JCRC Director's Note

How Will You Be Part of the Change?

Max Patashnik Headshot

October 16, 2020

In less than three weeks, there will be an election day unlike any in recent history in our country. The results may not be known for days or weeks after November 3rd. We, the voters, are more polarized and entrenched than anytime in recent history. For many, the issues at play in this election are both existential and deeply personal. And, the global pandemic has helped create a perfect storm for silos and misinformation. 

COVID-19 has disconnected us from our communities. Opportunities we would have ordinarily had to chat about the election over lunch or coffee with friends and colleagues have vanished. We have gone months without seeing friends and there are virtually no in-person opportunities to meet new people at a party, in shul, or at a park or music or food festival. With this, we are deprived of different perspectives, new ideas, and insight into life experiences not our own. These losses of contact and communication can be magnified by an echo chamber if we engage with social media and the news.

The scenario I’m sharing here is unlikely to be new to any of you. However, my hope is that by naming and bringing awareness to this challenge, we might create space to reflect upon our individual and collective responsibilities to help move ourselves, our community, and our country in a more positive, connected direction. 

Especially in this election, it is paramount that we not stay on the sidelines. One of the oldest commandments in Judaism is lo ta’amod al dam rey’echa, or “do not stand idly by.” While this commandment historically and most often refers to one’s responsibility to act to stop immediate, physical life-or-death situations (literally translated as “do not stand idly by the blood of your neighbor”) the Talmud is clear that anyone who sees harm and does not speak or act out is held responsible. 

Working to increase cohesion and build connections within our community is an element of this mandate to not stand idly by. If we do not work together to bridge the ideological schism being created, the damage already experienced by our communities may become long-term. How will you speak up or act out to be a part of the change?

Consider reading a news source you wouldn’t normally consult. Follow an expert with a new perspective on social media. Talk with that family member or friend with whom you usually avoid politics about their concerns, hopes, and fears. Be curious. Strengthen the muscle of sitting with discomfort. Search for connection and strive to understand. 

We want to hear from you. Take a moment to share how you and your family are engaging with the election and reaching out to individuals outside your circle. 

And, when it comes to the election:

✔ Educate yourself – check out the Jewish Federation’s 2020 election resources, including a  debate directory for national, state, and local races, and answers from our 2020 legislative candidate questionnaire on issues of antisemitism, racial justice, and the social safety net.  

✔ Join us Monday – (and on November 10th) for “What’s at Stake?” a nonpartisan conversation about the election with experts Jessyn Farrell and Rabbi Doug Kahn. We’ll discuss the issues that are most important to our local Jewish community and how they might be impacted by the upcoming election. 

✔ VOTE! – Not registered yet? There is still time. Click here to learn more. 

Max Patashnik
Director of JCRC and Government Affairs