Kudos to state legislators for acting – unanimously – to ensure that elections in New Jersey will not be scheduled for the same day as a major religious observance. And while the bill that passed the state Senate on Monday (and the Assembly in September) benefits all religiously observant voters in this state, we thank the Jewish groups that spoke out against an unacceptable situation and the legislators (and the Edison school board – see below) for their responsiveness to the Jewish community.
Some background: The Edison public school district had scheduled a school bond referendum for Sept. 30, this year the first day of Rosh HaShanah, a day most Jews spend in shul, a day in which such secular activities as voting are religiously off limits.
Of course, the Jews of Edison could have availed themselves of absentee ballots. But as Etzion Neuer, director of the New Jersey region of the Anti-Defamation League, which led the communal effort to get the date rescheduled, wrote to the town’s acting superintendent of schools, “by asking Jewish residents to cast absentee ballots, you are effectively establishing a separate and more cumbersome voting procedure for a whole group of Edison residents based on their religion.” (Representatives of other major Jewish groups also signed the letter.)
The school board faced a barrage of criticism (not just from Jews), made some apologies, and ultimately rescheduled the referendum for Dec. 9.
Unfortunately, when Jews speak up in their own interest, anti-Semites often come out of the woodwork (like termites).
An August account of the conflict on the Star-Ledger’s Website drew anti-Jewish (and ignorant) comments: “No pleasing some people,” wrote one poster. “What do the Jews want – we’re already sending our kids to die in Iraq to make the Mideast safe for Israel.” (No, we’re not.)
Fortunately, there were positive comments as well, including this one: “We live in a world of Muslims, Christians, Jews, and others…. Not respecting Jewish observance might be construed as establishing Christianity as dominant over other religions.
Indeed it is.