Shelby Shoup is the SchZFTY Social Action Vice President and a member of NFTY-STR.
This past Wednesday, September 3, SchZFTY (Congregation Schaarai Zedek’s temple youth group) hosted their first open house, a forum for our teens to simply hang out and get to know one another on a much more personal level. As decided by our youth advisor, Lindsey Morgan, and myself, at each open house of the 2014-2015 year, SchZFTYites will have the unique opportunity to participate in a 30 to 45 minute program addressing a social action theme correlating to either NFTY-STR SAVP (Social Action Vice President) Noah Baker’s Monthly Mitzvah Theme, or a congregation-wide tzedakah theme. As SchZFTY’s SAVP, one of my responsibilities is to collaborate with Lindsey and our programming team to write and conduct these programs.
Since the SchZFTY executive board had recently accepted the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge, we thought it would only be fitting to design a program about ALS for our first open house. Our goal was to lead a program that would be engaging for our teens, while challenging them to take definitive action on the cause.
To begin with, I placed an ice cube and a rock on a paper plate. While many were confused by this action, we then diverted their attention by beginning the second part of the program.
Fortunately for us, we were able to hear a firsthand account of the real life effects of ALS from Morgan Schreiber, a fellow teen from PARTY (Temple Kol Tikvah’s temple youth group), who had agreed to Skype in with us. Her grandmother passed away a few years ago from ALS, and she was able to recount her grandmother’s experience and how it affected her family. She shared with us her appreciation for the Ice Bucket Challenge, knowing that her Nana would have been proud to see so many people around the globe raise awareness in honor of those affected by the disease. Before she signed off, we prompted her to tell us what she would say if she could tell everyone who has done the ice bucket challenge one thing. To this she said something along the lines of: “While taking the challenge is fun, please donate your money too, because that’s the most important part.”
After she logged off, I brought the paper plate with the ice cube and the rock back to everyone’s attention. By this point, the ice cube was almost entirely melted. I then explained the symbolism behind the apparatus: each item represented two things. The ice was for the ice bucket challenge. Furthermore, it represented the brevity of social media trends, and how soon enough, the thrill of the ice bucket challenge will melt away. The rock represented those that we place on tombstones. In Judaism, we place rocks on the graves of our loved ones as opposed to flowers, since rocks last forever, while flowers wilt away. In the same vein, while the Ice Bucket Challenge will eventually melt away like the ice cube, donating our tzedakah goes directly to the ALS Association for research purposes with a long-term impact, like the rock. To conclude the program, we passed around a tzedakah box. The donations we collected constitute the monetary pledge that SchZFTY promised in our Ice Bucket Challenge.
My message to everyone is the same as my message to my youth group: while taking the ice bucket challenge is a great way to raise awareness on the issue, action is what the ALS Association really needs. This trend, like all others, won’t last forever. When was the last time you saw serious support for Kony 2012, for example? But while we have the whole world’s attention on the issue, now is the perfect time to truly do something. A little bit of of tzedakah can go a long way.
If you would like to donate to the ALS Association or learn more about ALS, please visit their website http://www.alsa.org for more information.