Coalition of Jewish Teens Statement on a Changing World
January 30, 2017
We are inspired to assemble as NFTY, USY, NCSY, BBYO, and Young Judaea, united under the shared goal of providing teens with meaningful Jewish experiences. We, the peer-elected leadership of national and global Jewish youth movements, representing tens of thousands of Jewish teens, are observing the traditions and evolution of American democracy closely. Passionate about strengthening the Jewish community, and eager to be an always expanding partner in the advancement of society-at-large, we believe in empowering our peers to embrace the issues they care about most and to take active participation in the democratic process.
We, the youth of the Jewish diaspora, know that it is more important than ever to leverage our communal affiliation to pursue justice. We are maturing at an unprecedented time in history: the United States undertook a pivotal election, Israel struggles for legitimacy, the largest migration of people is underway, there is a global fervor of state nationalism, and the resurgence of anti-Semitism is disconcerting – particularly in the West.
“Tzedek, tzedek tirdof”, we are commanded, “justice, justice you shall pursue” (Deuteronomy 16:20). We interpret this passage as a charge to go forth and do all that is within our power to make the world a more just, whole, and compassionate place. Embracing justice as our inspiration, and the resiliency of the Jewish people as our strength, we are determined to offset hatred and close-mindedness with love, acceptance, and unity. It is not only our responsibility as humans, but also our responsibility as Jews who believe in tikkun olam, to approach one another with open hearts and open minds. Now, more than ever, we urge you to remember what we have learned from our sacred texts: “What Adonai requires of you: Only to do justice, to love goodness, and to walk humbly with your God” (Micah 6:8).
So what is required of humanity? Reflection, collaboration, and action. This election has challenged the minds and emotions of millions of people. As the future of Judaism, it is our responsibility to reflect, collaborate and take action with our friends, families, and community leaders. Regardless of where you stand on political issues, this is our call to purpose: The divisiveness that has befallen our communities ends here and now. We need to sit down with those who have different views and speak passionately about our beliefs. We must listen actively to the perspectives of others. It is important that we maintain a sense of kavod, respect, while we enter these dialogues.
The path to civility relies our recognition of seeing the divine image of G-d in every person. No more condescension, dismissal or rejection of views that conflict with our own. We can actively seek out opportunities to understand those around us, we can rebuild our relationships and we can work together to compromise and collaborate.
To elevate our effect and magnify our message, we will intensify our movement alliances to leverage our respective infrastructures, relationships and organization assets. We will also engage with youth movements beyond the Jewish community with similar ideals and common goals to express solidarity. The broader our coalition, the greater our collective voice will be heard on policies and decisions made by government and corporate officials.
Beyond making change as institutions, we will also work to enlighten our peers. We can build the society we want to lead by creating experiences that provide opportunities to:
- Seek dialogue and deepen connections with those we don’t know.
- Engage with peers, influencers and role models of different generations, races, religions, gender identities and backgrounds to appreciate narratives and share our communal story, too.
- Combat division, reject marginalization of any communities and speak out against disrespect or hatred of all forms and across all mediums.
- Explore our own community’s past. Apply lessons learned from Jewish history as a framework for tikkun olam, welcoming others and defending the rights of all people.
- Coordinate more intentionally and intensively across our community affiliations while embracing the movements and networks of other American and global communities to plot progress and take initiative toward a more just future.
We have untapped power to build a strong, vibrant, interconnected community with universal purpose inspired by Jewish values and guided by Jewish tradition. We, as a generation exercising leadership today and preparing to lead our community and country very soon, can bring out the best of ourselves and our peers while standing up for what we know to be right and fair. Together, we can shape the moral philosophies of our generation while setting forth an example for those that come after us. We can demand better from our peers and stand up for what is right. We have the opportunity to make meaningful change. We can only make this change if we come together as one. So let us make this change -- together.
The Coalition of Jewish Teens (CJT):
Kathryn Fleisher, NFTY President 2016-2017
Ethan Feuer, USY President 2016
Noah Lee, USY President 2017
Aaron Cooper, BBYO AZA President 2016-2017
Ellie Bodker, BBYO BBG President 2016-2017
JJ Kampf, NCSY President 2016-2017
Kayla Lesch, Young Judaea President 2016-2017