We are on the cusp of a High Holiday season like none before. Struggling through another month of the pandemic, we are also assaulted by political ads, stories on national media about the deep divisions across Pennsylvania, and relentlessly partisan voices and images on social media. Many of us are confused and simply exhausted. What can we do?
We have one simple answer: Vote. Regardless of your candidate of choice or political affiliation, we ask you to make a plan for Election Day and vote.
Yes, this is a difficult time, but we remind you that the act of choosing leaders has always been messy. Three thousand years ago, as our ancestors transitioned from God-centric prophetic/priesthood leadership, they begged Samuel, “You have grown old, and your sons have not followed your ways. Therefore appoint a king for us, to govern us like all other nations” (I Samuel 8:5).
Even then, Samuel warned them, “This will be the practice of the king who will rule over you: He will take your sons and appoint them as his charioteers and horsemen, and they will serve as out runners for his chariots …. ” (I Samuel 8:11ff). Political leadership was never perfect, is never perfect and will never be perfect. The understandable frustrations that we feel in this moment cannot stop us from participating in this election.
As a group, Jews have flourished in this country, protected by the safeguards of democracy. As citizens of the United States we have been afforded opportunities often denied to our forebears in their sojourns around the world. Our ancestors, including those who sacrificed so much to gain a foothold in this country, could only dream of the chance we have had to live in relative peace, to educate our children as we see fit, to engage in meaningful work and to realize an unprecedented level of economic and societal security.
As citizens, we also are entrusted with a constitutional right and obligation to participate in the sacred act of choosing our representatives in Congress and, every four years, the president of the United States.
Typically, Jews have an extraordinarily high voter turnout, said to be the highest of any ethnic group, in a nation in which only an estimated one in two eligible voters actually vote. But this is a year like no other. With new vote-by-mail opportunities, confusion about the post office and concern about safe access to in-person voting on Nov. 3, we all need to proactively plan how we will actually cast our ballot. So make your plan. Encourage your friends and family to do the same. Vote your own values. Together, we can make sure that our democratic system works for everyone.
Here are steps for you to take using this website as your go-to resource: votespa.com
1. Check to make sure you have an active voter registration.
2. If you intend to vote by mail, apply for either a mail-in or absentee ballot (they really are the same thing) as soon as possible; while the hard deadline is Oct. 27, we want you to apply now.
3. As soon as you receive your mail-in ballot, fill it in, sign and seal it, and return it by mail or to the Allegheny County Election Office at 524 Forbes Ave., Suite 609. Please be aware that satellite election offices might be established around the county. Stay informed by watching the news or going to alleghenycounty.us/elections/frequently-asked-questions.aspx for up-to-date information. Please also remember that statewide litigation is delaying the printing and distribution of ballots. Be patient.
4. If you decide to vote in person, double check your polling place. Plan to go early. And don’t forget to wear a mask, keep 6 feet from others, and bring your hand sanitizer!
To find out if you are registered to vote, or to find out the status of your mail-in ballot application, absentee ballot application or the ballot itself go to: pavoterservices.pa.gov.
Questions? We can help you with answers here: jccpgh.org or rac.org. PJC
Susan Friedberg Kalson is the chair of the Commission on Social Action of the Union for Reform Judaism.
Rabbi Ron Symons is the founding director of the Center for Loving Kindness of the JCC of Greater Pittsburgh.
Josh Sayles is the outgoing director of the Jewish Federation of Greater Pittsburgh’s Community Relations Council.
Together, they are working in a broad coalition in Pittsburgh and across Pennsylvania to encourage high voter turnout.