Sophomores Alex Elbogen, Drew Elbogen, and Harlie Dolin delivered this inspirational speech to NFTY-SW and the Temple Kol Ami Congregation during NFTY-SW Social Action Weekend.
L’Taken and how it relates to NFTY-SW Social Action Weekend
A few months ago Rabbi Schneider presented a group of us with the opportunity to take part in the L’taken trip in Washington D.C. We couldn’t have been more excited to jump on board. Three weeks ago we boarded a flight to our nation’s capital. For those who don’t know, L’taken is a 4-day program in which 400+ 10th graders from all over the country get together at the Religious Action Center in Washington D.C to learn about specific social justice issues and how the Reform movement feels about those issues. Of course being in D.C we did our fair share of site seeing from the MLK memorial, to the Holocaust museum, to Havdallah on the Jefferson Memorial and also to the Smithsonian. In between all the sight-seeing, we spent time taking part in seminars that discussed social issues such as immigration, stem cell research, gun control, LGBTQ rights, reproductive rights and how we should approach them as Reform Jews.
We even participated in various activities that showed us the realities of different social issues. In one instance, we were given a scenario of a man or woman and played the part in pairs on how to manage money, food, and so on. Towards the end of the exercise it became clear to us how difficult it is to manage a family budget on so little money.
Lobbying is the act of people who work or conduct a campaign to influence members of a legislature to vote according to the group’s special interest. The L’Taken seminars prepared us to write speeches based on our beliefs and Reform Jewish values of a certain social issue. As we presented our opinions to the congressmen and representatives of our state, we not only gained an appreciation of the American legislative system, but we learned what it means to be a true citizen and fight for our beliefs.
For example, one of the topics we focused on was stem cell research. One of the bills that we lobbied for in the Senate was the Stem Cell Research Advancement Act of 2013. This act would allow that embryonic stem cell research will be continuously funded and supported in the U.S for a long time. Stem Cell research has the potential to provide possible cures for several different devastating illnesses such as Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, diabetes, spinal cord injuries that cause paralysis, and certain types of cancer. As Reform Jews, we believe that embryonic stem cell research could help many people and save many lives. Despite the necessary procedures needed to obtain the stem cells, we support the Reform movement on its stance to fund embryonic stem cell research.
After a long weekend of new experiences, fantastic sights, freezing cold temperatures, and new friendships made, we finally arrived home. After every NFTY event I am always excited to tell my parents how life changing of an experience it was. This particular trip didn’t fail to meet those expectations. L’taken opened my eyes to where Reform Jews stand in the world and how we are not afraid to stand up to those in power and fight for what we believe is right.
The importance of L’Taken and this NFTY Social Action Weekend, we believe, is to help benefit the community. In D.C. we lobbied to help the nation and this weekend we are helping our local community. They both are equally important as to making a change for ourselves, our families, and everyone around us.