You already know a remarkable group of influencers who help earn hundreds of millions of dollars for New York and New Jersey’s Jewish communities. Their names don’t adorn buildings or scholarship funds and they are not the honorees at the next gala dinner. Who are these influencers? You, our voters.
Until very recently, many in our community did not see themselves as the influencers that they are. When I would ask people why they didn’t vote, they would respond with excuses like “My vote won’t make a difference,” or “Election results don’t affect me,“ or “Primaries don’t count anyway.” At Teach Coalition, a project of the OU, we know these excuses are dead wrong.
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.
In today’s complex climate, as crime, antisemitism and the effects of the pandemic loom over us, more people in our community are recognizing the value and urgency of having a strong and public voice. The old “Why bother voting?” mindset is changing.
Teach Coalition is facilitating this shift with innovative strategies to encourage voting in communities everywhere—from Brooklyn and Woodmere to Teaneck and Deal. We employ the latest in get-out-the-vote strategies and technologies to customize our approach to the needs and interests of each community. We reach out to voters through emails, texts, phone calls, articles, advertising, events, social media, yard signs and relationship organizing. Respected rabbis, schools and community leaders work with us by posting videos and sharing our messaging to their communities.
In response, voter turnout in the New York City and New Jersey 2021 primaries exploded.
New York City Jewish voter turnout was 400% higher in the 2021 mayoral primary election than in 2017 and was much higher than the general-population turnout across every borough. This was in part a result of the strong voter registration activities that brought in thousands of community members to register for the first time.
In Bergen County, New Jersey, the 2021 general voter turnout dropped to 16% from 22% in 2017, whereas the Jewish community turnout increased to 26% from 16%. By contrast, Jewish communities in North Jersey that were not targeted for GOTV efforts saw minimal turnout increases since 2017, underscoring the importance of these campaigns.
Our turnout is impressive and elected officials are taking note. They will continue to notice us if we keep the momentum going in the upcoming elections. Early voting is in full swing through October 31 and Election Day is November 2. We have all the information you need to participate online or in person, whether you’re voting for mayor of New York or governor of New Jersey. The winners of these elections will be making decisions that affect each and every one of us and our families as soon as they’re elected and for years to come.
The days of “Why bother voting?” are over. We are the influencers and it’s time to embrace our voting strength.
Maury Litwack is the managing director of public affairs, Orthodox Union.