April 8, 2016
Over the weekend, Jewish youth flocked from all over the country to Washington for BBYO’s Panim el Panim seminar. COEJL Manager Liya Recthman and JCPA Policy Associate Krissy Roth engaged these young people in conversations on two of today’s hot topics: U.S. engagement with international climate negotiations and clean energy, and human trafficking. Participants met in small groups to discuss these topics. They learned the background to the issues, what makes them Jewish, how they are controversial to some, and what legislation exists for addressing them.
Students learned about the Green Climate Fund (GCF), which is intended to help developing and vulnerable countries confront the challenges and negative impacts of climate change. These include flooding, sea level rise, drought, and decreased crop production. They also discussed the key role the interfaith community played last year at the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UN COP21) international climate negotiation in Paris on the GCF.
More than 30 countries, including the United States, pledged $10.2 billion to establish the fund. At COP21, GCF also received $500 million in initial funding for 2016. As projects in developing countries ramp up for sustainable growth and climate change adaptation, students discussed how continuing to provide assistance to the world’s poor and vulnerable through GCF is a fundamental Jewish value.
Roth engaged with students as they learned about the $150 billion criminal industry in human trafficking that enslaves nearly 21 million people worldwide. Participants spoke about the Passover reminder to recall their own experiences as slaves in Egypt as a reminder of the Jewish obligation to help others, including those who may be suffering within our community.
Discussions focused on trafficking of minors, a problem for more than 1.6 million homeless youth every year in the U.S. Participants learned about the Runaway and Homeless Youth Act (RHYA), enacted some 40 years ago, that is often seen as our nation’s best response to runaway and youth homelessness. RHYA programs provide street outreach services, temporary and long-term shelters, family reunification, counseling, education and job preparation services. Students were also challenged to consider the moral imperative of providing adequate and appropriate services to LGBT youth, estimated to compose about 40% of the homeless youth population.