RAC Trip, Sunday

High-School Students Working and Schmoozing in the Lobby of the Sheraton Pentagon City as part of the RAC's L'Taken social-action Seminar.

High-School Students Working and Schmoozing in the Lobby of the Sheraton Pentagon City as part of the RAC’s L’Taken Social-Action Seminar.

Sunday at the Religious Action Center’s L’Taken Social-Action seminar started with an innovative program that examined the peace process in the Middle East through the lens of Israeli politics.
Students Debating Israeli Politics and Middle-East Peace as part of the RAC's L'Taken Social-Action Seminar.  Foreground:  Isaac H-W

Students Debating Israeli Politics and Middle-East Peace as part of the RAC’s L’Taken Social-Action Seminar. Foreground: Isaac H-W.

Then the participants jumped into their second opportunity for in-depth study of an issue currently before Congress: nuclear disarmament, judicial nominations, disability rights, gun control, clean energy, reproductive rights, and more. As they did the first time around, the students chose an issue to investigate, learning about their topic as well as Jewish perspectives and legislative backgrounds on it.

Then, with their day of lobbying approaching, the participants spent time learning how to be an effective advocate in Washington, a process that included hearing from Rabbi David Saperstein, the man who directs the Religious Action Center, and under whose leadership the RAC became second only to AIPAC in terms of Jewish influence in Washington.

Taking a Break.  On our way to the National Mall.

Taking a Break. On our way to the National Mall.

After almost five hours of work, we again left the hotel for a break, this time headed for the Smithsonian Museums on the National Mall, and dinner in Pentagon Row. Our group dined together, processing what we had done so far and preparing for the challenge coming up in the evening.

Back at the hotel, the students chose an issue on which they would lobby Congress the next day.

Then, after a specific briefing on their issue, the students sat down for the hardest work of the weekend: crafting their message to their elected leaders.

Vassar Temple High-School Students Crafting Their Messages to Congress as part of the RAC's L'Taken Social-Action Seminar.

Vassar Temple High-School Students Crafting Their Messages to Congress as part of the RAC’s L’Taken Social-Action Seminar. Clockwise from left around table: Briaana E., Noah C., Isaac H-W, Rachel M., Danielle B., Kiley Q., and Ali D.

Speaking effectively to a senator or representative’s aide is demanding. The students knew they had to be informed, accurate, persuasive, clear, and convincing, as well as personal and Jewish, while also inclusive, to say nothing of polite and concise. Their messages would be conveyed to the men and women who create the law of the land, and had the potential to influence the lives of millions of people in America and around the world.

Less than half the population of America votes. Even fewer people take the time to be in touch with a Congressman or Congresswoman. These students were not only reaching out, they were showing up, in person. They wanted to do a good job.

So they spent hours weaving together their personal convictions, their issue’s legislative history, statistics in support of their argument, and background about the people they would be addressing. Armed with laptops and snack food, the students spent hours perfecting what they would say.

Then, exhausted but prepared, they went to sleep, looking forward to their day of lobbying.

Students at the RAC's L'Taken Socal-Action Seminar Attending a Briefing on Israel.

Students at the RAC’s L’Taken Socal-Action Seminar Attending a Briefing on Israel.


Students at the RAC's L'Taken Socal-Action Seminar Exploring Issues Surrounding Workplace Discrimination.

Students at the RAC’s L’Taken Socal-Action Seminar Exploring Issues Surrounding Workplace Discrimination. Standing on left: Brianna E.

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5 Comments

  1. Kurt

     /  January 15, 2013

    Thank you so much for the review of the weekend Joel. Sounds like a wonderful and educational program. I’m so glad the students were able to participate. And thank you once again for your leadership on the trip.

    Reply
  2. Laura Brundage

     /  January 15, 2013

    Danielle not only enjoyed herself but learned a lot- you can’t ask for more than that! Many thanks for your time and organization!

    Reply
  3. ibritter

     /  January 16, 2013

    Wonderful to the power of three (Explanation x Journey x Education). Kudos to the RAC for such a well designed and organized program. So impressive the way they deliver a meaningful experience for the students which simultaneously serves the RAC lobby mission, and turn makes the students sense of contribution authentic. (All described so well by you Joel!). Hats off to our Vassar Temple students and RS Director!!

    Reply
  4. Deb Carbo

     /  January 16, 2013

    Thank you to Dr. Hoffman and Rabbi Hantman for the leadership, support and patience to chaperone the RAC trip. Noah said it was a LOT of work, he learned new things, and had FUN. Thanks for giving them such a rewarding experience. They are building skills that will open doors in the future ! He’s even talking about Wed night school again. Deb

    Reply
  5. I only wish I had this type of experience when I was growing up in Hungary. It is wonderful that the students had a chance to experience real democracy in action and learn to make their voices heard in an intelligent and civilized manner. I am so proud of our religious school. Cathy

    Reply

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