Session begins Oct. 30
By Deb Silverthorn
The American Jewish Committee’s Leaders For Tomorrow (LFT) program allows high school students to learn to advocate on behalf of Israel, the Jewish people and themselves. The Dallas Regional chapter, which services DFW, Austin, Oklahoma City, Tulsa and Waco, is accepting applications for its 2022-2023 year. The program begins at 6 p.m. on Sunday, Oct. 30, with all classes by Zoom.
“AJC understands the value of educating and informing our high school students and we have put great investment into those who will carry us forward,” said AJC Dallas Regional Director Joel Schwitzer, whose daughters Hannah and Miriam are both alumni of AJC’s LFT program. “As a parent, and one who works in this space, I couldn’t be prouder of, or find a program more important for, that future.
“Our students need to learn to speak with passion and knowledge. LFT opens the door with AJC, a lifelong resource,” said Schwitzer. “The lines of communication are always open locally and nationally.”
The program, which has had more than 1,000 participants to date, is open to high school sophomores and juniors. It meets two Sunday evenings each month — for 90 minutes via Zoom — providing lessons of the history of modern Israel, discussions of antisemitism, finding one’s own Jewish identity and more. Each of AJC’s 11 regions will host between 25 and 30 students. AJC hopes that, in March 2023, the groups can come together, returning to an in-person advocacy event in Washington, D.C.
“LFT teaches our future leaders how to listen to others, how to hear — but to really listen — and how to share their own thoughts,” said AJC Director of High School Affairs Aaron Bregman.
Bregman, a former high school history teacher, says the curriculum for the program follows AJC’s mission to enhance the well-being of the Jewish people and Israel and to advance human rights and domestic values in the United States and around the world.
“We want students to be able to speak clearly about the many issues that will face them, likely for the first time,” said Bregman. “We want them to be able to feel confident, to hear different narratives and be able to respond appropriately and respectfully.”
This year, in addition to its virtual program, AJC’s LFT will host in-person cohorts for students in Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Detroit, Kansas City, Los Angeles, Long Island, Miami, New York City and Westchester/Fairfield.
Josh Rajunov is the son of Debbie and Manuel Rajunov. A senior at Wakeland High School in Frisco, he was a 2020-2021 participant in AJC’s LFT program and found it a stepping stone that piqued his interest in Jewish communal leadership. He currently serves as the BBYO international vice president of Judaic enrichment and community services.
Rajunov said, “It was great to be able to immerse myself in Judaic learning and hear about the complexity and importance of Israel. It helped me grow as a leader in the Jewish world. A lot of my success now would not be possible without my learning in the AJC LFT Program.”
Shelton School graduate Ryan Kassanoff, the son of Beth Kassanoff and Greg Kassanoff, is a sophomore at American University in Washington, D.C. He serves as vice president of interfaith and intercommunal affairs for AJC’s Global Campus Board.
Kassanoff said, “I was raised at Temple Emanu-El, one of my favorite places in the world, where my heart for Jewish advocacy was really formed. AJC’s LFT program trained me in understanding politics and policy and in advocacy. It introduced me to many very interesting speakers. I am grateful for the opportunity to learn how AJC works and what its impact is on me and the world. There is much to be learned about advocacy for those who are new to it but also those already engaged.”
For more details or information, email LFT@ajc.org. To apply for the 2022-2023 AJC LFT program, visit tinyurl.com/AJC-LFT-application.