Opinion | Voting is Jewish

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By Naomi Adler

With U.S. midterm elections fast approaching, let’s talk voting.

For countless reasons — and we each have our personal list — it is absolutely necessary for each and every one of us to take part in the political process. But no matter your ideology or affiliation, we all share one important reason to head to the polls: Voting is Jewish.

Civic engagement is baked right into our Jewish tradition of community, which is a social structure that can exist only with everyone’s active participation. The great first-century sage Hillel taught, “Do not separate yourself from the community,” reminding us that in the ecosystem of the collective, each of us plays a role in sustaining one another.

For example, a mourner can’t say Kaddish without a minyan — so 10 people always need to show up to services, just in case. That interdependence and interactivity defines our way of life. Everyone must show up and engage in order for things to work.

The impulse to participate in the public sphere has become a Jewish cultural reflex. Here in the safe haven of America, where we are fortunate to be granted so many freedoms, one measure of our political engagement is the way we flock to the polls. Indeed, the halachic authority Rabbi Moshe Feinstein taught that as an expression of hakarat hatov, gratitude, American Jews must participate in our democracy — which safeguards our freedoms — by voting.

At the Jewish Federation, we carry on our cultural heritage of political engagement through our nonpartisan Jewish Community Relations Council (JCRC). Led by JCRC’s new director, Rabbi Batya Glazer, we work with diverse stakeholders from across our communities to find areas of consensus on political and social issues. We then join together to advocate for those positions, along with issues of concern to our own Jewish communities, at the local and state level.

For example, our collective advocacy directly led to Gov. Tom Corbett’s signing of a Holocaust education bill that impacted all of Pennsylvania’s public schools. More recently, JCRC played a central role in creating a memorandum of understanding between Israel and Pennsylvania that strengthened bilateral ties and encouraged business and trade agreements.

And with the 2018 midterms in mind, the JCRC, in coalition with community partners, sponsored debates at local synagogues to ensure we are all well-informed.

As we’re instructed in the Book of Jeremiah, “Seek the welfare of the city to which I have exiled you.” It is all of our duty to be civically engaged. I encourage you to get involved by signing up at jewishphilly.org/get-involved/public-affairs/ for JCRC updates and action alerts. And I urge you this Nov. 6 to exercise your Jewish heritage and vote. 

Naomi Adler is the president and CEO of the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia.

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