Elchanan Poupko

New Yorkers: Vote! Local Elections Matter!

This September 13th brings with it local elections in New York. Over the past few years, I had the privilege of seeing close up how much municipal and statewide elections matter. These candidates will be deciding how equal the funding for your children’s busing is, how much security assistance Yeshiva Day Schools will get, and how much money for STEM lessons local schools will receive. Different candidates have very different opinions on how important these issues are. Candidates will never know how important these issues are for you, if you don’t tell them. Politicians will care about your child’s school much more if they see that you are a single-issue voter and are voting only on funding equality in education. This is why the Jewish community must make sure to vote in large numbers—on this issue.

For a reason unknown to me, people are more inclined to vote in Nationwide elections when in fact local elections impact our lives in a far more significant way. Local elections decide how your transportation will look, how the schools in your neighborhood will be treated, what the landscape around your house will look like, and many other crucial elections. And yet, when I speak to friends of mine, I realize that some don’t even know the name of their state senator. In some cases, I meet people who don’t even know they actually have a state senator! If you are living in New York you need to know that you have a City Council member who is representing you in City Hall, an Assemblyman or woman, representing you in Albany, a State Senator representing you in Albany— all in addition to your Mayor, Congressman or woman, and United States Senator. If you don’t know this then you are not really represented!

If there is an issue you are passionate about, speaking about it after shul, or being outraged about it at a Shabbos dinner with friends, won’t get anything done. Things get done when we address them most effectively; in this case: by letting your elected officials know how important this is to you.

Working on funding for Yeshivas in our district has given voice to the concerns of the community, has made our opinion heard, and has turned it into a priority for our elected officials. I had the pleasure hosting some of our elected officials in our home, letting them speak to members of our community, and letting them know what we want them to do in Albany.

An issue as simple as making sure there is equal funding for STEM, security, and busing for all children is understandable and straightforward. Let your elected officials know about it. They cannot guess what we are thinking. This is why we all need to make our voices heard.

The pain and stress of Day School parents struggling with Yeshiva tuition is understandably immense. The cost of Yeshiva tuition in many cases is larger than the parents’ own salary. That needs to change. Parents should not have to choose between buying a home and giving their children a Jewish education. Parents should be able to put away money for retirement and without feeling they then won’t be able to give their child the education they want. This is an enormously painful issue. And yet, to begin addressing it, the Jewish community must do its part: vote. Become a single issue voter. Recently, Teach NYS, dedicated to helping alleviate the cost of Yeshiva Day Schools, launched a webpage that notifies you of any election in your area, when to vote, and reminds you to get out there and vote.

We are blessed to live in a deeply democratic country where our elected officials care about our opinion. When my grandfather lived in his town in Soviet Russia, officials didn’t care what any citizen thought; we are lucky to live in a democracy where elected officials do.

So, find out who your elected officials are, what their position is on past and future funding for Yeshiva Day Schools, maybe even go to a town hall and ask them, and make sure to vote. On September 13th, vote in your local elections or forever hold your Yeshiva tuition complaints.

About the Author
Rabbi Elchanan Poupko is a New England based eleventh-generation rabbi, teacher, and author. He has written Sacred Days on the Jewish Holidays, Poupko on the Parsha, and hundreds of articles published in five languages. He is the president of EITAN--The American Israeli Jewish Network.