Friday, December 03, 2021

I am writing to add several points to Jeff Rubin’s letter “What Happened to the Jewish Vote?” (November 18, 2021). The maxim that “all politics is local” is apocryphally attributed to the late Speaker of the House Tip O’Neill. Regardless of who coined the phrase, it is a fundamental truth. Voters indicate a desire for change via the ballot box.

Mr. Rubin is absolutely correct in pointing out the inadequacy of the get-out-the-vote effort in support of his favored candidates in the recent Teaneck Board of Education election. One factor he does not mention is voter apathy. Those who do not participate in the democratic process should not complain when elected officials implement policies they disagree with. No well-funded GOTV effort or public exhortation by community leaders can overcome fundamental apathy among eligible voters. The slate that won excelled in motivating citizens to vote for them.

It is also important to remember that voter records are public. It is easy to find out who voted and who did not (obviously, not who a given person voted for). Higher turnout results in more attention from elected officials. No matter the turnout, election results are considered the legitimately, legally expressed will of the people. The way to elect people you like is to vote for them. Those who don’t vote and still complain loudly completely misunderstand this basic truth.

A good local public school system is important for all residents of a community. Everyone in town contributes to the local public school system via their tax payments, and therefore have a reasonable expectation that taxpayer dollars are spent on properly educating children. Most Orthodox Jews send their children to private schools and rely on busing arranged by the local board of education. However, the health and strength of the local public school system is still very important. Good local public schools increase pride in our town, increase property values and produce obvious benefits for the local economy. More importantly, Orthodox Jews use the public schools as well. Apathy regarding the local public school system betrays a dangerous parochial attitude that risks much more than is immediately obvious.

One last point. I question the wisdom of the headline given to Mr. Rubin’s letter. “What Happened to the Jewish Vote?” implies that the Jewish vote is monolithic. The “Jewish vote” includes Orthodox, Conservative, Reform and unaffiliated Jews with diverse political views, across the spectrum from progressive to conservative to libertarian, both on social issues and on economic policy. Do not make the same mistake that political analysts have made for decades regarding the “Jewish vote.” Expecting voting uniformity from the Jewish community is just as mistaken as expecting identical views across any other subgroup.

Yitzchak Hollander
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