The vulnerability of the Jewish people is a source of pain, direction and humor for our community. We are familiar with the internet joke that concludes with the punch-line of, “they tried to kill us, we survived, let’s eat.” But beyond these jokes, I would argue our ability to see the world through the eyes of ‘the ever-dying people’ is a good thing. It helps us to prioritize that which really matters, identify how to do it well and make intentional and smart investments for our future. In essence, our vulnerability focuses us.
In November, the Bureau of Jewish Education launched our new leadership development program, I-ACT (Israel Advocacy Committee for Teens). This program, developed and executed in partnership with the Rose Project and Israel Center of Jewish Federation & Family Services, AIPAC, and TALIT Nation @ the Bureau, fosters a lifelong connection to Israel by giving Jewish teens the opportunity to fulfill the Jewish ethical charge to “speak truth to power,” and prepares them to be advocates now and on the college campuses and Jewish communities of their future.
On November 6 to 8, an I-ACT delegation of ten traveled to Washington, D.C., to attend the AIPAC High School Summit. During this transformative experience, our teens received hands-on training from the best in the field; learning Israel Advocacy techniques, advocating in the office of Representative John Campbell and developing strategies to bring their new “expertise” home. Coupled with an additional fifteen more teens upon their return, the I-ACT delegation is preparing Israel Advocacy “boot-camps” for our local congregations, serving as Israel Educators on the Spring TALIT Nation Israel themed retreat, leading our community at the Orange County Israel Expo and making appointments to advocate in local Congressmen’s offices. These teens are getting a taste of leadership, deepening their passion for Judaism and Israel.
For decades, the Bureau of Jewish Education has offered Advanced Camp Leadership (ACL). Beginning on January 22, ACL focuses on giving participants the tools to be effective Jewish leaders, teachers and role-models. Participants engage in a series of leadership development workshops held on the UCI campus and serve as counselors on the Spring Community Shabbaton. A great new feature this year, the program will be run in conjunction with the five largest Jewish summer overnight camps in Southern California. We are bringing in “the experts” at developing dynamic and passionate camp counselors. Our teens will learn skills and make connections, making them ideal candidates to serve our community now and down the road.
It would be an overstatement to suggest that leadership development will neutralize the perpetual vulnerability of the Jewish people. There are many reasons we are the “ever-dying people.” But I do believe that when Jewish communities invest in their youth; when we give them transformative experiences, learning with inspirational role-models, give them a community of peers who are equally passionate and provide them an opportunity to lead now…this is our best insurance policy to sustain us through the future challenges and struggles that await us. Yes, participation in these programs will enhance any teen’s college application…but its value is much greater. It is our insurance policy.
For more information
about I-ACT, ACL, and all Leadership Development programs at TALIT Nation @ the Bureau, please contact Eric Nicastro at (949) 435-3450 x328, firstname.lastname@example.org.