San Diego Jewish Academy teen wins prestigious leadership award for project

San Diego Jewish Academy upper-school student Lily Greenberg Call was named one of three winners of the prestigious Peter Chortek Leadership Award.

The award honors San Diego Jewish high school students who demonstrate excellence in community service, leadership and philanthropy, and highlights those who inspire others through a volunteer service project that displays their initiative, passion and positive spirit.

Lily’s project is The Advocacy Committee — a place for teen girls to learn about issues affecting women and girls, locally, nationally, and internationally, and take action to pass legislation related to those issues.

“I started it when I joined Girls Give Back as a freshman,” said Lily. (GGB is a leadership program for girls at Jewish Family Services.)

“I’ve always been passionate about politics, but I noticed that most of my peers weren’t at all interested, just because they didn’t think it was relevant to them, so I wanted to change that.”

The Advocacy Committee has learned about a plethora of issues and has worked with media representation and the Equal Rights Amendment.

“We created a campaign to pass the Healthy Media for Youth Act, an act that aimed to create a National Task Force on Women and Girls in the Media and create standards for magazines, films, and other forms of media,” said Lily. “We sent over 350 postcards to 25 representatives urging them to support the bill, met with Sen. Feinstein’s reps and secured her support, and held media-decoding workshops for girls groups across San Diego.”

Last year, The Advocacy Committee decided to focus its efforts on the Equal Rights Amendment. The ERA is an amendment to the Constitution that says, “men and women will be guaranteed equality under the law.” In 2014, there still isn’t anything in the Constitution saying that.

The ERA was almost ratified in the 1960s, but fell just three states short of ratification. The movement has started again because the deadline for ratification is 2015. That means that if 2015 passes and those three states haven’t ratified the amendment, all the previous votes will be null and void and the process will have to start from the beginning with every state.

Because of this, The Advocacy Committee partnered with United 4 Equality, a D.C.-based organization founded by the woman who wrote HR 113, the bill that is in the House and would extend the deadline for ratification for those three states.

“We held a phone-banking party and we’re about to secure support for the bill from five San Diego representatives, and then met with Rep Susan Davis herself to ask her to cosponsor and facilitate the passage of the bill, which she agreed to do,” said Lily. “We wrote articles about why the amendment is important and relevant, and had these published on various websites. In the spring, I created a national grass-roots network of high school students who are spreading awareness via social media.”

The Advocacy Committee isn’t just a temporary project she created for a high school assignment or to accrue volunteer hours. It appears to be a calling for her.

“Working in advocacy, both for women in the Advocacy Committee and through my work with AIPAC, has been the most rewarding experience of my life,” said Lily. “It’s grueling, it’s frustrating, and it tests you, but it teaches you about how passionate you can be about something. And it makes lasting change. Advocacy is more than a temporary bandage. It aims to fix the issues in society by fixing the framework of the law, and I can’t imagine myself doing anything else.”

The Peter Chortek Leadership Award was created to foster Jewish communal involvement by rewarding Jewish teens who are practicing tikkun olam — repairing the world.

In addition to a cash award, Lily was also awarded $1,800 to donate to the charity of her choice.

For information about San Diego Jewish Academy, visit www.sdja.com. For information about the Peter Chortek Leadership Award, visit http://jcfsandiego.org/young-adults/peter-chortek-leadership-award.

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