2 November 2012
17 Cheshvan 5773
As I shared with our junior parents at their lovely parent social last Sunday, I was surprised by our fellow Jewish community member Jeff Jacoby’s editorial in last Sunday’s Boston Globe. Jeff’s title and the thesis of his article argued that “voting is a right, but it’s not a duty.” Vote if you want to and if it makes you feel good, Jeff suggested, but “there’s nothing wrong with staying home . . .” As a Jew, an American, and an educator charged with the sacred responsibility of preparing our next generation of citizens, I could not disagree more.
This morning our student body heard the third of three debates in advance of next week’s mock election run by our stateside juniors as part of their American History classes. Today focused on the presidential campaign; the first two debates focused on Question 2 (the “Death with Dignity” initiative) and the senatorial campaign. Most of our students will not be eligible to vote next week; yet, central to Gann’s mission and, in particular, of our history department’s pedagogical approach, is citizenship and civic participation.
We aim to prepare our students to “make a lasting impact on the Jewish community, American society, and the world at large.” In order to do this, they need to understand the big issues and questions facing our society and our world; to care about these issues and about our shared future; and to have the courage, conviction, and a sense of responsibility to act based on their knowledge and their values. In a democratic society, election season highlights the gravitas of this mission as we debate and, ultimately, determine who will shape the future and character of this country and the world.
Contrary to Jeff Jacoby’s message this week, in the Jewish tradition freedom is always accompanied by sacred obligation. In the words of the great Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel, “There is no time for neutrality,” for to be Jewish and to contribute to the vibrant democracy of America is to live, to learn, to care, and, yes, to vote, with Sinaitic urgency.
Rabbi Marc Baker