Anti-Defamation, National Urban leagues launch project to strengthen young voter turnout

PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — The Anti-Defamation League and the National Urban League announced a new pilot program in Philadelphia dedicated to voting rights. 

The partnership will bring together two venerable civil rights organizations to strengthen relationships between the Black and Jewish communities while addressing an issue of mutual concern.

“We are living in a time right now where we are dealing with long-overdue issues of racial injustice,” said Jonathan Greenblatt, CEO and national director of the Anti-Defamation League. He joined Marc Morial, CEO of the National Urban League, on a video webinar Monday to announce the launch of the project, titled “Our Time, Our Vote” — an effort to increase young voter turnout and engagement in the political process.

“How do we engage the next generation in the African-American and Jewish American communities?” asked Greenblatt. “And how do we take those Jews of color who live between us and those communities that may not be working together to enable closer relationships?

“Millennials and Generation Z are going to be nearly 40% of the electorate this year. There are those that are trying to drive our communities apart, but I believe by bringing our hands together and tying tightly the bonds that are already there, we can achieve remarkable things.”

Morial echoed Greenblatt. 

“We cannot be the generation that stands for the rise of intolerance, the rise of hate or anti-Semitism in American life,” he said. “It is really important that we energize and support the tremendous new consciousness of our young people. Our teenagers and young adults are really the drivers of the effort to stop hate.”

The organizations said in a press release:

“During the past 100 years, the Black and Jewish communities in America have overcome considerable odds to fight discrimination and gain a stronger and more secure place in society. Blacks and Jews, including Jews of color, have often worked hand-in-hand in the face of widespread hatred to achieve these outcomes, marching together in the American South, jointly lobbying the Supreme Court and Congress, and helping one another on the ground in neighborhoods across the country.”

Tomas Varela, director of advocacy and communications for the Urban League of Philadelphia (ULP), said the goal with this project is to show the connection between voting and justice. They plan to tap into the energy of young people on the protest lines by getting them registered to vote, educated on voting options, and encouraged to actually show up to vote.

“What we are really focused on is creating a more engaged and informed citizen,” Varela added.

The key relationship designed to help the partnership become successful is that between Shira Goodman, Anti-Defamation League regional director, and Andrea Custis, ULP president and CEO. 

“Voting is crucial, and we need to increase the number of young people who are voting and engaged in the process,” Custis said. “This partnership is perfectly timed to engage our young leaders in this critical endeavor.”

Goodman added, “This project honors our communities’ past collaborations while building a foundation for a shared future.”

The pilot program will include virtual and in-person events, texts, and ad campaigns, as far as outreach. 

Leaders from both groups say they are putting money and personnel behind the effort, with the goal of eventually expanding it to other cities.