Member Spotlight: Rachel Eryn Kalish



This month, Lori "sat down with" Rachel Eryn Kalish, one of the leaders of our Mending Divisions Committee and member of the California State Organizing Committee.

Lori: Today I am interviewing Rachel Erin Kalish, a valuable C1 member! Hello, Rachel Eryn, I'm happy to know you a little better -- and am sure the folks at County First would love to know more, too! Over the past several months I have seen  your “resolution-making” skills in action. You champion harmony and resolve discordance into thoughtful unity. Can you tell us about your background and how it impacts where you are today, and what is the most difficult resolution you undertook? 

Rachel Eryn:  I'm very honored to be invited and thank you for your kind reflections! I think I was born with some sense of "there's another way" from what I saw around me, which was a loving, yet, highly conflictual family and culture. My dad was an attorney and I was encouraged to be one. My mother had lost over 50 family members in Auschwitz and carried an intense passion for American democracy. She carried a sense of justice that I internalized. They both possessed a fierce way of expressing themselves that felt painful to their highly sensitive, introverted daughter. I evolved into a passionate advocate for a kinder, more loving, honest, and "just" way of being in the world. The immense amount of suffering which is perpetuated out of being righteously indignant can perpetrate on others no matter what the topic is; yet there is a vision that many of us inherently carry that we must find another way to engage with each other if we are to survive, let alone thrive!

Today, books, workshops, models for dialogue, and the neuroscience of conflict transformation are plentiful – making things easier. But at the same time, things are made more difficult by the amount of rage, anguish, and pain. Too many people still don't have the skills or capacities to engage in ways that shed light instead of heat. We have a great opportunity for a tremendous leap forward in how we engage, as well as some very serious regression if we resort to violence. I was deeply moved by the work I was able to do between Israelis and Palestinians during the second intifada and within the Jewish community around that conflict that was ripping at the seams of the community. I worked for almost 10 years on a project that made major and lasting cultural changes. I also love working with families and workplace teams in conflict because when there is healing and breakthrough in those places it has such a strong ripple of impact on every aspect of their lives. 

Lori:  You told me you are very involved in your spirituality/religion. Would you like to share with us what “moves you” to do that work? 

Rachel Eryn: My spirituality -- a combination of deep Jewish mysticism and some Buddhist meditation practices, along with a trust in Divine Love/G-d evolving through us -- guides and helps bring perspective that things are unfolding on G-d's time (most of the time it takes a lot longer than I would prefer!).  A lot of Judaism is about "bringing heaven to earth." In other words, creating a world that brings the most love, care, justice and peace to our social, family, and political systems. There is far more to this world than the material or "relative" realm. When I stop and breathe and feel-into what some call "The Absolute," it can give me perspective on our world challenges. Nature is such a beautiful and crucial portal to "THE ONE."  I live among the trees in Northern California in an area that has felt safe and nurturing for most of the last 17 years and is now in great danger of wildfires. My home was a deep blessing during the worst days of the pandemic, though I did have to evacuate for a week due to wildfire fear, which was quite unsettling. My intention, as is the intention of all people, on all religious/spiritual paths, is to be a force for healing and goodness. It takes practice to train the mind toward that which is already whole, holy, healed, and acting from that place in how we treat each other and the earth. 

Lori:  How are you involved with Country First? What can you share with others about "being involved?" Seeing the movement grow and what do you personally hope to get out of Country First?

Rachel Eryn: I feel blessed to be involved with C1 this year! As part of the SOC (State Committee) for California I tell our team that they have given me back my heart. I was so heartbroken after the January 6th insurrection and the second impeachment hearing. I am a Baby Boomer who really believes in this country's capacity to deal with anything we set our mind to, so I was shocked to see that most of the GOP doubled down in supporting Trump! When I heard that my favorite GOP Congressman (Rep. Adam Kinzinger) was starting an organization, I signed up. I had no idea how personally gratifying it would be meeting others committed to the core principles of our democracy. I am excited to work on C1’s Mending Divisions Committee, as it sustains my own hope right now. This is true for many of our C1 members.

Country 1st is growing! It is one of the safest and most courageous online spaces you will find in the political sphere -- with people who really care and yearn to heal what is broken in our country. Everyone brings passion, opinions, ideas, and their willingness to listen. The opportunity before us is to truly heal those things in our collective shadow that Donald Trump brought to light. We must face our country’s ill health. We must encounter those aspects of our collective culture that allowed MAGA to take root -- modeling ways to act with compassion and civility, and holding clear lines around unacceptable behavior. We must seek to transform –- together -- a healthier, more honest, vibrant, and caring society where we can bring forward our positivity into a revived body politic. I highly recommend reading Steve McIntosh's book Developmental Politics, which describes current affairs with brilliance and precision. 

I see Country First and Rep. Kinzinger as a core visionary leader sounding the clarion call to a more perfect union. We must keep the faith. We can share joy along the way; and we need each other. Join your local State Organization (SOC), the private Country Movement Makers group on Facebook, or our Slack Channel to bond with other Americans seeking another way forward. As a Holocaust survivor said at the close of a workshop I attended in Israel during the second intifada: "We have to do this because the alternative is just too horrible."