By: Rabbi Lizzi Heydemann
Being a Jew in America rocks. I know now is a strange time to be saying that, given the events of last week and the increase in anti-Semitic attacks across America since 2016, but guess what… have you ever tried to be a female rabbi, or queer rabbi, a female wearing a kippah or tzit tzit in ANY other country, including Israel? NOT EASY. Being a Jew in America has given Jewish people unprecedented freedom – to be creative, to reinvent and adapt our ancient tradition in ways that make sense for modern people. America has never asked me to compromise in order to be both Jewish and American, has never asked me to choose (unlike my grandparents, Alice and Julius Heydemann, who came here as refugees from Nazi Germany, and so many Jewish refugees over the decades).
Why do I vote? For the same reason I became a rabbi: I want a voice in this thing called America. As a rabbi I amplify my voice as a Jew, make my preferences and values known. I don’t always get what I want… but I have a voice. As a citizen, I amplify my voice through voting. A little less direct, sure. But when we ally and organize ourselves, we can do anything. I vote because, being who I am, doing what I do, I have to believe that change and evolution are possible. I wouldn’t be here doing what I do if it weren’t.
Sam Schiller, a Mishkanite and regular drummer on our Davening Team (not to mention an MBA Candidate at Kellogg), wrote this about the upcoming election: “As our community mobilizes on the precipice of the midterm elections, it strikes me that this moment is our secular Neilah service. Neilah prayers are the final, depleted acts of Yom Kippur spurred by the supernatural stakes of spiritual survival. These desperate acts of Tshuva and prayer are uttered as we cling to the possibility of redemption, when our actions can still have an impact amid our collective vulnerability. As we admit all the ways we have failed to meet our standards throughout the year, we believe our behavior in this fleeting moment carries unique weight. In our secular world, I truly believe we are encountering similar existential, supernatural stakes that determine our collective fate. But the gates are still open! There is still this window of infinite possibility, and we possess the tools to breathe justice into the world. So far, Rebecca Stevens, Matt Owens, Elisa Redish and I have signed up 66 shifts of canvassers (including many Mishkanites) to enter the western suburbs and try to affect the outcome of house races that may determine the balance of power in Washington. We have more capacity in our minyan. Reach out to us to join our final acts of secular tshuva as our prayers and actions rise to meet this critical moment.”
Go rock the vote, Jews. Whatever happens, we’ll see you for Shabbos this Friday night.