September 29, 2022 — Today we present a “Mazel Talk” with SRE Network Advisory Board Member Aaron Dorfman. Aaron is the Executive Director of A More Perfect Union: The Jewish Partnership for Democracy.
Why are you a member of the SRE Advisory Board?
My service on the SRE Advisory Board is really animated by three things. First, I believe that everyone has a right to a safe, respectful, and equitable workplace. Jewish tradition and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights alike are clear that all workers are entitled a living wage, a sense of dignity, and an environment free of harassment and other mistreatment. The SRE Network is focused on ensuring that these rights are realized in Jewish organizations, beginning with those most likely to be excluded and rippling out from there.
Second, safe, respectful, and equitable workplaces are essential to organizations achieving their missions. It’s a truism that passionate, motivated, and skilled people are the greatest asset that social-impact organizations bring to bear on their missions, and those people need safe, respectful, and equitable workplaces in order to thrive and deliver on the sacred and essential work with which they’ve been charged over the long run. In this respect, service on the SRE Network Advisory Board is, for me, a way of supporting Jewish civil society to fulfill all of its myriad commitments.
Finally, and at a very personal level, I’m the father of three fierce daughters and one badass wife. Working to create safe, respectful, equitable workplaces is one way I can support them now and into their futures.
What is one thing you want the rest of the Jewish community to know about SRE Network?
The issues that the SRE Network is wrestling with are really gnarly, and we need everyone at the table to help us solve them. So the most important thing I want the Jewish community to know is that we are here, and to come join us in this essential work! The SRE Network is a place that can take on the most impactful questions related to workplace safety, respect, and equity and bring creative, compassionate, just insights to bear on how the Jewish community addresses them. For instance: What do safe, respectful, and equitable workplaces look like? How might we balance accountability for perpetrators with an authentic process for teshuvah and restorative justice (because, as Bryan Stevenson teaches us, “Each of us is more than the worst thing we’ve ever done.”). These are terrifically hard questions, requiring people with diverse experiences and perspectives to come together with what the Talmud calls a lev meyvin —a discerning heart— to weigh values and take action with a learn-as-we-go humility. And we need as wide a swath of the Jewish community as possible to join us in addressing them so we can continue to learn into solutions that will endure over the long term.
How does your professional role intersect with the work of SRE?
Like the work of the SRE Network, A More Perfect Union aspires to be both integrally and catalytically valuable. Like ensuring safe, respectful, and equitable workplaces, protecting and strengthening American democracy is a good in and of itself. But it’s also instrumentally important. In the absence of safe, respectful, and equitable workplaces, mission-driven organizations will not be able to deliver on their social value. Similarly, in the absence of robust democracy, citizens and civil society in this country will not be able to thrive, to pursue the good life, and to engage in the deliberative process about what that good life means to them. To me, service on the SRE Advisory Board and service to A More Perfect Union are of a kind in trying to create the conditions that enable all kinds of other important, meaningful work to happen.