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 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…
As I write this, I’m on a literal and figurative high – literal because I’m writing to you from a flight back to New York from Dallas, where I had the privilege of attending and addressing the BBYO International Convention. Wait a minute, you’re thinking, Why is the president of the Union for Reform Judaism going to a BBYO convention? Isn’t BBYO the rival of NFTY, the Reform youth movement?
I’m here to tell you – and you can quote me on it – that BBYO is not our rival. They are our partner.
NFTY and BBYO both offer significant channels for Jewish teens to have experiences that can influence lives in permanent and profound ways. Through these channels, we engage tens of thousands of teens in weekend retreats, Israel trips, summer camp programs, and other leadership experiences that research shows are the most powerful Jewish identity-building experiences that our community has to offer.
But it is still not enough. Together, NFTY and BBYO reach only 3.5 percent of North American Jewish teens. Clearly, there is so much more to be done. Read more…
by Sarah Moody
Yesterday, my boss asked me to make something go viral. I looked up from my computer. Then he said, smiling, “You know I’m kidding, right? I know that’s impossible.” I laughed.
I started thinking.
As he walked out of my office, I said, “Hey David, if I can get 10,000 likes on a picture, can we get a baby goat for the URJ Camp Kalsman farm?”
This time, he laughed. “Sure, Sarah,” he said, “10,000 likes and I’ll get you a baby goat.”
Impossible challenge accepted. Read more…
By Joshua Weinberg
Ben Zoma was wont to say: “Who is deserving of honor? He who honors other people.” Rabbi Eliezer urged: “Let the honor of your friend be as dear to you as your own.” Rabbi Hanina ben Dosa declared: “He who pleases the spirit of man, will also please the spirit of God; and he who does not please the spirit of his fellowman, will not please the spirit of God either.” Pirkei Avot 1:15, 4:1, 2:15, 3:1
Dear MKs David Rotem and Uri Maklev,
I am writing to you today to share my thoughts and feelings on your latest parliamentary outbursts. I know you have been inundated with letters recently, as the shockwave of your recent statement has thoroughly angered many in the Jewish world, not to speak of the masses of those from our movement who are proudly Jewish, Reform, and Zionist. Speaking from the Knesset floor, your verbal condemnation of Reform Judaism and libelous defaming attacks are going to only hurt you in the end. Read more…
The powerful roll out of the newest implementation steps of the Campaign for Youth Engagement at the recent URJ Biennial in San Diego has generated excellent feedback and momentum. Our Reform movement-wide approach is called Inspired Engagement, a transformative teen and young adult network, which integrates diverse program offerings into one seamless year-round matrix in order to increase access to, and promote lifelong participation in, the joys of Jewish living.
Here are some of the exciting specifics… Read more…
By Andrew Keene
Generational Leadership (Hanhagah L’dorot) is the notion that a leader cannot be successful without a true appreciation and understanding of its organization’s past leadership as well as its future generations of leaders; or as the North American Federation of Temple Youth’s (NFTY) homepage states, having “a panoramic view of leadership, learning from those who came before us, and making choices to ensure the existence of the next generation.” While it is hard to predict the future of NFTY, our current leaders have the unique opportunity to learn from and be mentored by NFTY leaders of past generations. Kathryn Kohn Beckman, active in NFTY during the movement’s formative years, provided local NFTYites with a glimpse into the NFTY of the 1940s. Sharing her insights with today’s NFTY leaders is an example of the power of practicing Generational Leadership. Read more…