Are you ready to change the world?
Every year, nearly 2,000 high school-aged students participate in the Religious Action Center’s L’Taken Seminar in Washington, D.C.
The program is designed to expose students to a variety of public policy issues, explore the Jewish values surrounding these issues, and teach the skills of an effective advocate.
Throughout the weekend, students are given the knowledge and tools to write an effective, persuasive and passionate speech on a topic of their choice. This will be presented when visiting the offices of our senators and representatives during the trip.
Lobbying a Member of Congress is a unique experience that very few Americans take advantage of, and one that can have a significant impact on the course of legislation.
Students also take advantage of the vast opportunities available in our nation’s capital by visiting the National Holocaust Memorial Museum, the Smithsonian National Mall and celebrating Havdallah at the Jefferson Memorial.
All the while, students will have the chance to meet and mingle with hundreds of Reform Jews from across the United States, all of whom are in D.C. for the same reason—to pursue tikkun olam.
If your high school student is interested, contact Rabbi Kramer email@example.com. Space is limited.
More information is available at http://www.rac.org/ltaken-social-justice-seminars
“Baruch Atah, Adonai, Eloheinu, Melech haolam, shenatan lanu hizdamnut l’takein et haolam.
Praised are You, Adonai, our God, ruler of the universe, who has given us the opportunity to change the world.
On a chilly, very early morning on January 29th, eleven Shomrei Torah teens boarded a plane for Washington, DC. By the time they returned they all would have done something incredible.
These teens were participants in the long-running L’Taken Social Justice seminar. This intensive weekend is run by the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, the social advocacy branch of the Reform Movement. During this weekend, our teens joined hundreds of their peers from all across the country to celebrate Shabbat and learn how to be an advocate for social change. Through various simulations and programs, they studied what makes advocacy inherently Jewish as well as delve into several national and global issues. The entire weekend culminated with each of the students getting to lobby to our elected officials on Capitol Hill.
Our students spoke on topics they were passionate about. They spoke about LGBT equality, the raising of the minimum wage, climate change, stem cell research, voting rights, and supporting the State of Israel. With the support of the RAC staff, our students lobbied on these topics in the offices of our State Senators, Barbara Boxer and Diane Feinstein, as well as the House Representatives from their home districts: Jared Huffman and Mike Thompson.
Though the day of lobbying was truly the pinnacle of the experience, our teens were also able to take in the cultural side of DC. They visited the Lincoln memorial, spent an evening in Georgetown, and hopped around the National Mall visiting the various Smithsonian museums. On Saturday, they had the chance to tour United States Holocaust Memorial and Museum, and then not four hours later, celebrated havdallah on the steps of the Jefferson Memorial. Rabbi Stephanie—who chaperoned the event with Youth and Music Coordinator, Malcolm McElheney—commented on the poignancy of the pairing of these two experiences. She said how incredible it is to be so publicly Jewish in our nation’s capital after being reminded of the atrocities of the Shoah.
These teens, very few of whom had done intensive learning of this caliber before, showed their passion for justice and their willingness to try new things. They branched out, made friends from other congregations and other states and showed their courage to our national leaders. Mazel tov to our amazing teen advocates!”
–Malcolm McElheney, Youth & Music Coordinator and chaperone, 2016
“In a word, the L’taken social justice seminar was a singularly unique experience for me. I was, admittedly, more excited at first to be traveling across the country for the first time in my life than to be taught about Jewish values and politics. And though we were given time to explore Washington D.C., and I greatly enjoyed that time, it doesn’t stand out as the highlight of the trip for me when I look backwards.
The lecturing portion of program, I came to find, was actually quite fun. There was not a single activity which failed to keep me engaged after its introductory period, and Jewish lessons as well as political ones were ingrained in those activities in ways that prompted further discussions rather than simple acceptance. Because it is taught in a manner which guides those in attendance through their own thought processes, the program facilitates young interest in politics and Judaic reasoning alike through each attendee’s own unique lens.
Capitol hill was truly larger than life, and being in Washington was an experience which I will not forget, but to my own surprise, the things I learned at L’taken were the most powerful portion of my experience.”
-Cole Levy, L’taken participant, 2016
“I had an amazing time in Washington, DC. It was different to be with a large group of teenagers for Shabbat services. We went to the Holocaust museum, it was the saddest part. The most emotional part was seeing all the shoes. The best part was getting to know new people. I had a good time hang out and getting to know the people in my group. My lobbying speech was about disability rights. It was nice to be able to speak up about having a disability. I used this quote from the Torah that also talks about disabilities because I have lived with a disability my whole life and it spoke to me. “But Moses said to the Lord, ’Please, O Lord, I have never been a man of words, either in times past or now that You have spoken to Your servant; I am slow of speech and slow of tongue.’ And the Lord said to him, ‘Who gives man speech? Who makes him dumb or deaf, seeing or blind? Is it not I, the Lord?’” (Exodus 4:10-11). I hope that my speech is one of many that helps to ratify the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD).”
–Hana Musgrove, L’taken participant, 2014
L’Taken 2016 Lobbying Speeches
Click here to view or print the L’taken 2016 Brochure featuring speeches from our Shomrei Torah teens!
Speech written by Sam Leavitt, Elana Candiotti, Max Cobert: Poverty
Speech written by Isabel Katz, Sarah Abramson, Coco Weinberg: Immigration Reform
Speech written by Hannah Rosen, Candler Wienberg, Sierra Macken : Poverty
Speech written by Sarah Haley and Jake Matalon: Diseases
Speech written by Benjamin Cutcher: Jewish Values
Speech written by Michelle Simonds, Samantha Bickart, Elena Lev, and Leah Post: Reproductive Rights