Bend The Arc: A Jewish Partnership for Justice (BTA) grew out of the June 2011 merger of the California-based Progressive Jewish Alliance and the New York-based Jewish Funds for Justice. Soon after that merger, Jews United for Justice (in Washington, DC) and Jewish Community Action (in St. Paul, Minnesota) became affiliated with BTA, which today has offices in New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Washington, Philadelphia, and Boston. BTA’s mission is to “create a just, fair and compassionate America” by “mobilizing the full array of Jewish resources—human, financial and moral”—to promote “equality and justice for disenfranchised residents of our nation.”
In early 2012, BTA and the Jewish Organizing Initiative collaborated to launch the Jewish Organizing Institute and Network for Justice (JOIN for Justice), a national entity dedicated to training, supporting, and connecting Jewish organizers and their communities in order to advance “economic and social justice” and “positive social change.” JOIN’s coreprograms today include: (a) the Jewish Organizing Fellowship, a year-long program where Jewish young adults are taught the community organizing skills “needed to build powerful communities and create a just world”; and (b) the Seminary Leadership Project, which provides rabbinic, cantorial, and education students at seminaries across the U.S. with mentorship and training as organizers and leaders.
BTA’s work today consists of the following major campaigns and programs:
* The Tzedec Community Investing program seeks to “decreas[e] poverty” and “expan[d] economic opportunity” through long-term investments in low-income areas. For example, this initiative helps people buy back their homes after foreclosure; issues below-market-rate loans to small businesses; extends credit to local residents who create jobs in their communities; and helps finance “affordable housing,” medical clinics, and “places to buy good food at a good price.”
* The Grantmaking program supports a wide, culturally diverse range of community, labor, and congregation-based organizations that complement BTA’s programmatic work in the areas of community organizing and leadership development. Its current grantees include groups based in New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, the Twin Cities, and the San Francisco Bay Area.
* BTA’s Leadership Institute trains emerging leaders, community organizers, activists, and advocates to effectively lead social-change initiatives within “the Jewish and progressive communities.” For example:
* The Organizing & Advocacy program favors massive wealth redistribution, on the premise that “a nation divided into winners and losers, split into haves and have-nots, is un-American.”
* BTA’s Voting Rights program—lamenting that “discrimination in voting is not a thing of the past”—opposed the 2013 Supreme Court decision that struck down two sections of the 1965 Voting Rights Act. Further, BTA condemns Voter ID laws as barriers that “make it harder for communities of color, women, first-time voters, the elderly, and the poor to cast their vote.”
* The Immigration Reform program calls for: (a) “creating a path to citizenship” and ensuring “economic protections” for “the 11 million people who currently toil in the shadow economy … without access to many services, and in constant fear of persecution and deportation”; (b) instituting “a fair system to deal with the future flow of immigrants coming to pursue their own chance at the American dream”; and (c) ensuring that “immigration policies stay inclusive of LGBT people so that all Americans will be treated equally when it comes to immigration.” These policy prescriptions are founded on BTA’s belief that “the Jewish collective memory speaks to our people as immigrants from the moment Abram was called to ‘Go forth from your homeland’ and down through the millennia.” By BTA’s telling, “U.S. immigration law has evolved from a largely open door policy, as reflected in Emma Lazarus’ words inscribed on the Statue of Liberty, into a complex and daunting body of restrictions and requirements.”
* The Progressive Taxation program calls for the imposition of high taxes on the wealthy, as a means of creating “a just and equitable society.”
In 2018, BTA pledged to “hold … accountable” all “politicians [seeking] to enable the immoral agenda of the Trump administration and the Republican Party,” and vowed “to organize and fundraise to replace them with progressive champions.”
On July 1, 2020, BTA alleged that a t-shirt which was being sold on President Trump’s official campaign website was adorned with Nazi iconography. The Trump shirt featured the image of a blue-and-white bald eagle, a red-white-and-blue American flag, the heading “America First,” and a small banner reading “Trump 2020.” The Nazi image, by contrast, was of a black-and white eagle atop a black swastika. BTA circulated images of the two shirts, side by side, writing: “The President of the United States is campaigning for reelection with a Nazi symbol. Again. On the left: an official Trump/Pence ‘America First’ tee. On the right; the Iron Eagle, the official symbol of the Nazi party. It’s not an accident. Bigotry is their entire brand.” The Trump campaign dismissed the allegations as “moronic,” noting “a long American legacy of using the bald eagle to represent the country.”
BTA’s board chairman is George Soros‘s son, Alexander Soros, who also serves as Deputy Chair of the Open Society Foundations and sits on the boards of the International Crisis Group, Global Witness, Libraries Without Borders, and Central European University.
Among the major funders of BTA are the Bauman Foundation, the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation, the Democracy Alliance, the Nathan Cummings Foundation, the Open Society Foundations, the Righteous Persons Foundation, and the W.K. Kellogg Foundation.