By Efraim M. for COLlive.com
We are all shocked and appalled at the recent uptick in antisemitic attacks against Jews, and naturally, everyone is wondering what they can do to remedy the situation. Of course, taking steps to defend oneself is the immediate and first course of action on the part of many.
However, we all know that defending its citizens is one of the first and primary tasks that the government is responsible for, both on a federal level as well as a state and local level, and there are steps the government can take to combat this problem.
These include (among other things):
- Investigating and putting pressure on certain communities that preach antisemitic hate in their churches and mosques. Believe it or not, this takes place in New York today and it’s a major driver of the hate-filled culture that their kids and teenagers are exposed to.
- Pressure the district attorney’s office to request of judges that they mete out harsher sentences for these types of crimes.
- Introducing new curricula in the public school system that teaches children about the evils of antisemitism.
- Adopting a moment of silence as per the Rebbe’s instructions.
- Repealing or seriously modifying the terrible “Bail Reform” laws that allow criminals to be immediately released and back on the streets.
- A bigger police presence (not just for a week or two).
- More elected officials speaking out.
Now it is no secret that only a tiny fraction of the Jewish community votes in elections, and all the politicians know that. As such, I would like to explain why every vote from our community makes a massive difference. While every candidate you fill in on your ballot remains confidential and no one will ever know who you selected, the fact that you voted gets recorded once you sign-in prior to being handed a ballot. Consequently, elected officials and politicians know exactly how many people voted in each community, block and even household.
As a recent op-ed on COLlive.com pointed out State Senator Zellnor Myrie and Assemblywoman Diana Richardson, both of whom represent Crown Heights but have been practically silent about the attacks against their Jewish constituents. The op-ed writer urged the public to be in touch with the offices of these legislators and demand action.
While I agree that this is a step each of us should be doing, I’d like to point out something else that needs to be considered as to why these politicians are staying silent about our perils.
Politicians respond more to communities with a higher election turnout and less to those with a lower turnout. For instance, if a member of the City Council, State Assembly or State Senate is being asked by a community to work on a certain need that they have or address a problem that they’re facing, the response can very well be determined by the percentage of the community that votes in elections.
So if most people in the community vote, an elected official will feel more pressure to listen to them so as not to lose their support, and if almost no one in the community votes, they are effectively throwing away any political power they would have because politicians will not feel compelled to address their concerns. Until now Crown Heights has sadly belonged to the latter category, and we have unfortunately brought it upon ourselves.
The good news is that it’s in our hands to change it.
As this year is an election year (both on a federal and state level, click here for the dates) it is crucially important that anyone who isn’t registered to vote immediately picks up a registration form at the community council, and of course come election day, everyone goes out and votes. This applies to everyone whether they work, learn in Kolel, or are a student. Employers are legally required to allow all of their employees to vote, even if that means letting them leave work for a bit to do so.
And while I’m sure that for some parents it may be an inconvenience to arrange for a babysitter so that they can head out to the polls, it is an inconvenience very much worth enduring. Just think, the so-called “Bail Reform” could have very well not passed in the first place if Jews from all communities voted in massive numbers resulting in extra representatives who have our interests in mind.
As believing Jews we know that while trust in Hashem comes above all else, He has commanded us to do our hishtadlus (human effort) in ways that accord with the natural order of things in this world and not to rely on miracles if we want something, whether for ourselves or for those around us. While we are blessed to live in a country where everyone has the right and privilege to vote, I would argue that it is also a responsibility, not in the sense that the law forces you to do so, but that one who doesn’t and subsequently complains about something related to the government or politics has only themselves to blame for not doing their part to change it.
Together as a community, we can make a big difference and with Hashem’s help see real change from our elected officials, the repeal of destructive policies that enable anti-Semitic attacks to become so prevalent in our community, and the enactment of new laws that will prevent it in the future. You have the power to radically change the situation in Crown Heights for the better, don’t wait until it is too late, act now, register and vote!