Get out the vote!

Rabbi Audrey Marcus Berkman

Dear TOS Community,

On this “Erev Election Day,” I want you to know that my heart and spirit are with all of you, our beloved community, during this most difficult, anxious, and hopeful of times. Many of you have worked tirelessly for so many months to ensure that our election is one in which everyone votes, and every vote counts. Thank you, and may your efforts lead to a free and fair election. I urge everyone to make sure you vote tomorrow if you have not voted early, and that you reach out to anyone you know who may need assistance in knowing where to vote (you can check wheredoIvote.com) and in getting there. Helpful information can also be found at this website as well as this one. Recognizing that our community is diverse in its political affiliations and perspectives, I am reaching out in this way at this time because I believe that this is not a normal election in any sense; it is not an election about politics or party. At stake is the survival of our democracy, as well as our ability to defeat, rather than surrender to, the horrific toll and immeasurable losses of this pandemic. We do not know what the future holds, and never before, for many of us, has an election felt so vulnerable and so personally impactful. But we are together on this “gesher tzar me’od” – this “very narrow bridge” of which Rebbe Nachman of Bratslav wrote. Though you may feel afraid, I hope that you do not feel alone. At such a precarious time, it can be comforting and restorative to remember that we are connected to the generations before us, to what they endured and what they overcame; and that we are connected to our people, which has over the millennia become expert in the art of resilience.

Throughout the last several months, I have found strength and solace in the writing of two people who both bring a historical perspective to our times: Renowned journalist Dan Rather, and Professor of History Heather Cox Richardson. Dan Rather has lived through and reported on so many of our nation’s deepest crises, greatest joys, and most monumental turning points, and has been a thoughtful voice during our nation’s current challenges. In 2017, he published a book, What Unites Us, which I highly recommend. He has also been writing regularly in recent months on Twitter, the social media platform, and I want to share with you the compilation of series of “tweets” he posted yesterday (pasted below this message). The other person I admire and derive great strength and learning from is Professor Heather Cox Richardson, a political historian and Professor of History at Boston University. She has published six books and has become well known for her “Letters from an American” – a daily newsletter in which she brings a deeply knowledgeable historical perspective to this time. She describes her current work as a “chronicle of today’s political landscape, but because you can’t get a grip on today’s politics without an outline of America’s Constitution, and laws, and the economy, and social customs, this newsletter explores what it means, and what it has meant, to be an American.” You can subscribe and read her archived posts here.

Dan Rather, as some of you, has a long view of American history, and I appreciate the context with which he is able to view and grapple with this most unprecedented moment.  Read his post here.  I find similar comfort and solace in the “long view” of delving into our people’s ancient texts. They serve to remind us that our people has been through devastation, adaptation, and renewal so many times throughout the long arc of history, and that we have rooted ourselves in our traditions with a stubborn insistence on continued connection to community, to history, to ritual. As you know, we have celebrated several B’nai Mitzvah over Zoom these past eight months and recently, my cousin, upon the occasion of her daughter’s Zoom Bat Mitzvah, stated, “we have to keep the traditions, no matter the times.” Whether it is our ancient texts and traditions, or art, music, literature, or other forms of cultural expression, connecting with that which transcends this historical moment can be a source of comfort and renewal. No matter the outcome of this election and the resulting turmoil in our deeply polarized nation, a nation which is also experiencing the disorientation, devastation and grief caused by this pandemic, I hope we can all take strength “the long view.” We are together, as a Jewish people, as we always have been. May we reach out our hands, hearts, and minds, to connect to our tradition which is built of creativity, courage, and hope, no matter what challenges we face.

 As always, I, along with Rabbi Schaefer, am here for you if you would like to talk at any time. We are eager to support you and to help you connect to one another, to our community, and to our people’s wisdom and traditions as sources of healing, solace, and strength. Please email me at amberkman@ohabei.org to set up a time to talk. Rabbi Schaefer can be reached at dschaefer@ohabei.org

L’shalom, to peace,

Rabbi Audrey Berkman

Below are some resources you may find valuable during the next few days:

 A prayer for voting, by Morton Gale:

 Behold, I am intending 

    through my vote | through my prayer  

    to seek peace for this country, 

    as it is written (Jer. 29:7):

“Seek the peace of the city 

    where I cause you to roam 

    and pray for her to YHVH (Hashem/Adonai/God), 

    for in her peace you all will have peace.” 

May it be Your will, YHVH, that votes 

    be counted faithfully 

    and may You count my vote 

    as if I had fulfilled this verse 

    with all my power.

May You give a listening heart

    to whomever we elect 

    and may it be good in Your eyes 

    to raise for us a good government 

    to bring healing, justice and peace 

    to all living in this land 

    and to all the world, and upon Jerusalem,

    a government that will honor the image of God 

    in all humanity and in Creation,

    for rulership is Yours.  “The one who rules through justice upholds the land” (Prov. 29:4),

Just as I have participated in the election 

    so may I merit to do good works 

    and to repair the world through all my efforts, 

    and through the act of… [fill in your pledge

    which I pledge to do today 

    on behalf of all living creatures, 

    in remembrance of the covenant of Noah’s waters

    to protect and to not destroy 

    the earth and her plenitude.

Give to all the peoples of this country 

    the strength and will to pursue righteousness 

    and to seek peace as unified force 

    to uproot racism and violence 

    and to make healing, good life and peace flourish 

    here and throughout the world

    and fulfill for us the verse (Ps. 90:17): 

“May the pleasure of Adonai our God 

    be upon us, and establish 

    the work of our hands for us, 

    and make the work of our hands endure.”    By Morton Gale