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Advocating for Advocacy

Posted on 04/04/2014 @ 12:35 PM

No one can dispute that Stand UP is an essential, inspiring part of BBYO’s mission; however, there are three distinct approaches to Stand UP—service, philanthropy, and advocacy— which are less well-known. While many of the causes we wish to stand up for can be addressed by these approaches, philanthropy is not always realistic and direct service is not always possible. However, advocacy for any cause can be done by anyone, at any moment.

Advocacy may be the strongest and most effective, yet most challenging, method to create change in our world because it is a part of everyday life. It requires us to stand up for our values at all times—not just during an ISF drive or a J-Serve program. As someone who is passionate about social justice and Stand UP, I advocate for inclusion every day, as it is the Great Midwest Region’s Stand UP cause of 2013-2014. Everyone has felt different at some point in their life, but no one should be isolated or excluded because of their gender, sexual orientation, or personal interests. For me, inclusion is not just about being a nice person—it is learning how to be empathetic to as many people as possible, day in and day out. The value of inclusion is especially present in BBYO as pluralistic organization. In BBYO, you are accepted no matter who you are or where you come from. BBYO is home to all, our “Home Sweet Home”.

I draw inspiration as an advocate from former Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, of blessed memory. As prime minister, Rabin had significant resources available to him to end the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, but he was most influential in his role as a public advocate for ending the continuous violence. He was awarded the Noble Peace Prize for his creation of the Oslo Accords, a set of agreements between Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO). During his award speech he asserted, “Military cemeteries in every corner of the world are silent testimony to the failure of national leaders to sanctify human life”. Rabin embodied public advocacy for peace, always carrying it with him, even at the moment of his murder. To make a lasting difference, an advocate must work to change hearts and minds in the public sphere, not only behind closed doors.

As Stand UP week comes to a close, I hope every one of us has, in on our way, found a cause YOU are passionate about. While one teen advocating for a cause they care about is a significant accomplishment, thirty-four thousand teens advocating for causes that they are passionate about is an incredible, yet entirely attainable feat, thanks to BBYO.

This Shabbat Message was written by Natty Bernstein, current member of Haganah AZA, Greater Midwest Region

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