Earlier this week, we had the pleasure of joining NFTY-NAR for Albany Advocacy Day, in which over 80 teens descended on Albany for a two-day program about Reform Judaism and social justice.
On Sunday, the teens learned about five different topics: raising the minimum wage, gender expression non-discrimination, the Women’s Equality Act, education (including the NY DREAM Act) and disability rights. The teen leaders wrote and executed their own programs, to teach their peers about these crucial social justice issues.
If you’ve ever been to a L’Taken weekend run by the Religious Action Center, you know that the late-night speech-writing (and reading!) process is long, crazy but ultimately fun and worthwhile. The same was completely true on Sunday night in Albany. Watching the teens turn their passion for social justice into heartfelt, well-written speeches about policy, Reform Jewish values and their own personal connection to the issue is inspiring. RJV was proud to have sent five steering committee members and have contributed to the planning of this event to play a role in this fantastic experience.
On Monday, the teens embarked on a total of 34 visits (with each person only going to 2-3 visits) with Assembly and Senate offices, some with the elected officials themselves! One of the most rewarding aspects of the whole program is seeing the impact the elected officials have on the teens, and the incredible impact the teens have on the elected officials. Assemblywoman Didi Barrett posted a picture and moving caption on Facebook:
Excitement was infused throughout the day: in the halls of the Legislative Office Building, we spotted new Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie, and one lucky teen was able to get a picture with him! Our group was also so big that we had to go up into the Assembly balcony to watch the legislative session together. Michelle Schimel of Long Island introduced our group to the Assembly and we all stood to be recognized, another highlight of the day.
All in all, Albany Advocacy Day was a fun and inspiring experience for RJV and for the teens. We’re already looking forward to next year!