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Caucusing on the Sabbath Is a Problem

Again and again we heard it as the analysts scratched their heads and did their post-mortems of the Iowa and New Hampshire primaries: “Turnout is key.” In the party primaries and caucuses, when the voting is generally confined to the smaller part of the population that represents each party’s “base,” a candidate’s ability to turn out his or her supporters can really make the difference in a race. This makes the timing of the upcoming Nevada caucuses on Saturday, January 14, all the more disturbing. Let me say that one more time: Saturday, January 14. At 9:00 a.m. for the Republicans and 11:30 a.m. for the Democrats.
Now, for readers who don’t understand why this is a problem, as the organizers of the Nevada caucuses most assuredly do not, Saturday is the Jewish Sabbath, when Jews are supposed to refrain from work and from seeking to alter the world, which, after all, is precisely the point of an election!


Traditional Jews are automatically excluded from participating in the caucus since it would violate their Sabbath observance. But even for those Jews who do not follow the traditional Sabbath restrictions–and by latest estimates there are between 60,000 and 80,000 Jews in Nevada and, unsurprisingly, disproportionately active in the political process–the timing of the caucuses fall in the middle of Sabbath services when many Jews who might not otherwise have a religious objection to attending the caucus later in the day will be in synagogue.
The issue was picked up by the Faith in Public Life blog and the scornful comments that the piece drew were even more alarming than the decision itself, which was presumably made in ignorance. Several posters seem to suggest that Jewish groups in Nevada are trying to impose their religious views on others–a stunningly outrageous view when evangelical candidates are working to overturn legal abortion, rewrite school curricula, and prevent stem-cell research. Although there is nothing in Christianity that I am aware of that would prevent Christians from participating in an election on Christmas, (not that there could ever be an election on Christmas – it’s a Federal holiday, for crying out loud) I don’t think Christians who rightly complained about such an arrangement would be accused of being “backward” and “superstitious.” But that’s what’s happening here.
I’m not sure why there is so much hostility when Jews are not asking for any special rights or privileges–just the ability to practice their religious values and their civic values like anyone else.
Isn’t that the kind of turnout we should want?

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posted January 14, 2008 at 12:57 pm

I certainly hope you’re not surprised by ignorant, prejudiced Christians who are only too happy and self-righteous about imposing their views on others. It’s sheer thoughtlessness to have picked Saturday and even more thoughtless for ignorant people to claim Jews are imposing their views – what’s wrong with caucusing on Sunday, for instance? Any Christian law against work on their Sabbath? Or just laws against tolerance and understanding of others?

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laura mushkat

posted January 14, 2008 at 1:22 pm

Look at the article and see what it says that evangelical Christian politicians want to have occur. These are the very things most people-Jewish and otherwise- want to stop!!!!
As far as the day they caucus who cares. There are many days to choose from normally and let the Christians and those who wish to go to a caucus do so on Saturday and for others make it Sunday as well-which I believe they usually do. After all many people of all persuasions work on the weekends and need to find a day if they want to do so.

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posted January 14, 2008 at 7:16 pm

Here in NH we always vote on a weekday. The polls are open from 8am-8pm. To my knowledge this accommodates everybody of voting age.

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Felice Debra Eliscu

posted January 14, 2008 at 8:40 pm

If all the Jews in Nevada went to Temple on Shabbat and prayed for the Messiach to come before the next Presidential Election, we would have no need for a President! In fact, we would be in Israel.
This is my solution to the problem.

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posted January 15, 2008 at 9:51 am

Doesn’t January 14th fall on a Monday? How did Saturday come up?

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posted January 15, 2008 at 10:48 am

I’m really shocked at this. Allowances are made in Wisconsin for Amish/Mennonite to vote, why not extend hours or allow the jewish to vote at a different time so they can enjoy both religious freedom and the ability to do their civic duty?
They’re not trying to force their religion on others, just trying to find a way to continue their faith practice and be a part of the presidential election process. Which isn’t too much to ask for in my opinion.
It seems wrong to me that people are being told to choose between religion and having their say in the leader of the country they live in.

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Joseph Chandler

posted January 15, 2008 at 11:05 am

I was just wondering. Is the option of an absentee vote availabe in those states? If so, then that should give an option to all no matter what day is chosen.

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posted January 15, 2008 at 11:51 am


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posted January 15, 2008 at 11:56 am

I assume the date was a typo. The Nevada votes are on the 19th, Saturday. I find the Saturday selection particularly disturbing in light of the attention being given to the law suit regarding caucusing at the workplace to allow hospitality workers time to meet and vote. Why don’t the Jewish organization join the lawsuit, at least to go on record noting the disenfrancisment of so many Nevada citizens.

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Rabbi Henry Jay Karp

posted January 15, 2008 at 12:38 pm

Needless to say, I find this news quite disturbing. Our Iowa caucuses were held on a weeknight.
I am disappointed that there have been not action items included in the original posting, or in subsequent comments. Surely, there must be some ways in which the Jewish community – and not only the Nevada Jewish community – can lodge official protests.

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Larry Lennhoff

posted January 15, 2008 at 1:12 pm

Absentee ballots are not available for the caucuses, although they are available for the elections. I used to vote in my town meetings back in MA, which were held on Shabbat. They were within walking distance, voting did not involve writing or any other melacha, and I didn’t have to present ID (no eruv, so I couldn’t carry id). You can daven by yourself before the meeting starts – it isn’t ideal but it is certainly permitted.
My rabbi did not completely approve – he felt town governance was uvray d’chol (weekday activity), but agreed that I wasn’t breaking any melachot d’oraita (biblical laws). I felt this sort of thing was covered by the halachot of court Jews in the same way Senator Liberman is able to vote in the Senate on Shabbat when necessary.

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posted January 15, 2008 at 1:30 pm

As a lonely Jew living in the bible belt, I totally understand what the Jews in Nevada are going through. I had to quit a women’s club because they would not stop using “In Jesus name we pray” before each meeting. I was accused of trying to make them change the way they pray. As one of very few Jews in the area, I had to quit. All other organizations I belong to (I’m president of the Democratic Women) had no problem with omitting the statement.

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Abe S Garfinkel

posted January 15, 2008 at 2:35 pm

I beleive that a lack of communications between the various Jewish sects (Orthodox,Conservative and Reform)in reflecting a united front to
lobby the major political parties in addressing our religious needs for
observing the Sabbath. For our size community we contribute disprationate amounts of money to both of these parties.

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posted January 15, 2008 at 2:42 pm

This tells you more about the Jews of Nevada than about the Gentiles of Nevada.
Well it is Sin City.

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diane small

posted January 15, 2008 at 3:52 pm

for one thing the sabbath is not a jewish sabbath, this is a holy day of GOD,which a started with creation, when there was no jews this the seventh day of creation.

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Scott R.

posted January 15, 2008 at 7:06 pm

Yeah. Whatever.

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posted January 15, 2008 at 9:18 pm

I am very disappointed in all levels of the Democratic party and with the Democratic candidates for allowing this to happen.
Once again I hear concerns for “diversity” but the Jews are always left out.
I am not Orthodox, but I try to make the Sabbath a special day in my own way. I try to create a special day of peace and tranquiltiy. This does not include participating in a politcal caucus.

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posted January 16, 2008 at 12:32 am

To diane small – Adam and Chava, Seth, Shem, Eber, and that entire family line had Jewish souls. They studied the Torah and kept it spiritually, because there was NO obligation to keep it materially until Sinai.
So your statement “there was no jews this the seventh day of creation” is not correct.
The Torah states that only Jews are permitted to keep the Sabbath…non-Jews are not permitted to keep it exactly as Jews do (although anyone can designate that day as a day of rest and prayer, I think). That’s why G-d ordained through Divine Providence that Christianity changed their rest day to Sunday and Islam to Friday.
Bill H.

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Al Eastman

posted January 16, 2008 at 1:55 pm

I can understand the Republican Party not considering the “Jewish Vote” important, BUT THE DEMOCRATS??? For many years the Democrats could count on the “Jewish Vote”. Most of us, I wager, are registered Democrats and back that up with substantial financial and time commitments. To me, this is one huge slap in the face to ALL us Jews.
I suggest we contact our party of choice and complain long and loudly. In addition, we should tell the leaders we will NOT make our usual financial and personal time contributions this year. Remember, the squeaky wheel gets the grease. Perhaps it is now time for us to re-examine our support of the party we have chosen to back?

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Carolyn G.

posted January 16, 2008 at 2:09 pm

Perhaps that was exactly what the Nevada organizers had in mind, hmmmmmmmmm?

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posted January 16, 2008 at 4:09 pm

Here in Australia our elections ae always on a Saturday, however anyone unable to vote on that date can do a prevote before the day, people who will be travelling, unable to vote for religious reasons etc all do this. Perhaps if this isn’t available there it should be done, not only for religious reasons but because there are other people who can not vote on a particular day. I did not like the “yeah whatever’ comment someone made.

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posted January 16, 2008 at 7:02 pm

“The Torah states that only Jews are permitted to keep the Sabbath…non-Jews are not permitted to keep it exactly as Jews do (although anyone can designate that day as a day of rest and prayer, I think). That’s why G-d ordained through Divine Providence that Christianity changed their rest day to Sunday and Islam to Friday.”
Bill H.
Well, Bill H., where does it say that in the Bible? To the best of my knowledge only Jews are OBLIGATED to keep the Sabbath, but that is not the same thing as saying that non-Jews are not permitted to keep the Sabbath. God did not ordain that Christianity change its rest day to Sunday. Christians did that on their own to distinguish themselves from Jews.

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Deborah W

posted January 16, 2008 at 7:28 pm

I’d like to point out that the main issue here is the right to have a voice in our government. The right to vote is precious to all Americans. I do not believe that holding elections on a sabbath or holy day of any of our country’s major religions is a good idea. I believe it violates the civil rights of those it eliminates from the ballot box. Every effort should be made to either hold elections on “neutral” days, or make accommodations, such as early voting being available for all elections. It used to be that only national level elections in Texas had early voting options. In recent years, early voting options have been extended to state, county, city, and local elections, as well. This allows anyone for any reason to get his/her votes in at their convenience. Many people take advantage of this option to avoid the big crowds on election day. This also preserves the rights of the many people in this area who come from religious traditions other than Christian. Although I am Christian, I was taught to respect the traditions of other Americans, and also to do what I can to preserve the rights of people different from myself. Injustice to one eventually leads to injustice to all. Blessings to all! Deborah W

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posted January 17, 2008 at 7:25 am

I am sick and tired of athiests , Evangelical Christians and others always getting their way ie: taking G-d off of everything that can be removed. I’m surprised no one has suggested sandblasting the Supreme Court building to remove any evidence of G_D. I agree that the caucuses or primarys should be held during the week. All religions have some sort of worship services on both Saturday and Sunday. How about instead of excluding G-d in our lives or ramming Him down peoples throats, we learn to accept each belief system and be tolerant of all people. By the way I was raised in a Judeo/Christian house…Dad was Jewish and Mum was Protestant…boy did we learn tolerance.
Thank You,

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posted January 17, 2008 at 10:15 am

I’d like to apologize to all for the bigotry expressed in previous comments and the demonstration of the lack of understanding of the concept of PLURALISM that makes our nation possible.

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posted January 17, 2008 at 2:03 pm

Lets face it. America is not as tolerant or minority religions as we like to pretend. The political parties who scheduled the Caucuses on Saturday knew full well what they were doing. They just did not care.
I am a town council person in my home town and it is a perpetual fight to stop meetings as well as public and political events from being scheduled on Saturday and on Jewish Holidays. It is even tougher to stop the scheduling of meetings on Muslim or other minority religious holidays. The response I always get is that considerations of religious concerns other than those of the majority Christians is not important.

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posted January 18, 2008 at 10:52 am

Both parties’ primaries are on Saturdays here in SC…you’ve gotta love how people think of others…..

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posted January 18, 2008 at 10:55 am

I am ver suprised that not ONE person choose to remember that they are all G-D’s children,and not in charge of anything here on earth.We are all tenants,and are supposed to enjoy the same opportunites,but guess what? We don’t.Some of the people who are here voicing their opinons the loudest are showing who they really are,by words and thoughts.Their meaning comes through LOUD and CLEAR.Whom do we really care about?

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Dawn Woolbright

posted January 18, 2008 at 3:04 pm

When will we learn? We are all a part of G_d’s family. Why can’t we all get along? I believe that the one thing G_d is not going to continue to tollerate is STRIFE in his house (ie:On Earth). Israel (mainly The Jewish People for the time being) are suppose to to be setting the example for the world to follow G_d should be seen so largely thru this people that All The world should want to follow Hashem’s ways. It is a tall order I’m well aware & yet it seems that although it’s on G_d’s schedule of things to do the world has other plans. To be sure, Athough I don’t know when it can’t be much longer G_d is going to step in & take full control or Mankind is going to simply destroy itself. Man is Dominating man to it’s Injury. I am not Jewish by birth or conversion it’s not allowed because I believe that Y-Hshua(Jesus)is the Jewish Messiah. I don’t think that we can all do what we want or what we have scheduled & Expect G-d to show up. My family & I honor HIS Shabbat, & The Biblical Feasts. Why because he said to. We are not Adventist either we are Human & find ourselves not accepted almost anywhere on earth. We strive not to follow man But G_d & his ways what a concept. My prayer is that one day we all will stop being so egoistic & caught up in want pause turn around & ask G_d maker of heaven on earth what he wants. There should not be Elections of any kind on Sabbath not because it’s inconvient but because G_d said SO.

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posted January 19, 2008 at 7:14 pm

Have ‘Christians’ forgotten that Jews ARE NOT the only ones whose sabbath falls on Saturday. What about Seventh Day Adventists, whose Sabbath is also on a Saturday. ‘Christians’ in this country want everything their way or not at all. One of the reasons this country was founded was for people to be able to worship and believe the way that they choose.

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posted January 24, 2008 at 10:07 am

Just another slap in the face; the primaries in SC are on Saturday as well. The Republican primary was on 19 January and the Democratic Primary will be on 26 January. It just makes my desire to do my aliyah to Israel all the more strong! We’ll never change the majority’s attitude here in this country. So we must all remember that HaShem has prepared a Jewish home for us through those who, through their blood, sweat, and tears, and many, many sacrifices have rebuilt our homeland. We have two options: Live in a country where the majority Christians rule, and kvetch till the cows come home, with no possibility of change, or live in a Jewish state where we are the majority decision makers. At least we do have the latter option available to us. Israel may not be perfect (yet), but she is a Jewish state!

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renee gomberg

posted January 26, 2008 at 1:47 am

I am jewish but do not traditionally celebrate shabbat. However, it concerns me greatly that we were unable to have our voices heard. It is not ok that so many jewish people were unable to vote because they were practing their religion. Not that it matters because we our the smallest minority in the entire country. I was very unhappy with this government, I am terrified of what we might get.

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