“Repairing the world”

Jewish students lobby for social justice on Capitol Hill


Used with permission from Maya Jaffee, '25

Students at the RAC’s L’Taken Social Justice Seminar pose in front of Capitol Hill, where they lobbied for political reform. “[The trip] broadened my horizons a lot,” Maya Jaffee, ‘25 said. “It introduced me to the world of politics, and I think was a really valuable experience that I’m not gonna get anywhere else, so I’m really glad I went on it.”

The Hebrew word L’Taken means “to repair.” It appears in the Judaist principle, tikkun olam, which means to repair the world. Students practiced repairing the world through political advocacy at the L’Taken Social Justice Seminar.

“A major tenant in Judaism is mending the world and doing what you can to perfect the world, and that ties in with social justice really well,” Miles Spieler, ‘25, said.

Throughout the four-day seminar, the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism (RAC) brought together Jews from across the United States to advocate for social justice and represent Jewish values. They lobbied on Capitol Hill to Senator Sherrod Brown, Representative Davidson and Representative Landsman.

Rachel Herzig, ‘25, lobbied for the reintroduction of the Women’s Health and Protection Act (WHPA). WHPA is federal legislation that will protect access to abortion care, regardless of the stage of the pregnancy.

“I think that women’s access to abortion is very important, and not being able to access it is actually against our First Amendment right to religious freedom because, in the Torah in Exodus, it states that a fetus is not yet a person and that the woman’s life must be put before the baby until it is born,” Herzig said. “As our rights are being taken away more and more, I think we need those rights, for safety, for health and for religious freedom.”

Maya Jaffee, ‘25, also lobbied for reproductive rights.

“I’m a woman, and I can get pregnant, and it’s really scary to me that Congress could legally force pregnancy on women… I’m lobbying not just for myself, but also for anyone who can get pregnant,” Jaffee said.

Spieler lobbied for economic justice in support of the Wage Bill, which would raise the minimum wage to $15. To educate himself on the bill, Spieler attended a seminar led by a representative from a local homelessness foundation.

“[The Wage Bill] would help a lot of people prevent poverty [for themselves] and help people out of poverty,” Spieler said.

Students attended educational programs on topics ranging from international relations and Israel to LGBTQ rights and economic inequality. The related storytelling program motivated students and Congress members to take action.

“We’ve heard at the Religious Action Center that after a visit, a member of Congress… heard a speech [from students] about something that was important to them, [and] they got a chance to actually look at the bill we were talking about and sign as a co-sponsor or become a bigger supporter of it. It’s cool to see that real change happen from time to time,” campaign manager at the RAC and alumn, Jacob Kraus-Preminger, ‘11, said.

It was one of the first moments where I learned that I have a voice that’s powerful, that I can use to help create the world that I want, that people I care about want, and really get involved in the political process

— Jacob Kraus-Preminger

Kraus-Preminger attended the L’Taken trip as a tenth grader.

“It was one of the first moments where I learned that I have a voice that’s powerful, that I can use to help create the world that I want, that people I care about want, and really get involved in the political process,” Kraus-Preminger said.

The story of the Exodus from Egypt inspired Kraus-Preminger to advocate for the reform Jewish movement.

“It was always a story that taught me and reminded me that no matter what situation we find ourselves in, there’s a better world out there that’s possible,” Kraus-Preminger said. “I carry with me the stories of my ancestors who took those risks to try and make a better world, whether that’s freeing themselves from Egypt, coming to this country, working in the labor movement, or the civil rights movement… I believe that we can live in a better world than we live in right now.”

For many, the L’Taken trip was only an introduction to lobbying for Jewish values and policy changes.

“[Greg Landsman and his team] said that they will vote for [the WHPA] when it gets reintroduced into the 118th Congress, and if it’s not already reintroduced, then they’ll try to reintroduce it, so that’s progress, definitely,” Herzig said. “I would love to continue voicing my opinions and representing what matters to me.”

Jaffee urges students interested in advocating for their rights to keep persisting and speaking up.

“Don’t be discouraged. Don’t think they’re not going to listen to you. Don’t think that you won’t make a difference, you will make a difference. Just keep working at it and stand up for yourself whenever you can,” Jaffee said.