You should soon receive an application for an absentee ballot for the June 23 Primary in the mail. But don’t wait. You can apply for an absentee ballot online right now at nycabsentee.com/absentee. You need to enter your name exactly as it appears on the voter registration roles to access the application. On the application, mark temporary illness or disability as the reason for requesting the absentee ballot. Even people who are concerned that they might expose themselves to COVID-19 by going to their usual polling place on Primary Day qualify for an absentee ballot under this category.
While the concern over the coronavirus has pushed politics into the background, it is important to remember that the stakes in this year’s elections are extremely high. It is imperative that all of us vote in the Democratic Primary on June 23, no matter how you plan to vote in the General Election.
Earlier this year, many in our community responded to the urgent call to participate in elections for the World Zionist Congress. As a result, slates sympathetic to our concerns for a strong and secure Israel and support for Torah institutions won a majority of the votes. We can and must have a similar impact on the upcoming elections here in Queens.
Last week, we read in Pirkei Avot that Rabbi Chanina, the assistant to the Kohanim said, “Pray for the welfare of the ruling power, since but for the fear of it, people would swallow each other alive.” Rav Ovadia Bartenura explains that this refers even to a non-Jewish government and is based upon the words of Yirmiyah to “Seek the welfare of the city to which I have exiled you to.” Citing the Gemara Avodah Zara 4: A, Bartenura writes that just as the larger fish swallow the smaller ones, so too would people who are more powerful swallow the weaker ones if not for fear of the government.
We are very small fish in a very big ocean. At a time when Israel is in danger, our institutions are closed due to a deadly virus, shuls and kosher markets are being attacked, anti-Semitism is rampant on college campuses, and prominent politicians make blatantly anti-Semitic statements, we must stand by those in government who have stood by us.
Many of the decisions that impact on the security of Israel, our rights to live as Torah observant Jews, and the safety of our families, homes, places of work, and communal institutions are made by our elected officials. While faith in the Ribono Shel Olam comes first, we have a responsibility to do our hishtadlus. Even if we find politics distasteful, we have a responsibility to participate in the process and to elect representatives who are responsive to the needs of our community.
The reality of politics in Queens today is that the Democratic Party is in control. Changing demographics mean that the Democratic Party will become even more dominant in the years to come. This means that our local elected officials are effectively chosen in the Democratic Primary and not in the General Election in November.
We are rightly alarmed by the growing power in the Democratic Party of those who are hostile both to Israel and to Torah values. Candidates aligned with them are rising to challenge the elected officials who have been responsive to the needs of our community. The Democratic Primary is the arena in which that battle will be fought. We must not stand on the sidelines when the future of Israel and the Jewish community in Queens may be at stake. We must stand by those who have supported us and build coalitions with other communities.
A number of important offices will be on the ballot this in the upcoming primary.
The Special Election for Queens Borough President has been cancelled. There will be a primary on June 23. The winner of the primary will almost certainly win the General Election in November. The Queens Borough President has a major say in budget and land use issues. Previous Borough Presidents, most notably Claire Shulman, have played a leading role in obtaining the permits for the building of shuls, yeshivot, eruvim, and mikvehs throughout Queens and in funding our community institutions. It is crucial that the Borough President be accessible and attentive to the needs of our community.
While the President of the United States plays a leading role in forming foreign policy, Congress is also very important. Grace Meng, who represents most of our community in the House of Representatives, was the first Democrat to oppose the Iran nuclear deal and is one of Israel’s foremost supporters in Congress, is being challenged by a supporter of the Palestinian cause. Her re-election and that of several other Queens Representatives are considered top priority by supporters of Israel. With $3.8 billion a year in aid to Israel and diplomatic support for Israel at stake, we need friends like Grace Meng in Congress to counter the growing power of supporters of BDS.
Our State Senators and Assembly Members, who represent us in Albany, play an important role in funding our institutions. With the New York State Department of Education seeking to dictate what can be taught and who can teach in our yeshivot, the need to have friends in Albany has never been more important. We need to stand to support our state legislators as they face challenges from the left wing of the Democratic Party.
Forces aligned with groups like the Democratic Socialists of America and the Justice Democrats, who toppled Joe Crowley and elected Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, have launched an all-out effort to take over the Queens Democratic Party. They are running candidates for party offices like District Leader, State Committee Member, Judicial Convention Delegates, and County Committee, which have not been contested in the past. While the current leaders of the Queens Democratic Party are not perfect, they are far preferable to those who are challenging them.
I hope to write about many of the individual races in coming issues.
Voting in the Democratic Primary does not require you to vote for the Democratic candidate in the General Election. It does give you a voice in the election where the decisions of who will represent us will actually be made.
We must not sit on the sidelines when the future of our community is at stake. All of us who are concerned about the safety of Israel and the future of the Jewish community in Queens must vote in the Democratic Primary on June 23.
While I have always voted in person at the polls, I will not take a chance on losing my vote because I may be unable to go to the polls on June 23. I have already applied for an absentee ballot. I urge you to do the same. Don’t delay. Do it now at www.nycabsentee.com/absentee .