“Bridging the gap” is a project of the Jerusalem Foundation that aims to connect Jewish youth of various religious denominations. Originally it was described as follows:
This program brings religious and secular youth together to overcome stereotypes and work together in the community. Operating in 10 neighborhoods the program encompasses religious, secular and traditional youth movements, from various points on the political spectrum. They meet for mediated workshops, to plan together community activities, and to commemorate and celebrate national holidays and memorial days. On a citywide level the program uses a wide variety of arts – poetry, theater, photography, music and more – as tools to advance understanding among the diverse groups. These young people come together with common goals of creating a community and bridging gaps in society.
In 2008, the Jerusalem Foundation asked the JICC to help redefine the project objectives. This process resulted in the decision to move gradually toward teaching youth of various religious denominations how to recognize and define social change challenges, and engage in effective programs that would actually make a difference. Protests are not enough. Creating awareness to a problem is not enough. Even the youth doing the work themselves is not enough. A real change on the ground, even just a small one, is the main measure of success. You can read more about the project in this report. A major success was achieved this year when one of the groups, using docu-activism, managed to convince the owners of a mall to improve its disabled accessibility. Feel free to read more about this exciting success (in English) or watch part of the movie the youth made (in Hebrew). The story was also published in the popular youth weekly “Rosh Echad“.
On October 5 and 6, 2008, the JICC hosted youth coordinators from three organizations – the staff of the “Bridging the Gap” project – for training in effective activism. Using case studies, examples and discussions, the young leaders found effective activism to be a most relevant tool for their intended projects in the upcoming year of activity.
Guest speakers were Naomi Tsur, the director of the Jerusalem branch of the Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel, and Shmuli Bing, from BeMa’agaley Tsedek (Circles of Justice). Naomi has succeeded, using effective activism methods, in bringing about many changes and having a significant impact on environmental issues in Jerusalem. Shmuli recruited youth to a social change struggle that strived to improve working conditions and salaries of low-wage cleaning staff in their schools. In addition, “Bridging the Gap” projects from last year were analyzed, and insights were drawn with regard to best practices in multi-identity effective activism. By the end of the training we all felt that the youth coordinators were now much better equipped to engage their youth groups with activism. Time will tell….