May 2007

Top Stories
• NJDC Conference
• Sadr But No Wiser
• Pelosi To Syria
• Arabs Arising
• Global Terrorism
• Holocaust at VA Tech
• Never Again?
• Who CAIR's?
• Imus Be Going
• Letters to the Editor

In Their Own Words
• Rep. Sestak at CAIR
• Marc Stier
• Andy Toy

Networking Central
• Panim el Panim

• US Jewish Heritage
• Nashirah

Raising A Mensch
• Jews On First

Living Judaism
• The Sacred Candle

The Kosher Table
• On Bread Alone

Free Subscription

Past Issues
2008 J


    Email This     About     Subscription     Donate     Contact     Links     Archives  

Participants of Panim's Jewish Civic Initiative Seminar on Capital Hill in Washington, DC, March 21, 2007. (Brian Cohen)
Networking Central

Face To Face with Panim
Jewish Civics Initiative Seminar for teens.

-- Shira Landau

Last month, a group of fourteen Jewish youth affiliated with Habonim Dror joined with a multitude of other Jewish teens to attend a three day Panim seminar in Washington D.C. The Panim programs are designed to expand the education of motivated Jewish youth eager to amend injustices and advocate for change. During the three days, several speakers were invited to address controversial topics with the participants, encouraging them to take action regarding particular issues. One of the objectives of the seminar was to educate Jewish high school students about means of taking action in the community in order to advocate for change.

Rabbi Sidney Schwarz, founder of the Panim program, began the seminar by introducing the significance of becoming a leader, underscoring the qualities that remain essential to such an individual. That evening, a pair of homeless citizens collaborating with the National Coalition for the Homeless visited, and delivered poignant speeches. I found that these lectures and the trip to McPhearson’s Square colored my experiences and thoughts during the remainder of the trip. While in McPhearson’s Square, doing what was called "Street Torah" --- speaking with an array of local homeless living in the park --- a couple of others from Habonim Dror, and I conversed with a homeless man; the man rambled about obscure, but fascinating aspects of the Bible which none of us had learned in Jewish Day School. Not only did the lecture and encounter alter our prior notions regarding homelessness, but they reminded us of the need to acknowledge each individual with an open mind.

On one morning, a small group of participants –-- those from Habonim Dror, including myself --- attended a compelling seminar provided by the Campaign for Children’s Health Care. Previously unaware that at least nine million American children do not receive health care, all of us took immediate interest in the presentation. The speakers eloquently explained the reasons as to why health care is essential for children, and how obtaining health care provides a child with more opportunities for academic success while narrowing a racial and socio-economic gap. Towards the second half of the lecture, the speakers mentioned the legislation that has been discussed to prevent children from living without health care, in addition to stressing successful campaigning techniques. After inquiring if the audience had any final questions, the speakers distributed pamphlets and offered bright orange Campaign for Children’s Health Care t-shirts. I was pleased with how seriously the speakers treated our group of high school students despite our youth. The intensity of the lecture permitted the audience to absorb knowledge about this specific situation, and what a cluster of teenagers can do to create a change.

In preparation for the culminating aspect of the trip, a visit to Capital Hill in order to lobby Congress, we learned how to lobby effectively, discussed topics that we felt passionate about, and made appointments with various Congressional offices. Everyone seemed eager for the morning on Capital Hill; the Habonim Dror participants sang as we trekked through Metro stations and towards the Congressional Office Building. The experience offered useful insight targeted towards how to plan strategically for future visits.

The Panim program is a starting point for teenagers interested in learning about the most effective methods of advocacy through lectures, discussions and lobbying. This summer, Panim is offering an intensive program called Summer Jam for teenagers who would like to learn about Jewish values and their relevance to social action in today’s world. Additional seminars are offered throughout the next academic year. See the Panim website for details. Of course, there are multiple methods of introducing your child to social action. By doing something as simple as discussing current events at the dinner table, parents empower their children, and establish the need for social advocacy. Insuring that your child remains aware of what their local and state representatives think about controversial issues is another method of guiding your child towards a path of social action. Designate a special time --- on a weekly or monthly basis --- to volunteer with your child for local groups and causes that you support. Soup kitchens, and animal shelters are key places to go with children, where kids can directly see the impact of their aid. Educating youth about the value of social action remains as an essential component to the creation of a better environment for the future.

Past Networking Central Groups of the Month

In this section, we highlight a new local group each month in order to encourage networking.

Did you enjoy this article?

If so,

  • share it with your friends so they do not miss out on this article,
  • subscribe (free), so you do not miss out on the next issue,
  • donate (not quite free but greatly appreciated) to enable us to continue providing this free service.

If not,