Koach: What I Learned about Jewish Values from the RAC Experience

Rachel Beck  by Rachel

The school bell rang, as I packed my books and headed to the car. Little did I know, I was heading down to Washington D.C. for the trip of a lifetime. I was about to embark on a journey that would teach me about courage, religion and reason. My temple and I were taking a trip to lobby to Congress. I wondered what I was going to discuss, whom I was going to meet and whether or not the trip would be worth it. I arrived at my temple with a smile on my face. I was so nervous but eager to go to Washington. During the R.A.C. trip I learned many things.


Many times I ask myself, what do I appreciate the most? Is it the food that’s prepared for me each day, the comfortable bed I sleep on each night, or the luxuries of TV, Internet and cell phones? One really important thing I learned is to be grateful for what I have. All of the luxuries I named above have been given to me. I didn’t earn them, I simply just asked for them and I received them. Many times I take what I have for granted. During this trip I learned to appreciate what I have.


I learned to speak up and not only help myself but others around me as well. I learned about common issues such as poverty, disability, hunger, gun research, mineral conflict and stem cell research. I also learned some important aspects of lobbying- personal, legal, and religious. I met with people from the Religious Action Center as well as Reform temples throughout the United States. When writing my speech I learned proper techniques and how to speak to Congress. I learned the difference between showing respect to the senators and being impolite. I also learned that the representatives haveto listen to our opinions and ideals. They also are entitled to give feedback that both share their views and how we can help make the topic a bill. I learned how to manage a budget of fifty dollars, navigate my way through Georgetown, and be responsible for all my belongings. During this trip I also gained courage and the ability to speak up for what I believed in. I made many friends in the hotel. I also learned not to worry about every little thing.


Furthermore, I learned that I have a voice and should be heard. It was great to speak with Congress and learn how lobbying relates to Judaism, but I feel I also benefitted in life skills. Judaism teaches us to follow the commandments. On this R.A.C. trip I learned to be grateful for what Judaism has given me.


The last thing that I learned is how to incorporate services and Judaism in my daily life. Jewish ethics teaches us what is right. Whether or not we pass on Jewish traditions and history, follow the commandments, and attend services is our choice. However, after going to R.A.C., I decided that I want to embrace and pass these things on. We, as U.S citizens, are not obligated to follow these rituals, but as Reform Jews we should follow them. The trip to Washington D.C. taught me that there are many Reform Jews out in the world. I think all who attended gained strength or Koach to speak our minds. Judaism isn’t just reading the Torah and becoming a Bar/Bat Mitzvah, it’s applying all that we learned in Hebrew school to our daily lives. We have to “be the change we want to see in the world” and prevent history from repeating itself.


All in all, I enjoyed the trip and learned so much. I feel that I benefitted from this trip socially, politically and intellectually. I also learned the true meaning of Jewish ethics and how helping others can contribute to so much more than social action.