Na’aseh V’Nishma: How We Move the Reform Jewish Youth Movement Forward
By: Lauren Stock, organizer on the URJ Youth Organizing Team
As we finish another school year and welcome in a new community of NFTY leadership, we are launching a listening campaign across NFTY regions, URJ camps, and all of our youth-centric communities so we can articulate the vision of our youth movement and put it into action this fall.
The phrase “na’aseh v’nishma” comes from the book of Exodus in parashat Mishpatim. Gd gives the Israelites rule after rule after rule to which the Israelites respond with those words: “na’aseh v’nishma” – “we will do and we will listen.”
Rabbis have dissected that phrase for generations (as they do) and come to so many conclusions of why we hear that phrase and specifically in that order: to do and then to listen. I believe it is because it challenges us to do so much and then to learn from what we do.
For over a year now, we have been asking ourselves what it looks like to have a Reform Jewish Youth Movement that is worthy of our time, energy, and investment. The answers to that question almost always respond to our need for community, however most, if not all, of us still struggle to articulate what that community looks like, what it does, and how we build & sustain it.
Na’aseh. We have to do.
The challenge behind that is that we can’t imagine it. Especially for our teen leaders who have spent much of the last few years limited to online gatherings, the concept of a consistent, meaningful, powerful community can be hard to get our heads around. We don’t know what it looks like to have a community that comes together to do the things we want to do and to create a space that is radically loving, inclusive, accessible, and anti-racist. And, we don’t know what to do with that community when we build it.
What does it look like for us to build a Reform Jewish Youth Movement that truly reflects our values and priorities?
How will it transform Reform Judaism?
Why is it urgent that we do this now?
Nishma. We have to listen.
In the coming months, we will begin to explore those questions through our own movement-wide campaign: Na’aseh V’Nishma, or NVN.
This summer at some of our URJ camps and with leaders across North America, we will be bringing hundreds of teens into House Meetings (small group story-telling sessions) and 1:1s (relational conversations) to learn more about what we want to do in the world as teens, as Reform Jews, and as people.
Throughout the fall, we will continue these conversations, connecting the dots and ultimately working to understand how the Reform Jewish Youth Movement can serve as a vehicle for all those things we want to do in the world. And November 10-13 when teens from all across the movement join at URJ OSRUI in Wisconsin for The Collab, we will take all we have learned throughout the campaign thus far and begin to act on the vision our community has created.
What we learn during this campaign, NVN, will guide the direction of the next phase of our movement.
We will ask questions, we will build relationships with others. We will do.
And then we will strive to understand: we will reflect. And we will listen.
And then we will do it all over again.
This is how we become an ever-evolving movement. This is how we keep moving forward.
If you are interested in being a part of the Na’aseh V’Nishma campaign by leading a house meeting, having 1:1s, or another idea you’re excited about, please reach out to Lauren Stock, an organizer on the URJ Youth Organizing Team at firstname.lastname@example.org