As Election Day 2004 draws near, Jewish students around the country are right in the middle of the excitement. With the help of the many Hillels that partnered with Rock the Vote to organize voter registration and mobilization efforts, thousands of college students will vote for president for the first time on Nov. 2.
At Purdue University, Hillel's Rock the Vote program was just one of several get-out-the-vote efforts sponsored by a faith-based organization. Jac Piette, the Tzedek chair at Purdue Hillel, said about 40 students registered through Hillel in September.
"These elections are pretty huge, and Hillel as a whole finds it extremely important for students to vote," Piette said.
Hillel of Broward and Palm Beach's "Dude, Where's My Vote?" campaign proved wildly successful, accounting for nearly 15 percent of the 7,000 college-age voters newly registered in Florida.
Students at the University of Miami emphasized the importance of U.S. support for Israel when they met with Democratic politicians for a bagel breakfast last week. Though the event was not sponsored by Hillel, which remains non-partisan in elections, many Jewish students attended, and Greater Miami Hillel Israel Fellow Linda Hakim tied a blue string, which demonstrates solidarity with Israel, on the wrist of Cameron Kerry, brother of Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry.
In order to encourage greater voter turnout among students, Pittsburgh Hillel and the Carnegie Mellon Israel Political Affairs Committee, with support from Pittsburgh Israel Public Affairs Committee, threw a huge party that was jointly sponsored by Campus Democrats and Republicans at CMU as well as Campus Democrats at the University of Pittsburgh. Representatives from both the Kerry and Bush campaigns were on hand to answer questions and offer their candidates' points of view. Students also had the chance to sign up for rides to the polls on Election Day.
"Getting out the vote is not just about voter registration and education," said Rachel Svinkelstein, founder of CMIPAC. "It's also about ensuring that every student who wants to vote has adequate transportation to get to the polls on Election Day."
The enthusiasm will continue throughout the night on Tuesday, with Hillel as the place to be to watch the election results. California State University-Northridge Hillel is sponsoring a "Popcorn and Polls" party where students can drop in and grab a snack while watching history in the making.
For information about Rock the Vote, visit www.rockthevote.com.