A Summer of Justice and Judaism
The trajectory of my life has become clearer and clearer as I've gotten older; now at the ripe old age of twenty-three I look at the combination of good fortune and good decisions which have led me to become a Legislative Assistant at the Religious Action Center. Ok, maybe I'm being dramatic, but I love the job I have, I enjoy the challenge and the work of striving for social justice from a Jewish perspective, and D.C. is an incredible place to work and to live.
One of these fortunate decisions was to apply during my freshman year at the University of Rochester to the Religious Action Center's Machon Kaplan Summer Internship program. Where luck is involved is that I'd simply seen a mailing, a postcard with some basic facts about the program, but it started the wheels turning.
I'd been a counselor at an unaffiliated Jewish day camp in Maine for years, I was in the midst of my third year teaching in religious school programs, I attended Hillel services with some regularity, and I have always identified strongly as a progressive Jew, but otherwise was only minimally involved in Reform Judaism as a movement. Simultaneously, I was passionate about issues of social justice, American values and freedoms, and fundamental equality for all. But I had never really connected my Judaism to my enthusiasm for social justice; I just had never really seen opportunities to do so.
And then there was Machon Kaplan. The program provides students with the opportunity to intern with some of the RAC's coalition partners, engaging in social action in Washington. Students take classes in which students earn college credit learning of the rich history of Jewish social action, of our involvement in various causes both historically and right now. Students get to learn and interact with some of the leaders in social action and advocacy here in the capital, and live and study in a Jewish environment and community unlike any I'd ever experienced.
I applied and was accepted, and in mid-June joined my class of about two dozen other college-aged Jews from all over the nation in a pretty incredible summer. Living together in George Washington University dorms, we attended classes at the RAC, where, taught by RAC staff and other activists and advocates, we learned about our religious charges to actively pursue equality, freedom, peace and justice. Moreover, we learned how the RAC was engaging in this effort on issues such as economic justice and poverty, climate change and bioethics, reproductive rights and civil rights. I interned at Family Pride (now the Family Equality Council), which works on family issues for the GLBT community, and got a chance to see how advocacy happens at the ground level.
The Machon Kaplan program helped me to see that two enormous parts of my life were connected, and gave me tools to understand this connection and continue becoming more involved in Jewish social action. Moreover, it was an inspiring, exciting summer spent in D.C. with other young, like-minded Jews, and most of all, it was the impetus that led me to begin my adult, post-graduate life in D.C. working at the Religious Action Center.
If you have any questions about the program or how to apply, please visit us at our Machon Kaplan page or contact us at 202.387.2800.