Blog  Finding Your Passion: Resources from Fall Kallah

Finding Your Passion: Resources from Fall Kallah

Pluralism

Pluralism is the belief that there is truth and value in other religions and philosophies. Pluralistic Judaism is based on the Jewish concept of “Tarbut HaMachloket,” which, in Hebrew, means “freedom of thinking and speech.” Specifically within Judaism, pluralism takes several forms, including:

  • Allowing congregations/synagogues to be self supporting and practice Judaism in a way that is most relevant and impactful for their community.
  • Welcoming all Jews, regardless of background. This includes accepting those in interfaith marriages, LGBTQ community members, those who have converted to Judaism, and those who are still discovering their Jewish identity.
  • Removing barriers to prayer. While the language of Hebrew has historically united the Jewish people, no one should need to be fluent in Hebrew to have a meaningful prayer experience. G-d understands all languages.
  • Subscribing to Jewish law is a personal matter, and every person chooses their own level of observation.

Where did you get this information and where can I learn more?

Interfaith Family’s Website

Pluralism.org

What has NFTY said about pluralism?

  • 1980 – NFTY calls on the State of Israel as the homeland of the Jewish people to implement fully the principle of guaranteed religious rights for all its Citizens including equality of opportunity, equality of recognition, and equality of governmental aid to all religious movements within Judaism. To further the cause of authentic Jewish pluralism, we call upon our constituent organizations to support this principle.
  • 1982 – NFTY, in coordination with ARZA and Kadima and the UAHC (now the URJ), seeks to establish a coalition with the Conservative movement aimed at the establishment of Jewish pluralism in Israel; and, that NFTY, in coordination with ARZA and Kadima and the UAHC, voice its displeasure with the present use of funds from Reform Jews for Israel to the philanthropic organizations that do not fund the Conservative or Reform movement in Israel; and, that NFTY through its office in Jerusalem, set up communication with the Reform movement’s constituencies in Israel, such as the World Union for Progressive Judaism, Netzer, Olami, Noar Telem, Kibbutz Yahel, Kibbutz Lotan, the Reform congregations throughout the country, and their leading rabbis in order to establish plans and actions for religious pluralism in Israel. NFTY will enter into dialogue with members of Garin Arava and Garin Yirach who are making aliyah to Israel about their input for Religious Pluralism; and, that NFTY in coordination with ARZA, Kadima and the UAHC voice its stand and concern on this issue to the Israeli Ambassador in Washington and representatives of the State of Israel.
  • 1998 – That NFTY calls for the education of its members on issues of pluralism in the Diaspora and in Israel, as well as on fundamental differences in belief between the Reform community and the other leading Jewish communities, in order to support an understanding of the conflicts inherent in Jewish pluralism for the sake of fair judgment, for Hillel says, “Al tadin et chaver’cha ad shetagia lim’komo – Do not judge your fellow until you have reached his place.”

What can I do?

Talk to your rabbis, cantor, and educators about making sure your temple is as inclusive as possible. Try to understand why certain things are done the way the are. If the answer is “that’s how we’ve always done it,” it might be time to reexamine it.

 

Trevor Project

The Trevor Project is a nonprofit organization that focuses on preventing suicide in LGBTQ youth, an extremely vulnerable population. It is the first around the clock, nation-wide crisis and suicide prevention line for LGBTQ youth.

Where did you get this information and where can I learn more?

The Trevor Project National Website

The Trevor Project Chicago

What has NFTY said about it?

While NFTY has not passed any legislation explicitly regarding the Trevor Project, there is a long history of support for the LGBTQ community.

What can I do?

If you are over 18, you can sign up to volunteer on their website. Don’t worry if you aren’t, you can still help this great organization. They host events throughout the year (age restrictions vary, so be sure to check before hand).  You can also follow them on Twitter (@TrevorProject) and Facebook (The Trevor Project). Liking, commenting, and sharing helps increase their visibility, potentially allowing them to reach someone who needs their services but wouldn’t otherwise know about them. Finally, you can make a tax deductible donation on The Trevor Project’s website.

 

Racial Justice

As Jews, we are taught that “You shall not hate your kinsfolk in your heart. Reprove your kinsman, but incur no guilt because of him. You shall not take vengeance or bear a grudge against your countrymen. Love your fellow as yourself”. Remembering that we were once strangers in the land of Egypt, the Jewish community has a storied history of fighting for racial equality. Unfortunately, racial tensions are heightening throughout the country, and the Jewish community needs to be at the forefront of the fight for racial justice.

Where did you get this information and where can I learn more?

The Religious Action Center (RAC) Racial Justice Page

The RAC Jewish Values Page

ReformJudaism.org

What has NFTY said about racial justice?

  • 1982 – NFTY supports legislation in Congress to extend the Voting Rights Act; and, that NFTY oppose all efforts by Congress to weaken the Voting Rights Act; and, that NFTY support, local, regional, and national efforts to secure the passage of such legislation.
  • 1985 – NFTY adopts “Black/Jewish Relations” as a 1985-1987 NFTY Project; and, that the resources be compiled jointly be leaders of NFTY and the Black community who will facilitate action; and, for successful implementation, that we encourage equal collaboration, calling upon our TYGs and regions to take part in direct interaction with the Black Community.
  • 1992 – The General Board of NFTY, as the leaders of the youth of today and the adults of tomorrow, call upon the TYG’s and membership of NFTY to direct their energies and resources towards fighting racial unrest The youth of America are a driving force in national sentiment and must collaborate to achieve the common goal of racial harmony we have the ability to change the world and the perceptions of those around them We as Jews have a special stake in achieving racial harmony we know what it is to face prejudice and discrimination and must work to end it Furthermore, we are commanded Justice, justice, shall you pursue (Deuteronomy 16 20) by fighting racial injustice, we are working to fulfill our Biblical obligations to ourselves and those around us That the TYGs of NFTY should:
    • Strive to produce and implement programming on the issues of racial conflict and racial harmony.
    • Institute programs with organizations of youths from various racial groups with the goal of fostering racial harmony.
    • Educate the nation at barge both about issues involved in racial strife and about peaceful means of resolving such issues.
  • 2004 – NFTY adopted a resolution setting standards for businesses that wish to become vendors for NFTY events, and among them was a commitment to nondiscrimination and racial equality.
  • 2017 – NFTY launches the Racial Justice campaign (more info in What Can I Do?)

What Can I Do?

Visit the NFTY website for an overview of the NFTY Racial Justice campaign. There are training modules, actions, and an application to become a campaign ambassador.

 

Socioeconomic Justice

In addition to the commandment to give Tzedakah (charity), Jews are commanded to “speak up, judge righteously, champion the poor and the needy.” This can take many forms, including fighting hunger, homelessness, and advocating for fair labor conditions. Poverty runs in a cycle, and advocating for the resources to help one generation break the chains of poverty allows future generations to build on this success.

Where did you get this information and where can I learn more?

ReformJudaism.org

The RAC’s Economic Justice Page

What has NFTY said about it?

  • 1983 – That the NFTY 1983-1985 two year national project be “poverty” and that regions and TYGs conduct programs to educate their members on the problem of poverty; and, that NFTY encourage the establishment of major mitzvah and social action projects through the implementation of this resolution and that each region encourage its TYGs to have ongoing involvement in the alleviation of poverty in its geographical area; and, that a task force be established at Mechina 1983 to discuss the different aspects of poverty, to develop resources, and to determine possible actions that can be taken by regions and TYGs to combat this problem and that NFTY oppose any further federal budget cuts in social programs which would harm the poor.
  • 1984 – That we urge the restoration of funds to the various children’s programs that have been cut; and, that in conjunction with our Poverty Project, we attempt to raise the consciousness of our members and others to the connections between poverty, children, and the Federal, state and local government budgets.
  • 1985 – Economic Justice is listed as part of the Jewish commandment of Tikkun Olam, that year’s programming theme.
  • 1993 – That NFTY establish the NFTY Tzedakah Fund with the following guidelines:
    • Regions may make annual monetary contributions at the NFTY Winter Board Meetings. Contribution decisions will be made by the NFTY General Board at the Mechina Board Meeting (suggestions can be submitted by TYGs as well).
    • TYG’s may also make pledges through the Social Action Tikkun Olam Program.
    • The amount of TYG and regional donations will remain anonymous.

What can I do about it?

Contacting your government officials is one of the best ways to support initiatives for socioeconomic justice. The RAC frequently releases statements on important pieces of legislation, along with calls to action. You can also volunteer at local homeless shelters, food pantries, etc. This is a fantastic way to ensure that someone has a meal to eat or a place to stay. Finally, giving Tzedakah to organizations that advocate for socioeconomic justice and provide resources for those affected by inequality is an easy and impactful way to make a difference.

 

Incarceration & Criminal Justice Reform

In the Torah, we are taught not to seek the death of the wicked, but rather help them turn from their ways and continue living. From this, we know that all humans are capable of reforming themselves, no matter how much wrong they have committed. We are instructed to help facilitate this transformation not by punitively punishing, but instead by teshuvah, rehabilitating. In the modern American criminal justice system, punishment has become more and more of an emphasis. This has disproportionately affected poor and minority communities, adding another layer to the complex web of oppression present in society.

Where did you get this information and where can I learn more?

The RAC’s Criminal Justice Page

ReformJudaism.org

Truah

What has NFTY said about it?

  • 2003 – That NFTY hereby takes a stand in opposition of the death penalty as it is Applied in the United States today and that it will support steps to reform the American Justice system’s use of the death penalty and that NFTY will support any legislation that works to make our Justice System adopt more fair practices and activities and that NFTY will work to continuously update and educate our participants on the issue of the death penalty and that NFTY will take an active role in the anti-death penalty movement and make it an important part of our social action agenda
  • Additionally, NFTY has affirmed many URJ and CCAR (Central Conference of American Rabbis) resolutions on this issue.

What can I do about it?

Talk to your congregational leaders about what, if anything, your congregation has done around this issue. Running an educational program in your temple or community is an excellent way to raise awareness that leads to action. Contact your local officials about the policies in place in your community, and let your congressional representatives know this is an important issue to you. The RAC issues actions around specific events or issues, and participating in them is a great way to effectively convey your message with a large impact. Truah, a rabbinic action group, has compiled a list of resources and organizations that you can get involved with on their website.

 

Environmentalism

One of the pillars of Judaism is the continued tilling and tending of the Earth. While the modern era of technology has brought unprecedented production, it has also led to an unprecedented destruction of the Earth and its resources. The impacts of this destruction will affect the Earth not just in our lifetime, but in generations to come.

Where did you get this information and where can I learn more?

The RAC’s Environment Page

NFTY’s Environmentalism Page

ReformJudaism.org

What has NFTY said about it?

  • 1982 – That NFTY urge that the Clean Air Act remain in its present form so that it may continue to protect our environment as it has done in the past.
  • 1990 – That NFTY, including the regions, adopt mandatory recycling at all associated meetings and conventions, whenever such recycling is feasible; and, that the use of environmentally harmful products, such as Styrofoam, be banned from use at NFTY and regional events whenever such restriction is feasible; and, that NFTY urge all TYGs, congregations, Union Camps, and NFTYites, in their homes, to adopt similar policies; and, that NFTY, including the regions; printings be copies double-sided when possible, to conserve paper; and, that NFTY support all legislation advocating recycling and supporting the ban of environmentally harmful products.
  • 2001 – That we, as NFTYites, take the next step in pursuing environmental justice and Tikkun Olam by being vigilant of our individual demands for energy, and that NFTY recognizes that drilling in protected natural habitats is not a favorable solution to the energy crisis and actively opposes any legislation that compromises the preservation of wildlife refuges such as the Arctic Refuge, recognizing that such legislation ignores our responsibility to the land as said in Genesis 2:15, “L’ovdah v’l’shomrah,” to serve and to guard, and that NFTY educates and updates its regions on the crisis by distributing an environmental awareness packet; compiled by the Regional Social Action Network; and involves all NFTYites in the conservation effort by instituting letter-writing campaigns to legislators, and that we help to alleviate the situation by being cognizant of our energy uses at local and regional events, especially when events are at large camps that consume great amounts of energy, by turning off power sources, such as lights in cabins, restrooms, and meeting halls, when they are not needed, and that NFTY reviews and renews its past pledges to the environment, making it an urgent priority to actively preserve our environment for future generations by strongly encouraging that energy inefficient incandescent light bulbs be replaced with lasting compact fluorescent bulbs in UAHC Camps, offices, and synagogues, and NFTY will encourage the conservation of gasoline and other petroleum products through awareness and creative solutions brought to the attention of NFTYites at events

What can I do about it?

Implement green programs at your congregation, school, or other community center. This can include recycling and composting areas, working to conserve water and energy, transitioning to solar power, just to name a few options. Running programs to help educate your community on the issues of waste and environmental destruction is another great way to make an impactful change in your community. Additionally, a great list of resources and organizations is available here.