Do Not Stand Idly By – A TY March and Rally

On Tuesday evening we witnessed an amazing display of empowered youth at Tel Yehudah – the national leadership camp of Young Judaea.  This was not a staff sponsored or staff run event.  Campers in our Hadracha (leadership) program approached staff and asked for permission to hold a LGBT Rights march and rally in camp.   Most of these campers had been involved in one of our Hadracha Tikkun groups – a program in which campers select an issue of importance to lobby on during their trip to Washington, D.C. (Other issues included nuclear Iran, animal rights and poverty).  We take very seriously the Jewish imperative of “tikkun olam” – fixing the world.

This group of campers wanted to draw attention to the issues of inclusion and acceptance of LGBT youth in our communities and in our society.  Together they held a march against homophobia and for acceptance on Tuesday evening.  Around 50 campers participated in this camper led march which included signs and the chant: “Hey Ho, Homophobia has got to go.”  At the end of the march there was live music.

After a camp-wide BBQ dinner, there was a tremendous thunderstorm at camp. For the safety of the campers, we moved them all into the dining room where they sat on the floor.  A few campers, and then staff members, got up to speak to the camp about personal experiences of discrimination because of sexual identity or about friends and schoolmates they lost to suicide as the result of bullying.  These were powerful and personal speeches. A room with over 600 people was completely quiet and still as their friends called on each other to prevent bullying and promote a more accepting and inclusive society.  I am proud that our campers understand the very important Jewish value of protecting the rights and dignity of each individual and the Jewish imperative of acting in the face of injustice.

This past year Jewish organizations across the political and religious spectrum (including diverse youth movements such as NCSY, USY, NFTY, Young Judaea and BBYO), pledged to speak out against homophobic bullying and intolerance.  Tel Yehudah, along with Young Judaea, Hadassah and hundreds of synagogues and organizations were signatories to Do Not Stand Idly By: A Jewish Community Pledge to Save Lives:

As members of a tradition that sees each person as created in the divine image, we respond with anguish and outrage at the spate of suicides brought on by homophobic bullying and intolerance. We hereby commit to ending homophobic bullying or harassment of any kind in our synagogues, schools, organizations, and communities. As a signatory, I pledge to speak out when I witness anyone being demeaned for their actual or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity. I commit myself to do whatever I can to ensure that each and every person in my community is treated with dignity and respect.

I believe that on Tuesday night the TY community made good on this pledge.

David Weinstein, Director – Camp Tel Yehudah


About Camp Tel Yehudah

Camp Tel Yehudah is the national teen leadership camp of Young Judaea. We are a community dedicated to fun, friendships, learning and social action that draws campers and staff from all over the United States, United Kingdom, Israel and the world. Our dynamic program of experiential education, activism and leadership development, connects teens to Israel and Judaism. Located on 150 beautiful wooded acres on the banks of the Delaware River in Barryville, New York, we offer a diverse array of activities, such as athletics, music, arts and crafts, hiking, performing arts, out-of-camp trips and much more. We reach out to all Jewish youth - Orthodox, Conservative, Reform, Reconstructionist, secular and unaffiliated - to create a vibrant, unique, pluralistic community each summer.

Posted on July 20, 2011, in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink. 13 Comments.

  1. This is why we send our kids to Young Judaea camps. I am very proud of the campers and of TY!

    Risa Satlof Werblin

  2. Sharon Levinson

    I am so proud of the kids who decided to do this, can’t wait until my daughter is in Hadracha next year!! This is exactly why we send our daughter to TY…a great Jewish experience in every way!!! I can’t wait to hear about it when I pick her up tomorrow…so sorry that it’s over though!

  3. I am also totally in support of what TY did — giving the kids the opportunity to assert their ethical and heartfelt beliefs. Thanks! Rachelle Gura

  4. I am also proud of the campers and TY. Tolerance, understanding, peace!

  5. Ellen Williams

    I applaud the campers for standing up for this important cause. It is wonderful to see these kids demonstrate such passion for promoting tolerance and acceptance. Thank you for allowing these kids to express themselves in such a positive manner. As the parent of a Hadracha camper, I couldn’t be prouder!

  6. I would like to see the negative comments too. Free speech is also important.

  7. Ilyssa Manspeizer and Brian Cohen

    Thank you T.Y. for teaching our children the value of respect. Nothing can be more important.

  8. I love that my son is at Tel Yehudah and have no problem with an activity promoting tolerance for people’s varying sexual identities. Unfortunately at these children’s tender impressionable ages with their minds not yet fully formed, it is a slippery and blurry slope from this topic to joining lockstep with other tenets of modern liberalism, many of which in my opinion are harmful to our country and it’s character. Not the least of these is the inexplicable uncritical support of Democratic politicians (many of whom are anti-Zionist, pro-Palestinian, and anti-Israel) by Jewish voters. I would expect blowback from these comments. It has been my observation that liberals who promote “tolerance” can respond with vehemence and hatred when someone dares to disagree.

  9. I am proud of the campers, and of the camp for promoting tolerance and awareness and for helping our kids find so many ways to live their values. Joel Hoffman, I don’t disagree with your concern about uncritical support of Democratic (or any) politicians, but I think that what the kids are learning is that any issue that concerns or affects their fellow community members deserves a respectful forum, not just the popular or widely-held views and issues. I am optimistic that they are discussing Tikun Olam and how it connects their personal lives and consciences to their communities and to the world, and not satisfying themselves with mindless political alliances and slogan shouting.

    I am pretty sure this program, and the kids who felt brave enough and/or safe enough in this environment to get up and talk to the camp about their own experiences and feelings, was not about politics or modern liberalism, but about feeling accepted by their fellow TY’ers and YJ’ers for who and what they are.

  10. Zach Ramsfelder

    Frankly, it disturbs me that anyone would show opposition to or concern with a march in support of tolerance of people whom I consider my friends (I was in Hadracha this summer), and it saddens me that anyone would try to politicize or question as politically-motivated such a march.

  11. Tel Yehudah’s director, David Weinstein, will be presenting alongside Keshet about LGBT youth in summer camp at the annual American Camp Association Tri-State Conference in Atlantic City on March 13, 2013.

  1. Pingback: Queer Rabbis in Action: Rabbi Denise Eger » Keshet – My Jewish Learning

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