Feeling Hopeless? Jewish College Students Give Us Tangible Ways to Channel Your Despair

Take a look at these suggestions and join the fight in whatever way feels right to you.

We’re not going to sugarcoat it: We’re living in scary times. Entering what feels like the most consequential presidential election of our time during a global pandemic that’s still claiming hundreds of thousands of lives while leaving so many others without a living wage or healthcare is enough to make anyone feel anxious as hell. And when the very democracy we rely on to ensure a safe and fair election seems to be crumbling right before our eyes, it’s easy to lose hope. Of course, we can vote. We must vote. But what else can we do?

Alma’s 2020-2021 College Writing Fellows — some of whom are old enough to vote for the first time this year — have been channeling their fear, rage, and hope for a better future through specific actions, from helping out with hometown races to letter writing campaigns.

So if you’re feeling scared or wish there was something tangible you can do between now and November 3 (and beyond), take a look at these suggestions and join the fight in whatever way feels right to you.

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Leenoy Margalit: I applied to be a poll worker in my city. You can be as young as 16 to do it, and you get to choose where you want to volunteer. This is my first year being able to vote and at a time when the very democracy of our country is at stake and poll workers are at a shortage because of the pandemic, I would feel honored to help “power the polls” in my own community. I think this is the perfect opportunity for young people who are less vulnerable to the coronavirus to step up as our essential poll workers and help ensure a democratic election.

ACTION ITEM: Apply to be a poll worker.

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Luna Garcia: We are in the midst of a civil rights movement. We are hyper aware of how our country operates off of the exclusion of minority populations. Furthermore, we are being shown the exact ways in which morality is stifled by government bureaucracy. That being said, organizers are the ones giving me hope right now. Being able to support grassroots organizations whose activism is based in radical equity is the least that we can do. Personally, I’ve been donating to as many mutual aid funds as I can. A few you can consider supporting: New Haven Housing Fund (venmo: @newhavenhousingfund), Greater Bridgeport Mutual Aid, and various bail funds across the country.

ACTION ITEM: Donate to mutual aid funds & bail funds.

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Aviva Davis: I am constantly offering myself as a resource to my peers for assistance regarding any and all voting questions and volunteering in voting registration drives. While it is difficult to overlook the flaws of our current system of government, it is impossible to ignore the importance of voting in the upcoming election. I am Black, I am Jewish, and I am a woman. I have no excuse not to do my part in removing the current occupant of the White House, as I would like to increase the chance that myself and my peers are able to fulfill long, healthy lives without the fear of being gunned down in our own neighborhoods or our own homes. To check your current registration status, to change how to register, or to register to vote, click here.

ACTION ITEM: Check your voter registration status, and make sure everyone you know is registered to vote.

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Olivia Fletcher: I’m in the UK and we don’t have an upcoming election. But, that doesn’t mean that we can rest when it comes to fighting for a better world. I’m organising with a movement of anti-occupation British Jews called Na’amod (you may have heard of our sister U.S. organisation, If Not Now.) It’s never been more important to be vocally anti-occupation and I’m proud to be part of a movement that’s pushing the boundaries when it comes to changing our community’s mind on the occupation. We’re making people have conversations they don’t want to have. We’re demanding that our communal Jewish institutions commit to being anti-racist and anti-occupation and targeting those that aren’t. We want actions, not words. If you’re in the UK, you can help our work by joining us. If you’re not in the UK, you can help our vital grassroots work by donating whatever you can here.

ACTION ITEM: Organize for anti-racism & anti-occupation in the Jewish community.

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Hanah Bloom: Too often, privileged individuals are complacent with re-posting graphics of “VOTE” but never acknowledging the barriers that prevent marginalized Americans from doing so. We can’t solely rely on partisan political participation to preserve our democracy. We must do more than vote; we must organize. As I’ve recently moved from Alabama to Ohio for college, I’m still trying to find ways to keep fighting the good fight. With the passing of our beloved Jewish champion for reproductive rights, RBG, I feel it’s necessary now more than ever to get involved in incredible organizations that assist in fighting for and providing women’s health care access. I continue to support and donate to the Yellowhammer Fund based in my home state of Alabama. I’ve also recently joined Ohio’s #Fight4HER campaign and attended their “HER Summit” last month. They’re an organization devoted to raising awareness about the Trump administration’s “Global Gag Rule.”

ACTION ITEM: Donate to funds supporting women’s healthcare access, like the Yellowhammer Fund. Join the #Fight4HER campaign.

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Lara Jakobsen: As a UK-based fellow and queer individual (in both the gender and sexuality sense), I have become hyperaware of the drastic rise in transphobia across the UK. While LGBTQ+ inclusive lessons have now been made mandatory in all schools across England, anti-LGBTQ+ hate crimes are still on the rise and UK-based trans people face regular hate speech from mainstream media outlets. As a queer Jew — as someone who carries the weight of oppression-based trauma in my genes — I find it mandatory to support the fight for queer liberation both within the UK and outside of it. I have found my hope in organisations such as Mermaids and The Outside Project who are actively working to dismantle queerphobia by pushing back against queerphobic vitriol and offering safe spaces to houseless queer people. As a means of supporting the fight for queer liberation, I have been donating to these organisations as frequently as possible. Mermaids and The Outside Project are currently in need of urgent financial assistance.

ACTION ITEM: Donate to funds supporting houseless queer people, like Mermaids and the Outside Project.

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Sumner Lewis: I worked for the chair of the House Committee on Ways and Means this summer to ensure he held onto his seat. Ways and Means controls how the federal government raises money (taxes, tariffs, and other means) and programs such as social security and Medicare, so it’s crucial to keep experienced members of congress in their seats. The most important part of my job was making sure everyone in my district knew their options for voting: vote by mail, early voting, or voting on Election Day. Did you know in many states you can vote in person before Election Day? Dates and times can vary from precinct to precinct, so check your state’s website to know when and where you can early vote. Here’s a great website to check your state’s voting capability with links to where you can find times. Every state also allows mail-in ballots for the general election. The catch is, in most states you have to apply for your ballot. Apply now, so you have enough time for your clerk to process it and send a ballot back to you. The earlier you vote, the better for our democracy. Check the mail in ballot application requirements for your state using this fun, interactive map. A single vote can feel minuscule, but our ancestors fought for our right to have a voice in the political sphere. There are still those in our country who cannot yet cast their vote. Doing your civic duty is admirable, important, and the only way to guarantee that good people get in, or stay in, office.

ACTION ITEM: If you’re voting by mail, check your application requirements.

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Kate Hader: I am supporting one of my closest friends as she works to pass the Fair Tax ballot measure in Illinois this election cycle. Fair Tax would make Illinois fall in line with the majority of the country in using a progressive/graduated income tax rather than a flat tax, making taxes lower for the overwhelming majority of people while asking the richest Illinoisans to pay their fair share. I have become exhausted with electoral politics and people screaming (at us) into the void to “VOTE,” but caring about this ballot measure feels so much more tangible and immediate than so many other things right now. Seeing my friend become so involved in and passionate about passing fair tax through her work with a Jewish social justice organization is inspiring, and in the coming few weeks I will be doing whatever I can to help.

ACTION ITEM: Help pass the Fair Tax ballot measure.

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Madison Hahamy: I am giving my time. Voting and electing officials with shared values are important, and so I’m working to elect a Jewish scientist in Wyoming and recruit young people to work the polls. But voting isn’t enough, and officials with similar values than mine have failed to stop, and have often perpetuated, many of the inequities that contribute to the marginalization of so many Americans. That’s why I’m also working with Serve the Moment and Raise Your Hand, an Illinois public education advocacy group, that directly affects change in communities across Illinois. For those of you who don’t have time to support candidates and community organizations but are able to donate, I suggest donating to mutual aid funds and grassroots organizations who are all doing incredible and necessary work.

ACTION ITEM: Give your time. Volunteer with organizations like Serve the Moment and Raise Your Hand.

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Rebecca Salzhauer: I’ve chosen to channel some of my political anxiety into working for Sara Gideon’s senate campaign in Maine. Spending my remote shifts developing relationships with volunteers has been a surprisingly meaningful source of short yet important conversations about the things we want from our leaders and the ways we believe our world can change. In addition to Sara Gideon being a candidate I admire for her progressive climate legislation and advocacy for healthcare, I’m particularly passionate about her race because it provides a real chance to flip a senate seat from red to blue, possibly working toward a Democratic senate. If that’s something you feel equally excited by, I would highly recommend volunteering for or otherwise supporting Sara or any of the other pro-choice, Democratic women running for office this fall. Even if you can only devote a few hours a week for the next month, you’re helping out — these campaigns need all hands on deck to help get out the vote. I also want to echo what so many of the other fellows have said about the importance of mutual aid. My family and a couple of our neighbors have started making food to drop off at our local community fridge. While giving away that extra loaf of bread instead of halving the recipe feels small, I hope that with consistency, my quarantine baker self can help some folks experiencing food insecurity.

ACTION ITEM: Volunteer for pro-choice women running for office, like Sara Gideon in Maine. Make food to drop off at local community fridges or food banks.

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Talia Rodriguez: Lately I’ve been feeling really hopeless about the state of the United States’ political system, especially concerning my ability to do anything to ensure that Biden wins and Trump steps down. I tried phone-banking and I really didn’t enjoy it (even so, I’ll probably try again). With everything that is online, it feels exhausting to come back to the computer. I recently pledged to write letters to voters with Vote Forward. I think it’s a good way to get the message out in a way that helps us disconnect from our tech. I would also say that if you’re feeling scared (terrified, even), you’re not alone! Hopefully, we can turn that fear into action.

ACTION ITEM: Write letters to voters with Vote Forward.

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Delaney Davis: While this upcoming presidential election is beyond important, we cannot forget the importance of down-ballot races. I’m currently serving as a campaign fellow for the Candace Valenzuela for Congress Campaign in TX24, my home district and one of the most flippable congressional districts in the country. I’ve spent the past months reaching out to voters to help elect Candace, who would be the first Afro-Latina elected to Congress. I encourage you to find a local candidate (don’t forget city council and state legislature seats!) that aligns with your goals and help them out in whatever way you can. But, electoral politics is only one piece of the puzzle. If able, we should redistribute our wealth to mutual aid funds that are providing financial support to folks around the nation. Some that I have been proud to support in my home state of Texas include Mutual Aid Collective ATX, the ATX Free Fridge Project, and DFW Mutual Aid.

ACTION ITEM: Volunteer for a local candidate, and donate to local mutual aid funds.

Header image by Patrick Foto/Getty Images.

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