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Teens

Symbols of Freedom: Tie a Yellow Ribbon

Freedom is the ability to make choices and is a basic human right. What is the importance of freedom in everyday life? What is my obligation to fight for other people’s freedom? How can I make a difference in such a big story?  Each person on this planet deserves to determine their own fate, to make their own decisions. 

Fighting for freedom requires staying power, patience, dedication and faith in our own abilities to effect change. Justice requires that we be creative to do everything we can to make people aware, and accelerate the return of all hostages to their families.

How can we send a powerful message to the families of the hostages in Gaza that they are not forgotten? How can we keep this issue alive for our leaders in government so they will work for their release?

AdultsAll agesChildrenMiddle SchoolTeensYoung adults

Day of Freedom: In the Footsteps of MLK

The 100th day in captivity almost exactly coincides with MLK day. Martin Luther King Jr. taught us important lessons about freedom and fighting for justice, which can inform our actions today and raise awareness about freeing the hostages. How can we learn from MLK to use our words to bring a voice to our movement? Who might be our allies? What can we do EVERY day?

AdultsTeensYoung adults

Seeds of Compassion

Trees, plants, and the seeds they start from, are a metaphor for life, growth and renewal. Just as seeds need proper light, water, food and caring to grow, so do humans. We need to dig deep, find the compassion to care about each person and ensure that they have the freedom and conditions to survive and to thrive. Compassion, justice and love are core Jewish and human values. We must act in order to tend our “compassion muscles.” Compassion is not finite, it energizes and enables others to pay it forward.
AdultsAll agesChildrenMiddle SchoolTeensYoung adults

The Interconnectedness of Human Beings

The topic of the interconnectedness between human beings was apparently on the mind of 23 year old Hersh Goldberg Polin before he was taken captive by Hamas on October 7th. Hersh was in the middle of reading “The Art of Happiness” by Howard C. Cutler and the Dalai Lama. His bookmark is at Chapter Six, awaiting his return. Rather than emphasizing the differences between people, the interconnectedness approach allows us to see the similarity within humanity. Knowing we are all connected can spark a new level of empathy and commitment to the well-being of the other. How might this approach be helpful to us in advocating for the release of the hostages?
AdultsTeensYoung adults

Every Human has a Story: A Story a Day

Every human being has a story. It deserves to be told and heard. Every time one tells a story it is a bit different based on where they are in the world that day and who they are telling it to. Stories are what people remember and repeat. They have the power to change opinions and create new realities. Stories are the foundation of memory.At this moment in time, one of the greatest tools we have to help the hostages is our ability to share their stories. Every single hostage has a story that needs to be told. And heard.

TeensYoung adults

׳Our Hands Did Not Shed this Blood׳: Leadership at a Time of Community Crisis

The issues of leadership and responsibility are naturally front and center in the story of redeeming the captives. Who is responsible in this case? Have our official leaders taken the necessary course of action? Have we, as individuals and as a community, taken responsibility for those suffering within us? 

AdultsTeensYoung adults

Mutual Responsibility & Redeeming Captives: The Jewish Imperative

July 4, 1976. The world stood in awe. The day in which the world would congratulate the United States on its bicentennial, the headlines were stolen by a tiny country in the Middle East. In a daring, unprecedented move, Israeli commando units swooped down on Entebbe, Uganda, freeing 106 Jewish captives and flying them safely back to Israel. The Jewish world swelled with pride at this incredibly daring feat, at the sight of Jewish soldiers saving their fellow people from the hands of those who wished to harm them! Redeeming captives is not a mitzvah only recently discovered along with Entebbe or Gilad Shalit. It has deep roots in Jewish sources- with examples and stories throughout Jewish history. It is the topic of much debate in discussion, in the Talmud and in Jewish law. What is the Jewish imperative for Pidyon Shvuyim? Why is it so important and why is it so complicated? In this unit, we include two options of exploring the issue- a text study for a group setting, as well as a series of short podcasts on the topic.

AdultsMiddle SchoolTeensYoung adults

Family First?

What is the value of family? Who are my family members? Are they only my immediate family? What is my connection to the larger Jewish People? Where am I in the story? Do I have responsibility to my family? If so, what is it? Are hostages of all faiths and nationalities currently captured in Gaza a priority for us?

TeensYoung adults

Bring Home the Hostages Tu B’Shvat Seder

The Tu B’Shvat seder, modeled after the Passover seder, traditionally includes eating a variety of fruits and nuts and drinking four cups of wine of various colors and is an opportunity to celebrate the species that are unique to the land of Israel.The seder has kabbalistic roots and was first mentioned in the book Pri Etz Hadar, written in the 18th century. There is room for much creativity when planning a Tu B’shvat seder, including the choice of foods, readings, and discussions. This year, the people of Israel cannot properly celebrate the bounty of the Land of Israel, as they are both grieving for those that have fallen on and since October 7th, as well as pained by the fact that so many are being held hostage still in Gaza. This Tu B’shvat Seder has been specially adapted and dedicated to raising awareness about the Israeli hostages being held in Gaza and to move participants to advocate on their behalf. As we engage in this Seder, let us pledge to do what we can to spread its messages and do what we can to free our hostages.

AdultsMiddle SchoolTeensYoung adults

Holding Innocent People

Why have the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and other humanitarian agencies been unable to fulfill their own charters to take care of the Israeli hostages of October 7? Why does the ICRC continue its presence in Gaza while ignoring its continued impotence regarding the Israeli hostages? How does this embody neutrality, impartiality and independence? How can it justify its historic lack of neutrality and partiality? Where is the accountability for the ICRC and other EU-recognized organizations for their inability/inaction in helping the hostages and yet helping all other peoples?

AdultsMiddle SchoolTeensYoung adults

Every Person is an Entire World

All humans deserve to be safe and secure and each individual is a world unto himself- עולם ומלואו. Each human being comprises their own unique and full understanding and contributions to the world. We need each one’s gifts for our world to be complete. We are all human and as our circles of responsibility and interconnectivity overlap we feel closer and closer to each other and benefit from the gifts each person brings to the world. We are more complete as a whole when every human is honored and is at home. How can we be inspired by various artistic expressions to remember the hostages? What can we create and make in our communities to help keep the hostages in mind and not to forget?

AdultsMiddle SchoolTeensYoung adults

Freedom Trips

One of the gifts of living in a democracy is the ability to amplify even the smallest voice and make it heard in the most powerful halls of government. You can keep the plight of the hostages as top priority for American legislators by taking the time to call, write and visit your representatives. Urge Congress to work with the international community, and particularly Qatar, in securing the immediate release of all hostages. In this unit you can find ideas for political activism which can take as little as one minute and as much as a day. Any time investment is worthwhile!! For a deeper lesson in civic activism, we give you some tools and encourage you to take your students on a trip to Washington, DC to advocate in person on behalf of the hostages.

AdultsMiddle SchoolTeensYoung adults

Mutual Responsibility & Redeeming Captives: The Jewish Imperative

July 4, 1976. The world stood in awe. The day in which the world would congratulate the United States on its bicentennial, the headlines were stolen by a tiny country in the Middle East. In a daring, unprecedented move, Israeli commando units swooped down on Entebbe, Uganda, freeing 106 Jewish captives and flying them safely back to Israel. The Jewish world swelled with pride at this incredibly daring feat, at the sight of Jewish soldiers saving their fellow people from the hands of those who wished to harm them! Redeeming captives is not a mitzvah only recently discovered along with Entebbe or Gilad Shalit. It has deep roots in Jewish sources- with examples and stories throughout Jewish history. It is the topic of much debate in discussion, in the Talmud and in Jewish law. What is the Jewish imperative for Pidyon Shvuyim? Why is it so important and why is it so complicated? In this unit, we include two options of exploring the issue- a text study for a group setting, as well as a series of short podcasts on the topic.

AdultsMiddle SchoolTeensYoung adults

‘Our Hands Did Not Shed this Blood’: Leadership at a Time of Community Crisis

The issues of leadership and responsibility are naturally front and center in the story of redeeming the captives. Who is responsible in this case? Have our official leaders taken the necessary course of action? Have we, as individuals and as a community, taken responsibility for those suffering within us? 

AdultsTeensYoung adults

Every Human has a Story: A Story a Day

Every human being has a story. It deserves to be told and heard. Every time one tells a story it is a bit different based on where they are in the world that day and who they are telling it to. Stories are what people remember and repeat. They have the power to change opinions and create new realities. Stories are the foundation of memory.At this moment in time, one of the greatest tools we have to help the hostages is our ability to share their stories. Every single hostage has a story that needs to be told. And heard.

TeensYoung adults

The Interconnectedness of Human Beings

The topic of the interconnectedness between human beings was apparently on the mind of 23 year old Hersh Goldberg Polin before he was taken captive by Hamas on October 7th. Hersh was in the middle of reading “The Art of Happiness” by Howard C. Cutler and the Dalai Lama. His bookmark is at Chapter Six, awaiting his return. Rather than emphasizing the differences between people, the interconnectedness approach allows us to see the similarity within humanity. Knowing we are all connected can spark a new level of empathy and commitment to the well-being of the other. How might this approach be helpful to us in advocating for the release of the hostages?

AdultsTeensYoung adults

Holding Innocent People

Why have the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and other humanitarian agencies been unable to fulfill their own charters to take care of the Israeli hostages of October 7? Why does the ICRC continue its presence in Gaza while ignoring its continued impotence regarding the Israeli hostages? How does this embody neutrality, impartiality and independence? How can it justify its historic lack of neutrality and partiality? Where is the accountability for the ICRC and other EU-recognized organizations for their inability/inaction in helping the hostages and yet helping all other peoples?

AdultsMiddle SchoolTeensYoung adults

Mishloach Manot: Gift Giving as a Form of Advocacy

Purim is the only Jewish Holiday where the story fully occurred outside of Israel. Where can we, as Jews who live in and outside of Israel, get inspiration from the story of Purim to motivate us to advocate for the Jewish people? What is the connection between giving and receiving gifts and celebration? How does the act of Mishloach Manot build community?

 

To make the beloved recipes of some of the hostages and include them in your Mishloach Manot, click here

AdultsAll agesChildrenMiddle SchoolTeensYoung adults

Counting Each Person: The Mitzvah of Donating Half a Shekel

There is a commandment in the Torah which calls on every person over the age of 20 to contribute a half-shekel to the community. This commandment is read in synagogues today during the regular Torah reading cycle, with an additional reading that highlights this commandment on the Shabbat leading into the month of Adar (or Adar Bet during a leap year). How can we use the values behind this mitzvah to illustrate the importance that each and every person contribute to bringing the hostages home?

AdultsMiddle SchoolTeensYoung adults

Women Who Spark Change: Then and Now

March is the month when we celebrate women as change-makers, both on International Women’s Day and on Ta’anit Esther and Purim. Esther and Henrietta Szold are two examples of female figures in our communal history who sparked important change for the Jewish people. How might we draw inspiration from Esther and Henrietta Szold’s actions to spark change in our communities today and do our part to bring the hostages home?

Middle SchoolTeens

Taking Responsibility for Others in Times of Crisis

We are not alone in this world. Each of us belongs to a specific cultural or religious community and, at the same time, we are part of the human race. What is my responsibility towards others? How do I balance my self-interests with my obligation to care for others? Standing up for others requires staying power, courage, determination and faith in our leaders’ abilities to support us in our mission. The hostage crisis in Gaza affects not only the Jewish people, but all people throughout the world. How should we advocate on behalf of the hostages? What is the message we should convey to our political leaders? How do we remain hopeful and vigilant even with the passage of time?

Middle SchoolTeensYoung adults

Weekly Words of Torah

Are you a Jewish leader who has an opportunity to teach and inspire based on the weekly Torah portion? Shabbat is a time for reflection, learning and inspiration. How might Torah and the Jewish weekly time cycle help you keep the issue of hostages in the forefront of your community’s agenda? Each week, come here to download the Parsha Page which provides access points and action items connected to this week’s Parsha. Use this as a foundation and inspiration for writing and delivering your own personalized Dvar Torah.

AdultsTeensYoung adults

The Fast of Esther: A Time for Communal Gathering & Solidarity

Ta’anit Esther, the Fast of Esther, is a day of fasting before the holiday of Purim. In the Megillah, the scroll of Esther, Esther requests of Mordecai and all her fellow Jews to join her and her handmaids, in a fast for three days as a symbol of communal solidarity and pain, before she approaches King Ahasuerus to plead on behalf of her people. Later, the 13th of Adar, the day before Purim, was set as a day of fasting, called Taanit Esther: The Fast of Esther. Some years, such as this year, it is observed on the 11th of Adar, which this year is on Thursday, March 21st. The traditional practice is to refrain from eating and drinking from sunrise to sunset. We fast to pray for life, to ask for forgiveness and to plead to be saved from danger. This year, as we face the painful reality of war and 134 of our people held hostage in Gaza, there’s an initiative to mobilize all the Jewish people to join and observe this day of fasting (whether that is their usual practice or not), as an act of solidarity with their plight, to pray and call for their safe return.

AdultsAll agesMiddle SchoolTeensYoung adults

When the Four Children Aren’t There to Ask Questions at the Seder

Questions are the order of the seder night, and it is the children present who are envisioned asking them. This year, many families will be missing their children, or their parents, or their siblings, or their cousins. Some of those individuals were murdered, some fell in battle, and some are still being held hostage, after more than six months, in Gaza. So this year, at your seder, consider asking questions on their behalf, since they can’t do it themselves. This unit includes question-related activities that you could consider including in your Seder. These could also be adapted as a Pre-Pesach unit in a classroom setting which students could engage with in preparation for Pesach and bring home to their family Seders.

AdultsAll agesChildrenMiddle SchoolTeensYoung adults

“Let Our People Go”: The Power of Being an Upstander

Upstander (noun): One who speaks, acts and/or intervenes in support of an individual or a group of people being intimidated, bullied or attacked or intimidated, often at great risk to oneself. 

“We must ask ourselves: Do I aspire to be human, or am I swept up in the enticing and delicious world of hatred?” -Rachel Goldberg, Mother of Hostage Hersh Goldberg Polin, United Nations Speech, October 24, 2024

AdultsMiddle SchoolTeensYoung adults

Bringing the Hostages to Your Seder: Seder Supplement

Pesah celebrates the quintessential moment of Jewish redemption, the Exodus from Egypt, which has informed Jewish responses to moments of collective suffering throughout Jewish history. As such, there is no more appropriate moment to acknowledge and respond to the suffering of our brethren in captivity in Gaza than during our retelling of the Exodus narrative. The mitzvah of pidyon shvuyim—redeeming captives—is a Jewish obligation… in the same category as the Jewish obligations that we fulfill each year at our Seders: eating matzah and maror, recounting the Exodus from Egypt, and singing God’s praises. This resource offers a practical, adaptable activity to help Seder participants of all ages to make connections between the obligations of Pesah and our collective obligation to redeem our captives. In this activity, not only the afikoman, but several ritual items needed to fulfill our obligations at the Seder, are in turn hidden, discovered, and redeemed. The jarring image of the empty Seder plate at the center of our holiday table serves to highlight the plight of the captives who are jarringly absent from their families’ Seder tables this year. The return of each set of ritual items is accompanied by intentions and prompts for thoughtful reflection that connect Pesah’s story and rituals to the plight of the hostages, and the gradual replenishing of the Seder plate embodies our deep longing for their redemption.

AdultsChildrenMiddle SchoolTeensYoung adults
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