Now that the New Year has begun and Yom Kippur – with its call for both atonement and personal reflection – is over, I am once again consumed with thoughts about issues that are undermining the future of our democracy.
At the top of my list is a real concern for voting rights.
All across the country, efforts to restrict the vote are surging, and 18 states already have either passed or are in the process of passing draconian legislation that will interfere with our basic, fundamental right as Americans to have our voices heard. Future elections are at risk of not achieving the broad-based, historic turnout we saw in 2020, and I fear the ramifications.
As a civic-minded Jewish woman, dedicated to preserving and protecting democratic values and Jewish principles of honesty, integrity, and tolerance, I believe I have an obligation to act – to help provide others with meaningful choices and activities they can engage in to make an impact on our local communities and our nation as a whole.
In a democratic society, voting is a choice, and one that Judaism asks us to make. After the destruction of the Temple and the loss of sovereignty in the Land of Israel, the Jewish people united in selecting their leaders and building civil societies rooted in laws, and this ethic, passed down from ancient times, has guided us ever since. For us as a people, voting is more than a civic duty. It’s an imperative, a way to be involved in the welfare of our communities, and something that Jewish law recognizes for all, Jew and non-Jew alike.
It’s also an act that expresses a Jewish commitment to our country, whatever our personal politics may be.
I am proud to be part of a Jewish heritage that embraces such ideals, and I also am proud of our historical role in the civil rights struggles, as well as our activism around other important issues, such as public safety, health, the environment, climate change, and social equity. Standing up for these ideals and concerns is more important than ever to our country and to other nations around the globe.
Our world needs wise, effective, democratically elected and accountable leaders. When I consider the enormous risks we face if we are denied our basic rights, I feel compelled to speak out. Election legitimacy and our country’s future as a democracy are at stake. When it comes to something as basic as the fundamental right to vote, I believe it is our duty to ensure that all of our citizens, regardless of color, ethnicity, or zip code, are afforded the opportunity to vote and to be assured that their votes are counted.
That’s why Bergen Indivisible for Democracy, a 700-member volunteer group, is having a Zoom panel to discuss our democratic values, particularly as they are expressed in preserving the right to vote, this Tuesday, October 5, from 7 to 8 p.m. You can learn more, and register to join, by going to www.bergenindivisiblefordemocracy.org.
There may be no easy fix to ensure a fair and just world, but we must view the right to vote as a sacred Jewish duty and insist that all ballots are fairly counted and all voices heard. It’s a great first step to contemplate post the High Holidays, as we look to a new year with hope.
Lori Sackler of Englewood is a family wealth director and financial advisor at a major financial services institution and the author of “The M Word: The Money Talk.” She is on the board of many organizations in New York and New Jersey and Governor Murphy recently appointed her to the New Jersey Israel Commission.