CWJ Empowering Activists to Take Initiative

19/01/2017

On January 18, 2017, CWJ director Dr. Susan Weiss led a workshop at the Bina Secular Yeshiva in Jerusalem entitled, "What happens when Torah law determines personal status?" The dynamic group of twenty-something-year-olds explored ideas of civil rights and Jewish law and how these conflicting ideas play out in modern day Israel.

Pluralistic midrashot (institutes of Jewish studies), such as Bina, are a particular target for our programming as these institutions attract a 20 to 40-year-old cohort who are seeking to redefine Jewish identity within the 21st century Jewish state.

The workshop underscored the message that theoretical knowledge and desire for change is only the first step; today's activists must translate their passion into action by engaging others in order to maximize impact and reach broader, like-minded audiences. Toward that end, students engaged in an activity aimed at disseminating their new-found knowledge.

Students chose a “meme” as their medium. A meme is a humorous image, video, piece of text, etc., that is copied--often with slight variations--and spread by Internet users.The power of the meme lies in diffusing a very serious topic via humor so it is emotionally accessible to a wide audience.

The meme created by the students used a pop-culture reference to take a jab at the rabbinic courts’ failure to uphold democracy and basic human rights. Though the number of workshop participants was modest, the meme they created reached over 700 of their cohorts through their various social networks.  

We were inspired to see the budding activist community take the lessons learned in our workshop and implement them in socially impactful ways. Cultivating a force of engaged activists lays the groundwork for embedding CWJ's pioneering legal work and fosters an environment of communal accountability, individual initiative and direct democracy.

Special thanks to the foundations and federations whose generous support made this important workshop possible:  the David Berg Foundation, Jewish Federation of St. Louis, Jewish Women’s Fund of Atlanta, Jewish Women’s Foundation of the Greater Palm Beaches, Jewish Women’s Foundation of South Palm Beach County, and the Kathryn Ames Foundation, as well as donors whose general support provides a secure foundation for advancing our work.