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#URJBiennial: Finding Meaningful Social Action Opportunities for your Youth Group

#URJBiennial: Finding Meaningful Social Action Opportunities for your Youth Group

During the URJ Biennial earlier this month, I was invited to present in a NFTY workshop titled “Finding Meaningful Social Action Opportunities for your TYG.” The participants spent much of their time brainstorming social action ideas and discussing ways to adapt the ideas depending on a youth group’s budget, location and/or membership. After the brainstorming session, I shared some brief thoughts with the participants about ways to involve adults in their programming, reach out to outside groups and utilize the RAC’s resources. Below are the key takeaways:

Involving adults in your programming:

  1. From the beginning, before you even have a specific project in mind, reach out and start a relationship with the key adults in your synagogue community. For example (and this is definitely not an exhaustive list!): synagogue president, clergy, executive director, social action committee chair, Sisterhood president, Brotherhood president, religious school director, youth committee chair.
  2. When approaching adults in your congregation for a partnership (and this goes for approaching anyone for a potential partnership), don’t forget that they are a distinct entity with a different purpose, different priorities and different constituency, so you’ll need to think about how your project can work for them, given all of the above.

 Reaching out to outside groups

  1. Think about the national groups that have state-level chapters. For example: ACLU, Planned Parenthood, NARAL Pro-Choice America, United to End Genocide (formerly Save Darfur), and Americans United for Separation of Church and State.
  2. Many of these groups also have student chapters, so you can reach out to your local community colleges and four-year universities.
  3. There doesn’t have to be a national organization for there to be a local counterpart. For example, try reaching out to local food banks and homeless shelters, city and county social service agencies, or your local Jewish Family Services or Jewish federation.
  4. Here’s where those adult relationships can come in handy: The adults in your congregation may know some of the people who work at these organizations. They can help you make those connections. In fact, they may actually BE those people who work at those organizations!
  5. Also, think about youth groups at other synagogues in your area or other faith communities.
  6. When reaching out to an outside group:
  • Know what you want. Do you want a speaker from their organization? Do you want to volunteer at or with their organization? Do you want resources to distribute at your event?
  • Make sure to identify yourself and your group. They probably won’t be familiar with the structure or concept of a TYG, so be prepared to explain the basics.
  • Follow up. They might not answer your email or phone call the first time, so don’t be afraid to try again (politely!)
  • The RAC can help! We have dozens of coalition partners for each issue that we work on. You can call our office at 202-387-2800 and ask to speak to the legislative assistant for that issue, or go on our website and look at the “resources” section of our issue pages. We often link to the websites of some of our strongest, most reliable coalition partners.
  •  Speaking of the RAC… Utilizing the RAC’s resources:

    1. Those issue pages also contain background information, legislative updates, explorations of Jewish values and other information about the many policy issues on which we work. Planning an event on homelessness? Check out our economic justice issue page! Israel? We’ve got a page for that, too! And the list goes on…
    2. If you’re reaching out to an organization of another faith, the RAC has resources to help you plan interfaith programs. For example, we have “Children of Abraham: A Guide to Muslim Jewish Dialogue,” which contains materials to facilitate a dialogue and joint study sessions between Reform Jewish congregations and their neighboring Muslim communities. It includes text studies of the Torah and Qur'an; lessons on tzedakah and zakat; religious tolerance; Islamaphobia and anti-Semitism, and more.
    3. Need help coming up with program ideas? Check out the RAC program bank, where you can search a database of some of our congregations’ best social action programming by topic or type of program.
    4. Stay in touch with the RAC by:

    Published: 12/29/2011

    Categories: Social Justice
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