NorCal NCSY recently selected teen leaders to participate in its Teen Advocacy Program (TAP). TAP is an intensive six-week educational program that teaches teens organization, presentation and leadership skills for political advocacy within the prism of Jewish values. The program culminates on Tuesday, March 3 with a daylong lobbying mission to Sacramento led by NorCal NCSY Director Rabbi Akiva Naiman. The day will end with a gala dinner and a certification of completion awarded to the teens by local official Abel J. Guillen.
NCSY is the international youth movement of the Orthodox Union.
Nineteen student leaders from public, private, and Jewish high schools, grades 9-12, will participate from Tiburon, Berkeley, Albany, San Rafael, Oakland, Richmond, Piedmont, El Cerrito and Walnut Creek.
Coordinated by Rabbi Naiman, TAP features weekly presentations by leading Jewish community advocates, prominent rabbis and politicians, including hands-on lobbying modules and informative sessions. Dan Cohen, owner of Full Court Press Communications, played a major role in developing the curriculum.
Ali Zak of Oakland, an eleventh grade student at the Jewish Community High School of the Bay and NCSY board member, has also been instrumental at seeing the program through, helping to create the curriculum as well as setting up meetings in the Capital. Through participation in interactive sessions focusing on issues of concern to the Jewish community, the teen leaders became well versed in the state government and the legislative process.
“The Teen Advocacy Program changed how I view the legislative process and my responsibility as a Jew,” Ali Zak stated. “Through learning about the legislative process I have become a more educated citizen, and through hearing about how advocacy works from exciting professionals I have been inspired to affect change in my community. I now feel like I have the necessary skills and knowledge to change my community and fulfill the Jewish commandment of Tikkun Olam.”
Leading up to the gala dinner and program completion, teen leaders will travel to the State Capital to put their newfound skills and knowledge to work — meeting with State Senator Loni Hancock (D-9); Assembly Member Rob Bonta (D-18); State Senator Bob Weikowski (D-10); and Assembly Member Marc Levine (D-10) among others.
In Sacramento, students will discuss issues and bills that are important to them, as well as different issues that have been presented to them by Jewish Community Relations Council and AIPAC (American Israel Public Affairs Committee).
Rabbi Naiman declared, “I’m excited to see the teens standing up and speaking to each legislator for what they believe in. One of the most incredible aspects of TAP is that the teens frequently keep in touch with the elected officials they meet and continue to cultivate those relationships.”