Pardon the millennial-speak of “influencers,” but we mean it not in a digital way, but in an IRL (in real life) way. It’s not that the Jewish community voted together as a block for a slate of candidates; it’s that we voted.
At press time, the outcomes of many races had yet to even be called. But merely that the Orthodox Union’s Teach Coalition, the ROC of NJ and other advocacy organizations rallied their communities to show up to vote, to show our politicians that we are a voting community to be reckoned with, is a very big deal.
In our paper last week, Teach Coalition’s Maury Litwack wrote:
“Strong voter turnout draws the attention of elected officials to our community’s needs, like the increasing costs of tuition and threats of hate attacks to our schools and shuls. Strong voter turnout earns our community a seat at the table when elected officials make budget and policy decisions. We must have a voice in these decisions because they can affect nearly every aspect of our lives, from roads and zoning to health, safety and, of course, education.”
And it looks like all the efforts of Teach, and many other advocacy groups and individuals, worked. According to Teach NJ’s Ben Hutt, “We are projected to outpace the numbers in voting in 2017, when the community lagged behind the general population by a small margin.”
And that is a result of a concerted effort: “We distributed hundreds of lawn signs to homes and restaurants, held voter registration drives at local high schools, called and sent text messages and emails to many thousands of people, and early childhood students brought home voting reminders in their backpacks. Our heads of schools and rabbanim sent united messages to their parent bodies and shuls, activists and community leaders published op-eds in local papers and thousands of people celebrated voting at The Great Big Vote on the last day of early voting,” said Hutt.
“Based on what we are seeing from general voting, mail-in ballots and early voting, we project that the turnout will be stronger than in the general community,” said Teach NJ’s Katie Katz. “We are really proud of the engagement that our community demonstrated during this election cycle. Our children are safer and our schools and shuls are stronger when we vote and make our voices heard. We needed to show up and we did. This is just the beginning of what we can accomplish together,” she added.
It’s with great hope that we have started a trend toward increasing the Jewish community’s numbers in voting in all of our regions. Whether we vote Democrat or Republican, Independent or otherwise, we say kein yirbu (may the numbers only increase)! We pray our good work in exercising our civic duties will continue to be accepted by our good neighbors.