Some 250 high school students from across the country will gather at the Religious Action Center’s Washington headquarters this weekend for the Bernard and Audre Rapoport L’Taken Social Justice Seminar for High School Students.

Students are scheduled to arrive in Washington this afternoon and will spend the weekend learning about domestic issues like poverty and separation of church and state and global issues like genocide and climate change. The teens will then spend Monday lobbying their representatives on Capitol Hill.

“Students really do make a connection between their Jewish values and their responsibilities as citizens and understanding that Judaism isn’t something that just happens in synagogue or religious school,” said Barbara Weinstein, RAC legislative director. “Its values can be applied in all aspects of their lives. From the most basic choice, from ‘Do I leave the water on when I brush my teeth?’ to stopping genocide in Darfur, each of these things are things Jewish values can guide us on.”

Rabbi Jordan Millstein, religious leader of Temple Sinai of Bergen County in Tenafly, took the L’Taken seminar when he was in high school. About 16 10th-and 11th-graders from Temple Sinai will join with about 15 students from the Bergen Academy of Reform Judaism for this weekend’s L’Taken.

“I would argue it is the premier Jewish leadership development program in the country,” said Millstein, who will join the group. “The kids get to experience being part of a larger Jewish community, getting energized, and to actually have their own voices heard.”

“By Monday morning this group of ragtag teenagers [will] end up looking so mature and have gained so much self-confidence because they’re able to present in a strong way where they stand on any particular issue,” said Rabbi Ruth Zlotnick of Temple Beth Or in Washington Township.

“It’s inspiring to be a part of the democratic process,” she added. “On the individual level they feel their voices do count, and it’s a real experience.”

For more information on the RAC’s L’Taken weekends, visit www.ac.org/confprog/ltaken/.