In Baltimore, MD, Maryland State, Montgomery County, MD, Racial Equity
JUFJers gather for a panel at Beth Am Synagogue during Youth Justice Shabbat and Solidarity Week.

“The best gift we can give to our children is the ability to become healthy adults.”  -Rabbi Daniel Cotzin Burg, Beth Am.

Earlier this year, JUFJ strengthened the fight for youth justice in Maryland by hosting our first-ever Youth Justice Shabbat and Solidarity Week, and it was a huge success! 19 congregations and organizations across Maryland took action during the week of January 26- February 3, engaging in conversations about how Jewish texts and traditions are connected to youth justice. Hundreds of people attended events and panels focused on youth justice topics such as automatically ending the process of charging kids as adults, and defending youth justice legislation passed in previous years.

Youth Justice Shabbat and Solidarity Week is part of a Jewish response to Maryland’s youth justice laws. Maryland currently sends children as young as fourteen to adult detention facilities. We hold the second-highest record of any state per capita to send kids to adult court based on offense type – and 81% of those kids are Black. Advocates at Youth Justice Shabbat and Solidarity Week were quick to point out how “autocharge” negatively affects communities, and some shared their stories about how autocharge and being formally incarcerated impacted their lives. Advocates spoke about how our outdated laws are affecting kids, denying them access to the support they need. 

Graphic: "“The interactive program empowered our teens to wrestle with difficult concepts and complicated scenarios, using Jewish values and considerations as a lens through which to see these issues.” - Rabbi Mitchell Berkowitz, B’nai Israel Congregation
Graphic with quote from Linda Adams: “As a longtime congregant of Washington Hebrew Congregation, I was deeply gratified to hear Rabbi Miller speak from the bimah about the number of young children tried as adults and incarcerated in prisons with adults in Maryland.”

In addition to learning about youth justice, people of all ages learned how to build resilience through community and conversation during the week. Our leaders were excited to hear about how they could take action to help pass bills and advocate for youth justice.

We have consistently used our power as a community to uplift important issues and fight for our values alongside our partners. We’ve shown up before and we will do it again – because when we use our voices, we have the power to uproot Maryland’s draconian laws and uphold justice. This year, bills have been introduced to overturn essential youth justice legislation that passed in previous years, such as the Childhood Interrogation Protection Act (CIPA), and Juvenile Justice Reform Act (JJRA). Did you miss Youth Justice Shabbat and Solidarity Week, but want to get involved?

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