9.25.20 CEO Letter

By Jenn Ross


Voting is an honor and a privilege and also an important responsibility.  Allowing free access to the polls to eligible voters is critical to a functioning democracy. As a nonprofit, our work is non-partisan, including the encouragement of voting by all eligible citizens and accessibility at the polls for all.


While the ongoing public health crisis made it unfeasible to host a candidates’ forum as we have in past election years, we have instead focused on overarching issues relating to voter access.


In addition to COVID-19, another crisis during this time has been the clear ongoing racial inequities facing the citizens of our nation, and that is something that cannot be overlooked.  Ensuring free access to people’s right to vote and providing the education around options has been a priority.  In partnership with our Jewish Federations in Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, and Lehigh Valley, we provided online education prior to the primary, and again on September 14 with local partners from the African-American community.  I participated in an educational session with All Voting is Local on August 5 on Facebook Live and had a conversation about the history of black and Jewish joint community action and creating a voting plan on September 16 with the Monumental AME Church.


We are tentatively hosting a volunteer session outdoors in partnership with other civic groups to help individuals verify that their mail-in ballots are filled out correctly.  Watch for more details in our Friday emails or reach out to me directly if you want to help.


The Jewish movement is playing an active role across our nation ensuring voter access.  At least two national groups with a Jewish focus are involved in Pennsylvania:


The Pennsylvania Religious Action Center (RAC-PA), a state project of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, is committed to making sure every voice is heard and every vote is counted through our 2020 Civic Engagement Campaign. We are approaching that goal through several strategies including 100% Voting Congregations, Voter Outreach, and County Advocacy. You can learn more about these initiatives and sign up for their upcoming trainings and phone banks at rac.org/cec, or reach out to their organizers at pa@rac.org.


ADL Philadelphia also has a Pennsylvania voter initiative. Learn more about it here: https://philadelphia.adl.org/guide-to-voting-and-completing-the-u-s-census/.  Please also read Lillian Rappaport’s article in this edition about the co-sponsored program we are holding with them on October 29 in response to hate which will be this year’s annual Kristallnacht education.


The official website for voter information is https://www.votespa.com/.  The General Election is November 3, 2020. The last day to register to vote is October 19, and the last day to request a mail-in ballot is October 27.  It is strongly encouraged that you request a ballot sooner and mail it in as soon as possible.  If you are voting in person, it is important to verify that your poll location has not changed, as many have due to COVID.


Thank you for reading my column. I appreciate the feedback that I received. I can be reached at 717-236-9555 x3104 or j.ross@jewishfedhbg.org.  If you are fasting, have an easy fast and a meaningful reflection.