Reflection 2020: A Moving Traditions Election Toolkit for Teens

Moving Traditions has created this toolkit with activities and discussion guides for teens, and for parents and educators to meaningfully engage around the election. The Moving Traditions toolkit provides avenues for teens to engage with the election while authentically connecting with their feelings and decreasing stress. Our resources will help you and the teens in your lives to:

  • Help anticipate and process the variety of feelings they may have before, during, and after the election as the next president is selected.
  • Identify middot (Jewish approaches to character traits) to guide them.
  • Reflect on how gender is at play during the election.
  • Deepen connection to themselves and others through meaningful engagement.

We have divided the toolkit into activities to do before the election and on election day itself—although of course you should do whatever works for you and the teens in your life.  We have also included discussion questions and activities that can be done at any time, before, during, or after! 

Before Election Day:

  1. Take your temperature first! Many of us have been taking our kids temperatures daily to ensure their physical health. As we head into the election, we need to be sure we are also taking our own emotional temperature and doing what we can to keep it down. Checking in with ourselves will help us to understand how we are feeling so that we can effectively manage our emotions and behave in ways that ensure our ability to continue to care well for the teens of our lives. Our teens need us to be present and empathetic as they – and we – struggle with the uncertainty and fear of this unprecedented election period.  
  2. Create a plan. Schedule time to turn off the TV or walk away periodically during election night. Ideas include: 
    • Go outside if you can and look up at the sky and count the stars.  
    • Have a quick liberty scavenger hunt – invite everyone in your family to find one object that represents freedom or liberty to them and bring them to a central place and listen to each person’s explanation. (You can also do this with your Rosh Hodesh, Shevet or Tzelem group virtually).  
    • Take one or more poetry or dance breaks during the long night. Poems to share include: One Vote by Aimee Nezkhumatahil, V’ahavta” by Aurora Levins Morales, The New Colossus by Emma Lazarus, The Low Road by Marge Piercy, or Langston Hughes’s Let America Be America Again, or another favorite. Or take a few minutes to dance to our Election 2020 Playlist 
    • Invite teens to share a song that represents for them what the election is about. 
  3. Create expectations that normalize uncertainty. Make sure to name that we will not have a typical Election Night this year. Due to the regulations in many states about counting ballots, it is highly unlikely that a winner will be declared on November 3.  

Talk with teens about what past election nights have been like for you and help them recognize that they will have many more presidential elections in their lifetimes and will always remember this one.  

Think about how to make the memory one that is not just about fear and uncertainty but also about family or community togetherness and hope. Think of yourself as co-creating a family story of triumph over hardship, which will be retold for years to come. We know that youth who hold these kinds of stories are more likely to demonstrate various indicators of well-being 

Together, review key dates ahead in the democratic process for determining the next president. Discuss how your family will need to return to the routines of life beginning the day after Election Day, even as you may also face choices and risks ahead given the expected contestation of results in many counties and the possibility of violence. You may choose to begin or continue talking with teens about protest, extremist violence, and risktaking. Take some time to review or reflect on your family values, agreements and boundaries around safety and various forms of civic engagement.  

In your conversation, you might want to reflect on your racial identity and the racial identities of friends and community members, and other factors that impact decision-making about public protest. Be open about how you navigate your relative privilege or lack of privilege as a Jew with white privilege or a Jew of Color in spaces of public protest where People of Color are generally at greater risk. Create an open space for discussion and emphasize your values and the range of different ways of engaging in our democracy and in ensuring fair and free elections.    

Dates to keep in mind and to share: 

Nov. 3 – Dec. 14, 2020 – State Certification of Results: Popular vote counts in each state will be finalized during this time period so that members of the electoral college can cast their votes accordingly. The governor of each state then sends a certificate to Congress stating the result of electors’ votes.  

Dec. 14, 2020 – Jan. 20, 2021 – Federal Certification of Results: The U.S. Congress will count and certify vote tallies by January 6, 2020. If there are competing results from states or unresolved irregularities in states’ vote counts, Congress would potentially have to adjudicate the results. 

On Election Day: 

  1. Tune in to Truah’s Tikkun Leyl Election, an evening of learning and spirit, on Nov. 3 from 8 pm ET to 11 pm ET, feature teaching, yoga, and at 10:25 pm ET, Moving Traditions’ Kol Koleinu Feminist Fellow Daisy Friedman, a high schooler, transplant patient, and activist who will share an original, hot off the presses, onewoman piece about being a young person in Nebraska whose rights and health are on the line. Daisy’s session will include a writing exercise for participants. (Following Daisy is live music with Joey Weisenberg. The whole evening offers a great line up). You can also take a minute to sign up for Keshet’s post-election events for LGBTQ and Ally Teens and for Jewish Youth of Color, co-sponsored by Moving Traditions. 
  2. Create a family voting timeline (on paper or add to this online timeline , created as part of Kol Koleinu Fellow Danielle Gruber’s project, “Voting with a Feminist Lensworkshop series). Record the first-time various members of your family voted or will be able to vote. Include other key historical events that have had an impact on your family’s ability to vote – the Civil Rights Act of 1965, the 15th Amendment, the 19th Amendment, immigration to democratic countries from non-democratic countries. You may want to call relatives and ask them to answer these questions. 
  3. Imagine what might happen when we know who has won. Fill in the blanks on this form and discuss. Teens may want to print out a copy and keep it somewhere in their rooms where they can look at it before getting on to social media or talking with family or friends.  

Anytime Activities:

Read the following quote and discuss: 

“We Jews need to be unapologetic and passionate in our defense of democracy: the best hope for societal progress, the best habitat for every community’s flourishing, and the best protector of minority rights. Yes, maybe modern liberalism is aligned with Jewish values, but mostly, it’s aligned with unprecedented safety, wellbeing, and freedom for Jews. For us, and others, democracy is a matter of survival.” – Andrés Spokoiny  

Take turns sharing one way that you feel grateful as a Jew for living in a democracy and one way that you hope our democracy will change for the better. 

Gender, Race, and the Election 

  • What do you think the two main presidential candidates believe about what it means to be a man, a white person, a parent/father, and a human being? How do these things affect what it means to them to be leaders? How do you know? What do these things mean to you? 
  • The word mensch is a Yiddish word that literally means “man” but has come to mean someone of any gender with a sense of integrity, responsibility, dignity, and noble character. How would you define what it means to be a mensch? How important is it to you to have political leaders who are mensches? Which candidates (presidential, vice presidential, state or local) have demonstrated menchlichkayt , the quality of being a mensch, this season?  Think of specific examples. What other qualities have you noticed in the candidates? Have you noticed gender and race double or triple standards in how the media covers candidates and in how candidates are expected to act? Reflect particularly on your experience of the historic campaign of Kamala Harris, the first black woman to be a candidate for vice president of a major party. 

Polls in advance of Nov. 3 reveal a significant gender divide. A recent poll by The New York Times and Siena College shows 48 percent of men backing the re-election of Trump, compared to 42 percent backing Biden. For women, it’s 35 percent for Trump, and 58 percent for Biden. The latest poll from Pew Research has Trump leading Biden among white men by a 12-percentage-point margin — 53 percent to 41 percent and among white women by 3 percentage points. The highest support for Biden comes from Black women, 91% of whom support Biden.  

One way this divide has been explained is through research studies that have found that women tend to cast votes based on what they perceive as the overall benefit to the nation and their communities while men report being more self-interested, especially thinking about their finances, in their candidate selection. 

Discuss: 

  • Do you think these gender divides are also found among teens?  
  • What do you think contributes to gender differences in evaluating candidates? 
  • How does your gender, racial identity, religion, and age impact your political views? Has the pandemic and the Black Lives Matter movement changed anything for you and your friends? If yes, in what ways? 

Middot (character traits) for this Moment 

Take a few minutes for various members of your family (or Moving Traditions Teen Group) to individually answer the following 4 questions. For each question you will be asked to rank middot (an ancient Jewish way of thinking about character traits) in order of importance to you in various contexts. After you complete the four questions, share your answers with your family members, friends or Teen Group members and discuss the questions below.  

There are 2 options for how to complete the first part of this activity.  

Option 1: 

Respond to the following four Poll Everywhere polls (each poll linked below corresponds with a question). 

Then click here to watch the live response results roll in for question #3! 

Option 2: 

Click below for a pdf version of the questions which you can print out and complete.  

Election Resource 2020 Survey Sheet

Questions to Consider/Discuss After Responding to the Four Questions 

  • What qualities are missing from the lists of middot above that are important to you? 
  • Who or what has influenced the middot that you desire in a leader? How, if at all, has what you desire in a leader changed over the past four years? 
  • When do you believe it is important to offer rebuke, and when is it important to listen to and value others opinions? How is it different with friends and family, person to person or on social media? 
  • Do any of your values feel in conflict with one another at this moment?
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