Detroit-area Natives Discover Jewish Social Justice
This summer Chloe Bakst, Samantha Goldsmith and Matthew Schwartz’s passion for Judaism, social justice and advocacy brought them to Washington, D.C., for the Machon Kaplan program at the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism.
Machon Kaplan is a summer study-internship program that engages students on critical social justice issues from both an academic and practical viewpoint.
Program participants, like Bakst, Goldsmith and Schwartz, intern at a public policy organization, such as the NAACP, Interfaith Alliance, AFL-CIO, HIAS, Public Citizen and the Jewish Federations of North America, seeing firsthand how groups pursue legislative advocacy, how policy is crafted and how interns can harness their own energy to make social change.
While in Washington, D.C., Bakst is working with the National Council of Jewish Women (NCJW), whose goal is to improve the quality of life for women, children and families and safeguard individual rights and freedoms. In working with the NCJW, Bakst’s goal is to learn to build community while engaging with advocacy work and Jewish values.
“I’ve been learning so much about what it means to take my values and translate them into action,” Bakst said. “For example, I’ve always been passionate about women’s health issues and, with the NCJW, I had the opportunity to meet with staff from Rep. Sander Levin’s office and lobby for the EACH Women Act.”
A Bloomfield Hills native, Bakst is a junior studying public health at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor.
Goldsmith is working with the Washington Bureau of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), whose goal is to ensure the political, educational, social and economic equality of rights of all persons and to eliminate race-based discrimination. In working with the NAACP’s Washington Bureau, Goldsmith’s goal is to explore a potential career avenue in public policy and to actively engage in social justice through a Jewish lens.
“I have had extraordinary opportunities to glean and compile information about historic, current and future legislation under leading civil rights activists,” Goldsmith said. “I look forward to using this experience to inspire my final year of undergraduate studies with a newfound sense of direction and purpose.”
A West Bloomfield native, Goldsmith is a senior studying sociology and philosophy at U-M.
Schwartz is working with the National Council on Independent Living (NCIL), whose goal is to advance independent living and the rights of people with disabilities. In working with NCIL, Schwartz made a goal to gain exposure by working in Washington and learning more about nonprofit policy work.
“My internship has granted me the opportunity to see firsthand how a nonprofit works in D.C.,” Schwartz said. “I will return to campus with the drive that many of my coworkers have to fight for equality.”
Schwartz is a sophomore from Farmington Hills studying political theory and constitutional democracy and social relations and policy at Michigan State University in East Lansing.
In addition to their placements, students take specially designed academic courses that teach the application of Jewish values to current social justice issues.
Most participants also live together, participate in weekly programs that include exploring the city’s monuments and museums, as well as study Jewish texts that connect to the contemporary policy issues they are advocating for at their internships.
To learn more about the Machon Kaplan Summer Social Action Internship program, please visit http://rac.org/mk.