Written by Yosef Hershkop
In Part One I provided a brief rundown of what happened on Election Day. In this section I will focus on post-election day, and what we should be doing.
The Crown Heights Jewish community — us — may feel like losers, as the candidate least familiar to us, and one whose campaign promises included policies that may be hurtful to our community, won by a large margin. But as the saying goes, “G-d doesn’t bring a sickness without a cure”. Losing this election may be the best thing that happened to us, as we now know what we’re doing wrong and what we need to do going forward. Many apathetic community members voted for the first time ever, hundreds of new voters were registered, and people saw that a local Lubavitcher store owner can get a respectable 20% plus. All that is positive, and if we play our strengths right and limit our weaknesses, we should do very well in future elections.
We must educate our community about the benefits of being politically active every day of the year, not just on Election Day.
Currently, there’s a lot of negativity and disbelief in the community. Going forward — we must begin being more proactive in telling our elected officials, including those who we may not have supported in the past, that we want our opinions heard on bills and legislation that are important to us. We must also engage our elected officials on issues which may seem small (like broken traffic lights, alternate side parking, etc.). Believe it or not, they also want to hear from their actual constituents, not just from so-called power brokers. When we start to feel that engaging the system leads to tangible results, it will encourage us to strengthen our involvement.
Currently, very few Crown Heights’ers make any effort to be heard, and thus, Politicians understand that they can vote whichever way they want without consequence. Going forward — we must launch a major voter registration drive with the backing of ALL the community’s leadership and Rabbanim, and soon, people will better recognize its importance. This drive can’t wait for election season.
Currently, according to all estimates, we are missing well over 2500 potential voters. Going forward, we must work to change that. How? Every parent who sends their kids to local Mosdos or receives any help from the Community Council needs to be respectfully, but firmly, pushed to register. All single bochurim and girls living in our community long term need to also be pushed to register.
Finally, we need to actually show up to vote on EVERY election day, not only in the Presidential elections. This past election merited a mere 12% turnout — even if the Jewish turnout was double that it would still be a ridiculously low number. We are creating a dictatorship for ourselves when we don’t vote — it’s senseless. Once our voter count goes up, we can start touching the subject of “is it wise to put up Lubavitch candidates or is it better to have strong influence with whichever non-Jewish candidates we find most suitable”.
Waking this community from their slumber of apathy won’t be an easy task. It will take our combined effort to reach out and reach in, to educate, make aware, and mobilize our community to the real dangers of neglecting our political responsibilities, and the real, tangible benefits derived from pursuing it. Remaining ambivalent is no longer an option — the stakes are too high. With hard-work and a deep and abiding commitment, we can prevail.