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Across the United States, young people are mobilizing to increase voter turnout at the 2018 midterm elections – and the Reform Movement is proud to lead in this effort. On Sunday, August 26th from 3-4pm EST, hundreds of high school and college students (and their adult partners) will join a Jewish Student Civic Engagement Virtual Town Hall. Teens will hear from other students who have organized “get out the vote” initiatives and learn how our Reform Jewish community is mobilizing. While students can log on from anywhere – at home, their college campuses, and on the go – this is a great opportunity to bring them together to learn, be inspired, and take collective action. Here are five ideas for organizing a viewing party for the Civic Engagement Student Town Hall:
At the beginning of the Town Hall, participants will have the opportunity to introduce themselves in the chatbox. Before you get on the call, decide: How will your teens show up for the roll call? How are you going to introduce yourself? How many teens are with you? Where are you watching from? Anything the group should know about you and your community?
We as Jews have a long history of tikkun olam – working to repair our world. From the rabbis of the Talmud, to the streets of Selma, to the March for our Lives, we have raised our voices. Use Jewish texts to frame the sacred work of civic engagement. Find texts that inspire and contextualize this moment by downloading the text study sheets from the RAC Civic Engagement Toolkit.
At the end of the Town Hall, the leaders are going to ask each person/community to create an action plan. Leave enough time to create your action plan together. Schedule your Viewing Party for 1 ½ -2 hours (the Townhall is one hour long) so you have time to create your “to do” list before everyone heads out.
Bring out the voting-themed snacks, decorations, and selfie signs to inspire your group and make it a party. The viewing party can be a great way to kick off your youth group, teen program, or Confirmation class and set the tone for the year. If you can’t watch it in person, register anyway and we will send you the link for the recording to use in your programming. Visit the RAC’s Voter Engagement campaign site for more resources including flyer templates and social media graphics.
As Reform Jews, we believe our democracy is strongest when everyone can participate. Consider inviting teens beyond your youth group – who are those teens who have participated in Mitzvah Corps or the URJ Kutz Camp social justice immersive? Are there students in your community who are active in their student council, school government, or scouting? Send them a text (or go “old school” and send an email!) and invite them to help lead this cause. Every teen has the power to make a difference by voting.
Consider holding a virtual “after party” after your teens participate on the call. Bring them to together in Google Hangout or another group video call platform to talk about what they learned and prepare your action plan.
If you are near Chicago, New York City, or Dayton, OH, consider bringing your teens for an in-person training. Register and learn more here.
Our goal is to have over 500 Reform teen and college leaders participate in the Civic Engagement Campaign to bring thousands of voters to the polls. We call on all congregational leaders to join us in sharing this important message with Reform Jewish teens and college students: Stand up, be counted, and make a difference in your community!
Michelle Shapiro Abraham, MAJE, RJE, is the Union for Reform Judaism’s director of learning and innovation for youthand a consultant for the Foundation for Jewish Camp. A longtime Jewish educator, author, and speaker, she holds a master’s degree in Jewish education from the Rhea Hirsch School of Education at Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion. Michelle is a recipient of the 2015 Covenant Award for Excellence in Jewish Education and an active member of Temple Sholom in Scotch Plains, NJ, where her husband, Joel Abraham, serves as the rabbi.