As the executive director of a national nonprofit organization that fights for class equality, Jessie Spector proves that young doesn’t necessarily mean naive. “I look younger than my age — I’m often told that I look like a 15-year-old,” she said. “Being young and looking young, I often have to struggle to be taken seriously.”
But taken seriously she is. Spector manages Resource Generation, an organization that empowers young people with wealth and class privilege in the U.S. to work towards the equitable distribution of wealth, land and power. The organization challenges the privileged to “use all the tools in their toolkit” — including contacts and resources — to counteract the injustices of class divides, she said.
Spector began her work at the organization eight years ago, as an unpaid intern. A student of psychology and feminist studies in Wesleyan University, she became aware of the gap that existed between herself and some of her classmates. “I inherited money from my grandparents that paid for a four year private tuition,” she said. Meanwhile, many of her friends were struggling under crippling debt, as they simultaneously tried to support families back home. “That’s messed up,” she remembered thinking. “There’s something not right about this.”
Already an activist involved in solidarity work for underpaid dining workers on campus, she felt conflicted — a white girl from a wealthy family advocating for marginalized communities. When she came across the work of Resource Generation, she embraced the opportunity. “Even though I was a person with privilege, I could be part of the solution.”
In the three years since Spector began climbing the ranks, the organization expanded from nine to 16 national chapters and doubled both its staff and its membership (currently at 425). Her proudest moment, however, came in August 2014. When riots broke out across the country after the police shooting of African-American teenager Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo., Resource Generation raised $1.4 million for over 100 black-led community organizations in nine months.
“That was a game-changing moment,” she recalled.
Spector, who considers herself culturally Jewish, says that she sees her commitment to justice “as part and parcel of what it means to be Jewish.” She takes an active role in Jewish community life, from participating in communal Shabbat dinners to supporting progressive groups such as Jewish Voice for Peace and Jews for Racial and Economic Justice.
Something smells good: In her spare time, Spector bakes all of her own bread.