Next November, I will be voting in a Presidential election for the first time. Although that feels like a long way off—by then I will have graduated high school and started college—candidates are already announcing their campaigns and the general public is starting to pay attention.
Over the past few years, I have truly come to understand the importance of elections. When we vote, we not only consider who the candidates are as people, we consider what these candidates can and must do once they take office: pass laws that promote the advancement of our society. Deciding whether or not our elected officials are actually doing that, however, can be a tough task.
But how can I tell if my elected officials are doing their job and representing my voice, you may be asking. Well, the Jewish Center for Justice can help you answer this question.
The mission of JCJ is to empower current and future leaders to build a more compassionate and just society by teaching them how to advocate for social justice issues they care about. In my time with JCJ, I have traveled to Sacramento to meet with elected officials, worked with coalitions to pass bills, attended protests, and made individual phone calls to my representatives on key legislation.
Since I believe that every person is entitled to the same rights and treatment, I have focused much of my efforts towards voting rights, women’s rights, and immigration. Together with my cohort of like-minded high school and college students, we are holding our elected officials accountable and ensuring that those who we voted for in turn vote in our best interests, and we push our donors and supporters to do the same.
This, however, is not as easy as it sounds. This work is hard, often tiring, and sometimes makes you feel as though you want to shut off the news and ignore all problems. In full transparency, I’ve had these feelings on more than one occasion.
When I became a JCJ Legislative Fellow this summer, I intended to spend most of my time researching, writing, and helping other people advocate rather than doing so myself. Instead, I was called upon to immediately jump in to make phone calls to elected officials. I have phone banked in the past, and at first, I found it terrifying. But over the past few weeks, I’ve grown more comfortable making calls knowing that my voice is actually being heard.
No longer was I simply reading off of a script that someone else wrote for a bill I barely understood. Now, I am speaking confidently about each bill without a script because I understand both the significance and the content of these bills.
At this moment, Congress is in recess. But this does not mean that we should stop advocating. During this time, our representatives and senators spend much of their time visiting their districts and connecting with people like you and me. As constituents, we must tell them what issues are most important to us—it’s not enough for them to just learn this from an election poll or survey. They need to hear it from us. Calls, emails, and social media connections to lawmakers and their offices are key strategies to sharing your opinion.
However you decide to contact your elected officials—be it through calls, emails, face-to-face meetings, or community gatherings—is up to you. Just remember to stay active! Personally, I will continue to call my representatives about bills that I find important and share resources with my community to raise awareness.
Rebecca Lazarus is a JCJ Micah D. Bycel Legislative Fellow and rising senior at the Archer School for Girls in Brentwood.