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Agudath Israel U.S. Voter Registration Drive Nets Over 8,000; Major Effort Adds 10,000 in Eretz Yisroel

agudah113.jpgThe days leading up to November 4, not to mention the hours of election day itself, were hectic ones for Betzalel Wolff.  The coordinator of Agudath Israel of America’s Voter Registration and Get Out the Vote campaign, he was fielding constant – sometimes concurrent – calls from constituents in need of information or assistance in casting their votes.

The voter registration / GOTV initiative had been on full speed for many long months; last week, though, it went into overdrive.  Over the course of the project, it helped register over 8,000 citizens in Orthodox communities in the United States.  Although the main focus of the campaign was in the New York / New Jersey area, the effort spanned the entire country with the support of Agudath Israel’s eight regional offices across the United States.

In addition, the Agudath Israel voter registration efforts went international as well, targeting US citizens living abroad. Most notably, the American Citizens Gemach (a division of the Government Affairs Office of Agudath Israel of America) directed by Rabbi Aharon Spetner, and other organizations in Eretz Yisroel, successfully registered 10,000 Americans living and studying in the Holy Land, providing them the ability to vote via absentee ballot.
The message that Agudath Israel successfully promoted was that one’s vote, in fact, counts.  While there has never been a national election that came down to a single vote, and while voting in “non-battleground” state may seem an exercise in futility, the fact remains that choosing to vote is an inherently meaningful act – a fact that has been noted loudly and clearly by Gedolim.

Rav Moshe Feinstein, zt”l, for instance, wrote in 5745 (1984) that “A fundamental principle of Judaism is hakaras hatov – recognizing benefits afforded us and giving expression to our appreciation. Therefore, it is incumbent upon each Jewish citizen to participate in the democratic system that guards the freedoms we enjoy.”

A second practical reason for voting, which was expressed by Rav Yaakov Kaminetzky, zt”l, is that politicians closely scrutinize the voting numbers in every district. Their policies, decisions and willingness to help our communities are very much based on their findings. That we vote demonstrates to our governmental representatives that our community cares about issues and should not be ignored.

More recently, a letter from contemporary Gedolim in Eretz Yisroel, including Rav Eliyashiv, shlit”a, was publicized about the importance of voting in the American elections. There was also a new kol koreh issued by a number of respected rabbonim in Brooklyn urging Jews to register and vote.

Agudath Israel worked hard to spread the message.  Using advertisements, letters to unregistered voters, raffle campaigns in schools, the assistance of local rabbonim, and good, old-fashioned knocking-on-doors, Agudath Israel workers and volunteers made sure the word got out.

And Mr. Wolff fielded thousands of phone calls from around the world.  They posed questions about voter registration and eligibility, made requests for voter registration cards, sought information on polling locations, and described problems at the polls.  The Agudath Israel representative carefully listened to each call and offered whatever material or assistance was necessary.  He recalls that callers were unusually appreciative of the help they received.  “Most of the calls,” he says, “ended with some variation of ‘Thank you so much. You are providing a wonderful service for our community!’”  Most gratifying of all, though, to Mr. Wolff, is that he helped play a role in opening eyes to the importance partaking in our country’s elections. The proof to that is the success of the registration drive as well as an unprecedented number of Orthodox Jews going to the polls on Election Day even in “non-battleground” states.

He also expressed his deep appreciation to “all the rabbonim, yeshiva and Bais Yaakov principals and administrators who assisted us in this campaign.”

Still on the job even after the elections are over, Mr. Wolff can’t help but add helpfully that “people who want to vote next year can still obtain a voter registration card by calling Agudath Israel at (212) 797-9000.”

(YWN Desk – NYC)

2 Responses

  1. Did all these newly registered voters ACTUALLY go and vote? Did they vote for the winner or loser? That would be interesting to know. People say they voted for one but in the booth pushed the lever for the other. If the Jewish vote indeed made a real difference,which I hope,then the political leaders will take note.

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