By: Isabelle Mokotoff
As Jewish teens, many of my peers and I have developed a passion for the Jewish community that was nurtured by our Jewish camps, day schools, and synagogues. For many of us, we first left the comfort of our “Jewish bubbles” in the ninth grade. It was then that our core beliefs were first questioned and we realized, many times through first-hand experiences, the unfortunate truth that antisemitism is alive and well in 21st century America.
Thankfully, American Jewish Committee (AJC) was able to help us turn our pain into power through Leaders for Tomorrow (LFT) – a high school program that helps teens address these issues and become strong and confident Jewish advocates. LFT trains Jewish students as advocates and provides the skills to stand up for Israel and the Jewish community in college and throughout their lives.
We were fortunate to have the opportunity to participate in this life-changing program. Through innovative and didactic activities, engaging guest speakers, and abundant opportunities to teach and be taught by world leaders, LFT alumni become equipped to strengthen a world that desperately needs Jewish advocates.
With over 113 years of experience safeguarding the rights of the Jewish people and promoting democratic values, AJC has perfected the art of advocacy. Throughout the program, we were taught about effective coalition and relationship building. One of the most impactful examples was learning about how AJC met with the Japanese government for five years to encourage them to reverse their support of the Arab boycott on Israel. This helped us understand that advocacy is about consistently strengthening relationships and building trust. Our LFT class also learned about how effective advocacy is helping everyone walk away as a winner. In our interactions during and after LFT, knowing how to advocate has made all the difference; in school, extracurriculars, and, pre-college programs, we’ve frequently turned purposeful or inadvertent antisemites into allies of the Jewish community.
LFT also provided us with a comprehensive education about looking at antisemitism through a trifocal lens; from the right, the left, and religious extremists. While we typically understand the implications of right-wing antisemitism, many of us were caught by surprise when antisemitism reared its ugly head on the left. Armed with this knowledge, we now know how to handle BDS protests or “Israel Apartheid Week” demonstrations, and we will confidently take charge if and when we encounter Palestinian eviction notices on our dorm room doors. When we and our fellow LFT alumni leave for college, we will be prepared to tackle all types of antisemitism present on today’s college campuses.
My LFT experience was an incredible starting point for my life journeys as a Jewish advocate. I could not be more grateful for the skills and tools I gained during LFT.
LFT applications for the 2020-2021 school year are now open. If you know of a rising high school sophomore or junior who may be interested in participating in LFT, they can find the application at AJC.org/LFTinfo. Applications are due on April 12.