By Hannah Weisman, NFTY-SW
On April 1st I packed my bags for a trip to Washington D.C. with the Jewish Latino Teen Coalition. While I was excited, I really had no idea what to expect. I certainly didn’t expect the incredible journey that it became.
The Jewish Latino Teen Coalition (JLTC) brings together teens who are separately in the Jewish and Latino communities, to work together towards a mutual goal. As a proud and active Jew in the Tucson community, I was excited to share my culture and beliefs with another culture. We had the opportunity to get to know each other and really connected as a group, learning about the similarities and differences we share as minorities.
Each year the group chooses a political issue which is relevant to the current times. This year’s group decided to work on immigration, specifically DACA. Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals. DACA is an American immigration policy under which more than 750,000 undocumented immigrants have received temporary protection from deportation under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program created by former President Barack Obama. The program allows undocumented immigrants who were brought to the United States as children to live and work in the United States.
In our weekly meetings we discussed the DACA program, the current state of the program and the fate of the recipients with the change in the White House administration. We spoke to immigration attorneys, as well as friends who are currently DACA students to better understand the struggles they face.
After 10 weeks of meetings our group traveled to Washington DC to meet with politicians on Capitol Hill to lobby for DACA. Over five days we met with ten senators and congressional representatives; including Arizona Senator Jeff Flake, Congresswoman Martha McSally, and Congressman Raul Grijalva. It was truly amazing to speak on such an important topic to these people who take part in the final decisions on this issue.
While on our trip, we not only had the opportunity to visit Capitol Hill, but we had the chance to explore D.C. We visited the Washington Monument, the Reflection Pool, the Smithsonian Museums, the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, the new National Museum of African-American History and Culture and I even had the chance to sing a little in the Lincoln Memorial!
On Thursday morning we repacked our bags and we all ready to say a sad farewell to D.C., and I was ready for NFTY-SW Spring Kallah on Friday! Unfortunately, the weather conditions caused us to be delayed and we were unable to fly out until Saturday morning. While I was sad to be missing part of the Kallah, I was thrilled to have an extra few days in D.C. On Friday night, not being prepared for Shabbat in the nation’s capital, I decided it was important that we still celebrated Shabbat. With Walgreens candles, apple juice, and a bread roll we crammed into a hotel room and lit the candles with each other as a group and said the Shabbat prayers. It was amazing to share this tradition with the Latino members of our group, while teaching them the music, prayers, and the joy of Shabbat.
While traveling home, I heard from my NFTY friends that the group was learning about the Immigration system and all of the difficulties involved in crossing the border. I felt so proud knowing that my region was learning about the very thing I had been advocating for. The Jewish Latino Teen Coalition changed my life and made me believe that not only can my voice help to change things in our world, but that together we teens are powerful.