In the Social Action section of the NFTY website, you will find a plethora of programs and resources to help educate yourself and your community about various social action topics. In NFTY, there are five main components through which we engage in social action: education, assessment, direct service, alliance, and advocacy. All of these seperate peices are explained within the Social Action section of the site. We especially encourage you to browse through this year’s Action Theme materials, which are devoted to a specific contemporary social action topic that is pervasive throughout the NFTY year. Judaism reminds us that although we are not obligated to complete the work of tikkun olam, it is our responsibility to work towards it to the best of our ability. As a movement, we join together in pursuit of justice. Best of luck on your adventure through the exciting world of social justice!
Find more resources from the Jewish Women's Archive: Living the Legacy. Living the Legacy (LTL) uses primary sources to explore the roles of American Jews in the Civil Rights and Labor Movements. The 24 lessons that comprise LTL include art projects, text studies, role-playing opportunities, and more, providing new entry points to Jewish identification for young Jews interested in social justice.
Social Action Programs, Tools & Ideas
- Cold cuts (buy in packages in frozen section of grocery store)*
- Packages of American cheese singles*
- Bread—several loaves
- Jar of mayonnaise*
- Knife for spreading mayonnaise
- Large bags of chips*
- Small plastic bags
- Large boxes of cookies*
- Small boxes of juice or cans of soda
*Note: Not all of these supplies are necessary. You may cater the lunches to whatever supplies your TYG can afford. You can use mustard instead of mayonnaise, for example, or leave out the cookies. Tailor the project to your TYG.
Speak to the Director of Volunteer Services at a local night shelter. Tell him/her that you are part of a youth group (give the name of your Temple) in the North American Federation of Temple Youth and are interested in making lunches for the night shelter. If you want to make this an ongoing project, decide with the advice of the night shelter on one day each month that your TYG will make lunches.
Your TYG should set aside 1 hour to make the lunches (assuming approximately 8 people make lunches). Small plastic bags should be stuffed with chips. Sandwiches should be made. Two cookies should be added to every bag. Add one box of juice or can of soda per bag.
- Construction paper
- Markers, crayons, pens, pencils, stickers, or other decorations
Speak to the Director of Volunteer Services at a local hospital. Tell him/her that you are part of a youth group (give the name of your Temple) in the North American Federation of Temple Youth and are interested in making cards for patients in the hospital. Discuss this idea with him/her. When you have received permission to initiate this social action project, bring the supplies to a TYG event. Have the participants create cards for the patients. Set up a time with the hospital for you to bring over the cards.
You could do this seasonally (for the holidays, 4th of July, etc.), or you could do the cards as “Get Well” cards. You could even make this an ongoing once-a-month or every other month project.
- Items Collected in Drive
Contact the place to which you wish to donate the items that you plan to collect. For example, you may want to collect toys for children in a hospital, clothing for people in a homeless shelter, or canned/non-perishable food for a soup kitchen. Explain that you are part of a youth group (give the name of your Temple). Once you have been told that this collection will be worthwhile for the organization, begin advertising the drive. Publicize, publicize, publicize! The drive will be most efficient if not only your TYG, but your Temple, and your community get involved in it. Ask people to bring in the items that you are collecting by a certain date. Once all of the items have been collected, deliver the items to the organization.
- Hospital/Nursing Home/Homeless Shelter -- Visit/Talent Show - Your TYG can brighten up many people’s day by visiting one of these places.
- Letter Writing Campaign - Your TYG can choose an issue that speaks strongly to its members. After further educating your TYG about this issue, members of the TYG can write letters to government officials expressing their views. Some issues that may interest your TYG include the separation of church and state, environmental issues, and social justice.
- Neighborhood/Temple Area/Public Park Garbage Clean-up - Your TYG can make a big difference by taking a walk around a neighborhood, Temple area, or public park and throwing away any trash that is on the ground.
- Collection of Tzedakah - Your TYG can initiate a fund-raiser in order to help to benefit a charity of your choice. See “Quick and Easy: Five Effective Fund-raisers For Making Money Fast”.
- Interfaith/Intrareligious Activities - Your TYG can have an event in which you join with a youth group of another religion or Jewish movement. Together the youth groups can discuss similarities and differences in their beliefs. This also provides an opportunity for socializing.
What type of service projects can my TYG or Region do without leaving our location?
- Pack and donate lunches or hygiene goods to a shelter or underprivileged school
- Organize a drive for canned goods, used cell phones, kids videos, clothing, books- ask participants to bring goods to the TYG or Regional event to donate or ask Temple congregants for goods
- Fundraise for a cause of your choice
- Use art for social action. For example, ask participants to create butterflies to commemorate those lost in the Holocaust with the Butterfly Project. Also look into the Red Hands Project…
- At the end of a program, ask all participants to write a short poem or short story on the social action topic covered in the program. Choose the best pieces and submit them to a youth activist’s writing competition hosted by ACLU and/or UN Millennium Campaign. Also, encourage participants to write and submit songs, movies, and other creations to these contests on behalf of NFTY.
- Host a message booth at TYG or regional events. During events, there is usually some down time during registration or between programs. Here, choose an issue and host a booth where you educate program participants about the issue. Use video clips, news articles, pictures, etc to teach about the issue. To top it off, copy down the contact information of state Senators or Congress people from the region prior to the event. Ask participants to write letters about the issue to his or her elected official requesting action on the issue. (Pre-written letters, called Chai Action Alerts, are available on the RAC website. Use these letters as models).
- If you have web access, ask participants to sign an online petition during your event.
- Work with your advisor to record a Public Service Announcement or a series of Public Service Announcements on one issue during your event.
- At Regional events, pass resolutions at your General Assemblies and take stands on issues.
- Educate about- what can we do in our daily lives to reduce our consumption/eco-foot print. Make
- Invite in speakers guests/Interreligious Dialogue
- Camp/Temple beautification
What type of direct service projects can my TYG or Region do around our city?
- Midnight Run- NFTYites hand out hygiene goods to homeless people
- Neighborhood/Temple Area/Public Park Garage Clean-up
- Visit a Nursing home, Center for Prevention of Abuse, center for the disabled
- Volunteer at a soup kitchen, Ronald McDonald House, homeless shelter, battered women’s shelter, food pantry, clothing closets
To find a place to volunteer off campus:
- Contact your Temple adult Social Action Committee and clergy. The adults in your congregation may already have a partnership with an organization where your TYG can volunteer.
- Ask your school friends and teachers about volunteer opportunities in your community.
Visit websites like serve.gov and dosomething.org. Here, you can type in your zip code and the website lists places where you can volunteer!
To initiate the project:
- Ask your TYG or Regional advisor about your budget. Do you have the funds to leave your Temple or event location? If not, can you trouble shoot?
- Can parents drive to the designated location? Can the participants walk? Use public transportation?
Can you charge more for the event to pay for buses?
- If you do not have the money to go off campus, consider planning a service project or educational program at your Temple such as packaging meals or inviting in a guest speaker.
- With the help of your advisor, contact the organization where you want to volunteer. Explain how many teen volunteers will attend the event and when you are available. Hint: if you have a large group like at a Regional event, it is easier to break the group into smaller groups to volunteer at several organizations at the same time.
- When you promote the event, promote the direct service component. Remind participants if they need to bring certain apparel.
- Save the contact information of the volunteer coordinator at each volunteer sight. Send a quick, “We can’t wait to volunteer this Sunday” email to the volunteer coordinator the week before your event to make sure you are on the same page.
- Send a thank you note to the organization you volunteered for.
- Choose one project and stick with it. Make a commitment such as leading services at an elderly home twice a month or tutoring students once a week; consistent meetings and commitment will let participants witness lasting change.