Judaism and Voting: A Right of Passage
Growing up, Judaism consistently stresses that we exist, above all else, as a community. We then encounter countless “right of passage” experiences to usher us into our community. I, probably like many others, sometimes reflect on these experiences from a completely material perspective. I can recall the tiling of my hebrew school’s floors, the song blasting en route to my bat mitzvah reception, and so on and so forth. Bluntly stated, there’s no denying that focusing on the material proves far easier than reflecting on why these “right of passage” experiences occur in the first place. Yet with the 2016 Presidential Election on the horizon, I now conclude that regardless of why we may believe these experiences happen, the one thing each “right of passage” universally shares lies in its ability to bestow responsibility, leadership, and values.
Each “step” in developing my Jewish identity inspired me to lead by example, to zealously preserve the community I call myself a part of. From the outside looking in, attending hebrew school, preparing for my bat mitzvah, becoming a bat mitzvah, and joining a Jewish youth group may appear as taxing to an already busy schedule. Rather, these details in the fabric that made my upbringing uniquely my own instilled me in just how privileged I am to have this so called “busy schedule.” I can freely associate with my faith, proudly taking on opportunity after opportunity at the hands of my fingertips to preserve the community I so proudly call myself a part of. Now, I challenge you to ask yourself - is this not what voting and “civic duty” truly amounts to?
I struggle to think of an action that embodies democratic values more than exercising the right to vote. Every American, Jewish or not Jewish, likely holds some opinion about our country’s public affairs. Fortunately, when the second Tuesday of November rolls around every year, we can translate opinion into initiative in the most profound way possible. In fact, I identify as Jewish in the same way I perceive the importance of voting. We come from a faith that required a countless number of steps to persevere, in the hopes that we will someday lead. Yet if we as Jews value our community – if we took and continue to take rights of passage to preserve our culture, shouldn’t we perceive the American vote in the same light?
Frequently, we find ourselves so caught up and perplexed by institutions that we forget that they could one day crumble. Values hold together our communities, and if we don’t take the means necessary to embody those values, our community’s strength waivers. Even if you find yourself unsure of who you’d prefer most to lead, lead by example. Under the same principle that we as Jews take right of passages to preserve our small, yet thriving community, we now must view the right to vote in the same context with regards to the United States of America. Now’s your chance to preserve an opportunity in a community with sustained values not uniformly shared across the world - go vote!