Students Pursue Social Justice in the Big Apple
Canadian students spend four days in New York on a social justice mission.
The Canadian Federation of Jewish Students (CFJS) is committed to empowering Jewish student leaders who are passionate activators of social change. As such, we are delighted to announce the success of our Social Justice Mission to New York City on October 7-11. A group of ten student leaders from Windsor to Saskatoon embarked on a unique experience, working together in service of others, and reflecting on the Jewish roots of social justice. CFJS is creating a national network of young social entrepreneurs, and our service learning trips are an important aspect of this aim.
We strove to showcase the many forms of social action, including direct service, advocacy, and community organizing. We also engaged in high-level meetings. These included a visit to the headquarters of the American Jewish Committee to meet with Executive Director David Harris, one of the world’s foremost activists for the Jewish people. We also met Rebecca Neuwirth to discuss the ongoing partnership between CFJS and AJC’s ACCESS “New Generation” program.
Mr. Harris helped us imagine what it means to live an ethically-inspired life, and addressed the most crucial issues facing the American Jewish community, including Iran, anti-Semitism, America’s reliance on foreign oil, and the alarming increase in the polarization of American politics.
We also met with American Jewish World Service, to explore their perspectives on tackling development issues in the Global South, as well as how they integrate Jewish values and texts into their work abroad.
We were delighted to partner with Rabbi Ari Weiss, Director of Uri L’Tzedek, a modern Orthodox social justice organization, and thank him for coordinating our service activities and facilitating our exploration of Jewish teachings related to social justice.
Our direct service experiences were particularly meaningful. We set out on a Midnight Run - delivering food packages, clothing, and toiletries to homeless individuals around Manhattan. We also spent an evening in Brooklyn and Queens, at two Masbia soup kitchens, which are supported by the Met Council on Jewish Poverty. While serving food, cleaning up, endlessly chatting with patrons, and entertaining them with show tunes, we were impressed with the positive experience Masbia offers those who are less fortunate.
In addition to direct service, we were able to experience hands-on advocacy work. We took to the streets of Brooklyn to advocate forUri L’Tzedek’s “Tav HaYosher” - an ‘ethical seal’ of Kashrut. The “Tav” ensures that kosher restaurants respect workers’ rights such as minimum wage and freedom from harassment. We engaged restaurant owners, encouraging them to consider signing on to obtain the “Tav”. We also spoke with people on the streets, convincing them of their power as Brooklyn kosher restaurant patrons to make ethically responsible decisions. This experience allowed us to understand the challenges and rewards of creating systemic social change.
Shabbat in New York was highly memorable. We enjoyed Friday night dinner and oneg at the NYU’s Hillel. This was an opportunity to learn how NYU pursues social justice. We had an electric discussion, and have sown the seeds for working together in the future. On Shabbat morning, we attended services at the Stanton Street Shul and explored the Lower East Side’s rich Jewish history on foot with Rabbi Josh Yuter.
The success of this social action mission is largely in part due to the dedication of Hillel Canada staff Yacov Fruchter, Hava Goldberg, and Samuel Konig, as well as Rabbi Ari Weiss. While our time in the Big Apple is over, we are excited to continue supporting our participants as they pursue Tikkun Olam and Tzedek. “If not now, when?”
Adam Moscoe is the Co-Chair of Social Justice and Jewish Identity for the Canadian Federation of Jewish Students. He is also Uri L’Tzedek’s first University Fellow from a Canadian school.