The Jewish community's voice has always been strong, particularly when it comes to Tikkun Olam and helping others in need. Also, legislative and grassroots advocacy have always been important too. So, a logical question then is what can I do as a student, parent, or faculty member at JDS to get involved in my own community? How can we get involved to talk about important policy issues that are central to our Jewish way of life? My recommendation is to first start here at home with local and state advocacy. Learn about your local municipal, county, and state government and find out what they are working on. Elected officials have decided to serve, and they do want to hear from you.
The Jewish Community Relations Council (JCRC) of Greater Washington has an incredible opportunity for 8th – 11th graders, parents, and faculty to come join our Maryland advocacy day in Annapolis to meet with your state delegates and senators. We will be discussing important issues this year including strengthening our hate crimes laws, domestic violence legislation to protect victims of abuse, protection of the elderly, juvenile justice reform, security needs of faith-based institutions, funding for programs at our local Jewish agencies, gun violence, and more.
Come join us on February 20 to make your voice heard in Annapolis! Here are the full details for how to register for both our “Insiders Briefing” on February 11 and our advocacy day on February 20 in Annapolis. For those who do not want to drive you will see in the link below that we provide a bus from the Bender JCC.
- Monday, February 11 from 7:30-9:00pm at B’nai Israel – “JCRC Maryland Insiders Briefing” – this is a precursor to the advocacy day, where we’ll go over some of the legislative priorities and how advocacy day will work. This is not mandatory to attend but may be helpful if you have not attended an advocacy day before. Link to register.
- Wednesday, February 20 at 4:30pm until about 8pm (legislator meetings first, then reception starts at 6:15pm) – “Maryland Jewish Advocacy Day” – Link to register even if you’re not taking the bus. NOTE – bus leaves at 3:00pm.
What does it mean to engage in advocacy? How can schools play a role in civic engagement while not getting political? How can we teach our kids to learn about important issues going on in society along with how our Jewish values play a role? First, it’s important understand there are three main elements of advocacy: (1) POLICY – laws and regulations (federal, state, local) that govern society; (2) POLITICS – the policy-makers who make the decisions; (3) PUBLIC ADVOCACY – advocating for your issues, creating public momentum, build public support, getting the media to write about your issue, make your issue a priority that policy-makers need to address. The public advocacy piece is where we see our students today wanting to engage. This is not directly political. They are creating a grassroots and lobbying movements to encourage community members to contribute by taking responsibility and action for their community. These movements are not always political in nature but are associated with a bottom-up approach instead of a top-down from our policy-makers.
What we are seeing is civic engagement that is more spontaneous and powerful, than the more traditional form of direct advocacy. This is where our schools can play a very influential role by teaching about civic responsibility on issues not partisan politics. Grassroots movements have historically shown some of the strongest non-partisan activism movements to create change in society. Lobbying is a more direct approach trying to persuade and influence our elected officials to vote a specific way on individual pieces of legislation. It’s important our schools do not get directly political, but it’s also important they allow students to learn to be activists on issues they feel passionate about too. By focusing on grassroots and some lobbying, we can teach future generations how effective they can be in bringing public attention to the important issues affecting their daily life.
As a proud parent of two JDS students (Alex, Grade 8 and Jaida, Grade 5) and in my role with the JCRC, I encourage you to join me on February 20 in Annapolis for a very powerful day advocating with the Jewish community!
Meredith Weisel is Director of Maryland Government and Community Relations for JCRC. Both of her girls have been JDS students since Kindergarten.