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Fear and the election

11/03/2020 10:25:52 AM


Rabbi Jennifer Jaech

These days we are all too familiar with fear. Besides the fears that this pandemic stirs in us, I have heard many people express fear about the upcoming election.

Some people fear what will happen if the candidate they support does not win. Some fear that the election will be “stolen” by the other side. And some fear that there will be violence in the wake of this election.

These are understandable fears. I have felt these fears at times.

That may be the reason that I decided to stand in line for well over two hours to vote on the first day of early voting. I wanted to make sure that I could vote, but that wasn’t the only reason.

I wanted to be around others in my community who also felt the importance of this election. I figured they would be in line too on the first day of voting.

Instead of dwelling on my fears, I wanted to do something in response.

I’m glad I did.

While standing in line to vote in Peekskill,  I heard the young woman behind me tell her friend that she drove home from her college campus to make sure that she could vote.

I saw elderly people in front of me, some with canes, one with a walker, endure the wait at the polls.

I heard a driver going by yell “Power to the people!” and pump his fist in the air.

I watched a young man wearing a red “Make America Great Again” hat entertain his toddler for those two hours.  As I watched him, I thought, “what a nice dad he is!”

When the woman in front of me asked if she could leave her place to go and greet a friend elsewhere in the line, that gave us the opening for a conversation about the importance of voting. We agreed that it was so important for people to exercise the right that others had fought and died to attain.

And, not to my surprise, I saw people from Temple Israel in line too. One of them had traveled on our congregational civil rights tour of the South. She took from her pocket the rock that she had picked up from the ground in Selma, Alabama, at the spot where Martin Luther King stood with John Lewis and other leaders before they marched over the Edmund Pettis bridge in support of voting rights for black Americans.

The two hours spent waiting in line to vote overcame my fear about the election. It reminded me that I am not alone, and that there are many good people in this world.

There will always be things to fear. That is the world in which we live. But we must remind ourselves, there will also always be ways for us to act against our fears.  We can act with the faith that what we do each day matters to the people around us. I have that faith, and I pray you have it too.

It is fitting to close with words attributed to Rabbi Nachman of Bratslav:

Kol haolam kulo gesher tsar meod

The whole world is a narrow bridge,

Ve’haikar lo lefached klal

But the most important thing is not to be overwhelmed by fear.

Thu, June 30 2022 1 Tammuz 5782