I did my best to drown my sorrows, but I still remember the night of the 2016 election far more clearly than I’d like. My next-day hangover ran deeper than whiskey dehydration: The world looked different to me, bleaker, and I felt helpless to change it. I only began to recover when I sought out concrete, tangible actions that I could take to improve the situation: places I could donate, ways I could volunteer, knowledge I could share.
Elected leadership, though critical to a country’s identity and quality of life, is only one piece of a larger puzzle. If 2020 has a silver lining, it’s the growing sense of individual responsibility, the daily social conscience. People have started to understand how crucial it is to weave collective goals into our everyday lives, even when it’s not an election year.
No candidate is perfect, and no matter this election’s outcome, there will be issues that matter to me that our President will not put at the top of his (ugh) agenda. So, in honor of 2016 me and in anticipating the needs of 2020 me, here is a list of causes to support. These organizations have been working, and will continue to work, towards a better future, regardless of who’s in power at the top. Though many of their goals grow out of Jewish ideas, the work they do is inclusive of all people.
Seven is a holy number in Judaism, associated with God and sanctification. May this list inspire you to turn your worry and anger into blessed activism.
1. Food & Housing Insecurity
What are the three actions most associated with gemilut chasadim, or acts of kindness? Feeding the hungry, clothing the needy, and sheltering the homeless. Though the U.S. is one of the wealthiest nations in the world, there are people near you who lack basic necessities. Mutual aid networks, food banks, and pro bono legal assistance are good places to start. You can donate your time, your skills, or your money to improve the lives of fellow Americans.
2. Environment & Climate Change
From Ecclesiastes Rabbah 7:13: “God said to Adam: ‘Be careful not to spoil and destroy my world. If you do so no one will repair it.'” Amen. If your terror about rising sea levels, superstorms, and forced migrations looms largest, there are many organizations who feel the same way and who would love your support. Do it for Greta!
3. Racial Justice
2020 has been a year of increased racial consciousness, but there’s a lot more work to be done. We can’t lose momentum. Talking to friends and family about inequity and injustice in this country remains important, as does protesting. But it’s also critical to contribute to more systemic change, in the Jewish community and beyond. Find a Black-led organization to which you can give resources.
4. Reproductive Justice
Reproductive justice is a Jewish cause. If the newest justice on the Supreme Court has you worried, and you want to protect women and the right to choose, your best bet is an abortion fund donation. Here’s a great list organized by state, broken up into “hostile” (places where abortion is actively under threat) and “not protected” (places where there aren’t local abortion protections in place in the absence of Roe v. Wade).
5. Immigration Reform and Refugee Aid
Horror stories about immigration, refugees, and family separation have a particular, terrible resonance for Jewish people. If you feel most urgently about helping reunite children with their parents at the border – or enacting more comprehensive and compassionate immigration policies — here are some organizations to support.
6. Genocide & Global Poverty
Like immigration reform, genocide reminds Jews of a painful chapter in our history. This engenders profound empathy for other groups who need the same help we’ve needed in the past. If you’re looking beyond America’s borders to the many other groups being unfairly persecuted and expelled from their homes, the Institute on the Holocaust & Genocide in Jerusalem has compiled organizations working on genocide prevention and awareness.
Though antisemitism has not been at the center of the conversation about discrimination in America this year, it is still very much a problem. And it’s on the rise after four years under a president who has invited hate speech and bigotry back into the mainstream. No matter who takes office in January 2021, those ills aren’t getting stuffed back into Pandora’s box. The Anti-Defamation League, or ADL, has been fighting antisemitism for over 100 years, and their Take Action page is full of ways to help, both locally and nationally.
Reading this list could feel like a detailing of what’s wrong with the world – and it’s easy to get overwhelmed. But I choose to read it another way: Every day, good, smart people all over the globe are already pushing back against the dangers and evils we face. The best way to overcome the despair is to join them.
Header image design by Grace Yagel. Original photos via Getty images.