Session 3: You Gotta Fight for Your Right! Political Freedom

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Group 1: Jewish involvement in… Race Relations & the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s
What: Civil Rights Movement – aimed at gaining equality for African Americans, ending segregation, the legally mandated separation of blacks and whites, allowing access for blacks to all public places and resources

Jewish source: “For the sake of peace in the human race a single person was first created, so that no person may say to another “my ancestor is greater than your ancestor” (Mishnah, Sanhedrin 4:5)
Who (names to remember): Martin Luther King – leader of the civil rights movement, assassinated, 1968

Rosa Parks – her refusal to give up her bus seat for a white person sparked the Alabama bus riots and truly lit the flame for the civil rights movement.
Abraham Joshua Heschel – Rabbi Heschel was very involved in fighting for the rights of African Americans. He marched in support with Martin Luther King in 1965 from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama, was present at the MARCH ON WASHINGTON where King gave his famous “I have a dream” speech, and he connected African American struggle to the exodus of the Jews from Egypt. For Heschel, fighting for civil rights was a religious imperative (crucial, necessary).

Heschel’s Remarks:

“Racism is the gravest threat to man [people] – the maximum hatred for a minimum reason”

“I felt a sense of the Holy in what I was doing…Even without words, our march was worship. I felt my legs were praying.” {following the march from Selma to Montgomery)

What did civil rights activists do?

 gathered in mass numbers to protest segregation and the civil rights bill (March of Washington)

 boycott stores that do not allow African American shoppers

 letters to congress, fight for bills to be passed so laws would be changed

 traveled to the south to show their support, where the situation was the worst

 helped blacks register to vote

 sat with blacks in ‘black only’ sections to attempt to eliminate segregation

 befriend African Americans and show their support through personal ties

Why your cause is crucial: Consider this:

Segregation: blacks were not allowed to go to the same schools, drink from the same water fountain or even go to university

 for Jews, memories of the Holocaust were still fresh in their minds (feel someone’s suffering, feel someone’s pain and do something about it)

 a people who have been physically, spiritually and religiously oppressed have every obligation to stand up against the oppression of others

If Not NOW…when? Standing up for What You Believe In
Group 2: Feminism, women’s liberation movement

Betty Friedan (Born: Bettye Naomi Goldstein)

wrote the famous 1963 book “The Feminine Mystique”

Women were victims of subtle discrimination and harmed by a society that only valued them in roles of wife and mother

 co-founder of NOW – National Organization for Women, with three other Jewish women. NOW secured equal rights for women

 fought for child care centers for working mothers, helped legalize abortion and pushed for more women in the workforce

  • Gloria Steinman – Cofounder of New York magazine and Ms. Magazine.

  • Co- founded the Ms foundation for Women to help needy women and girls

Ruth Bader Ginsberg

 first female justice of the Supreme Court

“I am a judge born, raised and proud of being a Jew. The demand for justice runs through the entirety of the Jewish tradition. I hope, in my years on the bench of the Supreme Court, I will have the strength and courage to remain constant in the service of that demand”

Women’s rights to reproductive freedom (more control over their bodies – birth control, abortion)

Celebrated women’s rights to vote

Women’s equality in the workforce

Opportunities for better child care for working mothers

Why your cause is crucial:

 common sense! Why wouldn’t women be equal to men?

 girls: think about how limited your life choices would be without the women’s movement

 Why do you think so many Jewish women decided to fight traditional women’s roles

 the women’s movement affected American society AND forced Jewish institutions to reconsider women’s roles in the Jewish community
If Not NOW…when? Standing up for What You Believe In
Group 3 – Free Speech
What: getting rid of strict censorship laws, to allow the freedom to express opinions, the right to disagree (Its in our blood as Jews- 2 Jews, three opinions is an old joke)
US FIRST AMMENDMENT:”Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof, or abridging [condensing, shortening] the freedom of speech or the press..”
Jewish background on speech
Definition: Shmirat Halashon – guarding your tongue, watching what you say

Raban Gamliel told his servant Tobi to go to the market and purchase the best that he could. Tobi returned with a tongue. The following day, he sent Tobi to get the worst the market had and Tobi went out and returned again with a tongue. When asked why he purchased the tongue both times, he replied “there is nothing better than a good tongue and nothing worse than an evil one”

(Vayikta Rabbah 33)

 How does this explain the dangers and benefits of free speech? Can you think of examples of both?

 does free speech mean you can say whatever you want to whomever?

Consider this: You read an article in the newspaper comparing Israeli soldiers to Nazis. You angrily write a letter to the editor claiming this as anti-semitic and receive a reply that “newspapers are meant to encourage and support free speech” Grrrrr!
Fine, the article stays but your letter of defense gets published. Both sides are presented.
Should there be limits or restrictions on free speech?
What about Facebook, My Space and blogs? These are examples of free speech but what dangers have they caused? Have you experienced the dangers and benefits of free speech? You do so everyday ONLINE!
Use these examples to fight for your cause

If Not NOW…when? Standing up for What You Believe In
Group 4: Religious Freedom
What: Separation of “church” (religion) and state ensures that the state does not determine how you practice religion. All religions are considered equal and no laws can infringe on your religious practice.
In America, you have a CHOICE, whether to live or identify as Jews. What if you didn’t even have the option, what if you COULDN’T be Jewish?


During the Communist regime of the Former Soviet Union (1917-1991), no one was allowed to be different from one another. Therefore, all religions were banned. Suddenly, when Communism fell, people were uncovering their roots and discovering they were Jewish, without a clue to what that meant. Could you imagine having to explain to a Jew what being Jewish meant?

Why your cause is crucial:
Imagine you are a Jewish student in Kentucky. What would you do in the following cases?
 the basketball tryouts are over Rosh Hashanah and the coach will not make an exception for you

 The only food in the cafeteria is meat, pepperoni pizza and disgusting tuna that makes you want to throw up

 at school assembly, the principal insists that everyone say the Lord’s Prayer (a prayer alluding to Jesus) before you begin

 you are asked to participate in a Christmas concert and sing songs praising Jesus

 your parent gets fired from his/her job for not being able to work on Saturday

 a boy or girl on your softball team asks you to show him/her your “horns” (stereotype that Jews are born with horns)

 a new class is being offered for freshmen on religion. It deals mainly with Christian perspectives of God

 a tragedy happens in the community and in order for the students to deal with it, a Christian clergy member is brought in to speak about faith

 you meet a new friend who grew up in the Former Soviet Union who has never before seen matzah and has never worn a Kippah. He says he’s not proud to be Jewish…he doesn’t even know what that means! How would you explain it to him?

If Not NOW…when? Standing up for What You Believe In
Group 5: Gay rights – can the government/law makers tell you who to love?
Committee on Jewish Law and Standards of the Conservative Movement Tshuvah (Halachik response to an issue)
Read bolded text and consider WHO it affects, WHAT the issues are and WHY your issue deserves the donor’s support. Remember, Jews were always affected by laws that singled them out as different from their neighbors. Shouldn’t we be sensitive to these laws that single out gay relationships?


Date: December 6, 2006




Dr. Raymond B. Goldstein, International President
Rabbi Jerome M. Epstein, Executive Vice President


COMMITTEE ON JEWISH LAW AND STANDARDS - Ordination of gays and lesbians and same-sex commitment ceremonies

Within the past few hours, the Committee on Jewish Law and Standards completed its deliberation on five responsa that considered whether Jewish law may allow the ordination of gay men and lesbians and same-sex commitment ceremonies. The debate and the deliberation, which took place over many sessions, was serious, passionate, and at times heated. The issue has been treated with great sensitivity by everyone involved.

Imagine you were present at the meetings debating this issue. What are the pros and cons? Why would it be so heated? Debate both sides.

…we want to inform you as soon as possible that the committee has endorsed papers both reaffirming the status quo [popular opinion] and affirming change. The status quo, as you know, has been that the ordination of openly gay men and lesbians was not allowed, and rabbis who performed same-sex commitment ceremonies did so without the Law Committee’s sanction [permission]. The result of the committee’s vote means that rabbis, synagogues, and other Conservative institutions may continue not to permit commitment ceremonies and not to hire openly gay or lesbian rabbis and cantors. On the other hand, rabbis, synagogues, and institutions can perform or host those ceremonies and are free to hire openly gay rabbis and cantors. The halakha of the Conservative movement, as voted by the Law Committee, now allows both positions. Both are considered valid.

Can you have it both ways? How would this work?

One of the basic tenets of the Conservative movement is that each rabbi who is the spiritual leader of a congregation is the mara d’atra, or final decisor of Jewish law, in that congregation. Therefore, the decisions of the Committee on Jewish Law and Standards, while important, are advisory. Reached after serious scholarship, thought, and debate, the decisions provide guidance and support to congregational rabbis, who must make their own decisions. Another basic truth of our movement is its diversity. We draw strength from the differences in practice and commitment that mark Conservative congregations, even as we celebrate our common bonds and shared values. Today’s decision is another example of the wide range of Conservative Judaism. If we work together, we can show that strength in action.

No matter which path a rabbi and congregation may take, which halakha it chooses to follow, all of our rabbis and congregations share a concern for the dignity of all human beings. No matter what a rabbi and congregation chooses to do about hiring gay and lesbian rabbis or commitment ceremonies, all must show respect and sensitivity to all Jews, no matter what their sexual orientation may be. All Jews must be welcome in all our congregations.

 Isn’t that the purpose of law makers- to ensure the dignity of all human beings? How does this decision do that? Do you find this decision to be fair? Does it follow the Conservative Movement’s credo of tradition and change? Can you see why the debate was heated?
U.S. Law:

 Gay marriage is not legal in the U.S.

Defense of Marriage Act in 1996 - a marriage is defined as a legal union of one man and one woman only.

 However, the Defense of Marriage Act does not prevent individual states from defining marriage as they see fit

Massachusetts has recognized same-sex marriage since 2004, though this only affects state law; the U.S. federal government does not recognize same-sex marriages in Massachusetts as being marriages under federal law.

Connecticut, Vermont, New Jersey, California, and New Hampshire have created legal unions that, while not called marriages, are explicitly defined as offering all the rights and responsibilities of marriage under state (though not federal) law to same-sex couples. Maine, Hawaii, the District of Columbia, Oregon and Washington have created legal unions for same-sex couples that offer different versions of the rights and responsibilities of marriage under the laws of those areas.
Interestingly, Canadian law does recognize gay unions federally (nationally). In 2005, Bill C-38 was passed which claimed that defining marriage as a union between man and woman, violated the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms which grants equality among all citizens. Laws that apply to one, apply to all. Therefore, marriage has been redefined as a legal union between 2 PERSONS and not man and woman.

Session 2: Heal the World/ Tikkun Olam

Why should we care that our world needs repair?
Modern Advocacy: Darfur, Global Warming, Pidyon Shvuyim (Israel)
Goals: Through the Jewish value of Tikkun Olam, the idea of healing the world, Wheelinks will explore WHY we advocate for causes and examine three current social action issues to gain an up-to-date perspective on issues of global advocacy. With a background of Jewish texts, Wheelinks will gain an understanding of the Jewish obligation to concern oneself with Tzedek and Tikkun Olam.
Group leaders will explain the USY commitment to Tikkun Olam and share the Tikkun Olam program pamphlets with the group
Essential Questions: What can we do to “heal the world?” even in our own homes? What exactly are we trying to do when we fight for causes such as global warming? Are we really making a difference? Is it enough to just be aware of the issues?
Terms: Tikkun Olam, Tzedek, Pidyon Shvuyim
Sequence of Instruction:

  1. Create an experience: Heal the World

Option 1: make a poster of a globe and give each person a bandaide. Have them come up and share with the group one thing that needs to be “healed” in the world.

Option 2: Read Michael Jackson’s song lyrics for “Heal the world” (attached)

Option 3: Have everyone stand up on one foot. Explain to them that they are the earth. They can balance, but are shaky and unstable. Now have them find a partner and try it again. Explain to them that although still shaky, with the help of someone who cares, they are more secure.
2. Analyze and discuss experience

What thoughts were going through your head during this exercise. What was your reaction? *leader needs to think of good questions depending on what activity you chose and Wheelniks reactions.

What did it feel like to think about a broken world?
3. Integrate Analysis and discussion.

Why should we care that the world needs repair? These issues don’t affect you, why does it matter?

As present and future leaders, you have the power in your hands to make a difference, to repair the world. Explain the term Tikun Olam – repairing the world

*more than a band-aide, it’s an ongoing concern and commitment to make a difference
4. Teach the Concept

The Jewish obligation to repair the world is eternal. The SATO program of Kadima and USY is a dominant feature of our youth movement. We have a number of different SATO (social action/Tikkun Olam) projects ongoing throughout the program year as an example of this commitment in action.

It’s about us leaving our mark and making a real difference in the world, making it a better place to live in present and future.
Think about the present state of the world. What are some Tikkun Olam issues that dominate our newspapers and concern our citizens today?

Ask Wheelniks to name top three issues. What does Judaism say we should do? What CAN we do?

Hand out Jewish sources (attached)
In chevrutot, read the two Jewish texts. How do you interpret these texts? What point are they making? What meaning does it have for you, if any?

  1. to do what is just and right – if something is wrong with the world, do what is just and right to fix it

  2. You don’t need to be a superhero to be righteous. Every little thing you do can go a long way.

5. Practice the givens and add an element of yourself

Split the group into 3 subgroups: Global warming, Pidyon Shvuyim, Darfur
Have each group read the attached info on your topic.
a) Gabbin’ With God. God is one of your email contacts (as God is for all of us). You have a scheduled appointment with God itself but first God would like to you to brief God on the issues you wish to bring up. You want to tell God that God’s creation is in need of repair. As an advocate, you decide to send God an email, explaining God’s need to help you fix the world. You only have one chance to create an argument. First, read through the background info.

Decide: What the issue is, consequences and what has been done or can be done as advocacy

If not on Shabbat- give them poster paper and markers to make a Talmud page. The summary of the issue goes in the middle and different ideas for how to help goes all around (as if different commentators)
b)Next, do a JIGSAW: Ask 2 people from each group to join the other 2 (so there is a rep from each group added to the others) and present their cause. The jigsawed groups create an email to God (act it out- leader is God responding, Wheelniks can interject at any time).

Eg. Person from Darfur group, joins Pidyon Shvuyim and Global warming… “our group discussed Pidyon Shvuyim…”

Each group decides on ONE point to make in an email to God on the three issues.

Pidyon Shvuyim: These innocent young men became victims for their country. Their families live in torture each day not being able to properly put their memories to rest. Dear God, our young boys did not deserve the torture and fear. Their families should not have to suffer for our country. They need to be home.

Leader can reply with: I challenge My people with an ongoing struggle for their security and safety. Not a day should go by when you don’t appreciate your homeland and those who risk their lives to fight for it. Your struggle is My struggle. I cannot change people, I can only inspire people.
Global warming: whether we care or not, this effects us. We are destroying the world and are/will continue to suffer consequences. Dear God, please forgive us for taking your creation for granted and ruining your hard work.
Leader can reply: I gave you one earth and you are ruining it. You can invent gadgets and gizmos but don’t know what to do with what was here long before you. “Don’t it always seem to go, that you don’t know what you’ve got til its gone”?
Darfur: Dear God, you know, we say ‘never again’ but now…genocide. As Jews it is our duty and responsibility to end this NOW. Empower us to make a difference, stop the evil and end the murder and torture. Help us know what to do!
6. Debrief and discuss: Knowledge is action…or is action, action?
Awareness is the first step to advocacy. If you don’t know the issues, how can you help fix them? Why should we care about these issues as human beings…and as Jews? Do we separate ourselves from world issues to only concern ourselves with Jewish issues of advocacy? (think about the Holocaust- did anyone really care to come to OUR aid?). What does just knowing about these issues do? How can we inspire and motivate people to DO something once we know. Is knowledge, action?

  1. Apply to a new experience

What are some simple first steps we can take together to do Tikkun Olam? Let’s make a Tikkun Olam pledge that we can take back to our USY chapters throughout the year. What can we do together as a group?

Eg. Buy a newspaper everyday for Wheelniks to debate current issues on Tikun Olam, start a Wheels recycle program

Handout - Jewish Sources on Tikun Olam (Healing the World)

Read the texts:

TEXT 1: Genesis 18:19
Do you recognize the underlined Hebrew word?
“He will command his children and his household after him,…to do what is just and right”

יְצַוֶּה אֶת־בָּנָיו וְאֶת־בֵּיתוֹ אַחֲרָיו וְשָׁמְרוּ דֶּרֶךְ

יְהֹוָה לַעֲשׂוֹת צְדָקָה וּמִשְׁפָּט

TEXT 2: (Sifre Dvarim, Ekev 11, 47; Daniel 12:3)

“And those who bring the people to do the right thing shall be as the stars, eternal.” Just as one sees the light of the stars from one end of the world to another, so too, one sees the light of the Tzadikim (righteous ones)…just as the starts are sometimes visible and at other times hidden, so too, with the Tzadikim…

people may not always notice the good that you do, and not everyone wants to be noticed for the good they do, but we learn from the righteous who do good work, even if behind the scenes.
Danny Seigel explains: “We need to find them, learn from them, to apply their insights into solving the world’s problems and to give us insight as to how we can do our part in Tikun Olam as effectively as possible”

You can make a real difference. The light you shine can be seen worldwide. You don’t need to be in the spotlight to make a small or large impact.

Apply these ideas to today’s Tikkun Olam topics.

*Global Warming*

*Pidyon Shvuyim (Israel and beyond): Let Our People Go!*

Attachment: Michael Jackson’s Heal the World

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Your Heart And I Know That It Is Love
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