There’s excitement building at the Capitol this spring, and it’s coming from the Jews who have a voice—but maybe not a vote. JCA’s youth members have decided on two campaigns for this spring: Freedom to Marry and a partnership with the Minnesota Safe Schools for All Coalition, which aims to pass a new law preventing bullying in our schools. Currently Minnesota’s anti-bullying law is the weakest in the nation, but, with this proposed bill, we hope to make our state's anti-bullying legislation the strongest.
Are you a high school or college student interested in getting involved? Do you know a young person who cares about social justice? To get involved in our youth campaigns, contact JCA intern Nora or JCA community organizer Jesse. Also, join us for a phonebank with the Safe Schools Coalition on March 10 from 3:00-6:30 PM (dinner included). You can RSVP here.
Below is an open letter to our legislators sharing why young Jews care about these issues:
To the Minnesota State Legislators,
As young Minnesotans, we believe in acceptance. Our classes teach us that all people are created equal, and we practice this value every day. In school, we learn the relationship-building and conflict-solving skills we will need for the rest of our lives. We learn that the world is bigger than our own experiences, and we learn that we cannot shut out the voices of those different than ourselves.
There are times when this call to acceptance does not work. We have all felt the effects of bullying, and we have all seen that bullying stops us from learning these important skills or from even feeling safe in math, chemistry, or English.
Some of us have been the victims of bullying: the only outspoken Jew at school, learning that there is a fine line between friendly teasing and hurtful accusations; a queer youth seeing the trust in the relationships she built at school shatter along with her car window; the smartest student in the class, intimidated by the male students who wanted to keep her in her place.
At other times, we have been bystanders, hearing our friends talk about how bullying drove them to switch schools or feeling trapped when we see bullying in the hallways.
We have been the bullies, too. In every case, we know that bullying shuts down different parts of ourselves, keeping us from exploring our identities and relationships, isolating us from our communities, blocking us from learning. As long as bullying exists in our schools, we will be learning school violence, not school peace.
We need to learn peace, and that means we need acceptance to become real in our schools and our society. When anger is answered with a military-style assault rifle, we learn violence—not acceptance. When we are told that some families count, and those that are different can never be equal, we learn another kind of violence. The issues in our society spill over into school: we see our best friends struggle to be open or confident in class because they are told that they can never marry, can never be accepted. When the law tells us that we can treat people differently based on who they are, we spiral into bullying and call it legal.
When we do not have acceptance in our schools, we all lose parts of ourselves. We all hide from the opportunity to learn and grow. We are tired of telling each other and ourselves to lay low, to wait for the problems to go away, to miss out on the experiences we should have in school. We know that we have so much more to gain.
For this reason, we call on the Minnesota State Legislature to create safe schools and safe communities for our youth. We urge you to pass the Safe Schools for All legislation, the Freedom to Marry legislation, and the Gun Violence Prevention legislation, and every other bill that has the potential to change the lives of Minnesota’s youth. We ask you to model for us what an accepting Minnesota can be.
The Youth of Jewish Community Action
St. Paul, MN