Those of us in the U.S. have just celebrated Presidents Day, which honors the birthdays of President Washington and President Lincoln. In thinking about our country’s history, it's also important to consider our future leadership, as 2016 is a Presidential election year. A crucial election day - "Super Tuesday" - is only months away. At stake are vital political, economic, and moral issues of concern to all Americans, in addition to issues of special concern to American Jews and women.
Legislation on significant issues such as healthcare (including reproductive healthcare), workplace fairness and job creation, climate change, immigration reform, and support for Israel will likely be considered by the next Congress and Administration. In addition, over the next four years, the president and Senate will make Supreme Court and other judicial appointments that will affect our lives for generations.
“Social justice is an essential component of Reform Judaism. To be a Reform Jew is to hear the voice of the prophets in our head; to be engaged in the ongoing work of tikkun olam; to strive to improve the world in which we live; to be God’s partners in standing up for the voiceless and fixing what is broken in our society.”
One way that we can engage in the ongoing work of tikkun olam, the repair of our world, is to involve ourselves in our country’s election process; it is through our elected officials that we affect the changes we wish to see in our country’s policies.
As Jews and American citizens we have an obligation to participate in the election process to ensure that our country's policies at the local, state and national levels reflect our commitment to social justice. Every vote counts and plays a defining role in setting policy agendas. It is our civic duty to register promptly, to educate ourselves and others about the critical issues, and to vote!
There are many ways that your congregation, sisterhood, or brotherhood can engage around elections from now until Election Day this November. Here are two ideas:
- Hold a voter registration Drive. By hosting a registration drive, you can demystify the process, focus communal energy on the privilege and responsibility of voting, and provide information to engage voters in advance of Election Day. To start, send copies of your local voter registration form or the National Mail-In Voter Registration Form to all members of your congregation or sisterhood. You may choose to focus your attention on new members, high school seniors, college students, or the elderly. You can also work with your local Board of Elections to train volunteers to register voters. When running an in-person registration drive, be sure to set up a table in a high-traffic, prominent location in your synagogue. Each state has different laws for voter registration so you will need to confer with the local Board of Elections for specific requirements.
- Organize an issue night. It is our civic duty to educate ourselves about critical issues. Hosting an “Issue Night” is an opportunity to discuss diverse topics of interest to your congregation or sisterhood, and to help voters make informed decisions based upon the issues that speak most strongly to them. Pick an issue or two that’s important to your sisterhood, such as pay equity, reproductive rights, or education. Be sure to present the issue fully in a non-partisan manner, provide context as to why the issue at hand is important to the Jewish community, and outline the Jewish values at stake. Invite people to speak on both sides of the issue. Presenters may be local, state or federal advocates, non-profit professionals, academics, or others with an expertise in the policy area under discussion.
Program with your sisterhood around election issues using the Religious Action Center’s 2016 Get Out the Vote Guide.