Tiyul Tzedek - A Journey of Justice
Submitted by: Naama
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The Big Idea
The Tiyul Tzedek – Journey of Justice – will inspire 500 B’nai Mitzvah students to engage in the world as Jews and experience Jewish values in action. The Journey will take students and their families on a tour of Jewish values providing concrete opportunities to act, to learn, to engage and to create. The Jewish experience in the Holocaust becomes more remote with each passing generation; the Tiyul Tzedek draws on our Jewish experience to link students to current genocides and their survivors. Through this journey each student will come to understand that living a Jewish life means seeing the face of God in every human being.
The centerpiece of the Tiyul Tzedek is a virtual service-learning trip, allowing B’nai Mitzvah students to forge relationships with young people who are currently experiencing what Jews around the world know too well: the scourge of genocide and mass atrocities. Through a series of videoconferences, Tiyul Tzedek students will connect and build personal relationships with their field partners; together, they will explore shared spiritual values and jointly design local actions (both in Los Angeles and in the partner countries, Sudan or Congo) that produce powerful global results.
Together they will organize and implement projects that help end the crisis in that particular region. Students will be prepared for the Tiyul Tzedek experience through a series of activities that engage them in the Los Angeles Jewish community, including lessons, an interactive retreat and dedicated web space that allows an exploration of projects, values and future collaborations.
Why Is This Idea Unique or Innovative?
While international service learning trips do exist, they are costly and often not available for younger students such as those studying for their B’nai Mitzvah. Moreover, no service learning trips take their students to regions where genocides and mass atrocities are actually happening. Tiyul Tzedek offers a way for students to “visit” people living in these dangerous countries to lend support and bear witness; further, the program enables the forging of significant and impactful friendships with their peers in those countries.
While connecting with peers living in very different and very dangerous circumstances is an important component of Tiyul Tzedek, equally important to the program is the power and effectiveness of actions taken within one’s home community. This virtual experience would focus the students on how to make the greatest impact by working in their own communities – the B’nai Mitzvah students working here in LA, while their Tiyul Tzedek partners working in their communities; the two cohorts would also be working together to meet a larger, shared goal.
The virtual Tiyul Tzedek will be a first-hand, personal exploration of Jewish values. Through active participation, B’nai Mitzvah students will delve into how their Jewish values are relevant to the world around them today – and how expressing those values through social action allows them to impact their world. The preparatory curriculum, video-chats and subsequent actions will all emphasize the shared spiritual values that bring together our Los Angeles-based B’nai Mitzvah students and their overseas partners. The culminating retreat will bring together B’nai Mitzvah students and their families across denominational lines and will be a unique opportunity for Reform, Conservative and Orthodox students, rabbis and families to collaborate and engage.
Why Is This a "Big" Idea?
A core value of our people, gleaned most recently from the horror of the holocaust, is the Biblical mandate to “Not Stand Idly By”. Now, 4 generations later, it is critical to connect Jewish young people to their history in new and innovative ways which capture their passions and intellects and which move them to connect as Jews to the world. In fact, Tiyul Tzedek will empower our young people to actually engage in the mitzvah of saving a life. In the Talmud we learn that if we save a single life, it is as though we have saved the entire world.
By embarking on Tiyul Tzedek 500 B’nai Mitzvah students each year will have the fundamental and life-changing experience of saving the world by connecting with, jointly advocating with and raising funds to save the lives of those threatened with genocide. By enabling students on each side of the partnership to become the experts about how to make change in their own communities, Tiyul Tzedek eliminates pity as the driving motivator in the experience and focuses all of the students on the important work they can each do best to impact the conflict in their local community.
For example, the B’nai Mitzvah students might conclude that the greatest impact they can make towards stopping genocide would be to engage in political activism locally; the Darfuri or Congolese students might determine that their most productive action is developing strategies to encourage more educational opportunity in refugee camps or to discourage young people from joining militias. While each cohort can work locally to bring about the desired change, the goal is to work collaboratively as well, for each cohort to support the other’s objectives.
Fundamental to the B’nai Mitzvah cohort is that the students will connect with and practice their Jewish values in their daily actions. They will simultaneously engage in Jewish life, Jewish learning, and Jewish history while building their senses of Jewish identity. They will gain understanding of their responsibilities as adult Jews in the world.
The impact on the Los Angeles Jewish Community will be profound. The B’nai Mitzvah students who participate in this program will gain an understanding of the Jewish genocide experience (the Holocaust) as well as that of current genocides; they will learn how our Torah relates to everything that happens in our world.
They will also learn how the Torah can guide our everyday actions. Significantly, they will see how their local actions – performed here, in their own communities – can have powerful global results. The program will focus on building knowledge and activist skills; with these skills, they will be able to tackle any issue of importance to their community.
Further, they will have been trained to do so as emerging Jewish leaders with a powerful connection to Jewish history, text, and identity. This entire Tiyul Tzedek experience will leave an indelible mark on the students and will engage them so profoundly, that they will be far more likely to want to pursue their Jewish identities as they get older. As this cadre of young, inspired Jewish teen leaders will all be in Los Angeles, their impact on others in the community is limitless.