The newest group of young adults chosen for Bend the Arc’s Jeremiah Fellowship – 17 in the Bay Area and 15 in Southern California – are busy planning their action projects. Kendra Joy Berenson teaches history and English at San Rafael High School in Marin County, California. She is, in her own words, “an optimist, a thinker and a seeker.”
Last summer a friend who was in the Jeremiah Fellowship invited Kendra to the campaign selection process for Bend the Arc Bay Area. She came and was “impressed by the thoughtfulness and sense of community.” As Kendra, who is 28, began going to more events, she became involved in Bend the Arc’s progressive taxation campaign to pass Proposition 30 in California. She applied to the Jeremiah Fellowship and plans to continue working on tax reform as the central component of her Jeremiah action project.
“Part of why I applied for the Fellowship was because I want to learn more,” Kendra said. “There are issues of accountability to work on, making sure the money raised by Prop 30’s passage is used as intended and that the public knows where the money is going.”
A recent highlight of the Jeremiah program for Kendra was a January workshop on oppression.
“The woman leading the workshop did a section about anti-Semitism,” Kendra explained. “For me, the most profound moment was when she talked about patterns of behavior that are passed down that were originally coping mechanisms for dealing with oppression. She read off lists of behaviors that are the result of responding to anti-Semitism and the human need to feel safe. It made me realize that we sometimes act in ways that are mal-adaptive and can be unlearned. It felt like something pretty deep was being touched and this has stayed with me for the past two weeks.
“Jeremiah is a really special program,” Kendra said. “The sense of community is really special and for all of the fellows, I think this work is coming at a really important point in our lives.”