Join us for Jewish teen activism during COVID-19

April 29, 2020Shira Zemel

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The world has changed significantly since the RAC concluded our 2019-2020 L’Taken Social Justice Seminar season in early March. After 2,000 high school students came to Washington D.C. and successfully lobbied their members of Congress, the RAC staff tallied up the results of the teens’ efforts. As a direct result of the L’Taken advocacy visits, we made an impact on critical issues including:

  • Climate change: 10 new senators and one representative co-sponsored the Clean Economy Act (H.R. 5221/S.3269), which would move the U.S. to 100 percent renewable energy by 2050.
  • Israel: Rep. Tom Malinowski (NJ-7) became a cosponsor of the Partnership Fund for Peace Act (HR. 3104), which would provide funding to increase cooperation between Israelis and Palestinians.
  • Reproductive rights: Sen. Chris Van Hollen (MD), and Rep. Katie Porter (CA-45) became co-sponsors of the EACH Woman Act (H.R. 1692/S. 758), which would repeal the Hyde Amendment and guarantee that every person who receives care through a federal program will have coverage for abortion. 
  • Criminal justice: Rep. Mark DeSaulnier (CA-11) cosponsored the End Racial Profile Act (H.R. 4339), which would prohibit law enforcement from targeting individuals based on their actual or perceived identities.
  • Mental health: Twelve members of Congress, including six lobbied by L’Taken teens, signed up as co-sponsors to the Mental Health Services for Students Act (H.R. 1109/S.1122), which would increase federal funding for mental health services in public schools.

 

But right after we saw the impact of our teens’ L’Taken advocacy, the world changed instantly. The RAC’s office closed and we moved to remote work. Our legislative priority quickly shifted to urging Congress to support the most vulnerable communities during the COVID-19 pandemic. The students who were just with us in D.C. suddenly found themselves going to school at home.

We are in unprecedented times, and it’s easy to become overwhelmed with uncertainty. But thinking back to our time at L’Taken, we know that young people can still continue to raise their moral voices and pursue justice in hopes for a better tomorrow.

We gathered an advisory board of teen leaders to help inform our planning, and we are excited to launch a series of online learning and leadership opportunities for Jewish teens across North America. These seminars will be interactive and focused on pressing issues with opportunities to take action, mobilize their peers from home, and get involved in the Reform Movement’s 2020 Civic Engagement Campaign. As Reform Jews, we believe democracy is strongest when everyone participates – and it suffers when citizens are shut out from the democratic process or choose not to engage. The campaign will encourage all U.S. citizens to exercise their right to vote, and work to break down obstacles that shut some out of the voting booth. Our ongoing series for teens will include trainings to become an active leader in this critical campaign.

All Jewish high school students are welcome to join! No prior experience with the RAC or the Reform Movement is required. We know that even during a pandemic— and especially —during a pandemic -- teens can be at the forefront making change.

Current opportunities:

  • May 7 at 5 p.m. ET: Jewish Teen Activism in a Time of COVID: Advancing Health Care and Economic Justice for the Most Vulnerable
    • Join the RAC staff for an interactive webinar exploring the government's response to COVID-19. We'll review prior legislation, discuss priorities for future efforts, and brainstorm ways to advance health care and economic justice for the most vulnerable communities.
  • May 19 at 8 p.m. ET: Every Voice, Every Vote: The Reform Movement's 2020 Civic Engagement Campaign Virtual Town Hall
    • Join the launch of the Reform Movement's 2020 Civic Engagement Campaign!
      Come together with leaders from across the Movement to learn how your congregation and community can be a part of this important campaign. We can all ensure that our deeply held Reform Jewish values – including the right to vote – are present in the public square during this urgent time in our nation’s history.
  • May 27 at 5 p.m. ET: Jewish Teen Activism in a Time of COVID: Civic Engagement, Voting Rights & Digital Organizing
    • The COVID-19 pandemic is highlighting the important role our elected officials play in creating a more just and equitable society. As we look toward the November elections, it is essential that every American is able to exercise their fundamental right to vote. Yet, the current crisis is shedding light on the ways in which the right to vote continues to be threatened. Learn about voting rights and how you can organize your community to get out the vote through Every Voice, Every Vote: the Reform Movement’s 2020 Civic Engagement Campaign.
  • June 15 at 5 p.m. ET: Jewish Teen Activism in a Time of COVID: 2020 Supreme Court Season Highlights 
    • The Supreme Court will be ruling on several RAC priority issues this term, including LGBTQ equality, abortion access, and the future of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. Join the RAC and Debra Eichenbaum Perlin, Director of Policy and Program at the American Constitution Society, for an interactive webinar where we will discuss these important cases, their future impact, and what you can do to advocate for these issues from home.

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