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Every Child Has Something to Offer

Meredith Polsky

Written by Susan Wiener and originally published in The Jewish Week, 2/26/13

“My name is Jacob Wiener. I am from Westchester Reform Temple in Scarsdale, N.Y. I am almost 15 years old. I have PDD-NOS and bipolar syndrome. The American Disabilities Act allows me to go to school…”

This is the beginning of my son Jacob’s speech when he joined with a group of other Reform Jewish teens to lobby Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand’s staff on the importance of supporting the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. He was one of 2,000 high school-aged people attending the Reform movement’s Religious Action Center’s annual L’Taken Seminar in Washington, D.C.

For 50 years, the RAC has been the hub of Jewish social justice and legislative activity in Washington, D.C., educating and mobilizing the Reform Jewish community on legislative and social concerns, advocating on more than 70 different issues, including economic justice, civil rights, religious liberty, Israel and more. But I never realized how personal political action can be.

I can still remember when Jacob texted me in October. The text read, “got the flyer. I am going to Washington.” I was caught off-guard. How can I talk him out of this? I was afraid for him to go on what would otherwise be a typical trip for a high school student. I even tried to get one of his counselors from summer camp to accompany Jacob, but in the end that did not work out. So, there I was on a Friday afternoon boarding a bus to D.C. with 34 teenagers, ninth and 10th graders. My anxiety was on high alert. (Read more…)

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