You Matter and So Does Your Vote by Rabbi Dusty Klass

If you have been in the building at temple over the past week or so, you may have noticed a cut out of a person, painted purple, next to a bowl in the lobby holding a number of purple ribbons available to wear as an addition to your outfit.

Every October, these ribbons appear in our lobby, along with a few other key areas on Shalom Park. They are part of a domestic violence awareness initiative put together by Jewish Family Services.

As I was thinking about “important things to mention” as part of this week’s blog post, I knew I wanted to include this reminder: October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month. I knew I wanted to state, unequivocally, the importance of listening to, supporting and yes, believing victims and survivors of domestic violence, sexual assault, and abuse. I knew I wanted to emphasize the ways in which treating other human beings with dignity, respect, and equality, play key roles in how we as Jews choose to show up in the world.

But I also wanted to include this reminder: midterm elections are coming up in under a month; November 6th is right around the corner. For the last few weeks, and continuing right up until the Friday before elections, fellow congregants have been volunteering at preneg, helping register TBE congregants and visitors to vote, and offering helpful information about early voting, voting locations, and some of the important measures on the ballot this year. I knew I wanted to emphasize the importance of exercising our rights to vote, to remind us how recently we as a religious minority (and some of us as women!) have had that right. Last week, our congregation honored the death of a wonderful woman who was born in 1919 – the year congress passed the 19th amendment. During the first learning session of our #TBERace&Justice learning series last night, Dr. Willie Griffin reminded us of how recently the Voting Rights Act was passed (1965). We only benefit from rights and privileges if we exercise them.

What I couldn’t figure out initially was how to connect domestic violence awareness and voting without entering into a conversation around sexual assault that deserves far more than a blog post.

So here’s the thing.

Violence, especially domestic violence, especially violence of a sexual nature, is designed to make you feel less then, to make you feel helpless, to make you feel as if you don’t matter.

And such a feeling is antithetical to our faith, a faith that rests on the idea that we are each individually created in the image of God, that to save a life is to save the entire world that resides within that individual life, and that we as humanity NEED the existence of every single one of us on this earth, for the long or short time we get to be here. We are not accidents.

When we exercise our right to vote, we are reminding ourselves, each other, and those elected to represent us, that we matter. When we vote, we play an active role in shaping the world we want to live in.

When I hear people say things like “it’s just one vote,” or “nothings going to change, not really,” I am reminded of the power of water. It is true that a single raindrop cannot shape a mountain. But (as we well know from the rain of the last few weeks), many raindrops together can have quite the effect. It takes a lot of individual raindrops to create a deluge.

So I suppose I do not have just one message for you this week; I have two:

You matter, and so does your vote. Do not let anyone tell you otherwise.

Shabbat Shalom.