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J Line – Teens and Jewish Values at Work

Posted by on January 31, 2017

“For I, the Lord, love justice.”

-Isaiah 61:8


“You shall love the stranger, for you were strangers.”

-Deuteronomy 10:19

At J Line, we are proud to connect Jewish values to the pursuit of peace and justice in the world around us.

Last Sunday, during Breakfast B’yachad (“together”), in light of Friday’s ban on immigration from seven Muslim-majority countries, I read aloud from a piece published in the Forward. The article tells the story of a Jewish family who hosted a family of Syrian refugees in their home last year for Thanksgiving.

Author Shmuly Yankowitz writes, “I remember the young daughter of Mr. Al-Wazer lifting her shirt and showing us a scar across her belly, compliments of a bullet.”

He goes on to quote Shemot (Exodus): “‘Pharaoh…sought to kill Moses; so Moses fled from before Pharaoh and settled in the land of Midian’ (Shemot 2:15)…The Divine commandment emerges continually to ensure that strangers, immigrants, and refugees must be protected. Exodus 22:20 states: ‘And a stranger shalt thou not wrong, neither shalt thou oppress him; for you were strangers in the land of Egypt.’”

The conversation continued in Current Events, a weekly discussion with Barak Naveh on current events impacting the Jewish world. Making connections with the plights of persecuted Jews around the world, students debated the national, and global, reactions to the new immigration ban (ranging from protests to pure silence), anchoring their feelings to the history of Jewish refugees and recognizing the Jewish value of lo tamod al dam reyecha: do not stand idly by while your neighbor bleeds.

Simultaneously, another group of teens gathered around the couch on The Second Floor to listen to Manar Saria, a culturally Muslim Palestinian Israeli. Manar spoke as part of a six-week Israel series, which also included discussions about diversity and tolerance in Tel Aviv and combatting BDS. From a new perspective, Manar shared her experiences in Israel and her hopes for the future. She engaged students in a “trust fall” exercise to highlight the desire for deeper trust between Israelis and Palestinians. Seeking understanding, students asked questions in a safe space.

Also at the same time, a third group of teens concluded a three-part series with Repair the World, bridging Jewish values with the fight for racial justice. During the series, students had the opportunity to meet three Pittsburgh activists working in the racial justice sphere; this week, students watched the Netflix movie 13th, an exploration of racism in the criminal justice system, and contemplated a Jewish obligation to learn more about these issues.

These are our Jewish values at work. As we struggle to comprehend and do right in an increasingly fast-paced world, our learning informs us not only about the challenges we face, but the Jewish texts – and context – around them.

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