Fifteen high school students from the North Shore of Boston participated in the Religious Action Center’s L’taken social justice seminar from Feb. 9-12, 2024. The students live in Marblehead, North Reading, Rowley, Salem and Swampscott. Their families belong to Temple Emanu-El, Congregation Shirat Hayam and Temple Tiferet Shalom.

The program included a combination of a Shabbat experience with 450 teens from across North America, including Havdalah at the Jefferson Memorial, visiting D.C. memorials and museums (United States Holocaust Memorial Museum and The Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum), learning about social justice issues from a Jewish perspective, and experiencing the legislative process of the United States Congress with a group simulation. After two intense days of learning and socializing, participants selected the legislative area they wanted to present to their members of Congress, and they wrote lobby speeches in groups of two to five.

Then, on Monday, they took their speeches to Capitol Hill!

For the Massachusetts legislature, the teens mostly asked their senators and representatives for their continued support.

There were over 50 teens from six congregations in Massachusetts. Instead of 60 people piling into the offices of Sens. Warren and Markey, the group met with staffers in the atrium of the Senate office building. Since this is a program that takes place over several weekends each year, the Senate staff is familiar with the Religious Action Center in general, and the L’taken seminar in particular.

In the past, teens from the North Shore would be part of a larger Boston-area contingent through the Jewish Teen Initiative’s program.

Rep. Seth Moulton’s office is less familiar with the program. This is the largest group of North Shore teens to participate in the L’taken seminar since he has been in office. While Rep. Moulton was not in town the day of the lobby visit, we spoke to a legislative director in his office. We saw artwork donated by the Peabody-Essex Museum.

The group presented on curtailing the impact of climate change, supporting trans rights, and negotiating peace and a two-state solution in Israel and Palestine.

The climate justice group spoke about their concerns that Plum Island will disappear and asked Rep. Moulton to support a bill. The staffer reminded us that since 12,000 bills are proposed each legislative session, his staff was not aware of this bill and will explore becoming a co-sponsor. The students learned how their lobbying efforts helped bring the staff’s attention to an important issue.

For the trans rights presentation, the staffer acknowledged the challenge of the current make-up of the House of Representative in continuing to broaden trans rights. Yet he also provided examples of how Rep. Moulton was able to influence the content of the National Defense Authorization Act to maintain access to gender-affirming care to members of the military. This helped the students understand incremental change within the legislative process.

The Israel group learned more about Moulton’s military history and how it impacts his perspective on the current war against Hamas in Gaza. The staffer highlighted the challenge of finding a partner for peace, yet still hopes that the region can arrive at a better place in the near future.

The students also learned more about the staffer’s experience working on Capitol Hill, exploring if this is a path they would like to pursue during and after college.

After the meeting, we took a group picture in Moulton’s office. Then we had a closing program in one of the House of Representative office buildings before loading the buses, returning to the airport and flying back to Boston.

Every student indicated that this was a powerful experience. We plan on meeting Moulton at his district office in the near future to continue the experience.

The group was able to participate in the program thanks to a CJP Community Impact Grant, and we look forward to offering the trip to North Shore teens in the future.

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