Ethan Stone is the NFTY-MV President and Allison Worth is a member of NFTY-MV and SETYG.
At Winter Chavurah, Regional Board worked with Jonah Freelander, the Assistant Director of Mitzvah Corps, to run a program based on the teaching “Do not stand idly by while your neighbor’s blood is shed.” (Lev. 19:16). The purpose of the program was to allow participants to individually participate in many different station-based experiences derived from the modern social action movement, such as with transgender issues or #blacklivesmatter. We were joined by Cultural Leadership, a St. Louis-based group made up of Jewish and African American high schoolers as they were working on learning how to be a “troublemaker of the best kind.” Discussions about the stations were held after the program with members of Missouri Valley and Cultural Leadership, allowing the two groups to learn from each other. Here is a reaction written by Allison Worth, a participant from SETYG:
On Sunday morning at Winter Chavurah, I participated in a civil rights activity where we went around the building to different stations. At the first station, we picked up a sticky note and a pen, and on the wall there was a sign with a quote, and another sign that told us to write a single word on our sticky note to explain what we thought about the quote. Most of the notes said something like “responsibility”, “equality” or “justice”. By the end of the activity, the entire wall was filled with notes. I thought it was important that we were only given one word to answer, because the limit makes you narrow it down to the very basics of whatever you would have said otherwise.
The next station, in the same room, had a voice recording of Martin Luther King Jr., and we received a strip of paper and wrote or drew something on it that represented what is unique about each of us. The strips of paper were turned into a massive paper chain at the end.
From that room, we went to the library, where there was a piece of butcher paper with the outlines of two hands drawn on it and “black lives matter” written in between them. The instructions told us to put our thumb on the ink pad and make a thumbprint in one of the hands to show our support for Ferguson. I think this station was definitely one of the most impactful ones, because, as I remembered later, not everyone here is from St. Louis. I personally am, and the Ferguson protests have affected me. I’ve seen protests outside a movie theater where I attended a film festival, and there was a protest on the track at my school. I know people who have walked in protests, and I’ve been to the area around Ferguson (not after the riots and protests, but before). But a lot of the teens here aren’t from St. Louis, and to them, everything that happened and is happening in Ferguson is just more news stories on the TV and computer. They haven’t experienced it firsthand, and while I’ve seen other things like the poster we put our thumbprints on, the kids from Denver and Omaha and everywhere else haven’t because they’re hours away from Ferguson rather than half an hour away from it.
After leaving a response, we were led into a room where there was a sign that said “Every fifteen seconds a woman is beaten in the United States” (Bureau of Justice Statistics, 1983), and next to it, a phone showing its timer. At first, you look at it and you think “Okay, that’s not good. That shouldn’t be happening.”, but it’s just another statistic, and people don’t think much of statistics. But then, every fifteen seconds one of the girls in the room rings a cowbell to signify another woman getting beaten. The sound of the bell, which you can hear through the hallway, drives it into you. Every time it rings, that’s another woman being beaten. It rings again, and again, and again, and you begin to realize that 15 seconds isn’t long at all.
After I exited that room, I entered a room with a trail of footprints on the floor, and on one piece of paper were the words “your carbon footprint”. As I followed the footprints through the room, there were before and after pictures on the floor. A lush forest filled with life, with animals and plants, reduced to a dead, dry pile of lumber. A glacier that, 20 years later, is a lake. More and more sets of pictures like this line the trail, which eventually leads out into the lobby.
We each joined a group for discussion about the activity, first stopping to write down our answer to the question, “What do you stand for?”, and at the discussion we were given to opportunity to share our answers. Two of the most striking things about the activity were that we went through it alone, in a single file line, so that we could take in each station by ourselves, and that we weren’t allowed to talk. I think that that was the most significant part of it. It was completely and entirely silent the entire time we walked through, so everyone was alone with their thoughts. Because it was silent, no one was influenced by anyone else’s thoughts and all of the answers and feelings were genuine, which I think was the best part of the activity.