Voting as an Imperative

Voting as an Imperative
Ron Katz

In a post written by Rabbi Dara Lithwick on ReformJudaism.org titled "What’s So Jewish About Voting", she opens her essay with the following sentences: “Judaism teaches us that voting is not just a civic duty. In fact, many of our rabbis and sages have framed voting as a mitzvah, a Jewish imperative.” 

With the midterm elections in November, voting has never been more important. Since Congress is unable to enact federal laws to establish minimum standards for all states, each state is empowered to create its own rules. In some states that has resulted in laws that are characterized as voter suppression. 

Another challenge is misinformation or a lack of clarity about how to navigate voting. Questions about the rules for absentee voting, the need for a voter ID (currently, not in NC), and more. Those questions and misinformation can create obstacles not to vote.

Carolina Jews for Justice (CJJ) is a leader in promoting voting. CJJ cannot take positions on candidates or political parties, but it does work to “create a more just, fair, and compassionate North Carolina”. That means CJJ is working to address the challenges to provide those eligible to vote the information they need to do so. To promote voting, CJJ works with many partners to provide opportunities for people to take action.

It starts by all of us:

  1. Putting together a plan for voting. A statewide organization, You Can Vote, offers a “pledge to vote” campaign to help make your plan. “Google” their name to sign up, and you will receive timely emails to help you navigate voting.
  2. Checking that you are registered under your current name at your current address. Go to: https://vt.ncsbe.gov/RegLkup/ or “google” NC Voter Search. Enter your name to see if you are registered accurately. You can find out what districts you are in to determine what races will be on your ballot and where your polling place is on Election Day. In September, you will be able to see your sample ballot.
  3. Learning about the candidates on your ballot. Vote411.org is an important website to provide information on candidates and voter guides. CJJ-West is helping people learn about the positions of candidates on key social justice issues for those running for NC General Assembly seats in WNC and US House District 11. Watch for the announcement to get this online candidate guide.
  4. Joining CJJ for a statewide Get out the Vote (GOTV) Shabbat. This online event is set for the late afternoon on October 21st. There will be opportunities before and after, but the GOTV Shabbat will be a great way to learn, be inspired and “plug in”. 

Should you have questions at any point or want to help promote voting here in the west, contact Ron Katz, CJJ-West’s Democracy Rights work group lead. To reach him, email him at [email protected].

The Jewish Response to Reproductive Justice

The Jewish Response to Reproductive Justice
Mena Kates and Judy Leavitt

The Jewish Perspective (National Council of Jewish Women ((NCJW))/Rabbi Jenny Solomon)The Written and Oral Torah conclude:


• The fetus does not have the status of personhood.
• The full status of personhood and therefore the protections of personhood do not begin
at conception but begins at a viable birth.
• The fetus does not have meaningful status for the first forty days; thereafter, it is
considered part of the body of the pregnant woman until it breathes on its own.  
• Termination of a pregnancy is required if a mother’s life is at risk, the risk. This can be
understood to concern her physical and mental wellbeing.

In Summary: (interpretations by NCJW)

  • Jewish teachings command us to care for our communities and our neighbors. That
    includes making sure everyone has access to safe health care, including access to
    abortion and reproductive care.
  • Abortion care is health care, and health care is a human right. The Jewish value
    includes believing in a world where everyone can access abortion care when they
    need it.
  • Bans on abortion aren’t just a violation of the human right to bodily autonomy,
    they’re a violation of our religious rights as Jews. Jewish tradition doesn’t just allow
    abortion, it commands it in some cases — and we need to make sure abortion stays
    accessible for everyone.

The facts:

  • Is abortion still legal in the U.S.? In some states. 
    The U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Roe v. Wade guaranteed the constitutional
    right to have an abortion in the U.S. The Supreme Court has now overturned Roe v.
    Wade with their decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization.
  • Roe being overturned is not the same thing as there being a federal ban on
    abortion. Roe being overturned means the constitutional protection that was in place
    has been removed, and the states are no longer limited in what kinds of abortion
    restrictions they can pass. Some states have legal protections in place that will ensure
    that abortion remains legal there. Others have banned or severely restricted abortion.
  • It is legal to travel out of state to get an abortion, no matter what state you’re located
    in.

Currently:

  • 8 states completely ban abortion
  • 36 states ban abortion after a specified point in pregnancy
  • 19 states (including North Carolina) require a person seeking an abortion to
    wait a specified period of time before their abortion
  • 28 states require some type of parental involvement for a minor to get an abortion
  • North Carolina - Abortion is legal in North Carolina until "viability"; which is the stage of pregnancy when a fetus has developed enough to survive outside the uterus with medical help. It usually happens around 24 to 26 weeks of pregnancy. For more info go to: https://www.abortionfinder.org/abortion-guides-by-state/abortion-in-north-carolina.

If the injunction is removed, abortions will still be legal in the first 20
weeks of pregnancy or in a medical emergency, unless new legislation is passed by
the General Assembly and signed into law by the Governor.

Relative History:

Before Roe v Wade, abortion was illegal in most states. One of the most effective responses, was
the creation of the Jane Collective, started by Heather Booth (https://www.heyalma.com/a-brief-history-
of-the-jane-collective/), a Jewish woman. Officially known as the Abortion Counseling Service of
Women's Liberation, it was an underground service in Chicago, Illinois affiliated with the Chicago
Women's Liberation Union that operated from 1969 to 1973, a time when abortion was illegal in most of
the United States.

In 1973, the Supreme Court held in Roe v. Wade that the constitutional right of privacy implicit
in the Fourteenth Amendment’s Due Process Clause protected a woman’s right to choose
abortion. In Planned Parenthood of Southeastern Pennsylvania v. Casey, decided in 1992, the
Court clarified that the right to have an abortion could be exercised at any time before viability.

Taking Action:
83% of Jews support abortion – more than any other religious group.
Abortion action is a matter of religious freedom. We as Jews must act on our teachings!

  • State action is a priority –
    o Vote for pro-choice candidates for state offices
    o Protest efforts to gerrymander districts
    o Support Medicaid expansion and maintain reproductive healthcare
    o Support health providers freedom to give care
    o Know the facts: 1 in 5 women will have an abortion – whether it is legal or not
  • Federal action
    o Ask our Senators to support the Women’s Health Protection Act
  • Individual action:
    o Donate to the Carolina Abortion Fund, and independent clinics such as Keep Our
    Clinics  to make sure people can get the care they need.
    o Contribute to the Jewish Fund for Abortion Access, an initiative of the National
    Council of Jewish Women that resources the National Abortion Federation. 
    o Support Pro-Choice NC - sign up for their Rapid Response list to stay informed
    about actions you can take now and in the future.
    o Support Planned Parenthood of NC, to continue reproductive health care and support
    women coming from other states to NC.

Join Carolina Jews for Justice to expand access and support!  See the Reproductive Justice page on the CJJ website.

Contact Mena Kates ([email protected]) or Judy Leavitt ([email protected])

Elections and Voting Rights 2022: What You Can Do Now

August 2022 Message from Marilyn:
"The election is about 100 days away, and we see interest and energy rising to meet the moment. Voter turnout was at record highs for the primary and will be even higher this Fall. The more we do, the more voters will go to the polls! 
We can do this!"


[Guide updated 8/03/2022]

NORTH CAROLINA 2022 ELECTIONS 

IMPORTANT INFORMATION AND DATES

ONLY THREE MONTHS TO THE GENERAL ELECTION, NOV 8! 

Be sure to check your sample ballot so you’ll be informed!

Races on the ballot include:

  • The U.S. Senate and House of Representatives
  • The N.C. General Assembly (Senate and House of Representatives)
  • The N.C. Supreme Court and Court of Appeals
  • Municipal and county elections in some locations. You can use this tool to determine if your municipality or county is holding elections.

For nonpartisan information about candidates:  

See www.vote411.org or http://www.ncvoter.org

Voter Registration

When: The deadline to register or update your registration is October 14.

Note:  You may also register during Early Voting and then vote at any Early Voting site.

Early Voting

When: October 20 –  3 pm, November 5 

Where: Any Early Voting site in your county

To find early voting sites and schedules, click here.  https://vt.ncsbe.gov/ossite/

Election Day:

When: November 8 from 6:30 am - 7:30 pm

Where: Vote at your precinct.  

Vote by Mail/Absentee ballots

To request a ballot:   Click here, if you want to download a form, click here

When:  Available September 9.  Deadline to request a ballot is November 1 (but do it sooner!). 

Submitting a completed ballot:  You may submit a ballot starting September 9. Completed ballots must be delivered to the county Board of Elections Office by 5 pm on November 8, or postmarked by 5 pm that day.

How to track your ballot online: Click here.


HAVE THE DATES MEMORIZED? NOW TAKE ACTION!

Choose from actions that take a few minutes to those that require an hour or more, or an ongoing commitment. Once you have chosen, do what you can! If you sign up for a phone bank or text bank, you don’t have to stay the whole time! If you postcard or write letters, you can write them a few at a time, or write them together with friends. If you canvass or register voters in person, you get to hang out with other people! 

Voting rights is not a partisan issue!  Many voters - unaffiliated voters, people disillusioned with their political party, and those disengaged with politics altogether - may be more amenable to nonpartisan than partisan approaches. If everyone has a voice, faith in democracy will be restored.

If we increase turnout and protect voters and the vote, we will have people in place to build the democracy we want!

Read more

The Status of Abortion Law in North Carolina

A Memorandum for Carolina Jews for Justice — May 25, 2022 

On May 2, 2022, Politico published a leaked draft of an opinion in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, Case No. 19-1392, now pending in the United States Supreme Court. The draft is authored by Justice Samuel Alito and apparently represents the proposed decision by a majority of the Court to overrule both Roe v. Wade, 410 U.S. 113 (1973) and Planned Parenthood of Southeastern Pennsylvania v. Casey, 505 U. S. 833 (1992), the seminal cases establishing and clarifying the constitutional right of reproductive choice. The draft, dated February 10 of this year, does not reveal who besides Justice Alito would join in the majority opinion or who would dissent, but the draft’s authenticity has been confirmed by Chief Justice Roberts. According to Politico, a confidential source “familiar with the court’s deliberations” says that Justices Thomas, Gorsuch, Kavanaugh, and Barrett voted with Justice Alito in the Court’s initial conference after hearing oral arguments in December. 

If the draft becomes the decision of the Court, what will its effect be in North Carolina? 

Read more

Don’t Kvetch, Organize

 

How Community Organizing Can Build a More Just World

“Issues of social justice have always been important to me but knowing how to put my strong feelings into action has been a challenge, says Roni Freedman member of CBHT. “I’ve always wanted to act on issues that impact my life and the lives of my family and work toward change. “Don’t Kvetch, Organize,” has given me the tools to make a difference,” she added.

 

Read more

In-Person Event Guidelines

The health and safety of our community remain our utmost priority, and after extensive research and consideration, CJJ is updating our policy for in-person events. The parameters for in-person events are detailed below, and align with most recent CDC and NCDHHS guidelines.
Read more

CJJ in Conversation: NC Democracy Defenders

On April 24, veteran voting rights attorneys Leslie Winner and Hilary Harris Klein joined us for a conversation about the struggle for voting rights in North Carolina, past and present, and how we can be engaged in this critical work now. You can view the recording of this powerful dialogue on YouTube.

Read more

CJJ @ The Hard Lox Festival!

On May 1st (May Day!), many CJJniks and other Jews from across the South gathered at Asheville's legendary Hard Lox Jewish Food and Heritage Festival - hosted by Congregation Beth HaTephila.  The Festival was an incredible opportunity for Southern Jews "from the hills and hollers" to come together after a long hiatus due to the Covid pandemic.  The energy was celebratory coupled with a desire to take action to defend and expand our multiracial democracy!

Lisa sharing about CJJ, engaging new members

CJJ Statewide Organizer, Lisa Forehand, engaged many folks in our work in the West, recruiting full sheets of new members!  Stay tuned for upcoming Orientation events and CJJ-West programming!

Three CJJ leaders big smiles

CJJ-West Leaders Marilynne Herbert and Judy Leavitt sandwich CJJ Interim Executive Director, and long distance pastrami-seeker, Abby Lublin, beaming from the food and in person conversations!

 

CJJ leaders and staff spoke with countless people who were eager for information about how to vote. Ron Katz - CJJ Board Member and Voting Rights Team leader - single-handedly defended democracy by answering election questions from an endless line of festival-goers.

Marilynne Herbert met this wonderful young man who arrived in Asheville two weeks ago from Odessa, Ukraine.  He was very moved to connect with Jewish community.  The feelings were mutual, as we shed some tears while he blew the shofar. Please introduce yourself if you see him around town, wearing his new CJJ blue t-shirt. 

We met people from all over WNC and beyond, and were inspired by their eagerness to engage in the Jewish tradition of enacting greater justice for all.  CJJ is thrilled to have such a positive response.  We shared hard-copy voter guides (you can access another guide via the League of Women Voters website), as well as a list of upcoming CJJ-West events.  It was amazing to be together again, and we look forward to more!

Statewide Study - The Wilmington Coup of 1898

If you had a similar reaction to us in January of 2020, you were completely glued to your phone or computer as you watched an organized white nationalist formation take over the US Capitol building - intent on inspiring fear, violence, and stopping democratic process.  

Here is the thing: it is of vital importance to remember that we’ve seen this before. In this country. In our state. As Black and Brown progressive political power is built, there is a violent white political reaction. We know this from post-Reconstruction America. Look no further than our own state for one of the most violent white supremacist coups of that time, Wilmington, NC in 1898.

Led by board member Ray Katz and organizer Brandon Mond, our statewide community gathered on January 19th - the day before Inauguration Day - for a political education program on the Wilmington Coup of 1898. You can read more about this day in Black history at this link or by watching the recording of our virtual gathering below. 

CJJ’s response to January 6th, aside from continuing to take action to defend our democracy, was to call our membership into a collective study of this history. We must take a hard look at the past in order to move strategically now, and build a better tomorrow with our Black and Brown siblings.

 

CJJ-Triad Leaders Celebrate Their First Chapter Meeting

Member leaders met this past week to get to know each other, learn from our community partners about the campaign to stop the eviction of the Hiatt Street residents and how we can get involved, and made plans for CJJ-Triad's activity in 2022.

Want to get involved? Sign up for an upcoming new member orientation or chapter event at this link