Recently, I had the pleasure of presenting to Jewish professionals running family camps all over the United States at a gathering of the Foundation for Jewish Camp. I pushed them on what it means to teach. We were working to expand our understanding of teaching to refer not just to the explicit teaching of knowledge, but the way that we interact with each other and our families as teaching itself.
When we explicitly tell our children how to interact, how to speak, how to approach a tough situation, they are often not in the right headspace to take in our direct instruction. BUT when we’re just interacting, speaking, and handling tough situations all day long, our children are watching. And they are SOAKING UP what we’re teaching whether we want them to, or not!
So… this Election Day presents us a series of interesting moments where learning will unfold, whether we are expecting it to, or not.
How are you following the news? How are you discussing it in your children’s earshot?
This one is tricky! Especially with the inflammatory ads popping up on YouTube and everywhere else, even our youngest children are very aware that Election Day is coming. What conversations can you have to provide nuance and challenge media messaging with political (or other) ads? In particular, when political ads are intended to frighten, what can we say to help our children feel safe?
What do you tell your children the GOAL of voting is? What are we electing people to do? What world are we working toward?
We can reassure our children (and ourselves) that when we go to the polls, we are voting for people to build a kinder world. We are working for a world of choices, intention, and compassion. And one step in making sure our world grows in that direction is knowing who to elect to make laws that structure the world this way. We know that the most frequently repeated mitzvah (commandment) in Torah is caring for the strangers in our midst because we used to be strangers in Egypt. We are deeply rooted in compassion. We were strangers mythologically, all those generations ago. And that has forever left an imprint on us to notice who is a stranger and needs our support.
If your logistics allow it, I would encourage you to bring your child(ren) with you to the polls when you vote. Prepare them for the important and holy task of voting and shaping our world into what we want it to be. Show them your dedication to building a safer world for yourself, your family, and everyone around us. If you are looking for ways to make this a Jewish ritual, check out some of these resources for saying a blessing or setting an intention upon voting:
What can you do to make sure your neighbors aren’t strangers to voting?
Check out these resources for text or phone banking to encourage people to get to the polls! Some great ways to do this include: sharing your dedication to voting, inviting a neighbor to go with you, or working with an official advocacy organization to get people to the polls. If you are knocking on doors to talk to neighbors, I’ve found that having kids with me makes people much happier to open the door and chat!
Whatever your path is to the polls this November, please make sure you get there and mindfully include your child(ren) in this holy process! The way we carry ourselves to the polls, navigate our party system, and even take in the news is teaching our children volumes. Let’s move through this moment with intention and an awareness that they are most definitely learning from the moves we choose to make.