Posted on December 20, 2017 by Liessa Alperin
Rabbi Jonah and I, with many of our 8th grade students, traveled to Memphis on a Civil Rights and Social Justice experience this October. It was a joint program with 8th grade students from United Hebrew Congregation. Throughout the weekend, the students engaged in programs that instructed and empowered them about the issues surrounding civil rights and how they are able to be a voice for change.
A highlight of the trip was our tour of the National Civil Rights Museum. We also spent time learning with the national organization Facing History And Ourselves and exploring Beale street. On Shabbat, we heard about the role of Memphis Jews in the Civil Rights movement from Rabbi Micah Greenstein at Temple Israel in Memphis and then joined their community for services. Sunday morning was a Tzedakah experience at a local church that runs a program to feed people who are homeless. It was a powerful trip for all our students.
This particular trip to Memphis really stood out to me. It had a whole new aspect that the other Memphis trip I went on didn’t really have. When we discussed what we had learned, it got more meaningful than evaluating what we learned through worksheets. We really talked about what we learned, what we took away personally, and how we can fix some of these issues. Some of my friends and I were so inspired that we want to make an assembly (if given approval) for all of our school about civil rights and how people are treated.
– Bryce Bernstein
Our trip to Memphis tied Judaism and the civil rights movement together for me. While I already knew that Jews had been discriminated against for centuries, I learned that the Jews walked side by side with African Americans in solidarity against discrimination. I learned that identity is not only who you are but what you believe in as well. At Temple Israel, I learned about the outbreak of Yellow Fever that hit Memphis in the late 1800s. The Rabbi at Temple Israel tended to many of the sick. Eventually, he caught Yellow Fever and died from the complications.
– Max Lagoy
My experience at Temple Israel was amazing. I felt welcome and I felt immersed in the Jewish traditions and ways of the Temple Israel congregation. My experience at the civil rights museum was interesting. I didn’t realize how MLK had given his life and teachings to fight for the sanitation workers of Memphis. That he had given his life. That he had died that day for the extra $1.50 the workers would earn. That he had fought for the African American communities so that they might be able to be taught, paid, and recognized as the same and that all communities might be equal.
– Edden Rosenberg
Wow. I have been to Memphis before and this was nothing at all like anything I have ever experienced. It wasn’t just an amazing trip to another town or city, it was an adventure. It wasn’t a school trip with worksheets and strict teachers; it was a fun, exciting experience. I was able to not only learn about the community of Memphis that surrounded me but I was able to do it with friends the whole time. We learned about the local Jewish community and the historic events of Memphis while at the same time going to fun attractions like Beale street and some famous restaurants. Overall the activities, events and places we as a group and congregation visited really made me feel very special. I hope future 8th graders will have as much fun as I did on this amazing trip!
– Samuel Baker
This trip was very meaningful to me. I was especially touched by the National Civil Rights Museum. I really loved what Rabbi Shapiro was saying about how we can have our own march and how we can contribute. That night in our hotel room, I started a conversation with my friends Bryce, Sam, and Andrew about what injustice and inequality we see in the world and what we can do to stop it. We wanted to do something that would put a positive impact on the world. We talked for 45 minutes and concluded that we wanted to do something about it at our schools. If I ever make an impact on the world, I’ll be sure to link it back to this trip.
– Josh Goldman
Memphis was amazing. One of the big things that I took away from this trip was finding out about how the most influential part of the civil rights movement was not led by adults, but rather by teens. This taught me that having a voice, even as a teen, can make quite a difference. Temple Israel was a great place to visit. The chapel and the sanctuary both were sacred and were quite colorful. On top of all the wonderful places we visited, I got to travel with students I already knew and I met students from other temples too.
– Andrew Goldberg