What thoughts come to mind when you think about the future of the Jewish people?
Are you optimistic? Worried? Do you wonder whether and how our children will carry on the Jewish legacy? Whether we will have supporters of Israel and outspoken activists against anti-Semitism and hatred?
LFT is an Israel advocacy and leadership training course that educates students about issues facing Israel and the Jewish people. Our students learn about past and current Israeli affairs and the challenges and opportunities facing world Jewry.
More important, they move beyond memorizing facts to acquiring skills.
They come to recognize nuance, to present thoughtful, organized points, and to build strategic advocacy networks.
LFT teaches how to build relationships that will enable students to be effective Jewish advocates by eliciting the support of the non-Jewish community.
A few weeks ago, a delegation of LFT students traveled to Washington to meet with the congressional staffs of Reps. Karen Handel and Barry Loudermilk. A few days later, when AJC Atlanta Director Dov Wilker, AJC’s national director of black-Jewish relations, met with Handel, her staffer remarked that the LFT students “weren’t well-coached; they were well-prepared.”
We do not create automatons in LFT. We do not drill students with simplistic talking points, wind them up and point them toward a target. We introduce them to complex subjects, equip them with the advocacy tools they need, and empower them to stand up for the Jewish values they believe in.
For the last session, our students met with the consul general of Mexico, and they ran the meeting.
They discussed issues such as NAFTA and the Trans-Pacific Partnership, human rights violations in Venezuela and Iran, anti-Israel bias at the United Nations, global anti-Semitism, and immigration policy. They displayed poise and thoughtfulness that could rival that of most adults. It was an incredibly powerful display to witness.
Afterward, our students remarked that learning the difference between Jewish and Israeli issues made them better advocates, that it was both comforting and inspiring to be in the room with other Jewish students who cared about these issues, and that experiencing the power of relationship building will help them immensely.
So what can we expect from our Jewish youth? Intelligence, strength and passion for the Jewish people and all humanity.
After seeing the remarkable capabilities of our LFT students, when we think about the future of the Jewish people, we can say with certainty that we’re in good hands.
If you know of a rising high school sophomore or junior who might be interested in participating in the 2018-19 LFT program, please send the student the LFT application. Applications are due May 31.
You can direct questions about the LFT program to AJC Atlanta Assistant Director Julie Katz at firstname.lastname@example.org or 404-233-5501, ext. 5032.
Elissa Fladell and Dawn Tresh are AJC Atlanta’s 2017-2018 LFT co-chairs and serve on the AJC Atlanta board of trustees.