I recently had the opportunity to travel to Washington D.C. where I attended the Religious Action Center’s flagship policy conference, Consultation on Conscience. I spent four days listening to inspiring speakers, having meaningful discussions, and learning more than I ever thought possible. While reflecting on this incredible conference, I realized that there are three Hebrew phrases that can aid me in sharing my experiences: Tzedek Tzedek Tirdof (Justice, justice you shall pursue), L’dor Vador (From generation to generation), and im tirtzu, ein zo agada (If you will it, then it is no dream.)
Over one hundred regional board members have descended upon the URJ Kutz Camp for Mechina 5772. This event is an important beginning for the teen leaders comprising the regional and North American board. Mechina is a leadership training and development event for board members to share their goals and plans for the upcoming year, all while creating and strengthening bonds between the regions.
Editor’s note: Always good to hear about how the L’Taken Social Justice Seminars are inspiring today’s youth! Registration for the 2012-2013 season is still open – grab your congregation’s spot today!
Erev Shabbat Memorial Day weekend found me seated in the 115-year-old sanctuary of my home synagogue Congregation Shaarai Shomayim in Lancaster, PA, for our confirmation service. Unlike other Reform confirmations, ours marks a conclusion of our students’ religious education from pre-school through twelfth grade.
Several years ago, our rabbi, Jack Paskoff, proposed changing Confirmation from tenth to twelfth grades. In all honesty, I was a ‘traditional’ hold-out. “Reform Jews are confirmed in tenth grade!” I whined. But, as often is the case, Jack was absolutely on target. Today, tenth grade marks a rather insignificant milestone in our kids’ educational pursuits while twelfth grade usually denotes an ending and some sort of beginning.
“A woman belongs on the bima as much as an orange belongs on the Seder plate.” The story of a male rabbi declaring this statement after a lecture in Florida may not be true, but ever since my family and I heard that saying, we have placed an orange on our Seder plate. The Seder table also features Miriam’s Cup, to which each woman seated at the table adds water as we honor our ancestor. While we practice the Seder once (or twice) a year, including women in such a tradition-rich ceremony serves as a symbol for our actions for the remaining 364 (or 363) days of the year.
I have always been interested as to how our people follows matrilineal descent. According to halakah, a person is “Jewish” based on whether his or her mother is Jewish (Kiddushin 3:12). Of all the laws and practices – many of which exclude women – the establishment of whether you’re a member of the tribe relies on women. But the responsibilities and honor involved in being a Jewish woman go beyond continuing the bloodline.
During the URJ Biennial earlier this month, I was invited to present in a NFTY workshop titled “Finding Meaningful Social Action Opportunities for your TYG.” The participants spent much of their time brainstorming social action ideas and discussing ways to adapt the ideas depending on a youth group’s budget, location and/or membership. After the brainstorming session, I shared some brief thoughts with the participants about ways to involve adults in their programming, reach out to outside groups and utilize the RAC’s resources. Below are the key takeaways:
“What’s wrong with your elbow?” an eight-year old asked during Camp Urban Adamah, a Berkeley day camp that explores Judaism and the environment. Struggling for a good view of this hard-to-see part of my body, I yielded to another camper, who responded, “She’s a farmer!” It was then that I learned the necessity of scrubbing my elbows; their dark appearance came from dirt — or soil rather. I’ve also learned that soil and dirt are actually the same thing, given two different names based solely on their location (dirt is on the ground, soil is in a planter).
I’ve acquired dirty elbows and expanded my understanding of food systems this summer as a fellow in the inaugural season of Urban Adamah, an urban edition of the existing Jewish farming venture in Connecticut. As one of twelve fellows, all in our twenties, I’m enjoying three months living in a house with my “fellow fellows,” working our one-acre plot of urban land, learning about permaculture, Judaism, and food justice, and exploring beautiful Northern California, especially with those of us unfamiliar with coastal drives and towering redwoods.
Last weekend, I had the chance of a lifetime, reliving my days in NFTY while serving as a Resident Advisor at NFTY Convention 2011 in Dallas, Texas. Just as many of the URJ camps (such as Camp Newman, Camp Jacobs and my own Greene Family Camp) are working to increase their commitment to the environment, the NFTY staff went to great lengths to make Convention as green as possible!
Sustainability was on display everywhere, from our hotel to the program itself. The Fairmont Dallas, our home for the weekend, is known for its truly amazing Green Partnership program. The Fairmont was the first global hotel brand to partner with the World Wildlife Fund Climate Savers Program, committing to reduce its carbon footprint, by 2013, to 20% lower than their 2006 levels.