By Shira M. Zemel
I was eight years old the first time I went into the voting booth. My family had just moved to a new town. My mom took us to get Slurpees after school and then to her new polling place—a community center close to our new home. I’ll never forget the sticker I was given by the poll-worker. I wore it proudly: “Future Voter”. On the drive home, my mom told us that she never misses a chance to vote, and to this day, she always calls to remind us when an election is coming up and of our obligation to vote in it.
I was lucky to get hooked on voting far before I was of voting age. I’ve already started passing this tradition on to my own son, who entered the voting booth with me at just 2 months old. Voting is fun and it’s meaningful—it’s our chance to exercise our freedom.
We know our democracy is strongest when everyone has the opportunity to participate. This is why I am proud and excited to participate in the Religious Action Center’s newly launched Civic Engagement campaign.
This nonpartisan campaign will bring the full force of the Reform Movement to bear by empowering all people to exercise their right to vote and ensuring that Jewish voices are present in the public square, regardless of party or politics. As professionals working with young people, we have an exciting role to play bringing this campaign to our teens and younger students alike. Here are five ways to get your students involved in the Civic Engagement campaign:
- Attend our Trainings: Participate in the RAC’s upcoming trainings to equip Reform Jewish community leaders — like you — with the tools and skills to bring the Civic Engagement campaign to life in your community. Students of any age can do voter engagement work, which is why we encourage youth professionals to participate in the Voter Engagement Training Webinar on Thursday June 21 at 2:00pm ET. During this training, you will learn about how to conduct meaningful voter engagement work, including supporting first time voters, through registration and turnout efforts.
- Use our Toolkits: As Reform Jews, each person is an agent of change and there is a role for everyone in your community, eligible voter or not. Our Voter Engagement Toolkit, along with other online resources, will give your community ideas on how to achieve 100% voting through registration, education, and turnout efforts. We will be continuously updating our website with additional resources to help you bring civic engagement work to your community.
- Save the Date for the Student Town Hall: Students and youth professionals are invited to our Back-to-School Town Hall on Sunday, August 26 at 3pm ET. As summer ends and the school year and new Jewish year begin again, it’s a perfect time to come together as a movement to energize ourselves for the work ahead building towards Sukkot and then Election Day. We know that students and young activists have the power to make real change in our country and bring about the Reform Movement’s vision of a world where all people experience justice, compassion, and wholeness.Join us for an interactive Virtual Town Hall event to learn more about how students can get involved. We encourage students and youth professionals to gather together for this event and have a viewing party!
- Celebrate Sukkot: Celebrate Sukkot, which coincides with National Voter Registration Day on September 25, 2018! Work with your students to bring new meaning and energy to this year’s Sukkot celebration. More information and resources will be available soon to help your community plan for the Festival of (Voting) Booths. In the meantime, read our Voter Engagement Toolkit to learn about voter registration and turnout strategies.
- Help get everyone involved: The Civic Engagement campaign is about engaging voters, candidates, and doing ballot initiative work (where applicable). But that doesn’t mean only eligible voters can get involved. To the contrary! In fact, studies show that the younger people get involved in voting, the more likely they are to develop lifelong voting habits. Think about how the work you’re doing this fall (and really, anytime!) with your students can be about democracy, citizenship, participation and being a good neighbor. Voting is about making your voice heard and it’s never too soon to help our young students realize that their voice is important. Their voices will bring about the change we wish to see in the world.
Don’t know how to get started? Check out our resources to start planning your community’s civic engagement work today.