The Council of Torah Sages of Agudath Israel of America has called on the ultra-Orthodox public living in the United States to take part in the presidential elections, regardless of who they plan to vote for. The following is the text of their proclamation:
A Public Alert to Our Fellow Jews in Our Country,
The United States of America
Gedolei Torah of previous generations have already proclaimed that every Jewish person should participate and vote in elections held in our benevolent country, the United States of America. This is for several reasons.
First, it is incumbent on us to be concerned about the interests of our fellow Jews, and we have indeed merited to see great accomplishments that American Jewry has attained with the help of Heaven through participation in the electoral process. Second, Divine providence has placed the United States today in the position of being the single greatest ally of the Jewish nation that lives in the Holy Land, concerned with protecting it from the 70 wolves that surround it to destroy it, G-d forbid.
There is also the mandate of hakoras hatov (recognition of goodness), one of the bases of our belief, which makes it incumbent on us to express our gratitude to the benevolent country in which we dwell by participating in its elections.
Let no one free himself from that obligation with the argument that in a country as large as the United States his individual voice can make no difference. For we have seen a number of elections, most notably the presidential election of only a few years ago, that were decided by only a few hundred votes.
May Hashem guard us and save us from all crisis and evil decree, and from the difficult times in which we live, so that we will merit, soon in our days, the arrival of the ultimate redeemer, and the fulfillment through us of And all the nations of the land will see that upon you the name of Hashem is called.
The Moetzes Gedolei HaTorah in America
The Hamodia newspaper on Thursday presented the most important principles for the haredi community in the US, as well as why it is important to vote, according to Rabbi Yehiel Kalish, national director of government affairs of Agudath Israel of America.
"The simple reality is that the government officials check which groups voted, and often take stances on important current affairs according to that. We must guaranteeing political support in terms of the issues which deeply influence us guaranteeing the safety and wellbeing of our brothers in Israel, the war on anti-Semitism across the world, increasing the governmental aid to our educational institutions, strengthening society's moral climate, improving the quality of the governmental offices in our neighborhoods, protecting our communities and institutions against terrorism."
According to Agudath Israel of America, taking part in the elections is "one of the most important things which can be done."
Ahead of the primary elections, the organization's efforts swung into high gear in a bid to encourage the ultra-Orthodox public to go out and vote.
In Florida and Ohio, where the primaries will be held on Tuesday, synagogue rabbis were asked to speak about the importance of voting during their sermons. Manifests calling on the haredi community to vote were hung across the Jewish neighborhoods, leaflets were distributed and electronic messages were sent. In addition, volunteers were recruited to telephone potential haredi voters and remind them to cast their vote on the day of the primaries.
In the state of Michigan, where the elections were held last week, rabbis launched a campaign encouraging the voters. Additional efforts were made by rabbis in New York, New Jersey, Illinois and other states, to encourage the ultra-Orthodox public to vote in the primary elections which will be held there in about two weeks.
Similar campaigns were launched by Agudath Israel in Maryland, Pennsylvania and Texas, and in other states where large numbers of haredi families reside.
It is true that voting is a way of showing respect and gratitude for the American nation in which we live. This was stated by many of our rabbis in previous years.
It is also true that voting is a important tool we have to make our society better and more moral, and as such Rabbi Avigdor Miller, of blessed memory, would encourage his followers to vote for the candidate with the most conservative moral values. Although the Orthodox Jewish community is small, it would be a sanctification of G-d's name if all politicians knew that in order to get the religious Jewish vote, they would need to stand up for morality in this country.
However, the Agudah is now trying to turn Orthodox Jewish voting power into a shame and desecration of G-d's name, by sending the candidates the clear message that the Orthodox Jewish agenda is Zionism, Zionism and more Zionism. The more strongly a candidate supports the Zionist state, and especially the right-wing rejectionist elements of it, the more he or she can hope to get the Orthodox Jewish vote, according to Agudah.
Indeed Orthodox Jews should vote, but they should be spreading a different message: 1) we are loyal Americans, not Israelis; and 2) we want America to be a more morally conservative country.