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ARTICLE Voting is Living Torah: Hillel International’s MitzVote Campaign

Is the college student in your life registered to vote? Have they seen this video?

 

The largest digital campaign ever run by Hillel International, MitzVote is “reclaiming Jewish ritual and lending that to American democracy,” says Sheila Katz, Vice President  of Student Engagement and Leadership for Hillel International.

“Jews have something to offer the American Democratic Process that’s deeply rooted in our tradition,” Katz said. “You’re doing a mitzvah by going to the polls. This is living Torah.”

With an unprecedented coalition of groups involved– 50 campuses have partnered up, along with 25 organizations including BBYO, One Table, Moishe House, and even many campus Greek life organizations—MitzVote is aiming to create a new Jewish ritual out of the voting process and turn students out to the polls in record numbers, for the midterm elections in November.

“The basic premise is that Jews know a thing or two about coming of age,” Katz said. “The Bar Mitzvah ritual has been around longer than American democracy, and so why not create another ritual around the coming of age that happens when you become eligible to vote at 18.”

Katz explained that borrowing from what happens at bnei mitzvot ceremonies all over the world, MitzVoters may study the ballot instead of a Torah portion, but there will be a blessing when they enter the polls, and a party when they leave.

“Adding a celebratory factor to the process is an essential component,” Katz said. To get college students excited about voting, she explained that poll parties will happen at polling sites on all of the participating campuses. The parties will take on all different themes, including interfaith parties, bar mitzvah- themed parties, “soul” parties, and more.

Katz shared that she and her colleagues at Hillel have been astounded by the student interest in the MitzVote campaign. The video, produced by Mik Moore (who also co-created “The Great Shlep” for Obama’s campaign in 2008), had over 200,000 views in the first 48 hours after it was posted to social media, and has long surpassed that number.

Hillel International’s goal is to mobilize 100,000 students on 100 campuses by the time the midterm elections come around.

“We want to link student passions to Judaism,” Katz said, “and to engage them on issues they care about. We are finding that students are coming out of the woodwork to participate, those who weren’t previously engaged with Hillel on their campuses are getting involved now. It’s a way to root activism in something that feels Jewish.”

Katz was quick to assert that this is a non-partisan campaign and those who sign on to work on the MitzVote campaign must adhere to that principle.

“We’re inclusive of a diverse set organizations,” Katz explained, “everyone needs to be invited to the table.”

So college students? No more excuses. Even if you don’t have a printer in your dorm room, MitzVote will print out your voter registration forms and mail them on your behalf or send you a pre-stamped envelope to send on your own (because really, who doesn’t have time for that?)

And MitzVote doesn’t just provide information for college students, either. Via the MitzVote website, anyone can find out their polling place, register, obtain an absentee ballot, and much more.

Fulfilling your civic duty was never easier!

By Adina Kay-Gross for The Covenant Foundation

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