLIDE as a lifeboat in a sea of need,” says Matt. “It’s a simple idea, to come where the need is and teach our criminal justice professionals that to be a good leader you have to know your community and who you serve. What better way to learn who you serve than spending time at GLIDE.”
Matt and Jeff along with about 25 law enforcement professionals spent three days at GLIDE, discussing everything from racism in the criminal justice system to the causes of the opioid crisis to what truly compassionate human interactions should look like. They also volunteered as a group in our Meals Program and met with GLIDE staff from across the organization to learn about our values-based approach towards serving our Tenderloin community.
“The vision was to create an opportunity to change the paradigm, to bring law enforcement leaders into this experience of opening our minds and broadening our perspectives, even if it’s just a little bit, to a different way of approaching the issues that affect us all: homelessness, poverty, addiction, mental illness,” says Jeff. “The goal and the prayer is for law enforcement leaders to develop more hope, more understanding and maybe change the way we do the job a little bit.”
The training left a positive and lasting impression on the participants, so much so that Rabbi Michael and GLIDE are already prepared to welcome another group after Thanksgiving this year. Michael, along with Director of the CSJ Miguel Bustos, are in the process of refining the curriculum and in conversation with various law enforcement professionals about instituting it as part of the core training for officers in departments across the west coast.
“This partnership at GLIDE is the only one of its kind in the country,” says Matt. “What’s wonderful about what you did for us is that it’s a re-connection, a reminder of our responsibility to leave no one behind. We have to serve everyone.”