11th Grade D.C. Adventures
UPDATED FEB 11 2013
Students Preparing for Lobby Day on Capital Hill
UPDATED 11P.M. FEB 9
Today was another very full day, beginning with a simulation in which the students both explored the complicated topic of energy resources and learned in the process about a gamut of forces that influence the political process including: op eds, personal letter writing, social media, demonstrations, personal phone calls and of course, money.
After lunch we then left to visit the National Holocaust Memorial — an always powerful, difficult but incredibly moving visit. Our visit to this Memorial was followed by a visit to the newest memorial on the National Mall: a visit to the M.L. King, Jr. memorial. This is a very impressive monument which so beautifully presents Dr. King, both the power of his presence and the eloquence of his words in moving this nation towards racial equality. Of course, we, as Reform Jews have right to be especially proud as we played a significant role in this fight, not only joining in the protests, but also providing the space (in the Religious Action Center offices) for the writing of the ground breaking civil rights legislation.
AT THE M.L. KING JR. MEMORIAL
Then it was time for a little fun as we headed to Georgetown for dinner at Chadwick’s, a little shopping for souvenirs and the purchasing of some yummy snacks and Dean and Deluca’s.
Next one of the most memorable parts of the trip: Havdalah at the Jefferson Memorial. The chilly night air was warmed considerably by the spirit of “our kids” singing and celebrating at this most wonderful monument. Thomas Jefferson, of course, played an essential role in the establishment of a social structure allowing for the freedom of religion from which we benefit to this very day. That the American Jewish community stands outside the arc of Jewish history (filled with all sorts of horrific expressions of anti-semitism) is in no small part due to the writing and efforts of Jefferson who made sure that this would be a country where differences would be recognized, accepted and celebrated. In fact, Dr. King’s memorial, who built on these ideas stands across the lake – gazing at the Jefferson memorial.
Finally it was back to the hotel where the evening ended with the kids participating in learning about their personally selected social justice topics which include: Campaign Finance Reform, Climate Change and Energy, Disability Rights, Poverty, Embryonic Stem Cell Research, Gun Violence Prevention, LGBT Rights, International Human Rights, The Israeli/Palestinian Conflict, Nuclear Disarmament, The War on Terror, Reproductive Rights and The Separation of Church and State.
As I write this, the students are having a little bit of “chill” time, hanging in each other’s rooms before heading off to bed.
Tomorrow another busy day learning about Israel and Israeli Politics and another self selected topic. After lunch it is off to visit the National Mall before dinner in Pentagon City and back to write lobbying speeches for Monday’s visit to Capital Hill.
So wishing everyone a “Shavua Tov” … watch this space for another up date tomorrow night. Laila Tov.
UPDATED MIDNIGHT FEB 9
Good Shabbes everyone … a long day is finally coming to an end as everyone is settling down to sleep. It was a great evening as our group of 22 joined with another 320 students from Massachusettes, New York, Colorado, Arizona, New Jersey (to name but a few) for an energetic Shabbat dinner and erev Shabbat service.
Following the service the first program of the weekend commenced looking at the very difficult issue of homelessness in America. We heard from a woman who grew up homeless … attending two or three schools yearly, making her way through poverty to earn and M.A. … only to eventually find herself homeless again. The kids then took a look at various Federal support and assistance programs and evaluated them based on Maimonides ladder of Tzedakah. Finally they took part in a simulation where they each had to try and live on only a few hundred dollars a month in order to feed their family. All provided an eye opening look at poverty and homelessness in America.
The evening ended with the kids picking topics they wished to explore in more detail over the next two days.
Tomorrow: Shabbat services, a simulation that will teach about the issues surrounding energy exploration and the role that money and influence plays in the political process. Following lunch it is off to visit the National Holocaust memorial and the M.L. King Jr. Memorial … followed by dinner in Georgetown and Havdalah at the Jefferson memorial … before returning to the hotel for one the first of two programs of the kids choosing. Another packed day tomorrow.
Hope everyone has a great Shabbat. Keep an eye out here for continuing updates …
UPDATED FEB 8, 6P EST
Today started out at 3:30a.m. PST … as we woke everyone up for an early continental breakfast and Metro adventure to the White House. We were greeted by a cold, drizzly morning as we had our first Metro experience buying tickets for the subway ride into town.
A short walk from the Metro stop we prepared to enter the White House, handing over all purses, cameras etc. to TAS Alum and National Geographic journalist Daniel Stone. We were also welcomed by White House intern and University of Michigan junior, Brandon Shaw. Entering the White House grounds we were greeted by the Presidential Dog … very happy to be out for a morning walk. As we toured the ground level of the WH, secret service agents in each room explained what we were looking at. All the while we were serenaded by a local school choir singing in the main lobby.
Then, after a quick souvenir stop it was off for a Capital tour courtesy of Senator Feinstein’s office.
From here it was off to the National Archives to view the Magna Carta, Declaration of Independence, the Constitution and thee Bill of Rights.
Tired from a full day we climbed back on the Metro and headed “home”. A full night still awaits ahead as the program starts with Kabbalat Shabbat, dinner, Shabbat Services and the first program on homelessness. We will be joined by almost 350 other students from across the country as we begin preparations for our lobby visits Monday morning. Wishing you all a Shabbat Shalom.
Keep an eye out here for more updates.
Thursday, Feb 7, 2013
Hi all …. Just a brief hello from the Hyatt Crystal City (that sounds so elegant doesn’t it?). Actually this hotel is a definite upgrade from the usual LeTaken fare. We’ve all arrived safe and sound for the LeTaken Social Justice Seminar of The Religious Action Center. Hopefully the kids are all taking my advise and trying to adjust to this time as we have a very long day tomorrow. Wake up @ 6:30 to get breakfast at 7 … On the shuttle to the Metro to get to the WH by 9:15. Then scampering to the Capital for a 10:50 tour …. After that who knows. We will send pictures and updates along the way.
Watch this blog site for more on our weekend adventures pursuing the causes of Social Justice.
Have a good evening everyone.