Michelle Latzer is a senior and serves as the NFTY-PAR Social Action Vice President
During Summer Leadership Kallah, participants were able to sign up for two sessions of board workshops. Workshops varied from teaching about how to turn something negative in your life to a poistive to evaluating what body language means to teaching the value and importance of clear communication. My workshop was about one of the three North American campaigns NFTY is focusing on in the upcoming year. These campaigns include discussing LGBTQIA rights, taking a stand on gun violence, and, NFTY’s guide to inclusion.
The campaign I chose to focus on was the Guide to Inclusion; which was also the basis for my workshop. In the workshop, participants started out by identifying what it means to be inclusive. After the group came to a concensus, we all signed a pledge to bring inclusion back to our TYGs, as well as our daily lives. Next, the group focused more specifically on a certain type of inclusion; helping teens with special needs to be included in NFTY-PAR. The groups brainstormed different problems teens may have at an event which can make them feel excluded or uncomfortable. Some of the examples could be finding transportation during an event, not understanding dining hall games, or even feeling pittied instead of be-friended. After creating a strong list of challenges teens may have at an event, the participants came up with simple solutions for all of the challanges that were earlier brainstormed.
After brainstorming about problems that could occur, the participants in the program learned about “people first language”. What is “people first language”, you ask? I’ll tell you! It is a way of putting a person first in a sentence before what they may have in order to avoid subconscious dehumanization. For example, instead of saying Laurie is autistic; you would say Laurie has autism. The group then came up with a long list of examples similar to the one above. After this activity, I shared a really interesting article by a man named Matan Koch. Matan is a very successful writer who has special needs. In his article, he evaluates “people first language”, explaining that the action behind the language is much more important than the language itself. After hearing the article, the groups came up with different actions one could do to show that they accept others. This could be walking with someone from program to program, inviting someone to sit with you and your friends at a meal, or even just joking around! A simple joke can break the ice and make both parties feel much more comfortable.
The last step of the Operation: Inclusion workshop was all about coming up with tips for NFTY-PAR’s inclusion guide. Some tips were as simple as be patient, or always share a smile. Others were more specific such as save the bottom bunks for people who may have a hard time climbing to the top bunks. All of the tips were extremely thoughtful and creative. Then, participants were allowed creative liberty to come up with hashtags, slogans, and other advertisements to help spread this campaign across NFTY! Two of my favorites were #NFTYACCEPTS and “Don’t hate, Accommodate!”
It was really amazing to see how eager everyone was to help our region grow into a home for all Jewish teens, no matter what their needs may be. After this workshop I am positive that this campaign will be welcomed with open arms throughout NFTY. Through inclusion we can make PAR and NFTY an outlet for everyone.
To learn more and read Matan Koch’s article, please go to: http://matankoch.wordpress.com/2014/05/12/is-the-person-really-first-a-critique-of-person-first-language/.