Do You Exist?
Please Take the Time to Vote on Election Day
(This is a slightly edited version of a column I published on the eve of Election Day, 2006)
“If we don’t vote, we don’t exist.” Those words, spoken with passion and conviction by my dear chaver Rabbi Yehiel Kalish, stopped me in my tracks during an enjoyable dinner that we were sharing.
Rabbi Kalish ought to know. He serves as National Director of Government Affairs and Midwest Director of Agudath Israel of America. He is charming, engaging, and extraordinarily knowledgeable in the “ways and means” of how government operates.
Rabbi Kalish and many other dedicated officers in Jewish communal organizations represent you in governmental matters that are important to your life; securing financial support for mosdos Hatorah, obtaining government grants for chesed organizations, lowering your taxes, and protecting your religious rights in the workplace. Equally important are the initiatives that those who represent our interests before our elected officials are working tirelessly to actualize; school vouchers, tax credits for yeshiva tuition payments, and financial aid for parents of learning disabled or handicapped children.
It is exceedingly difficult to understand why so many members of our community don’t feel the obligation to vote in each and every election. In this malchus shel chesed (benevolent country), we ought to be model citizens and exercise our civic duty by voting on Election Day.
Perhaps equally as important, voting allows each of us to be heard. Which candidate you vote for doesn’t matter much in the broader scheme of things; just that you vote regularly. Rabbi Kalish points out that the level of sophistication in today’s data collection allow elected officials to track voting patterns and almost effortlessly find out how many voters they represent each time they advocates for us. Not how many people, but rather how many voters.
Because if you don’t vote, you don’t matter. If you don’t vote, you don’t exist. If you don’t vote, you don’t have an elected official caring about you or your needs. Rallies and protests get the headlines, but they are merely sideshows. Elected officials direct their attention to the main event – Election Day.
Especially now, with the very real and terrifying threats faced by our brothers and sisters in Eretz Yisroel, I feel that it is almost pikuach nefesh (a life-and-death matter) for each of us to vote and be heard.
I was only eight years old in 1967, but I clearly recall the raw fear that gripped the adults in my life during the build-up to the Six-Day War. Gamal Abdel Nasser, the President of Egypt, fashioned a coalition of the Arab states. Egypt, Jordan and Syria massed their troops on the borders surrounding Eretz Yisroel and announced their intention to “Push the Jews into the sea.” And by all accounts, they seemed to have had the ability to do just that, Hashem yeracheim. Russia, then in its heyday, was supplying the Arabs with seemingly limitless numbers of tanks and weapons, and the Arab troops combined outnumbered the Israeli soldiers by many multiples of ten.
Here in America, things were far from normal during those days and weeks. Survivors of the churban in Europe (most of the adults in those days) cried unabashedly in shul during davening as they pleaded with Hashem to spare the lives of our brothers and sisters in Eretz Yisroel. Mass tefilah gatherings, not a common thing forty years ago, were held.
My most vivid memories from those frightening weeks was awakening each morning and seeing my parents huddled around the kitchen radio with drawn faces, listening to the reports of events in Eretz Yisroel. There was a tangible feeling of an existential threat to Klal Yisroel – one that, with the chesed of Hashem was removed with the stunning victory that became known as the Six-Day War.
Sadly, history is repeating itself once again. Our brothers and sisters in Eretz Yisroel are surrounded by a sea of enemies sworn to our destruction. The leader of Iran, who is attempting to create a nuclear arsenal, repeatedly calls for the eradication r’l of Israel, and publicly stated that, “Israel’s destruction is the solution [to the conflict]”.
We hope that Hashem will be merciful to us and remove these threats to our existence. But if there is, chas v’shalom, an escalation of the nuclear threat from Iran or another war in Eretz Yisroel; dedicated leaders of Jewish organizations will be called upon to rally support from elected officials in every level of government to support the defense of our brothers and sisters.
With the burgeoning Arab population in the United States and Europe, elected officials have many voices whispering in their ears. They will rightfully wonder how many voters our leaders represent. Remember – not how many people, but how many voters.
So I ask you; will you exist, should Klal Yisroel need your help? Only you can answer that question – on Election Day, Tuesday, November 3rd.
Please, please take the time to vote; for yourself, for your community, and for Klal Yisroel.
Vote as if Jewish lives depend on your involvement. Because … they may.
© 2009 Rabbi Yakov Horowitz, all rights reserved
A Note From Rabbi Chaim Dovid Zwiebel,
Executive Vice-President of Agudath Israel of American
Tomorrow, Tuesday, November 3, is Election Day. We urge all our constituents and friends to please go out and vote!
Your vote counts. It may help decide the outcome of a close election. And it will surely help the victors decide what to do after the elections.
The simple reality is that government officials look at which groups vote, and take their positions on the major issues of the day accordingly. Communities that vote are communities that are listened to and heard. Securing political support with regard to the issues that affect us deeply - increased government aid to our educational institutions, the moral climate of society, improving the amount and quality of government services available in our neighborhoods - depends on each and every registered voter taking the time to go to the polls on Election Day.
So please, take the time to vote on November 3, for yourself . . . for your children . . . for your community . . . for Klal Yisroel.
Chaim Dovid Zwiebel
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