Preparing Tomorrow’s Leaders Today
LFT (Leaders for Tomorrow): A Groundbreaking Program for High School Students
By Myra Clark-Siegel, AJC Westchester Fairfield Regional Director
• “Hitler was right.”
• “Israel is a … [fill in the blank] state.”
• How can you support Israel – I thought we were friends?
• “We are dismayed to report that at [insert any variety of high school names here] we found swastikas carved into desks.”
As jarring as these are to read, these are all real examples of what our high school students face today, either directly by classmates or on social media.
In May 2021, during the Hamas-Israel conflict, social media was flooded with such horrific social media posts as “Hitler was right” –posted on social media a staggering 15,000 times in one week alone.
Numerous reports noted that the conflict “sparked the largest increase in online mentions of anti-Israel allegations like ‘apartheid,’ ‘colonialism,’ and ‘settler’ in the history of social media, creating a tide of racialized and hate-inducing sentiment against Israel.”
At the same time, as AJC’s Antisemitism in America reports demonstrate, antisemitism is on the rise in the United States.
So many Jewish teens who have gone to Jewish summer camp, attend Jewish day schools or Hebrew schools, or who belong to Jewish youth groups found themselves staring at their cell phones – or their classmates – in disbelief.
The safe “Jewish bubble” so many worked to create seemed to burst right before people’s eyes, and many high school students and parents were ill-prepared to deal with the situation.
The question: what can we do to prepare and protect our high school students?
The answer: AJC’s LFT or Leaders for Tomorrow program.
American Jewish Committee (AJC) has a high school program here in Westchester/Fairfield that helps teens address these issues and become strong, confident Jewish, pro-Israel leaders.
AJC Leaders for Tomorrow (LFT) students are not just future leaders; they are today’s leaders. LFT is AJC’s education and advocacy program for teens that empowers young Jews to speak up for Israel and the Jewish people.
LFT helps high school students develop a strong Jewish identity and trains them as advocates for Israel, and to be voices against antisemitism.
Through innovative and didactic activities, engaging guest speakers and abundant opportunities to engage with experts and interact with leaders, LFT alumni become equipped to strengthen a world that desperately needs Jewish advocates.
Throughout the program, 10th, 11th, and 12th graders learn about effective coalition and relationship building.
Knowing how to advocate makes all the difference.
As LFT student Ben Messafi noted, “The biggest skill I got from LFT was the idea of interfaith dialogue…we need to look at other communities and see what they need so that we can create that interfaith partnership that will overall help us both succeed.”
LFT alumna Eliana Fromer adds, “LFT brings together kids from all different backgrounds, schools, levels of (Jewish and Israel) education and observance.”
As LFT alumnus Kevin Khitrov notes, “LFT has provided me with a platform to engage in discussions with students outside of the program and diplomats from the United States and around the world to better understand what actions we must take to address antisemitism in the 21st Century while upholding democratic values.”
LFT applications for the Westchester/Fairfield 2023-2024 school year cohort are now open. If you know of a rising high school sophomore, junior, or senior who may be interested, please email us at AJC at Westchester@ajc.org.