April 9, 2024
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April 9, 2024
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What the Miami Boys Choir Can Teach Us About Voting

The Miami Boys Choir got global attention when 9 million people watched their 15-year-old video. For those not on social media, a resurfaced Miami Boys Choir video caught the attention of TikTok users across the world. It wasn’t just their catchy tune that made headlines. It was the astronomically high numbers that led to a wave of positive publicity for the Jewish community.

Just like high engagement numbers grab attention on social media, they also grab attention in elections. Candidates listen to communities who have consistently high voter turnout. At Teach NJ, we work with these candidates to advocate for government funding for Jewish day schools and yeshivot. Our advocacy efforts have translated into hundreds of millions of dollars in annual funding for school security guards, school nurses, classroom technology, special services, transportation and so many other vital community programs.

These government dollars improve our schools without passing the costs on to parents and donors. The funding we’ve earned so far is just the tip of the iceberg, though. To ensure a strong future for our children and grandchildren, we must do more.

Families are struggling under the burden of tuition and desperately need relief. At the same time, the cost of living a Jewish life keeps rising and threatens the sustainability of our communities.

Government funding is a solution we cannot afford to ignore. The funding is out there. But we can only access it when we consistently achieve high voter turnout numbers. Not just pretty good numbers. Miami Boys Choir numbers. That is why every vote in every election counts.

Until 2020, Jewish communities across New Jersey voted at lower rates than the rest of their town’s voters. That led to many lost opportunities. Elected officials had no reason to care about our community’s priority issues, and so they gave government funding to other groups and causes. We must reverse this trend.

In 2020, we started engaging the Jewish community to get out and vote, and we’re starting to make progress. In this past election season, we saw meaningful increases in voter turnout and registration in Jewish communities in Bergen, Monmouth and Ocean Counties. We focused significant Get Out the Vote (GOTV) campaign activities in these counties, and it really paid off.

Community members stepped up to reach every voter: working phone lines and carpool lines, placing hundreds of GOTV lawn signs and getting creative on social media. In shuls across Bergen County, rabbis and activists created a “WeVote Shabbat,” speaking during their minyanim about the importance of voting. Day schools and yeshivot shared the GOTV messaging with their parent bodies. On the last day of early voting, 1,500 community members of all ages came out to “The Great Big Vote” event at Votee Park in Teaneck.

As a result, all Bergen County Jewish communities not only had healthy voter turnout rates but voted at levels that significantly outperformed average township turnout. The following turnout reflects registered voters. In Teaneck, Englewood, Fair Lawn, Fort Lee, New Milford and Paramus, the Jewish community outperformed the township average by 30% to 40%, and in Bergenfield, the Jewish community turned out at a 50% higher rate than the township average.

This year saw the highest Jewish voter turnout in recent years in both Ocean and Monmouth Counties outside of a presidential election. The Jewish community’s voting in these counties has continuously increased since 2018, while average county turnout has steadily decreased. In Ocean County, Jewish voter turnout outperformed the average turnout by over 30%.

These numbers show legislators that our community is organized and beginning to demonstrate a true commitment to voting. But if we want to see bigger results and feel an even more meaningful impact on our families and communities, we need to aim higher. Our goal is to transform the financial landscape as we know it for Jewish education in New Jersey.

Imagine the headlines if every eligible voter registered and New Jersey Jewish communities voted at rates of 90% or more statewide. Not just in one election, but in election after election.

That’s the kind of voting record that would earn us the attention and credibility we need with elected officials. Most importantly, it would help secure access to hundreds of millions of government dollars that are currently going elsewhere.

Casting a vote takes minutes out of your day, and leads to lasting, transformative changes for our schools, our communities and our families. That’s just slightly more effort than watching a Miami Boys Choir video. If the world did it for MBC, we can do it for our own future.

Ben Hutt, a lifetime New Jersey voter, serves as Teach NJ’s field director and leads the organization’s Get Out the Vote efforts.

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