What I Told Teenagers About the Election

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Many of my rabbinic colleagues have eloquently put into words much of what is in my heart. Tonight I addressed a group of teens during Hebrew school, and I offered these additional thoughts.

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Truthfully, this was a difficult morning to wake up to. I started the day with a lot of questions. Is my country safe and secure? Are our savings and investments stable? Will my 3-month-old son be denied health care? Will my daughter still be able to freely belt out the same Hebrew songs many of you learned growing up in this very building?

But amid all these scary feelings that kept piling up, here’s what I realized. I didn’t change. Having a different person in the White House doesn’t make me a different person. I’m always going to fight for what I believe in. I’m always going to teach my children the values that are important to me. You have every right to be disappointed or happy about the outcome of this election. But these feelings will pass, and you will remain. You will fight. You will teach. And you will look past today because you learned these three lessons:

  • First, don’t even for a second think that your voice or your vote doesn’t count. This presidential race was won because enough voters made it clear they wanted change. So we got change. And we’ll find out over the coming weeks and months if it’s change for the better or not. And just because this election is over doesn’t mean you can’t still make your voice heard. You don’t have to be old enough to vote to write a letter to your representative if there’s an issue you care about.
  • Second, pay more attention to what people do than to what they say. Bullies use meaningless words because that’s all they have. It’s a magic trick, and sometimes people are fooled. Don’t be fooled by bullies.
  • Third, v’ahavta l’reyecha kamocha. Love your neighbor as yourself. Your neighbor, no matter the distance between your houses or the “color” of the states in which you live, was created in the image of God. We all have a spark of divine potential. Let’s not diminish it by reducing each other to red or blue, this side or that side.

How will I teach my daughter that she has value and worth? I will love her, and I will teach her to love and respect herself. How will I teach my son that it is unacceptable to degrade others? I will love him, and I will teach him to share that love and to give others, including leaders with differing points of view, the benefit of the doubt.

Regardless of the results of this election, my values and morals have not changed. So how will I move forward? I will simply love harder, speak out louder, and represent myself every step of the way. And you will too.

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