In response to several anti-Semitic incidents in Ukraine, the site of ongoing social upheaval, Rabbi David Saperstein, Director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, released the following statement: The events in Ukraine are deeply concerning for all who value human rights. We pray that the unrest will be resolved in a peaceful and […]Read more
The following was sent on Friday afternoon as an email on behalf of the World Union for Progressive Judaism. The bottom of this post includes a link to donate to help Jewish communities in Ukraine during this time of crisis. This morning, as our community members arrived at the synagogue center in Simferopol, they discovered […]Read more
The URJ is proud to announce an innovative Camper Incentive Program for Jewish Military Families on Active Duty, open to Jewish families with at least one parent on Active Duty in the United States Armed Forces. The program will be offered at the URJ Henry S. Jacobs Camp in Utica, MS, which has served more […]Read more
Earlier this winter, my synagogue played host to NFTY-NAR’s Winter Kallah. Because we’re of the “go big or go home” belief, our cantor arranged for Jewish musician Dan Nichols to be our artist-in-residence the same weekend. Ever a consummate mensch, Dan participated the entire weekend in activities with NFTY, the religious school, and programs for […]Read more
By Rabbi Josh Weinberg
“All the people gathered themselves together as one man into the broad place that was before the water gate; and they spoke unto Ezra the scribe to bring the book of the Law of Moses, which Adonai had commanded to Israel. 2 And Ezra the priest brought the Law before the congregation, both men and women, and all that could hear with understanding, upon the first day of the seventh month. 3 And he read therein before the broad place that was before the water gate from early morning until midday, in the presence of the men and the women, and of those that could understand; and the ears of all the people were attentive unto the book of the Law… 8 And they read in the book, in the Law of God, distinctly; and they gave the sense, and caused them to understand the reading. 9 And Nehemiah, who was the Tirshatha, and Ezra the priest the scribe, and the Levites that taught the people, said unto all the people: ‘This day is holy unto Adonai your God; mourn not, nor weep.’ For all the people wept, when they heard the words of the Law.” (Nehemiah Ch. 8:1-3; 8-9) Read more…
By Eleanor Schwartz
Excerpted from “Ani V’atah” NFTY Newsletter, February 2005.
This decade was a Golden Era for NFTY; a time of innovation and creative energy, a search for and development of identity with an agenda for action within the congregation; the affirmation that teens and the Temple Youth Group (TYG) had come of age.
This actually started in the late 40s after the end of World War II, when Rabbi Samuel Cook became the NFTY Director. He had the vision that post-confirmation teens needed to “grow up Jewishly” in an environment of their choice, a program of their choice, and with responsibility for their actions. The then young adult NFTY Board shared this vision and in 1948 took action to change the age profile of NFTY to post-confirmation throughout school. Having banished themselves as NFTY members, many of these “retirees” became TYG or regional advisors and faculty members at NFTY events. Read more…
By Steve Eisenbach-Budner
Tivnu: Building Justice is a new organization based in Portland, Oregon. Tivnu is proud to partner with URJ’s Mitzvah Corps Portland this summer, and, this fall Tivnu is launching the first stateside Jewish gap year program. Both our summer and gap year programs combine social advocacy, Jewish learning and living, and construction work and training with affordable-housing organizations like Habitat for Humanity.
We believe that it is important for Jews to engage in social justice work not just as individuals, but as representatives of the Jewish community in partnership with other communities. For us, creating meaningful social justice initiatives involves: Read more…
By Ivy Cohen
Five years ago, the three Reform Synagogues in the Metropolitan New Orleans Area, each with their own unique, rich and glorious histories faced a common problem: their youth groups had shrunk to an unsustainable size. Touro Synagogue, Congregation Gates of Prayer and Congregation Temple Sinai, which each had thriving youth programs at one point, were operating with less than ten members. The synagogues each had a volunteer advisor who worked diligently to recruit and publicize their events. However, they were unable to get critical participation numbers, and the investment was outweighing the returns. There were some teens actively participating, those who were the true foundation and heartbeat of the youth group that would show up to anything branded by their respective acronym. Despite the eager few, though, the reality of the situation was grave. The congregations could no longer justify operating independent youth groups. The synagogues each agreed that they wanted teens to have access to some kind of Jewish experience, ideally grounded in the Reform community. Although there were other options in New Orleans for a post b’nai mitzvah experience, the congregations wanted to ensure that their teens had access to a uniquely Reform Jewish experience. Read more…
By Ava Kurnow
- only think about engaging post b’nai mitzvah students
- don’t look at the whole picture of their community
- don’t know what their short and long term goals are
- don’t engage the stakeholders
Is there anything above that Jewish educators don’t already know? Is there any congregation that doesn’t want to engage their members, including the youth? Is the importance of building relationships within your community a new concept?
After you answer, “No”, think about what has changed and why we’re all looking for new ways to engage our youth. What will help you and why are we all writing and reading about what everyone else is doing? Read more…
By Melissa Frey
When Hattie and Milton Kutz gifted $100,000 of their estate toward the creation of a Reform Movement leadership training summer program for teens, the impact of their vision likely could not have been imagined. Tens of thousands of people, both young and young at heart, including many of the most influential professional and volunteer leaders in our movement, are products of the URJ Kutz Camp. Forty-nine summers after opening the gates at 46 Bowen Road in Warwick, New York, Kutz has secured its place as the flagship center of inspired engagement. Each of these milestones and successes has happened because of and in partnership with NFTY.
Recently, I attended the funeral of Mark Levy, z”l, in Los Angeles and had the honor of celebrating his life. Mark and his wife, Peachy, have been deeply committed to the future of the Jewish people for decades. Through their incredible leadership, they have distinguished themselves as two of the Reform Movement’s most generous donors. Particularly devoted to camp and youth initiatives, the Levys provided scholarships that enabled thousands of students to attend the URJ’s west coast camps (camps Newman and Kalsman) and NFTY events, and they expanded the URJ’s camping network to include URJ Camp Kalsman, named for Peachy’s parents.
Last year Mark and Peachy, widely beloved for their tremendous warmth, menschlichkeit and generosity, were honored as lifetime members of NFTY. This video provides a glimpse of the warmth of the Levys and the love they receive from our young people. Indeed, our Movement is diminished by the loss of Mark. May his memory be for a blessing, and may Peachy and their family – and all of us – find comfort among the mourners of Zion and Jerusalem.
by Jay Ruderman
Wikipedia defines social justice as, “the ability people have to realize their potential in the society where they live.” This definition can be broken down into three parts: realizing potential, in society, and where they live. For Jewish people with disabilities, each of these parts presents a challenge – and for the rest of us, they present an opportunity.
The full inclusion of people with disabilities in society is a matter of social justice, civil rights, and fairness. Every Jew counts, every Jew has something unique to offer our community, and every Jew is created in the image of God, no matter how they look or express themselves. Approximately 1,000,000 Jews in the United States have some form of disability. Look at that number again: 1,000,000 people, in our community alone. Our job must be to invite them in, not put up barriers to keep them out. Read more…
By Cantor Wally Schachet-Briskin
I found myself (quite literally) at Reform Jewish summer camp. More than anything, it was the music that drew me into experiencing Jewish life with all my heart, with all my soul, and with all my might. How did music in youth grouping touch something Jewish so deep inside me? The experience was more than nifty . . . it was NFTY.
Our participatory musical style in synagogue services grew out of the creative liturgy of youth camps. The use of folk guitar in religious school, in the youth service, and (more and more) in adult worship can be traced back to NFTY’s roots, which were planted 75 years ago, but which evolved from earlier models. Read more…
The following was sent on Friday afternoon as an email on behalf of the World Union for Progressive Judaism. The bottom of this post includes a link to donate to help Jewish communities in Ukraine during this time of crisis.
Dear World Union Family,
We all share family in Kiev and throughout Ukraine, and that makes the crisis there personal. The headlines do not tell the full story of the fears our congregants are facing, nor the underlying threat to our community. Help is needed.
As we write, Rabbi Alexander Duhkovny, rabbi of our Progressive communities in Kiev and Ukraine, expresses hope that the situation on the ground will improve as the Ukrainian Parliament has approved a restoration of the Constitution of 2004 which limits Presidential power. Yet, we know that in recent days the situation was tragic. Unconfirmed reports indicate that nearly 100 people were killed on Thursday, many of whom were victims of police snipers shooting from rooftops. Fires were spreading, electricity is still unreliable, food is scarce, and the banks and public transportation were closed. Read more…
by Nancy Crown
When I was called to meet with a member of my synagogue’s Congregation-Based Community Organizing Committee, I almost declined. I was asked to think about what the temple could do that it was not already doing. My main reaction was to reflect on the many opportunities for learning, worship, and community that I wasn’t partaking of, due to limited time and a longstanding “outsider” feeling when it comes to religion. Like many others, my upbringing did not include much meaningful participation in the spiritual aspects of Judaism.
My daughter, now 28 years old, has developmental disabilities. She was keenly interested in Judaism as a young child, but as a teen, she began to talk about converting to another religion. By that time, our son was enrolled in school at Congregation Rodeph Sholom, where we were members. We chose a Jewish day school for a number of reasons, including our desire for our son to feel more secure in his Jewish identity than my husband, my daughter, or I had felt. We began lighting candles on Friday nights. I took Hebrew classes. We attended services, where, at moments, I would feel an achy kind of longing, alongside a feeling of being an outsider. Try as I might, I couldn’t quite find a way in. Read more…
Over Presidents Day weekend, 130 teen leaders from our 19 NFTY regions participated in a leadership retreat and board meeting at URJ Greene Family Camp. They elected a new North American board for 2014-2015/5774-5775. We are pleased to introduce you to the NFTY board-elect. They will officially be installed during the next NFTY general board meeting in June at URJ Kutz Camp in Warwick, NY. Read more…
by Shayna Simon
My name is Shayna Simon I am 12 years old. I have attended Camp Chazak at URJ Eisner and Crane Lake in Massachusetts for the last 2 summers. This camp is for kids like me that may have some challenges and just need some direction to stay focused and enjoy this wonderful camp experience.
The best way I can describe this camp is “AWESOME” We get to play, swim, sing, cook, eat and laugh together. I especially enjoy being able to share my Jewishness with everyone through prayer & singing. I even got to play my guitar during services. This year will be my last year at Camp Chazak as I age out. Read more…
by Sarah Rosemont
This past November, I traveled to Israel as part of a NFTY delegation team in honor of the 25th anniversary of the Women of the Wall. Today, more than two months later, I still don’t know how to describe the trip in a way that will do it justice. How can I talk about the most impactful week of my life in just five minutes or 500 words? Although I can’t capture the whole trip in one sitting, I can describe the small but powerful moments that caused me to feel immense pride — and question my beliefs — in the hope that listeners will learn from my experiences and pass it on to educate others.
I felt extreme pride during Rosh Chodesh t’filah (prayer) at the Western Wall (Kotel). I was standing with hundreds of women, singing in unity, making a statement for equality through prayer, when I heard an uproar of protest from the Orthodox men on their side of the wall. I stood on tiptoe to see the Orthodox men who were attempting to push their way closer to the mechitzah (the wall separating the two sides of the Kotel). I noticed that other men, seemingly Reform and Conservative Jews, were forming a barrier to stop them. Seeing the men standing on chairs praying along with us from their side gave me a whole new perspective of the Wall. I realized that this issue resonates with more people than just the women who were around me, and that others — including men — also want to see gender equality at the Wall. Read more…