Posted by: Jeff Rubin, Associate Vice President for Communications on 2/28/2007 1:30:00 PM
Can a student have a meaningful Jewish experience in a cab? The question crossed my mind as I traveled with two students of Russian immigrant background on their first trip to Washington, D.C. As we passed the National Archives, I pointed out that the building houses the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution. Their heads spun to look. “Really? Wow!” they said, with genuine awe.
Passing the home of the charters of America freedom was just one highlight of an incredible day. The students were traveling from a visit to the White House to lobbying appointments with their elected officials on Capitol Hill as part of Hillel’s Spitzer Forum on Social Justice.
The three-day conference was filled with panels discussing everything from energy policy to community organizing. The 350 participants heard from social justice leaders like Debra Rowe, president of the U.S. Partnership for Education for Sustainable Development, and Eli Pariser, executive director of Moveon.org. Students in the Darmstaedter AJPA Journalism Track met journalists, communicators, newsmakers and Jonathan Kesselman, the director of the movie “The Hebrew Hammer.” (Complete Spitzer coverage next week.)
At the White House, Special Assistant to the President for Policy Jeremy Katz spoke about his role as White House liaison to the Jewish community: “This is a wonderful country and we are privileged to live in it. Never before have Jews had such freedom. Public service -- whether it is in the Administration, on Capitol Hill or in a think tank -- is one way of giving back.”
He asked the students to share their issues of concern. One student mentioned cultural and environmental sustainability, the theme of the Spitzer Forum this year. A Tulane student spoke passionately about the needs of New Orleans a year after Katrina.
In a session with representatives of the presidential campaigns of Hillary Clinton and John McCain, one student asked how “tikkun olam,” healing the world, informs their daily work. The students clearly understood how the Jewish tradition of tzedek, social justice, can influence public policy.
Can a student have a meaningful Jewish experience in a cab? When it’s part of an immersive experience that frames public policy in a Jewish context, you bet they can.
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