Sunday, September 9, 2012

Opinion: We Think of Social Action and Social Learning Trips

In an ironic twist of fate this past week, Hurricane Isaac hit the Gulf Coast seven years to the day after Hurricane Katrina struck land.

For the past nine years, I have been taking synagogues and day schools on trips to New Orleans and other cities as part of a nonprofit educational venture I created called Etgar 36. The company was born out of an idea I had when I was a youth director at an Atlanta synagogue to take Jewish students on a five-week summer journey across America. My goal is to teach the teens about history, politics and activism while developing their American and Jewish identities. During the academic year, I run shorter social activism trips for synagogue groups and day schools with the same goal in mind – to empower and inspire Jewish people to get involved and to create change.

Dating back to when Abraham welcomed the wayfaring angels into his tent, the Jewish community has had a historic connection to social action and responding to people in need. After leading trips for many groups that wanted to continue in this tradition, it occurred to me that I could be doing more to encourage a deeper understanding of the issues we were confronting. I realized that what we need is a new paradigm governing the way we think of social action and social learning trips. -- Billy Planer, eJewish Philanthropy

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