You need a plan to vote
OpinionGuest columnist

You need a plan to vote

The deadline to register to vote in Pennsylvania is April 8.

As the Jewish community approaches the sacred celebration of Passover, there lies an essential civic duty that must not be ignored: voting. While we get ready to join our friends and family at the seder table, let us not forget the importance of participating in the electoral process.

Even though our democracy is only a couple hundred years old, we can look back in Jewish values from 2,000 years ago to guide our understanding of what so many of us understand as the “sacred right” (or is it “sacred rite,” or both?) to vote.

Hillel, an early architect of rabbinic thinking who lived in the first century before the turn of the era, commented “Al tifros min hatzibur, Do not separate yourself from the community.” (Pirke Avot 2:5) In his day, separation meant not being a part of the vibrancy of community life. While he didn’t live in a democratic system in which every citizen’s vote mattered, his message is even more powerful for us today: In a time when many are frustrated with the political system, stay connected by voting.

Civic engagement as a Jewish community ensures that our society is better aligned with our values, charging us to call for economic justice, environmental stewardship and human rights. The ideals laid out in the Torah and proclaimed by the prophets were a guide for the Israelites when we were settled in our land, and with this sovereignty came a spiritual and moral responsibility. Voting is also a form of expression using our commitment to tikkun olam, the Jewish principle of repairing the world. By taking part in the democratic process, we have the power to allow our voices to be heard.

Many GOTV (Get Out The Vote) campaigns speak about how eligible voters need a plan to vote long before voting day. Year after year, this is often a partisan message to out-vote the other party. This year, however, planning to vote for the primary is neither partisan nor a win-lose proposition. This year, it is a win-win proposition for our democracy.

That being said, it is complicated given that election day is on the first day of Passover, April 23. These are the implications of the confluence of events:

• The deadline to register to vote in Pennsylvania is April 8.
• Jewish organizations, like the JCC, that normally serve as a polling place will be closed for Passover on April 23.
• If your polling place is closed and you want to vote in person on April 23, you will be
reassigned to another location.
• If you do not want to vote in person on April 23, the first day of Passover, you need to apply for a mail-in ballot by April 16.
• For a full list of resources, you can visit Pennsylvania’s Department of Elections website at Upcoming Elections (

While it is not as easy this year as it has been in other years, it is important to follow the wisdom of Justice Louis Brandeis: “Democracy means that the people shall govern, and they can govern only by taking the trouble to inform themselves as to the facts necessary for a correct decision, and then by recording that decision through a public vote.” PJC

Rabbi Ron Symons is the senior director of Jewish Life at the Jewish Community Center of Greater Pittsburgh.

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