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Shul, Shabbat and Hanging Chads

Will the scheduling of Nevada’s caucuses during Saturday Sabbath services be the “hanging chad” of the 2008 election? After all, the top candidates in both parties seem to be running neck-and-neck, so much so that every state primary election counts. And in every state, every vote counts. But not every voter will have a chance to vote in this critical election.
The reality is the caucus system excludes anyone who cannot attend in person. However, in Nevada, the caucuses this year will also exclude two entire groups of people based on religious identity: observant Jews and Seventh Day Adventists. Even if this exclusion was done unintentionally, it endangers the vision of an America of religious tolerance.

“Scheduling the caucuses on Sabbath morning marginalizes both the Seventh-day Adventist Christian and the Orthodox Jewish communities,” said James Standish, Esq., an associate director for the Adventist Church on the Adventist News Network. “In an election that is being decided on thin margins, selecting a time that excludes thousands of voters may even change the outcome,” he added.
One would have hoped that, once appraised of the problem, the two parties would have responded in a proactive manner. But this does not seem to be the case.
Melissa, posting on the official site of The Jewish Council for Public Affairs, writes, “When I called the political parties in Nevada to inquire as to whether or not there were measures being taken to help accommodate those observant Jews who wished to participate in the caucuses, I received mixed results. A young Jewish woman at the Nevada Democratic Party told me that they had tried to put caucus-sites near religious neighborhoods and synagogues so that people could walk; precinct captains would be educated about the need to write down information on behalf of observant Jews instead of asking them to sign-in and write themselves. A gentleman at the Nevada Republican Party told me that the party was not even aware of the problem, but promised to make an effort to educate precinct captains on the issue. Neither had an adequate answer as to why the caucuses had to take place on a Shabbat morning.”
My mother, the daughter of immigrants, proudly voted at every opportunity. For her, the ability to vote distinguished America from the anti-Semitic Europe her parents had fled. The Sabbath is also a sacred right and responsibility of the Jewish people. Unfortunately, in Nevada this year, these two obligations are in conflict.
As the PBS series airing this month, “The Jewish Americans” highlights, Jews in America have often experienced discrimination and been forced to negotiate tensions between retaining our unique identity and entering the mainstream of modern American life and polity.
I don’t know how many Jews hold true enough to the religious conviction of Sabbath observance to be troubled by this dilemma. But it is troubling that the Nevada leadership is not more troubled and apologetic about the impact of the conflict they have created.

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posted January 18, 2008 at 8:19 am

Well the truth is that the Dems and Reps don’t choose the date. This is a Division of Elections problem. The parties don’t make up all the rules. It is the Governor you want to be yelling at.

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posted January 18, 2008 at 10:31 am

The primaries in South Carolina are also being held on Saturday. Some people just don’t think of others…

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posted January 18, 2008 at 10:37 am

It would seem to me that this is a deliberate violation of the “Separation of Church & State issues.
By violating the identity if two large religious groups teh state is certainly trying to force it’s will over the rights of these religious organizations.

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joe majors

posted January 18, 2008 at 10:55 am

Let us not be troubled, ultimately HAKADOSH BARUH HOO IS THE ONE WHO decisedes SHABBAT SHALOM>>>

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posted January 18, 2008 at 11:10 am

I had never even thought of the people that would be affected by the caucuses being held on a Saturday because I am not Jewish or Seventh Day Adventist. That is very discouraging to know that the people in charge of handling the dates of the caucuses did not think of it as well. Hopefully,now that this has been brought to people’s attention, it will be different in the future, although it won’t be in time for this election. Everyone should have the opportunity to exercise his/her right to vote and should not have to do so in disregard of faith. Thank you for bringing up this important issue.

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posted January 18, 2008 at 12:19 pm

re: The parties don’t make up all the rules. It is the Governor you want to be yelling at.
Posted by: AmaniS | January 18, 2008 8:19 AM
well, Good Luck! I live in Nevada and this is the state of “I’ll tell ya what ya wanna hear but don’t expect any action.”

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Al Eastman

posted January 18, 2008 at 2:27 pm

Any one of us who identifies themselves as a Jew, no matter how observant (or not) should be very angry over the South Carolina and Nevada selection of Saturday for the primaries. While I am far from observant, I feel personally insulted by Nevada and South Carolina.
It isn’t a matter of any of us as individuals being inconvenienced, it is that our faith is being disregarded and disrespected by those two States. We should start a massive letter writing campaign to our chosen party voicing our displeasure over these disrespectful decisions. Further, ALL Jewish organizations should cancel any events/trips/conventions scheduled for these two states and take their money elsewhere, and be very open and vociferous about why they do so. This tactic worked when the NFL moved the Superbowl from Arizona many years ago because they did not have an MLK holiday, which now they do.

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Harold Goldwasser

posted January 18, 2008 at 3:22 pm

Has anyone bothered to contact their representatives in Washington?

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Rabbi Jonathan Freirich

posted January 18, 2008 at 7:52 pm

As a rabbi serving a small congregation in Nevada, I have advised all my congregants, regardless of party affiliation, to show up enthusiastically for the caucus – we must participate in the political process.
Does this over-ride the obligations of more observant Jews? Obviously, that depends on one’s interpretations of Shabbat. To save a life, one gets in an ambulance on Shabbat, to determine the outcome of millions of lives, I would show up at a caucus.
It must be changed – I will be lobbying with the rest of Nevada’s Jews to make sure that important elections do not occur on holy days for anyone.

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Avraham Kortik

posted January 18, 2008 at 7:59 pm

This is what they call “a shanda fur de goyim” but in this case for the Yidden too, and possibly Hillary or Obama, depending on how many votes they lose. Very interesting.

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posted January 18, 2008 at 8:15 pm

What all the hyperbole about “Christian Values” really means is that those who observe their Sabbath on Saturday (or not on Sunday) don’t really matter to our political parties.
I think that both Jewish peoples, 7th Day Adventists and any other groups that have (Saturday) Sabbath restrictions should sue the State of Nevada and any other state (South Carolina?) that so egregiously disregards their constitutional rights. The outcomes of any such primaries should be invalidated.
Exclusion from voting (even in a primary) by virtue of religious observance, is as inherently unconstitutional as Jim Crow laws, literacy tests, poll taxes, grandfather clauses, as well as gender and racial discrimination.
Any type of political disenfranchisement is dangerous to everyone’s freedom of religion (or atheism) and should not be tolerated!

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Jean Rouff

posted January 18, 2008 at 9:24 pm

As a Christian, it had not occurred to me that Jews could not vote on Saturday, and I do not think this was a deliberate attempt to prevent Jews from voting. However, it seems to me that Jews and Adventists should protest loudly and acquaint the Christians and atheists who are ignorant of Jewish Sabbath obligations with this problem. Voting in the U.S. is a right and should not be interferred with by anyone. It is also our right to practice our religious beliefs, and that should not interfere with our obligations as citizens to vote.

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posted January 19, 2008 at 2:41 am

Washington State is scheduling the Democratic and Republican caucuses on Saturday April 19 which is not only Shabbat but the first seder of Pesach. Input from the Jewish community has had no impact on this decision.

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posted January 19, 2008 at 3:51 am

The Democrats and Republicans who want the Muslim educated Obama to win are very happy to exclude the Jewish population. We should stop this travesty. Everyone should be allowed to vote no matter their religious or non religious affliation.

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Billie Berman

posted January 19, 2008 at 8:37 pm

Sorry to dissappoint you all but Obama is Christian and not Muslim, he may have a Muslim name, but has been a member of a Christian church for many years. Jews do take the privilidge of Voting so their Vote does count. Like African American’s in this country there was a time when Jews were not allowed to Vote. Jews have had to stand up and fight for their rights and continue to have to fight for their freedoms in this world. Jews may very well vote for a Muslim if they thought the person would be good for the country and I hope that Muslim’s would do the same. Muslims go to Jewish physicians and Jews go to Muslim physicians in this country. That is respect. Where is it in the world?
There can be miracles if you believe and when we are going to have a country that does the right thing for the People, by the People we must all look carefully at who we choose for leaders. There are very important issues at stake and leadership cannot be taken lightly. There are wars out there and I believe there can be an end to these conflicts with intelligent leadership, thoughtful negotiation, world conscious prayer using peaceful tools without fighting and killing. I believe that we can work torward improving our environment if we mobilize as quickly as possible. We should not be waiting for elections to happen we should be acting now.
I believe there can be an end to war, and raping and killing of inocent women and children. Haven’t we had enough! I have seen too much of it in my lifetime and my mother is still alive who has seen more. I believe that women, children, sons, and daughters everywhere must unite and return to there families and help each other cope with these problems, disasters and lay down your arms hold each other and pray for an end to the evil and war in communities, in your villages and throughout the world. There can be miracles if you believe.

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posted January 20, 2008 at 1:31 pm

1/ According to Islamic Law, as I understand it, the child of a Muslim man is a Muslim.
2/ I am sure the huge, massive Shomer Shabbat community in Nevada was greatly inconvenienced.
3/ There was time in US history when Jews weren’t allowed to vote? When?
4/ I love the comment of the Seventh Day Adventist who said that the the SDA and the ORTHODOX (emphasis mine) Jewish communities would be marginalized.
5/ In Washington State when you open the door for Eliyahu, make sure you yell.
6/Primaries on Saturday not a problem if you can vote after sundown.

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Rabbi Jonathan Freirich

posted January 20, 2008 at 1:57 pm

All of the party caucuses in Nevada took place on Saturday morning – you could not vote after sundown.

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Rabbi Jonathan Freirich

posted January 20, 2008 at 2:00 pm

Oh, and I enthusiastically supported Obama, for his ideas, not his religious or ethnic affiliation – voting or not voting for someone because of their background is exactly the kind of thing that minorities of all kinds have been working against for the last century in our country.

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posted January 21, 2008 at 10:55 am

I think we should continue to raise this issue. Holding the caucus on Saturday not only affected observant Jews. Many Nevadans were not able to participate. While in our “old economy” with Monday through Friday 9-5 work schedules, a Saturday date might have boosted overall participation (while adversely affecting some groups), in a service economy, a Saturday date excludes Jews and many non-Jews. And anyone who thinks this was done to boost Barack Obama’s turnout is sadly mistaken — the very union that endoursed him represents people for whom Saturday is never a day off. The effect on those keeping the Sabbath mgiht have been unintentional but as this a wider issue, we might be able to garner support from others.
Also, I can personally attest to the fact that a Muslim last name is no longer a good preditor of religious background or religious affiliation. Migration and intermarriage have dispersed easily identifiable names across racial, ethnic and religious groups.

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posted January 21, 2008 at 10:57 am

When he was in the Illinois legislature, a bill came up mandating medical care for those aborted fetuses which, horror of horrors, survived their abortions.
Obama voted no.
Glad to see that the ‘ideas’ this rabbi supports include not caring for fetuses who become babies.

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Gerry Yancey

posted January 21, 2008 at 11:48 pm

Halacha (Jewish law) does define when a fetus becomes a nefesh (person). “…a baby…becomes a full-fledged human being when the head emerges from the womb. Before then, the fetus is considered a ‘partial life.’ ” In the case of a “feet-first” delivery, it happens when most of the fetal body is outside the mother’s body.
Jewish beliefs and practice not neatly match either the “pro-life” nor the “pro-choice” points of view.
Just thought you’d like to know :)
aka: Mordecai Gidon ben Abraham & Sara

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posted February 4, 2008 at 10:46 am

Ron Paul 2008
Those who cast the Votes, they decide nothing. Those who count the votes, they decide everything. – Uncle Joe

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