Civic Engagement Through the Lens of Judaism – Hobart and William Smith Colleges \
The HWS Update

Civic Engagement Through the Lens of Judaism

As the 2018 midterm elections approached, the Abbe Center for Jewish Life and HWS Hillel collaborated with HWS Votes to encourage students to vote.

HWS Votes joined members of the Jewish community during Shabbat dinner for a discussion about civic engagement and voting in Judaism. HWS Votes supplied absentee ballots and pre-stamped envelopes for students to mail their ballots.

“While it is the norm for us to collaborate with political groups on campus, I think it is hugely important for us to recognize that there are so many other influential groups that can contribute to HWS Votes in major ways,” says Cassidy DiPaola ’18, HWS Votes co-president and one of the Center for Community Engagement and Service Learning’s Civic Leaders of Political Activism. “Partnering with Hillel allows us to explore the avenues that religion and community play in the civic engagement process.”

Read more about the students who are getting out the vote on campus in anticipation of the midterm elections. 

Director of the Abbe Center for Jewish Life and Hillel Adviser Julianne Miller says that civic engagement and voting are unquestionably Jewish values, and ones she is emphasizing before the midterm election.

“We are inspired by the Hillel International “MitzVote” campaign,” says Miller, who explains that the Hebrew word “mitzvot” means commandments. “We are commanded to engage in the work of “Tikkun Olam” – of repairing the world, or continuing to improve it. There is no question that voting is an important part of the work of tikkun olam.”

Miller also notes that the Talmud, one of Judaism’s ancient texts, teaches that the community must have a voice in choosing its leaders, “and as a community, we have an obligation to use our voice and vote.”

During the dinner, students heard multiple perspectives on why voting is important and engaged with various members of campus. “Through this partnership, we were able to once again make the point that Shabbat dinner is open to everyone on campus. Each time someone new comes to Shabbat, experiences the warm welcome and hospitality, and realizes they’d like to come back – that’s a connection we’ve built,” Miller says.

HWS Votes is a non-partisan group of student leaders devoted to voter registration and the continuous education of the HWS and Geneva communities. Through CCESL, HWS Votes works with politically-oriented groups on campus to maximize student participation and understanding of the electoral process. In 2016, HWS Votes was ranked as the No. 1 campus nationally for registered student voters among all colleges and universities using TurboVote’s registration system.