The artwork on this note card was created by 5768 WRJ Art Calendar artist Césan d’Ornellas Levine.
Last week I joined the Religious Action Center’s programming team at NFTY Convention 2015 in Atlanta, GA to help lead a social justice track.
The students in our track participated in two days of activities, first together focusing broadly on the impact of combining education, action, and advocacy in a campaign, and then splitting up to more intensively study Jewish values and political realities of the fight for funding anti-Malaria nets in Africa, economic inequality in the United States and the obstacles facing people around the world in both adapting to and mitigating the causes of climate change. The teens in our programs grappled with the relationship between Jewish text and contemporary political issues and learned about vulnerable communities both abroad and in North America. Finally, they were asked to propose, if not solutions, than at least plans, to raise awareness, take action around and advocate for change on one of the three issues that we had discussed.
We speak often of the importance of passing down our tradition l’dor v’dor, from generation to generation. When we talk about climate change we restate that cornerstone of our values in relation to passing down a heritable earth in the face of climate disruption and environmental degradation. This is the generation that has been shown time and again to care the most about climate change, according to studies, in large part because they will be the most effected by rising ocean levels, increased droughts and decreased biodiversity. During the NFTY social justice track we were able to both pass down our Jewish tradition and our legacy of environmental advocacy to a group of passionate high school students enthusiastic about making a difference for their generation.
In this way, our work with teens is some of the most important work we do at the RAC. While our coalitions, our visits to congressional offices and briefings are incredibly important here in Washington, D.C. to directly effecting a specific piece of legislation, it’s our face-to-face moments, our discussion groups and high school programs that have the most visible impact on the people in our Movement. These teens are the people that will ensure – in their communities, their high schools, colleges and into their adult lives—that the Jewish obligations to pursue justice and care for our earth are carried forward.
If you’re interested in using one of the programs we ran during NFTY Convention in your community, check out rac.org/nfty for the materials we used.