Tag Archives: NFTY

How LGBT Inclusion in Sports can Inform our Jewish Inclusion Work

I’ll be honest: I don’t normally read articles about sports. I usually skip over the entire sports section of the newspaper, but the other week, I found myself reading some exciting sports-related news: on November 14, the National Collegiate Athletic Association’s (NCAA) first openly gay male athlete will compete in one of the big four sports (basketball, baseball, football and hockey). Although I’m not a sports fan, as someone who cares deeply about building inclusive Jewish communities, I felt this story and the reaction of the team could inform our own inclusion work as a Jewish community.

Last April, Derrick Gordon came out publicly, becoming the first openly gay player in Division I men’s college basketball. Since coming out, Gordon’s relationship with his team has changed significantly. A recent profile by Outsports illustrates the transformation of his relationship with his teammates from one in which they made snide remarks and avoided showering with him when they suspected him of being gay to one in which they now ask him about his dating life and treat him just like any other teammate. Gordon’s story illustrates the impact coming out can have on transforming a homophobic atmosphere into one of acceptance and inclusion.

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NFTY students marching for civil rights

Join the RAC at NFTY Convention in Atlanta

We need only reach back into our ancient Jewish texts to know that throughout our history, it is the youth that carry hope for a promising future:  “Your old shall dream dreams, and your youth shall see visions” (Joel 3:1) This February the RAC hopes to translate those visions into action at the Social Justice Advocacy Seminar at 2015 NFTY Convention in Atlanta.

The greatest social change in modern Jewish history was brought about by the youth–the creation of the State of Israel.  Zionist youth movements made aliyah in droves in the 1920s to realize a dream of progress, hope and justice.  These young pioneers built the infrastructure of the country: they drained the swamps, built the kibbutzim and created the Haganah and Palmach.

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Celebrating a Milestone for VAWA

By Debbie Rabinovich

This week marks a major milestone for me: I am turning 18. The Big One-Eight. I love the number 18. The number 18 means that I get to vote. I can donate blood. I can go on Birthright. In Hebrew, the number 18 is the gematria for the word chai, or life.

One thing I like to do on birthdays is look up the date to see what else happened on that day in history. On my own birthday, September 13th, plenty of bad things happened. The first fatal automobile accident. The death of critically acclaimed rap artist Tupac Shakur. However, one really good thing happened: the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) was passed. VAWA is just a little bit older than me; in fact, the Act reaches a major milestone this week as well: its 20th anniversary. I am lucky to have lived my whole life in a world where our government recognizes that domestic violence is a moral abhorrence all too prevalent in our society.

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NFTY and the URJ Support Global Disability Rights

By Olivia Kessler

Today, approximately 650 million people (almost 10 percent of the world’s population!)  live with a disability, making them the world’s largest minority.

In July 2009, the United States signed the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD). The CRPD, which is based off the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), represents an international effort to bring the world closer to achieving the goals of equality of opportunity, full participation, independent living and economic self-sufficiency for all people with disabilities. On December 4, 2012, the United States Senate voted to ratify the treaty, but fell five votes short of the super-majority required for ratification.

With the 24th anniversary of the ADA coming up on July 26th, advocates are hoping to see the CRPD reappear in the Senate. If ratified, this treaty will not only open the world for the millions of Americans with disabilities seeking to serve, study, or travel abroad, but it will also promote American business, and reinforce American leadership on disability rights.

As Reform Jews, we have long supported the rights of people with disabilities, and understand the importance of working to remove barriers in our congregations, in our youth groups, in our summer camps and in our society.

Our tradition teaches us, ” You shall not insult the deaf, or place a stumbling block before the blind.” (Leviticus 19:14) Last summer, participants at the URJ Kutz Camp preached this message through a video they made in support of the ratification of the CRPD in the Senate. Participants stressed the importance of this treaty, urging Senators to ratify the Convention so policies and legislation embracing the rights and dignity of people with disabilities can be shaped domestically and abroad.  I encourage you to watch the full video by clicking here.

NFTY’s Action Theme in the coming year illustrates our dedication towards including all people in our programs, from including people of all gender and sexual identities to including people of all abilities.  We want to expand our commitment to inclusion to focus on all people seeking equal rights, equal access, and equal opportunity.

Today, we can also raise our voices and let our Senators know that we support the disability rights around the world.  Tell Congress to ratify the UN Convention the Rights of Persons with Disabilities!

Olivia Kessler, a high school senior, served this past year as NFTY’s Mid-Atlantic Region Social Action Vice President. In October, on The International Day of the Girl, the United Nations recognized her for her hard work and outstanding commitment to social justice. In the upcoming year, she will serve as the NFTY North American Social Action Vice President while attending Dickinson College in Carlisle, Pennsylvania.

NFTY Environmental Advocacy

NFTY Advocacy Month: Energy Savings and the Environment

Why should we care about the planet? Because it’s our home.

The Jewish concept of bal tashchit, do not destroy, is found in Deuteronomy 20:19-20: “When, in your war against a city, you have to besiege it a long time in order to capture it, you must not destroy its trees, wielding the ax against them. You may eat of them, but you must not cut them down…Only trees that you know do not yield food may be destroyed.” We have the obligation as inhabitants of the Earth and as Jews to repair the world, by taking action to conserve the environment.

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NFTY Environmental Advocacy

NFTY November Advocacy Month: The Environment

Throughout November, NFTY has focused on raising awareness about the environment and encouraging action in response to the threat of climate change. In this week’s blog post, NFTY-GER Social Action Vice President, Lev Freedman explains the urgency of climate action and why it is an issue we should care about as both Americans and Reform Jews. Read more…

The Top 9 Reasons You Should Register for Mitzvah Corps 2014

Mitzvah Corps registration is now open for the summer of 2014.  Here are nine great reasons to spend your summer at one of the eight Mitzvah Corps sites around the world:

9. “Walk the walk”
Our Jewish tradition teaches the importance of pursuing justice.  We know it is not enough to simply study the text or learn about the Reform Movement’s history of social justice work.  Put these values into action by dedicating your summer to repairing the world.

8. There are three new Mitzvah Corps programs for summer 2014
Mitzvah Corps is excited to offer three new programs for the summer of 2014.  Be a part of the first group of alumni from the Portland, Washington, D.C., and Israel Mitzvah Corps trips.  Each new trip is designed to take advantage of the locations’ unique history, environment and service opportunities.

7. You will go somewhere amazing
You can participate in a Mitzvah Corps trip in your own backyard or across the world.  Participate in Mitzvah Corps Nicaragua, Costa Rica or Israel to gain international perspective on Jewish community and service.  Or immerse yourself within a community in the United States, like the New Orleans area or New Brunswick, NJ, to build your understanding of social justice struggles closer to home.

6. Create a community
Besides working together, Mitzvah Corps sites eat together, live together and pray together.  You will create a community based around a collective dedication to service and make lasting connections with your fellow participants!

5. There’s a program to fit your summer
You can spend anywhere from one to six weeks (and everywhere in between) as a part of Mitzvah Corps.  Whether you are looking for a full-length summer experience or a shorter program to squeeze into your already busy summer plans, there is a program that will fit with your schedule.  Browse each site on the Mitzvah Corps website to find out which program will work for you.

4. There’s a program to fit your interests
The Mitzvah Corps programs address a wide variety of social justice issues.  Learn through action about issues of the environment and sustainability, economic justice, civil rights and others. Additionally, Mitzvah Corps at URJ Kutz Camp gives participants the opportunity to work with Jewish teens with Autism Spectrum Disorders.

3. You can spend a weekend at the RAC
The Washington, D.C. and New Jersey Mitzvah Corps sites spend a weekend together at the Religious Action Center.  Participants learn about current legislative efforts to promote social justice in the United States.  The weekend experience culminates with participants visiting the offices of their Members of Congress on Capitol Hill in support of these efforts.

2. Last summer’s participants loved it
Each site shared their experiences from last summer on the Mitzvah Corps blog.  Read about participants’ experiences in their own words and look through photo albums from the summer.

1. Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel would want you to
After marching in Selma with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Rabbi Heschel wrote, “My feet were praying.”  Spend your summer at Mitzvah Corps and be a part of the Reform Movement’s longstanding tradition of putting our values into action.

NFTY Introduces Advocacy into its Month of Action

This week, NFTY is introducing advocacy into its Nothing But Nets month of action. In this week’s blog post, Southwest SAVP Jackson Dooling explains to his peers that it is important to let members of Congress know that we care about issues that are important to us and to advocate for them.

Below, Jackson shares why the President’s Malaria Initiative and the Global Fund to Fight Aids, Tuberculosis and Malaria are crucial in the global fight against malaria.

Advocacy is a word that gets thrown around a lot. It’s something that most of us have heard in some sort of discussion about social action. But what is advocacy and why is it important? In every situation, we can choose to advocate for a cause. This can be done in many ways. Educating others, speaking out in support of an issue, and encouraging policymakers to support a specific cause are just a few examples. The key to advocacy is speaking up. The more we can educate and inform, the more work we can accomplish.

Keep reading Jackson’s post over at NFTY’s blog!

After you finish reading Jackson’s post, join NFTY in sending your own letter to your members of Congress to ask for continued funding for these two crucial funds. If you are in NFTY, click here to send your letter to Congress.