BALTIMORE TEENS LOBBY IN WASHINGTON AS PART OF THE SENATOR BEN CARDIN JEWISH SCHOLARS PROGRAM
Senator Ben Cardin discusses current political issues and events with 35 local teens.
The Senator Ben Cardin Jewish Scholars Program culminated when 35 local teens traveled to Washington, DC to lobby Congress on pressing Jewish issues. The Program began last year as a joint initiative between NCSY | Jewish Youth Leadership, the international youth movement of the Orthodox Union; JSU (Jewish Student Union); and Inspiration Express, a local community organization, to provide leadership training to teenagers passionate about combining community service and Jewish values.
Each week, influential leaders and community speakers come together for dinner and an hour of education and mentorship, preparing them for their final mission: lobbying Congress in Washington.
After ten weeks of training, these local teens arrived in Washington on May 4. Howie Beigelman, Deputy Director of Public Policy for the OU’s Institute of Public Affairs (IPA) | Jewish Political Affairs, briefed the participants on lobbying before having them strategize how to address topics of interest. The participants were prepared to ask for support on The Jerusalem Embassy and Recognition Act and Re-authorization of the Individuals with Disabilities Act (IDEA), and to pass the Iran Transparency Act of 2011.
The day began at the Israeli Embassy where an official stressed the importance of the topics they would be lobbying. Following an informative discussion, the teens departed to Capitol Hill where they met with 11 Congressional and Senate offices. To conclude the day, Senator Ben Cardin held an open discussion for the Scholars on current political issues and events.
When Senator Cardin walked into the room, he immediately noticed the tremendous success and growth of the program. This year’s Program nearly tripled from last year’s group. The Senator instantly engaged the teens in a discussion about current political issues and events. He debated with them the death of Osama bin Laden and the use of torture on prisoners to extract information. He was very impressed with their responses. All attendees came across as well educated and prepared. Senator Cardin expressed how honored he was to have his name associated with the program and charged the teens to continue helping their local community. “The United States is a country where an individual can make a difference,” he said. “Your leadership is critically important.”
“The Washington trip gave the participants a glimpse of leadership, and the ability to recognize that everyone can make a difference,” says Rabbi Moshe Markowitz, one of the program’s founders. Elisheva Gliksman, a tenth grader from Beth Tfiloh, agreed. “It was so satisfying to feel heard. Talking to the congressional aides made me feel like we have an influence.” Cara Mazur, a junior at Owings Mills High, said that she not only gained a sense of pride, but that she felt like it was an opportunity to learn that “We don’t just care about ourselves, we care about the nation as a whole, for the betterment of society.”
Rabbi Jonah Lerner, Regional Director of Atlantic Seaboard NCSY, felt that this trip was an opportunity to cultivate Jewish leaders of the future. “Real leaders understand all decisions must be approached from different angles,” he said. “These teens now understand that a small group of people can make a difference and be the leaders of tomorrow.” He closed the program with a powerful message to the participants: “Go out there, find a cause, and get involved. You can change the world.”
About the Senator Ben Cardin Jewish Scholars Program
The Senator Ben Cardin Jewish Scholars Program provides leadership training to teenagers passionate about combining community service and Jewish values. The program merges mentorship with engaging education by influential leaders in the fields of law, finance, government and the nonprofit sector. The program concludes with hands-on advocacy and leadership opportunities in Maryland and Washington, DC.
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