â€œIf we donâ€™t vote, we donâ€™t exist.â€ Those words, spoken with passion and conviction by my dear chaver Rabbi Yechiel Kalish, stopped me in my tracks during an enjoyable dinner that we were sharing recently.
Rabbi Kalish ought to know. He serves as Coordinator for Agudath Israel of Americaâ€™s Commission on Government Affairs and as their Midwest Director. He is charming, engaging, and extraordinarily knowledgeable in the â€˜ways and meansâ€™ of how government operates.
Rabbi Kalish and many other dedicated officers in Jewish communal organizations represent you in governmental matters that are important to your life. Securing financial support for mosdos Hatorah. Getting government grants for chesed organizations. Lowering your taxes. Protecting your rights in the workplace. Equally important are the initiatives that the leadership of Agudath Israel and other Jewish organizations are working tirelessly to actualize. School vouchers. Tax credits for yeshiva tuition payments. Financial aid for parents of learning disabled or handicapped children.
It is exceedingly difficult to understand why so many members of our community donâ€™t feel the obligation to vote in each and every election. In this malchus shel chesed (benevolent country), we ought to be model citizens and exercise our civic duty by voting on Election Day.
Perhaps equally as important, voting allows each of us to be heard. Which candidate you vote for doesnâ€™t matter much in the broader scheme of things. Just that you vote regularly. Rabbi Kalish points out that the level of sophistication in todayâ€™s data collection allow elected officials to track voting patterns and almost effortlessly find out how many voters he represents each time he advocates for us. Not how many people, but rather how many voters.
Because if you donâ€™t vote, you donâ€™t matter. If you donâ€™t vote, you donâ€™t exist. If you donâ€™t vote, you donâ€™t have an elected official caring about your existence or needs. Rallies and protests get headlines, but they are merely sideshows. Elected officials direct their attention to the main event â€“ Election Day.
Especially now, with the very real and terrifying threats faced by our brothers and sisters in Eretz Yisroel, I feel that it is almost pikuach nefesh (a life-and-death matter) for each of us to vote and be heard.
I was only eight years old in 1967, but I clearly recall the raw fear that gripped the adults in my life during the build-up to the Six-Day War. Gamal Abdel Nasser, the President of Egypt, fashioned a coalition of the Arab states. Egypt, Jordan and Syria massed their troops on the borders surrounding Eretz Yisroel and announced their intention to â€œPush the Jews into the sea.â€ And by all accounts, they seemed to have had the ability to do just that, Hashem yeracheim. Russia, then in its heyday, was supplying the Arabs with seemingly limitless numbers of tanks and weapons, and the Arab troops combined outnumbered the Israeli soldiers by many multiples of ten.
Here in America, things were far from normal during those days and weeks. Survivors of the churban in Europe (most of the adults in those days) cried unabashedly in shul during davening as they pleaded with Hashem to spare the lives of our brothers and sisters in Eretz Yisroel. Mass tefilah gatherings, not a common thing forty years ago, were held.
My most vivid memories from those frightening weeks was awakening each morning and seeing my parents huddled around the kitchen radio with drawn faces, listening to the reports of events in Eretz Yisroel. There was a tangible feeling of an existential threat to Klal Yisroel â€“ one that, with the chesed of Hashem was removed with the stunning victory that became known as the Six-Day War.
Sadly, history is repeating itself once again. Our brothers and sisters in Eretz Yisroel were subjected to horrific destruction and terror with thousands of rockets rained on all of Northern Eretz Yisroel this past summer. A sea of enemies sworn to our destruction surrounds us. The leader of Iran, who is attempting to create a nuclear arsenal, repeatedly calls for the eradication râ€™l of Israel, and publicly stated that, â€œIsraelâ€™s destruction is the solution [to the conflict]â€. The vile, hate-filled, anti-Semitic rhetoric emanating from many leaders in the Arab world â€“ and most of the â€˜Arab Streetâ€™ â€“ is at least equivalent to that of the Nazi propaganda machine in the late 193Os. The vast majority of nations would deny us the right to return fire and protect our women and children by any means possible.
We hope that Hashem will be merciful to us and remove these threats to our existence. But if there is. chas vâ€™shalom, another war in Eretz Yisroel; Rabbi Kalish, his colleagues at Agudath Israel, and dedicated leaders of other Jewish organizations will be called upon to rally support from elected officials in every level of government to support the defense of our brothers and sisters.
With the burgeoning Arab population in the United States and Europe, elected officials have many voices whispering in their ears. They will rightfully wonder how many voters Rabbi Kalish and his colleagues represent. Remember â€“ not how many people, but how many voters.
So I ask you; will you exist, should Klal Yisroel need your help? Only you can answer that question â€“ on Election Day, Tuesday, November 7th.
Please, please take the time to vote; for yourself, for your community, and for Klal Yisroel.
Vote as if Jewish lives depend on your involvement. Because â€¦ they may.
Â© 2006 Rabbi Yakov Horowitz, all rights reserved
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Rabbi Yakov Horowitz is the Menahel of Yeshiva Darchei Noam of Monsey, and the Director of Agudath Israelâ€™s Project Y.E.S.