A Rabbi’s Plea To Vote Between Now And Nov. 8

On the secular anniversary of the horrific shooting at Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh four years ago, I write as a rabbi who has stayed out of partisan politics as long as what was at stake was differences of opinion about issues and how to address them. Now, fundamental values of upholding democracy as well as safety from violence have somehow become partisan issues.

I write this as a plea to vote and make sure everyone trying to stay out of politics knows what is on the line between now and November 8.

As Jews, we will be directly affected by the outcome of this election and must stand up both for our values and our safety. Lonny Goldsmith wrote powerfully about concerns about Governor Walz’s challenger. Here I want to address concerns about Kim Crockett, Steve Simon’s opponent for Secretary of State. Some people are not aware that the office of the Secretary of State oversees statewide elections and operates the statewide voter registration system. Avowed election denier Kim Crockett’s issues page indicates a multi-point plan to limit access to voting, preemptively blocking the system from honoring the will of the majority. [The Star Tribune has endorsed Steve Simon since I drafted this letter.]

Protecting freedom of speech, access to voting, and accepting majority rule are American and Jewish values that are being openly undermined by Crockett and other candidates. Ensuring fair access to voting for all citizens is an issue of ethical concern for all of us; it too is not merely a partisan divide.

Jewish tradition elevates vigorous disagreement for the sake of the highest good, as does the American democratic system at its best. Rabbinic sources teach that any matter worth debating has 49 facets on each side and that no one person holds the absolute truth. Our job is to engage in debate amongst one another until all points have been raised, and then to go with what the majority decides. According to a famous rabbinic text, even God doesn’t overrule the majority.

Moreover, Crockett publicly uses antisemitic tropes. The state Republican party endorsed her candidacy in May, even as she showed a slide depicting Secretary of State Steve Simon and Democratic elections lawyer Marc Elias as twins from the horror film The Shining, along with the words “Let’s wreck elections forever and ever and ever.” The next slide in the video showed Simon and Elias attached to Democratic-leaning fundraiser George Soros’ fingers with puppet strings. All three men are Jewish. While the chair of the Republican party apologized, Crockett did not.

There is a direct line between these antisemitic signals and mass violence. They can’t be normalized. The Convention took place the same weekend as the hate-based shooting in Buffalo, in which the murderer was fueled by the replacement conspiracy theory. Four years ago today, 11 people were murdered in the Tree of Life Synagogue, also in connection fueled by white replacement theory. Allowing people who embrace these beliefs into public office poses a deadly threat not only to minority groups but to any of us who care about being safe in public spaces.

Rabbi Tarfon said, “It is not your duty to finish the work, but neither are you at liberty to neglect it.” (Pirke Avot 2:16) Please learn about your candidates and vote in this midterm election, and encourage everyone you know to vote as well. There is no place for people who embrace these theories in our public offices.