A CSJO Road Trip

By Jordi Shuster, Sarah Waslow-Washington, Adam Beardsley, and Madi Burns

The minivan pulled up… and the journey began.

The 2016 CSJO board meeting took place in Michigan, so the Pennsylvania youth contingency decide to take a little road trip. We laughed, we cried, we napped, we snacked, we listened to throwback jams. Three of us – Adam Beardsley, Jordi Shuster, and Sarah Waslow-Washington (our fearless driver) – left just after 6am on Friday morning, and we picked up Madi Burns once we reached Pittsburgh.

We spent the drive doing two things: planning for the upcoming board meeting and reconnecting with old friends. The former involved creating a game plan for what we wanted to achieve at this year’s board meeting, discussing what we as the youth might bring to the discussion. As for the latter…

We decided that Rifke Feinstein will officiate all of our weddings, except Adam, who decided he wants Rob Kurtz to officiate (with Rob’s cat Sammy wearing a tux as the ring bearer, of course). We talked about our shared backgrounds, each having been raised in interfaith homes with Jewish mothers and non-Jewish fathers. Although we each have unique stories, many of our similarities are what allow us to feel so connected and welcome with each other and with CSJO as a whole.

One productive board meeting, one dinner featuring flaming cheese, one outing to see Trolls, and one encouraging event with the board of the Society of Humanistic Jews (SHJ) later, we got back in the car to debrief about the weekend and the positive changes we hope to implement internationally while we drove home. We interviewed each other about what development we’re most optimistic about:

Sarah is excited to start sending our young adult board members and other invested youth to visit the youth of CSJO’s various affiliates, in order to make excitement and spread excitement about the conferences and CSJO as an organization.

Adam, as our new content manager, is looking forward to the development of our revitalized social media presence, from the CSJO website and Facebook page to an Instagram account that can be used to promote CSJO and secular Jewishness in a creative way that we’ve never successfully explored before.

Jordi is incredibly eager to begin the restoration of the CSJO Social Action Committee, which will use CSJO’s presence as a platform to call for social change, including stressing the importance of certain issues and their relation to the Jewish experience, as well as organizing service projects for and with affiliates so that we can give back as an organization.

Madi is excited to begin regularly incorporating a community service component into CSJO conferences, beginning in 2018, in order to tie the strong belief that secular Jews have of tikkun olam (repairing the world) into our annual meeting.

And most of all, we’re all excited for the 2017 CSJO conference in Chicago from June 9 to June 11 – we hope to see you all there!

Update from CSJO (November 2016)

By Terry Waslow, Executive Director, CSJO

Hello everyone,

It has been quite a busy time since I sent my last email. The schools have been bustling with activities and are soon to be gearing up for Chanukah. Please send your news and holiday photographs to congress@csjo.org.

Speaking of Chanukah, we happen to have a great card that you can send to family and friends. We are selling them for $4.00 U.S. for a pack of six cards and that includes postage! Please contact me directly at congress@csjo.org with your order and I will be happy to send them to you. The picture below is the front of the card with the inside text.

As I mentioned previously, CSJO is now a member organization of the Secular Coalition for America. On October 27, it announced our membership in a press release that you can access by clicking here. Please spend some time on the site and go back to it periodically. Let me know which issues it presents that are most important to you.

I had the wonderful opportunity to join the International Institute of Secular Humanistic Judaism for its "Jewish, Secular and Humanistic American: Learning Tour of Philadelphia." There were 35 participants from a wide variety of cities; Chicago, Raliegh, Kansas City, to name a few, and there were a few locals as well, of course. We began each day with an informative introduction given by Rabbi Adam Chalom and then were off to begin our explorations. The first day we toured three historic synogugues and finished off with a wonderful Shabbat program and meal. We continued the weekend with a walking tour, a museum visit and historic sites in Philadelphia. There was lively discussion, time to meet new people and expand our knowledge. What a delightful weekend. There was an article printed prior to the weekend in the Jewish Exponent, a Philadelphia weekly paper. It will give you a bit more information. If you would like to read it, click here. There are plans to tour another location in two years. I highly recommend you consider participating. I know I will.

Another exciting happening is our work with the International Institute for Secular Humanistic Judaism to jointly publish an eBook. CSJO chose "Pushcarts and Dreamers." This is a compilation of Yiddish short stories selected and translated by Max Rosenfeld. The 10 authors featured in this book give us a first hand view of immigrant life. It should be available on Amazon in a few weeks. Some of you might prefer a hard copy. If that is the case, please contact me at congress@csjo.org as we have copies available.

I must sign off now to prepare for our Board Meeting. I am looking forward to seeing the wonderful volunteers on our Board and collaborating with them to continue our journey together.

Until next month, zayt gezunt (be well)!

Terry Waslow
Executive Director, CSJO

New Year, New Acting Chair

By Sarah Waslow-Washington, Active Chair, CSJO

As I enter in to my third month as acting chair, I have taken the time to reflect. The November board meeting will be happening in two weeks and I am excited to see the ideas come to life that have been coming up over the past couple of months. We have recently been announced in a press release from the Secular Coalition for America as their newest member -- exciting! We also launched a CSJO Board Facebook profile. While it is slow to start, it is starting. It would be great to see it gain more friends and responses on our page. 

While this may not seem like a lot, for me, someone who has been a member of CSJO for 16 years, has been the vice chair for the past eight years and now is acting chair, this is progress. Seeing the changes, no matter how small, are monumental in my eyes. I look forward to more positive progression and change for our organization within the coming year.