A Letter to My Children On Election Day

Dear Children:

Every election year, Dadda and I bring you with us to vote. From the time you were both infants and we carried you in the Baby Bjorn – long before you could understand what we were doing or why – you’ve joined us at the polling stations so we could exercise our right and our responsibility to vote. We wanted you to experience the act of voting as naturally as eating or breathing. We wanted to teach you to make voting a habit, to make a commitment to show up in the world and lift your voices powerfully and robustly.

You’re older now, in middle school and high school; you understand many of the issues in our society and you’re more part of the process. We discuss the candidates and their positions on issues we care about. You’ve become more vocal about supporting candidates who seek to address racism, gun violence, poverty, women’s equality, civil rights, and climate change. You’ve not been afraid (thank God!) to let us know about candidates you find challenging and problematic. You’ve engaged us in thoughtful conversations about negative ads you’ve seen on the television that seek to make us afraid of immigrants, people of color, indigenous people – “Those are our friends,” you’ve stated proudly and with a healthy skepticism towards political prognosticators and peddlers of cynicism.

For Dadda and me, voting is more than a civic duty; it is a Jewish act, a holy act. The Talmudic rabbis teach that we must never place a leader in the community without the community having a say. We take that to heart. We Jews know from our history the consequences of not having a vote, of not being able to lift up our voices in the public square without fear of reprisal or violence. We are conscious of the fact that it is less than 100 years that white women in America have had the right to vote – and for women of color, many fewer years. Democracy and the right to vote are fragile, precious, and they depend on us showing up.

Voting still is far from ideal in our nation: Too many states have erected barriers to vote, too many people still don’t cast their ballot even when they are able. We need to work to make it easier for everyone to vote because we need a society where everyone’s voices are heard and have an impact on our communal decision-making. We’ll keep working together and we won’t rest until we reach 100 percent voter participation!

We know, dear children, that we are living in a frightening moment in our nation’s and our world’s history. Al tirah, the Torah commands repeatedly: Be not afraid. As we head out to vote together, we are blessed by your presence and we promise you that we will vote our hopes over our fears, our aspirations over our anxieties. And we will hold the central commandment of Torah in our hearts and in our hands as we cast our ballot: v’ahavta l’reiycha kamocha – to love our neighbors as ourselves.

All My Love, Daddy