of Panim's Jewish Civic Initiative Seminar
on Capital Hill in Washington, DC,
March 21, 2007. (Brian Cohen)
Face To Face with Panim
Jewish Civics Initiative Seminar for teens.
-- Shira Landau
Last month, a group of fourteen Jewish youth affiliated with
Habonim Dror joined with a multitude of other Jewish teens to attend a three day Panim seminar in Washington D.C. The
are designed to expand the education of motivated Jewish youth eager to amend injustices and advocate for change. During the three days, several speakers were invited to address controversial topics with the participants, encouraging them to take action regarding particular issues. One of the objectives of the seminar was to educate Jewish high school students about means of taking action in the community in order
to advocate for change.
Sidney Schwarz, founder of the Panim program, began the seminar by introducing the significance of becoming a leader, underscoring the qualities that remain essential to such an individual. That evening, a pair of homeless citizens collaborating with the National Coalition for the Homeless
visited, and delivered poignant speeches. I found that these lectures and the trip to McPhearson’s Square colored my experiences and thoughts during the remainder of the trip. While in McPhearson’s Square, doing what was called "Street Torah" --- speaking with an array of local homeless living in the park --- a couple of others from Habonim Dror, and I conversed with a homeless man; the man rambled about obscure, but fascinating aspects of the Bible which none of us had learned in Jewish Day School. Not only did the lecture and encounter alter our prior notions regarding homelessness, but they reminded us of the need to acknowledge each individual with an open mind.
On one morning, a small group of participants –-- those from Habonim Dror, including myself --- attended a compelling seminar provided by the
Campaign for Children’s Health Care.
Previously unaware that at least nine million American children do not receive health care, all of us took immediate interest in the presentation. The speakers eloquently explained the reasons as to why health care is essential for children, and how obtaining health care provides a child with more opportunities for academic success while narrowing a racial and socio-economic gap. Towards the second half of the lecture, the speakers mentioned the legislation that has been discussed to prevent children from living without health care, in addition to stressing successful campaigning techniques. After inquiring if the audience had any final questions, the speakers distributed pamphlets and offered bright orange Campaign for Children’s Health Care t-shirts.
I was pleased with how seriously the speakers treated our group
of high school students despite our youth.
The intensity of the lecture permitted the audience to absorb knowledge about this specific situation, and what a cluster of teenagers can do to create a change.
In preparation for the culminating aspect of the trip,
a visit to Capital Hill in
order to lobby Congress,
we learned how to lobby effectively,
discussed topics that we felt passionate about,
and made appointments with various Congressional offices.
Everyone seemed eager for the morning on Capital Hill;
the Habonim Dror participants sang as we trekked through Metro stations
and towards the Congressional Office Building.
The experience offered useful insight targeted towards how to
plan strategically for future visits.
The Panim program is a starting point for teenagers interested in learning about the
most effective methods of advocacy through lectures, discussions and lobbying.
This summer, Panim is offering an intensive program called
for teenagers who would like to learn about Jewish values and their relevance to
social action in today’s world. Additional
seminars are offered throughout the
next academic year. See the
for details. Of course, there are multiple methods of introducing your child to social action.
By doing something as simple as discussing current events at the dinner table,
parents empower their children, and establish the need for social advocacy.
Insuring that your child remains aware of what their local and state representatives think about controversial issues is another method of guiding your child towards a path of social action. Designate a special time --- on a weekly or monthly basis
--- to volunteer with your child for local groups and causes that you support. Soup kitchens, and animal shelters are key places to go with children, where kids can directly see the impact of their aid. Educating youth about the value of social action remains as an essential component to the creation of a better environment for the future.
Past Networking Central Groups of the Month
In this section, we highlight a new local group each month in order to encourage networking.
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