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Temple Sharey Tefilo-Israel Students Travel South for Civil Rights Educational Field Trip

| February 13, 2018 | 0 Comments

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Teens from Reform Synagogue Visit Important Sites in Alabama and Atlanta Associated with the Civil Rights Movement

SOUTH ORANGE, N.J., February 13 2018 – The 11th– and 12th-grade students at Temple Sharey Tefilo-Israel (TSTI) were immersed in the American civil rights movement of the 1960s on a recent trip to Alabama and Georgia, in honor of Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. Twenty students from TSTI’s Hebrew High participated in the “Civil Rights Tour of the South,” with stops in Montgomery, Selma, Birmingham and Atlanta.

An optional part of the Hebrew High program, the tour supplemented the curriculum around civil rights and Jewish involvement in the movement. The trip was, in part, made possible through the generosity of TSTI member, Harriet Felper and her husband, the late Everett Felper.

“Throughout the trip, we discussed how, as a historically persecuted minority, the Jewish experience calls us to act to ensure justice for all who are still marginalized in our country,” said Rabbi Alexandra Klein, who chaperoned the trip with TSTI’s director of youth engagement, Erica Shulman.

Among the trip highlights:

  • Students toured the Rosa Parks Museum and visited the Equal Justice Initiative (EJI), where they learned about the organization’s work to end the death penalty and lifetime jail sentences for minors. EJI works to exonerate the wrongly convicted and appeal death sentences, while educating the public about the problem of mass incarceration in the US.
  • Teens spent an impactful morning in Selma, walking across the Edmund Pettus Bridge, the site of the “Bloody Sunday” attack against voting rights marchers by law enforcement personnel on March 7, 1965. Students were encouraged to walk the bridge silently and think about what the experience was like for the marchers who were met with violence at the end. “It was a very powerful and emotional experience. The teens really understand the power of the place and what so many people had risked for basic rights,” said Shulman.
  • The students heard from locals who participated in the civil rights movement, including Bishop Calvin Woods, who worked alongside Dr. King for voting rights and the desegregation of Birmingham. He and others shared their stories of being beaten and terrorized and their response of nonviolence and love. Students stopped at the 16th Street Baptist Church where four young girls died in a bombing on September 15, 1963.
  • In Atlanta, the group visited the AIDS Quilt headquarters; they learned about the AIDS crisis and how access to health care and sex education are modern-day civil rights issues.
  • They also visited the historic Ebenezer Baptist Church where MLK, Jr., his father, and his grandfather all preached. The group paid respects at Dr. King’s grave and participated in an uplifting Sunday worship service at the new Ebenezer Church.

“The trip afforded our students the opportunity to not only see a part of our country they might not have otherwise visited, but to understand the impact of the Civil Rights movement on our nation’s history and on our lives today,” said Rabbi Klein. “Students were able to place these important people, places and events in the context of the America they know today, and were challenged to consider how they might continue the legacy of Dr. King and the countless others who used their voices to create much-needed change. They left this experience inspired to be bearers of light wherever there is darkness in our world.”

Temple Sharey Tefilo-Israel, located at 432 Scotland Road in South Orange, is a vibrant, inclusive Reform congregation that welcomes Jews by birth or by choice, interfaith, traditional and non-traditional families, and children of all abilities. It offers lifelong learning and creative, enriching programs for all members, from preschoolers and teens to older adults. Its full complement of religious services, early childhood and religious school education, cultural programs and activities foster connection, engagement and community outreach. TSTI’s members live in Maplewood, South Orange, West Orange, Short Hills, Millburn, Livingston and surrounding areas. For more information, please visit www.tsti.org.

Photo Caption: Twenty teens from Temple Sharey Tefilo-Israel’s Hebrew High learned about the American civil rights movement on a recent trip to the South, where they toured key sites.

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About Temple Sharey Tefilo-Israel
432 Scotland Road, South Orange, NJ 07079
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Media Contact:
Caryn Starr-Gates
Caryl Communications
(201) 796-7788
Email: caryn@caryl.com

 

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