Nitzavim: A Call to Action

By Rabbi Rick Jacobs, Rabbi Steven A. Fox and Rabbi Jonah Dov Pesner

In the 21st century, we shouldn't need to assert that the lives of people of color matter as much as those of their white counterparts. We shouldn't need to declare that the votes cast by people of color count in this election.

We shouldn't need to – but we do.

Rev. William Barber and NAACP President Cornell Brooks have asked us to build on our significant participation in America's Journey for Justice last summer by protecting the right to vote this election year. 

We’re saying “Yes" by launching Nitzavim: Standing Up for Voter Protection and Participation. Here's how we're doing our part and how you can lead the effort:

  • Join us in North Carolina: From August 18-20, 2016, Reform Movement leaders will join the NAACP and congregations in North Carolina to launch Nitzavim in Raleigh/Durham. Sign up if you'd like to join the launch virtually from your community or if you will come to help register voters in Raleigh/Durham.
  • Get out the vote! This August through November, you can help get out the vote in your community, whether with your congregation or as an individual. Sign up to learn more.
  • Protect the right to vote. Recent elections have shown that eligible voters can be turned away at the polls. Reform Movement congregants with legal expertise are encouraged to join the effort to protect the right to vote in places where it is most vulnerable. Sign up here to volunteer on Election Day (November 8, 2016).

Why launch Nitzavim on August 18? 

Because it’s Tu B'av, the Jewish holiday that celebrates love. As Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. taught, "Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that." In 2016, we are called to drive out the darkness of racial inequality through partnering with the NAACP, the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, and the PICO National Network to protect the right to vote and remind decision makers of their responsibility to pursue the racial justice we seek.

Why launch Nitzavim in North Carolina? 

N.C.'s voter suppression laws – swiftly enacted after the Supreme Court's 2013 decision in Shelby v. Holder struck down a key part of the Voting Rights Act – are among the strictest in the nation. Same-day voter registration has been eliminated, early voting has been restricted, and onerous voter ID laws have been implemented. These actions disproportionately impact voters and communities of color.

Access to the ballot box should never depend on the color of one's skin. During the 2016 election – the first presidential election in more than 50 years without the protections of the Voting Rights Act – 16 states will have new voting restrictions on the books. The title of this year's NAACP Annual Gathering, held this week in Cincinnati, was, "Our Lives Matter. Our Votes Count." To help ensure they do, join Nitzavim in any way you can: by registering voters in North Carolina, registering and engaging voters in your own community, and recruiting lawyers from your congregation to protect the vote during the election.

We're honored to continue our racial justice journey, now through Election Day, in the nonpartisan work of protecting the right to vote for all Americans.

Rabbi Rick Jacobs is the president of the Union for Reform JudaismRabbi Steven A. Fox is the chief executive of the Central Conference of American Rabbis; and Rabbi Jonah Dov Pesner is the director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism.