By Will Saltzburg, NFTY Pennsylvania Area
This past June, teen leaders from all across the United States and Canada came together for NFTY Mechina, NFTY’s first North American board meeting of the 2016-2017 year at URJ Kutz Camp. Together we prayed, learned, and grew as leaders. As a movement, we had the opportunity to take a stance on our beliefs and affirm our commitment to pursuing social justice.
During Asefah, NFTY’s official business meeting, myself and one of my good friends, Maddie Newman, proposed a resolution to the NFTY General Board for the purpose of affirming NFTY’s stance on the rights of transgender and gender non-conforming peoples. Motivated by a similar resolution that was unanimously passed at the URJ Biennial last November and the current political discourse about “bathroom laws”, it was quite evident that now is not only a good time, but the right time for NFTY to join this conversation. Now is the time to proclaim to the world that we are an accepting, loving community.
The response of the General Board was authentic and enthusiastic; the resolution was passed unanimously. As a movement, NFTY declared that we are whole-heartedly inclusive and compassionate towards anyone who may find their home in our community. With this being said, over 170 NFTYites simply saying that they support the rights of transgender and gender non-conforming peoples does very little to address the issues at hand. Together, we must ask ourselves how we can integrate all of the love, enthusiasm, and authentic support for this cause into meaningful action that creates an impact on our communities.
We, as a movement, can accomplish this by reaching out to local congressmen and women. Even if your state or province does not have legislation currently being proposed that is similar to HB-2 in North Carolina, reaching out to your representatives and expressing your opinions on the issue can have real impact, an impact rooted in Reform Judaism. Additionally, we can be more inclusive by opening lines of communication with people who are transgender and gender non-conforming. It is essential to include members of this community in the conversation; together, we can make a significant impact.
When we put action behind our words, this is when NFTY makes a difference. When we stand up and take concrete steps to make members of our community feel more included, we strengthen the Jewish community as a whole. When we advocate against discriminatory legislation in states and provinces all over North America, we are doing our part to pursue justice. When we commit to making a difference, we inspire others to take action.
As a movement, we have the power to turn words on a paper and a unanimous vote into pursing social justice. When we take a stand, together, against discrimination and hate, we can make an impact that will not only strengthen our community but show others that we are determined to fight for equal rights for everyone.
In the Torah we are charged with “Justice, justice you shall pursue, that you may thrive and occupy the land that the LORD your God is giving you” (Deuteronomy 16:20). These words serve as the motivation as to why we continue to strive for social justice. This message is why we continue to reevaluate our inclusion strategies and improve our movement, not only for today, but for years to come.
Interested in running a program about this topic at your NFTY event? Download “Tikkun Talk”, the program that ran at NFTY Mechina 2016 during Asefah.