May 29, 2003
Making Little Lobbyists
Call it the "Mini-Me" Mission. When dozens of Jewish activists from the Jewish Public Affairs Committee (JPAC) of California descended on Sacramento last week to lobby state officials, their retinue included a handful of young observers -- very young observers.
The first Sacramento Jewish Family Mission brought five parents and their children to the state capital in a pilot program to introduce children to the workings of state government. The children, who ranged in age from 7 to 13, were given a personal tour of the capitol building by lobbyist Monica Norton Miller, had a personal visit with Assemblyman Paul Koretz (D-West Hollywood), met with lobbyists and (adult) Jewish activists at a JPAC reception and visited the Governor's Mansion.
Deborah Kattler Kupetz, the mission's originator, said she wanted to introduce children to the idea that they could affect changes and have an impact on the world around them. Most adults aren't aware of what goes on in Sacramento, she said, much less their children.
Rather than lobby, the children learned. They powwowed with activist Barbara Yaroslavsky; Esther Netter, director of the Zimmer Children Discovery Museum; and Michael Hirschfeld, executive director of the Jewish Community Relations Committee, which supported the Family Mission.
The children heard how laws are established, what legislators and lobbyists do and what children can do to influence the process. Parents and presenters groped for age-appropriate metaphors.
"If your mother wants liver for dinner, and you don't like liver, what do you do?" asked Yaroslavsky, eliciting a chorus of suggestions from the budding lobbyists.
Koretz explained how he recently pressed a bill outlawing the declawing of cats in the state. In an office decorated with hand-drawn thank yous from cat-loving children, he also explained how legislators and the governor must make difficult choices when there isn't enough money to run the state. Koretz then took the group on to the floor of the Assembly and Senate.
The mission participants were Helen Zukin and her daughter, Julia, 8; Kattler Kupetz and her daughters, Rachel and Ariella, both 9; Roshi Rashtian and her daughter, Chantal, 11; Rebekah Farber and her daughter, Hanna, 13; and Rob Eshman and his son, Adi, 9. Kattler Kupetz said she hopes to turn the Family Mission into an annual event. -- Staff Report
Survivor Named First Member of Tolerance Task Force
Dr. Samuel Goetz has been appointed as the first member of the newly created California Task Force on Holocaust, Genocide, Human Rights and Tolerance Education. The task force's assignment is to prepare a comprehensive curriculum and study program for training the state's teachers in the areas listed in its title.
Goetz, a Los Angeles optometrist, was put in a concentration camp as a 14-year old boy in Poland and liberated three years later. His parents and most of his relatives perished in the Holocaust. A past president of the "1939" Club, he was instrumental in establishing the survivor organization's chair on Holocaust studies at UCLA. His autobiography, "I Never Saw My Face," was published Rutledge Books in 2001.
Goetz was appointed by Herb J. Wesson Jr., speaker of the California State Assembly. Other appointments to the 12-member panel will be made by Gov. Gray Davis and John Burton, president pro tem of the California Senate, under the bill introduced by Assemblyman Paul Koretz (D-West Hollywood).
The task force will work in tandem with the Center on Holocaust, Genocide, Human Rights and Tolerance Education, now being organized on the Cal State Chico campus, under the direction of professor Sam Edelman.
"We anticipate training some 40,000 teachers of history and the social sciences, and another 40,000 teachers of language and literature studies," Edelman said. Classes in Holocaust education are mandatory in California public schools.
he training program will consist of a combination of campus workshops, online professional development courses, and extensive Web site resources. Edelman anticipates that the first training sessions will be held this summer in the Los Angeles and San Francisco areas.
Working with the task force and center will be the California Department of Education, Anti-Defamation League and the Simon Wiesenthal Center.
For additional information, contact the Center on Holocaust, Genocide, Human Rights and Tolerance Education, CSU Chico, Chico, CA 95929-0502, or e-mail email@example.com. -- Tom Tugend, Contributing Editor