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This is the season to ... determine our country’s future

Rabbi Arthur Nemitoff

For over 1,700 years of Jewish history, there were two things the Jewish people lacked. ...

 

First, we didn’t have a home to call our own. While we yearned for Jerusalem and “Zion,” it was never ours. It led to a sense of being the outsider, the other. It led to isolation.

Second, we didn’t belong anywhere else. We really were the “other.” We were not welcomed into society. We were considered — at best — resident aliens and — at worst — dangerous immigrants who did not belong.

That changed in the 18th century when — for the first time in almost two millennia — we became citizens of a country...not of the United States, but of France ... with equal rights and equal votes. Since then, we have moved out of the shadows of society to be full and complete members of democratic countries in which we call “home.”

Thus, to be Jewish and American carries with it both tremendous privilege and obligation. It is wonderful to be a part of what it means to be a United States citizen, with our system of democracy, political checks and balances, our Constitution and Bill of Rights, our guarantee of personal and religious and political freedom.

The obligations are equally important. And the one responsibility above all others that guarantees those privileges and freedoms is the obligation to participate in the political process. It is to VOTE.

Regardless of one’s political leanings — Republican, Democrat, Libertarian, Green, Independent ... or any of several other groups with which we might associate — it is our task to participate fully in the democratic process. As the bumper sticker I saw recently said, “If you didn’t vote last time ... I blame you for the mess we are in!”

Last week, the Republican party nominated its candidate for president. This week, the Democrats are meeting for the same purpose. Most likely, one of those two candidates — Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton — will become the next president of the United States. Which one is up to us. But it is not JUST a president we elect. We will determine what our Congress will look like, our state legislatures, our court systems, our local governments, and our school boards. If we are complaining about ANY of those institutions — and even if we are happy with ALL of them — it is our privilege and obligation to determine who will serve us in the coming years.

In order to fulfill that obligation and privilege, we must register. B’nai Jehudah has all the paper forms in our lobby for anyone to pick up. Registration is closed in both Kansas and Missouri for the Aug. 2 primaries. In Kansas, you have until Oct. 18 to register in order to vote in the Nov. 8 general election. If you live in Missouri, you have until Oct. 12 to register in order to vote on Nov. 8.

It is said that “DOING JEWISH” is more important than  “BEING JEWISH.” In truth, they are the same. And we “do Jewish” in a most important way when we embrace that which was denied us systematically for 1,700 years ... to determine our own political fates.

Now that we have that privilege, let us not sit aside and passively permit others to decide what our lives will look like — in terms of the economy, security and personal and communal freedoms. Let each of us vote!

Rabbi Arthur Nemitoff is senior rabbi of The Temple, Congregation B’nai Jehudah.