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Achschav: Teen Winter Break Program

Frequently Asked Questions

Still curious? Look below. If your question isn’t answered, feel free to reach us at achshav@saj.nyc. 

How will the program work? 

Each day will be broken down into 4 parts: A morning bunk session (approximately 45 min), mid-day lesson + workshop (approximately 2.5 hours, with breaks), time for partner projects (for participants to structure themselves), and an evening bunk session (approximately 45 min). Participants can expect to do some reflecting and researching on their own time. Participants will need an internet-connected device for optimal Zoom participation.

Is it okay that I’m not a member of SAJ?

The program is open to anyone, regardless of Jewish identity or synagogue affiliation. All are welcome! We are deeply grateful to SAJ for hosting Achshav and making it a reality.

Is my child old enough to participate?

Achshav: Alternative Winter Break is being offered to youth ages 13-18, or grades 8-12. Unfortunately, we cannot accommodate those younger or older. If you are age 19-22 and would like to be a counselor, please email us at achshav@saj.nyc. 

What is a sliding scale? How much should I pay?

A sliding scale is a way to allow participants from diverse socio-economic backgrounds to join our program. The economic concept of sliding scale at its most basic: people pay as they are able to for services, events and items. Those with access to more resources pay more and thus provide the cushion for those with less access to pay less, creating a sustainable economic underpinning for said services, events and items.

The scale for this program is $100 – $360 per child. We ask that you pay as much of that as you are able, as it will not only ensure that more participants who want to can attend, but will also ensure we are paying our educators and counselors appropriately for their time and efforts. Think about your family income level, and the types of programs and activities you usually put money towards. If you would typically consider going on vacation at this time, we ask that you perhaps put the money from that experience for your child towards this one. 

What topics will the program be covering?

Each day has a lesson and affiliated workshop. Participants can look forward to lessons on Jewish Movement History, Black Liberation Movement History, and Immigrant Justice Movement History; and Race, Power, & Oppression (anti-racism training). They can look forward to workshops on community organizing, communications, arts & culture, solidarity & allyship, and fundraising. These topics were chosen for their timeliness in our current climate. We will only be focusing on US domestic issues.

How did this idea come to be?

This camp is a brain child of the Let My People Go campaign, which was launched by Jews for Racial and Economic Justice, Never Again Action, New Sanctuary Coalition, and Brooklyn Community Bail Fund in early 2020 with a goal of fundraising $180,000 to bond out immigrants detained in facilities in the tri-state area. As the fundraiser took off in early March, the coronavirus pandemic also hit the Metro-NYC area, inconveniencing and disappointing many of us while infecting hundreds of individuals in jails, prisons, and detention centers where the lack of governmental and carceral care eliminated the option of social distancing.

By the end of April, we had raised over $320,000 and had paid bond for 40 people. Soon, we also saw our organizers and communities being pulled into a reignited fight for justice for Black lives. We found ourselves even more committed to our work and to political education of the issues at hand. We realized that to make the biggest impact, we must pass down our values of justice and antiracism by providing leadership, organizing, and fundraising training to the young people who want to use their own righteous anger and frustration for societal change. 

Around the same time, many Jewish summer camps announced they would not be opening their doors for the season. Summer camp can be a magical, meaningful experience that camp lovers anticipate year-round. It provides a space to forge friendships, explore identity, and learn in an unconventional environment. Thousands of young people—both campers and junior counselors alike—were beyond disappointed to hear the news. 

With these camps closed, young people (and their caregivers) are likely searching for meaningful ways to fill their time. And in an era of heightened youth awareness of the world and its injustices, they are in large part looking for activities with lasting impact. These are the core ideas behind Achshav: Jewish Social Justice Camp; that in this time of inequity and frustration, we can engage youth in a structured summer program that also arms them with the skills they need to go forth and continue pursuing justice in their own lives.

Due to various constraints, the camp was not able to take place during the summer. We have instead condensed the curriculum to fit the span of one week, over winter break, when we anticipate options for in-person gatherings and travel will continue to be limited.

Who are you?

We are a group of organizers affiliated with Jews for Racial and Economic Justice (JFREJ) who came together as part of the Let My People Go (LMPG) campaign. We have partnered with the synagogue SAJ to help and host our idea of empowering youth activists come to life.

The educators who will be teaching our daily lessons are talented individuals who are great with youth and are experts in their field. You can read all of our bios here.

What does “achshav” mean?

“Achshav” means “now” in Hebrew. We chose this name to reflect the urgency of the need for everyone, especially young people, to come together and learn how to take action in the face of injustice and oppression. The time is now.

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