NU Hillel and Religious Action Center host teach-in on civic engagement, voter suppression


Daily file photo by Colin Boyle

Hillel’s food service was the only Passover-appropriate, kosher on-campus dining option during the weeklong celebration. Students were able to pick up lunch and dinner to-go and free of charge.

Waverly Long, Reporter

Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism legislative assistants Jacob Greenblatt and Joshua Burg emphasized getting out the vote amid the current landscape of voter suppression at a Thursday event co-hosted by Northwestern Hillel and the non-partisan group RAC.

Greenblatt and Burg discussed the history of voter suppression in America as well as how to fight it. They also looked at how Jewish texts about justice and community provide guidance in modern society.

Marissa Levy, SESP junior and event organizer, said uplifting community members through civic engagement directly connects to her Jewish beliefs.

“At least the way I understand Judaism, (it) is about community and taking care of each other, and civic engagement is absolutely central to that,” Levy said.

Levy is part of Kadima, a social justice club affiliated with Hillel. The club organizes Hillel events like Thursday’s around civic engagement.

Acknowledging that many NU students are already educated on voter registration, Levy said she wanted to take a deeper dive into civic engagement, instead of simply encouraging students to vote.

SESP junior Matthew Albert said he was surprised to learn about the covert methods of voter suppression that disenfranchise low-income and young people, such as inadequate communication with voters when they are removed from the voter roll.

“If we don’t keep an eye out for some of these techniques, on the surface, some of these things seem like good ideas, when in reality they’re just trying to take away the power of people to vote,” Albert said.

McCormick sophomore and Kadima founder Eliana Davis said she learned about how voter ID laws suppress voters.

“I was surprised at how difficult it is for college students in some states to vote,” Davis said. “We read a statistic that in Wisconsin, four out of the 13 different state colleges gave students IDs that would let them vote in Wisconsin because the laws are so strict.”

Greenblatt said the event was part of the center’s larger 2020 civic engagement campaign, which focuses on mobilizing voters, combating voter suppression and engaging student voters.

“As Reform Jews, we feel that democracy is strongest when everyone participates and that democracy suffers when citizens are shut out from the democratic process or choose not to engage,” Greenblatt said. “Through this campaign, we’re encouraging all US citizens to exercise their right to vote and to break down obstacles that shut people out of the voting booth.”

NU Hillel Social Justice Coordinator Lydia Greenberg said parent organization Hillel International is also running the campaign MitzVote, which is aimed at mobilizing young voters. The name of the program is a play on the word “mitzvot,” which in Jewish tradition refers to “good deeds.”

Greenberg highlighted how social justice is an integral part of Judaism.

“It’s really important that we (ask ourselves), ‘Who are those within our community and not within our community who are being marginalized or are being left out or don’t have access to certain resources?'” Greenberg said. “And I think it’s the responsibility of any community to try to step up and do more to shift power and work for justice in the world.”

Correction: A previous version of this story misquoted a source’s reference to Reform Judaism. It has been updated to reflect the correct terminology. The Daily regrets the error.

Email: [email protected]

Twitter: @waverly_long

Related Stories:

Thousands show up for early in-person voting

Wildcats promote civic engagement and voting ahead of election