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© Rabbi Jack Moline

My friends, here is what I have written to every member of my congregation:

You have an obligation to vote. I wish I could elevate that obligation to the status of mitzvah, a religious commandment. It would be one way to impress upon you the religious nature of this civic opportunity. There is no blessing for voting and democracy has only the vaguest antecedent in the Bible, but the lessons of Jewish history should impel you to the voting booth as surely as Yom Kippur impels you the synagogue.

American democracy has opened to all citizens the chance to have a voice in the governance of our country. In any other society, Jews would most likely be an afterthought or a curiosity. Even in those European societies in which we were most heavily represented, we found ourselves marginalized and eventually cast-out.

Your individual vote may mean very little, but our collective votes can quite literally prevent the spiral of events which led to Nazi Germany and other oppressive regimes. Voting may not seem as heroic as sheltering a refugee or taking up arms to resist tyranny, but it is actually of greater importance. Leadership and policy-makers who know they must respond to the electorate cannot afford to violate the trust of those who keep them in power. Your mundane vote may make your act of heroism blessedly unnecessary. With the stroke of a pen or the press of a button you can save a generation.

All sorts of religious organizations want you to vote. Too many of them want you to vote a particular way. Aside from the legal entanglements such endorsements entail, they miss the point. As The Interfaith Alliance's Executive Director Rev. Dr. C. Welton Gaddy says, religious communities "have an obligation to foster civic participation without promoting one political party or agenda."

But here's a shorter version of Rev. Gaddy's message: vote.

It is your religious obligation.

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