JCUA and it’s members are already mobilizing to amplify immigrant voices in the upcoming election, and to get out the immigrant vote. Read about how JCUA’s teens are already making a difference, and see below how Jews of all ages can join the team…
By Emily Zucker Burns, Director of Organizing
Jewish Council on Urban Affairs
Armed with clipboards and dressed in garbage bags to guard against the drizzle, youth activists from JCUA’s Or Tzedek program went door-to-door in Highland Park on a rainy August afternoon to register eligible people to vote and to engage voters about immigration issues, such as a pending legislation to grant undocumented immigrants the right to drive in Illinois.
The canvass came after a day full of learning about the power of voting to move forward social justice campaigns and amplify the voices of underrepresented communities and immigration issues. In the morning, Ilya Sheyman, a community organizer at MoveOn.org, trained Or Tzedek in the critical organizing skill of power mapping and JCUA’s Director of Organizing, Emily Zucker Burns, lead a workshop on the evolution of immigration policy. Following the trainings, the teens met with current 10th District Democratic candidate for Congress and his campaign manager (the Republican candidate declined to respond to the repeated invitations to speak with the teens) to discuss the importance of youth engagement in the elections and provide an inside look at a campaign. From there, the group was trained in non-partisan election work, and teams of teens and staff went out into the community to canvass.
The canvassing and voter registration experience allowed the teens to take their understanding of community activism and apply it to face-to-face, ground-level interactions. Many of the teens expressed their apprehension, having never knocked on a stranger’s door before or engaged someone they didn’t already know in a conversation about social justice issues. But by the end of the canvass, the group felt elated by the experience of putting their skills into practice. The teen leaders had a deeper understanding of what it means to connect with community members and how to articulate their message effectively in order to engage people in their campaign.
One of the highlights of the day was when Stephen, an Or Tzedek participant who was turning 18 before Election Day, registered to vote. In watching Stephen take advantage of his power to vote, the teens truly gained an appreciation for the privilege of voting and the long-term power of participating in elections. Many expressed frustration at their older siblings who were eligible to vote, but choose not to. They also gained a greater understanding of the social justice implications of withholding the right to vote. Recognizing that elected representatives would not necessarily feel accountable to their needs because, as minors, they are not eligible to vote, the teens began to examine what it means for other categories of people, such as undocumented immigrants, not to have the right to vote without citizenship.
Get Involved in the Election:
The campaign is building force and continuing through the election on November 6th. There are many ways to get involved:
- Thursday, Sep. 6, 2012, 7:00-8:30pm: Join JCUA members for an informational meeting and volunteer training on Thursday, September 6th at Lakeside Congregation for Reform Judaism in Highland Park from 7-8:30 pm. Contact Emily for details: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Sunday, Sep. 9, 2012, 11:00-3:00pm: At the Or Tzedek Summer 2012 Reunion on Sunday, September 9th, Or Tzedek will continue its non-partisan election work with another day of voter registration and canvassing. Contact Rebecca for details: email@example.com
- Tell us when you are available! Take our election volunteer survey.