Democracy is Not a Spectator Sport by Rabbi Judy Schindler

When Jeremiah the prophet preached 2600 years ago, he enjoined his fellow Jews who were exiled to Babylon to get engaged with their community, “Seek the peace of the city to which I have caused you to be in exile…for in its shalom, you shall find shalom.” (Jeremiah 29:7) The word shalom is variously translated as welfare, prosperity, or peace.

Whether we recently moved to Charlotte or have lived here for years or our entire lives, our future is tied together with the future of our community. Our city’s success will lift us all. A prosperous Charlotte will retain existing businesses and attract new ones. A thriving Charlotte will provide support and opportunities from social services to the arts to education. A dynamic Charlotte will draw new Jews to our Queen City, ensuring our Jewish community stays vibrant.

We can seek the wellbeing of our city by voting. This coming Tuesday, our community will elect our city council members, our mayor, our school board members, and make a decision regarding school bonds that, if passed, will build seventeen new schools, make major renovations on 12 campuses, and eliminate the need for 335 mobile classrooms. (Nearly half of our CMS schools are fifty years old or older, and seventy-eight percent are over capacity.) We must continue to invest in our public education system to give all children, especially the most vulnerable, opportunities to learn and succeed. Great schools strengthen our entire community.

The Talmud teaches that when a scholar is seeking a place to live, among the things his/her city must have is a legal court, a tzedakah fund that is collected by two people and distributed by three, a synagogue, a scribe, a healer, and a teacher of children. (Babylonian Talmud, Sanhedrin 17b)

Where we live matters. Our city’s system of justice, its structures to support the needy such as affordable housing, its health care, businesses, educational system, and synagogues are all variables that are central to our wellbeing.

November 7th is Election Day. See it as a religious act to vote. If you haven’t stayed up-to-date on the candidates, Voter411.org provides you with background on all the local candidates and issues. Even if you go to the polls and make just one selection, taking less than an hour of your day to participate in our democracy increases the numbers of those voting and tells our politicians that you are engaged and care.

Ruth Messinger notes in Recharging Judaism, a book that cites so much of Temple Beth El’s work, that “Democracy is not a spectator sport.” This Tuesday, let us each do our part on the field.


Rabbi David Seidenberg crafted a prayer for voting which opens:  With my vote today, I am prepared and intending to seek peace for this country, as it is written: “Seek out the peace of the city where I cause you to roam, and pray for her sake to God, for in her peace you all will have peace.”

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