I have the privilege of watching my daughter start middle school this year as Hannah has begun 5th grade remotely from our basement. As you might imagine, this is every kid’s dream! During the second week of school, I walked downstairs to see how she was doing. Normally, when I do this I get a mixture of subtle, but direct hand signals to leave the room before anyone on screen sees me. This time, she just looked at me and shrugged her shoulders. “The teacher’s internet kicked her out of class, so all of the students are just sitting on Zoom staring at each other — no one is talking. I think I should say something!”
I could not have been more proud. What we want for our children is the courage to speak up when they know something is wrong. We pray that they have a voice and that they are not afraid to use it. Figuring out your teacher’s internet problems is not quite the same as solving hunger or poverty, but I imagine you wouldn’t have known that from looking at my face.
It is the season of making choices. It is the season of speaking up and using our voice. And this year, more than most, we must know that our choices matter. Anne Frank wrote that “our lives are fashioned by our choices. First we make our choices. Then our choices make us.”
Voting in the midst of the pandemic and continued social distancing is a new experience for all of us. But we cannot forget that voting is how we raise our hand and raise our voices as citizens of the United States and particularly as citizens with particular concerns about the priorities of our community. We know that growing anti-Semitism is bad for us and bad for our country. We vote and we raise our voice to right this wrong. We know that Israel is dear to our hearts and peace often hinges on the role our government plays. And, of course, there are a number of universal issues that align with American Jewish values from immigration to civil rights to education that are on the ballot this year as well.
We cannot afford to be a classroom that is silent. We cannot afford not to make a choice. The choices we make this year will make us. I pray that our Jewish voices are heard during this election. That they are met with a resolve to extinguish anti-Semitism, racism and discrimination of any kind. Most importantly, I pray that the choices we make permit us to become the people we have wanted to be, a people full of promise.