Tzedek America: Civil Rights Experience

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Kalsman - Tzedek America Civil Rights Experience

July 8 – 22, 2024

URJ Members: $4,995 | Non-Members: $5,195

**NEW** Now open to current 9th-11th!

A New Summer Adventure

This summer, Camp Kalsman is teaming up with Tzedek America for the trip of a life-time! Teens currently in 9th, 10th or 11th grade will experience a different culture and learn about Jewish communities outside of the PNW; will have the chance to give back, to grow, to be challenged and to learn; take on responsibility, put values into action and of course, have FUN!

Tzedek America’s Civil Rights Experience is an immersive educational trip to the American South that delves deep into the rich tapestry of the civil rights movement. This extraordinary expedition allows participants to walk in the footsteps of trailblazing activists, witness historical landmarks that have shaped the course of equality and justice, and engage with the region’s living history. Teens will gain insights into the history of the movement and connect its relevance to contemporary discussions on social change. 

Email Rabbi Ilana Mills, Camp Kalsman Director, with questions:

Where you'll go

While we have not finalized the itinerary, the trip will include the following cities: 

As we walk the historic streets of Memphis and visit the sites that once bore witness to pivotal moments in the civil rights movement, such as the Lorraine Motel where Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. stood and the National Civil Rights Museum that now stands in his honor, we find ourselves immersed in the echoes of the past. The soulful rhythms of Beale Street intertwine with the narratives of brave activists and leaders who challenged systemic oppression. From the haunting beauty of the Slave Haven Underground Railroad Museum to the vibrant cultural tapestry of the city, this experience is a powerful reminder of the progress made and the work that still remains on the path towards a more inclusive and just society. 

In Birmingham, Alabama, history and culture combine to create a unique experience. Here, we will explore the city’s rich civil rights history and other landmarks, including a visit to the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute, the 16thSt. Baptist Church, and Kelly Ingram Park. Before heading to Historic Bethel Church, participants will have free time to explore the vibrant 5 Points South neighborhood. Unwind, enjoy the provided snacks, and refill your emotional cup as you explore Vulcan Park or Sloss Furnaces during our free afternoon. At Beth El Synagogue, participants will learn about the Jewish experience during the civil rights movement and enjoy a delicious dinner. Finally, we’ll make a pit stop at the iconic Piggly Wiggly for some shopping before heading to Montgomery, where we’ll rest up for another exciting day ahead. 

Embark on a journey through history and human rights in Montgomery, Alabama. We will visit the EJI Legacy Museum, where participants will explore the museum’s exhibits and learn about the legacy of slavery, racial injustice, and its ongoing impact on American society. Participants will have the chance to debrief and process their learnings before heading off to the National Memorial for Peace and Justice, where you’ll witness the sobering reality of America’s history of racial violence and lynchings.  

 After this intense and thought-provoking experience, take a break and enjoy lunch at the National Memorial before walking to the EJI Auditorium, where you’ll be inspired and motivated by the words of an influential speaker who will shed light on the current and ongoing struggle for civil rights and social justice in America.  

 In addition to visiting the National Memorial which highlights the hundreds of racially motivated murders that took place in the South, we will personalize and concretize this experience by also visiting a specific lynching memorial in a smaller town. This allows participants to connect with one individual who was lynched and learn about their life, their family and their community.  

Next, we will head to the heart of Alabama’s civil rights history, Selma, where you’ll experience a personalized guided tour that will provide a unique perspective on the historic events that took place here. In Selma, you’ll gain a deeper understanding of the sacrifices made by those who fought for their right to vote and how their efforts continue to shape our society today. We will make our way to the Edmund Pettus Bridge, where you’ll have the opportunity to walk across the span that played a pivotal role in the struggle for civil rights. This unique experience will be followed by a delicious dinner and fun nighttime activity, where you can decompress and process after a powerful and meaningful day. 

Atlanta is the perfect place to conclude our civil rights journey as it was at the forefront of the movement for racial equality. Home to many influential civil rights leaders, including Martin Luther King Jr., it was also the site of significant protests and demonstrations. Additionally, Atlanta is home to several important civil rights landmarks, such as the Ebenezer Baptist Church, where Martin Luther King Jr. served as a pastor, and the Center for Civil and Human Rights. 

If I had to pick the most memorable thing, it would be the fact that we were allowed to use the different perspectives presented to form our own opinions. I learned more when I was treated as an adult, because there was no obvious sugarcoating of the very prominent and very serious issues in our world. I think the whole trip was meaningful and I’m really excited to start volunteering in my own community.  

Past Tzedek America Particpant

Ready for the trip of a lifetime?

Space is limited: secure your spot on the Kalsman Bus!

Frequently Asked Questions

Why are we working with Tzedek America?

In conversations with parents, we heard that if our kids couldn’t go to Israel, it was important for them to experience a different culture, see Jewish communities in different areas that may look different from ours. We heard that is important for campers to have a chance to give back, to grow, to be challenged and to be able to put their values in action. We also heard that our teens want to be given more autonomy and freedom, to be treated like adults.  And, of course, everyone wants the summer to be fun!

Tzedek America’s Civil Rights Experience does all that you asked for and more!  Read the full Tzedek America’s Civil Rights Experience brochure >

Tzedek America’s Mission: Tzedek America transforms lives, strengthens Jewish identity, and change the world through immersive social impact-oriented experiences. 

Tzedek America’s immersive experience philosophy focuses on engaging all of the senses to create an unforgettable journey that incorporates each destination’s sights, tastes, and sounds. We curate fun and educational experiences and ensure that every aspect of the trip is carefully planned and executed. 

Tzedek America understand the power of immersive Jewish Education. The founder grew up and worked at URJ Camp Harlam and others professional staff have attended, sent children to and have had children work over summers and year-round for URJ Camps.  They know and love camp!  

Tzedek America’s team of highly trained and experienced educators collaborates with local experts, storytellers, and activists to share their knowledge, insights, and lived experiences with you. 

Are cell phones allowed?

Yes, your camper can bring their cell phone, however, we will ask them to keep it at the hotel or on the bus so they can be fully engaged during the programming.  

Who are the staff on the trip?

Kalsman will provide Camp Kalsman almuni staff to oversee the campers. Tzedek America will provide tour guides and educators to curate the trip.   

Is this trip only about touring civil rights sites?

We know that teens want to have fun and be with their peers.  We are designing this program to include exploring Southern sites, trying new cuisines, and taking advantage of local recreation opportunities. While educational and impactful experiences are the focus of our civil rights trip, it’s equally important to provide an opportunity for participants to relax and decompress from the emotional intensity of the trip. This is the time for friendships to be forged, conversations to continue, and memories to be made. Participants experience the local culture by tasting delicious Southern cuisine, trying new activities, or exploring a new city together. These experiences help create a sense of community and camaraderie that will last long after the trip has ended. We will be looking for teens to help us plan to the recreation timeKeep an eye out for more information about how your teen can be part of the planning process.  

How is this trip different than RAC's L'Taken trip?

The Kalsman-Tzedek America Civil Rights Experience trip is based on teens walking the streets and sites of history.  They will be speaking to those who participated in key moments in the Civil Rights Movement.  This trip is not focused on politics, but lived experiences and social justice.

L’Taken, a program of the URJ’s Religious Action Center (RAC) is a program in Washington, DC with the focus on political involvement and advocacy.  At a L’Ttaken, students learn about different issues, current bills in Congress, the importance of being involved, a Jewish lens on advocacy, and on the final day, they go to Congress to lobby their members of the Congress.

How many participants will be on the bus?

There are a limited number of seats on the busThe maximum number of campers is 46 and we want to prioritize space for our Kalsman campers; however, other organization have already reached out asking to join, so please register early to secure your spot.  

Is there a packing list?

Prior to the trip, you will be able to access a packing list through your CampMinder account.   

What if my teen gets sick on the trip?

As with every URJ program, we will collect medical information and insurance informationIf a camper gets sick or injured, we will bring them to urgent care or an ER, as the situation warrants and inform you 

What is covered in the program cost?

The cost covers hotel rooms, transportation, entrance and speaker fees, meals, snacks, fun, and staffCampers should bring money for meals in the airports and any souvenirs they want to buyFight costs are not included. Details about flying times and airports will be on CampMinder soon.

Is there financial assistance?

Yes, please complete our online Civil Rights Experience Financial Aid Form Please also contact your synagogue directly to ask about applying to their scholarship program.

Do participants need spending money?

Yes, campers should bring spending cash for meals in the airports and any souvenirs they want to buy.   

Will participants have any say in planning the trip?

YES! We are customizing this experience for Kalsman and will be looking for a few teens to help us plan the trip, especially the social adventuresBowling anyoneBe on the lookout for teen planning information in the Spring  

Does Tzedek America usually run trips for teens?

AbsolutelyThey run teen trips year roundAdditionally, Avram Mandell, the founder of Tzedek America is a former Assistant Director of URJ Camp Harlam.  

Where will we stay in each city?

Campers will be in hotelsThere will be three campers to every roomEach camper will have their own bedWhen the campers switch hotels, the hotel may switch the roommates. 

What about food allergies?

AbsolutelyAfter you register, you will be able any dietary restrictions and we are very careful to ensure to adhere to all of them.  

Is there a code of conduct for participants like at camp?

Campers will sign a Code of Conduct.  Code of Conduct violations will result in a call home and repeat behavior or depending on the severity of the behavior, the camper will be asked to leave the trip.  

News about this incredible program is spreading! Kids want to be there and parents want their kids to participate. Who knew that we would have over 100 kids sign up!?

Lisa Alpern

Religious School Director , Wilshire Boulevard Temple