Georgia on My Mind

Image: “I Voted” sticker. Photo by Dwight Burdette, some rights reserved.

[Rabbi Isaac taught that] A ruler is not to be appointed unless the community is first consulted. – Berachot 55a

Next week I’m headed down to Georgia to serve as a non-partisan volunteer poll monitor. My job will be twofold: (1) to assist voters who are having difficulty finding their polling place and/or accessing a ballot and (2) to report problems at the polls. I will not be there supporting a candidate. My vote is cast in California, and it will be over and done.

Why am I going? Because the heart of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 was struck down by the U.S. Supreme Court on June 25, 2013. (For a history of the long fight for the Voting Rights Act, read A Dream Undone in the New York Times, 7/29/15.) Since then, a number of states have instituted restrictions on voting that appear to disproportionately disadvantage the poor, the elderly, and people of color.  I’m not going to Georgia to interfere with the law; I’m just going to help insure that the law doesn’t keep a legal voter from voting legally.

I’m going to Georgia to help insure that every person who is eligible to vote gets to cast their vote. When people’s polling places have been moved, I’ll help them look up the new polling place. When people can’t get to the new polling place because it’s too far from public transit, I’ll help them access a ride there. When a polling place is not handicap accessible, I’ll report the problem and help arrange for access. If someone is turned away from the polls unjustly, I’ll help them get access to legal assistance.

I’m not a lawyer, nor do I play one on TV. I won’t be giving legal advice or doing anything heroic or stupid. I’m volunteering through the Religious Action Center and Election Protection, and they have given me training about the boundaries of my participation.

As a Jew, I believe that voting rights are sacred. In the quotation from the Talmud above, Rabbi Isaac gives the example of Betzalel, the chief builder of the Ark of the Covenant (Exodus 36.) Betzalel could be chosen by God, but only with the approval of all the people of Israel. That ethic of political participation and the admonishments of the prophets to include the poor, the orphan and the widow in civic life have informed the American Jewish support for voting rights for all American citizens.  That’s why I want to participate in this election: not only by exercising my own right to vote, but also by making sure that others get to exercise theirs.

If everyone has legal access to their right to vote, I’ll spend a really boring day sitting around, and then exhaust myself flying home in time to teach a class.  Let’s hope for that, shall we?


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Rabbi Ruth Adar is a teaching rabbi in San Leandro, CA. She has many hats: rabbi, granny, and ham radio operator K6RAV. She blogs at and teaches at Jewish Gateways in Albany, CA.

12 thoughts on “Georgia on My Mind”

  1. I am so proud to know you. This is important work. Here in North Carolina, we have a judge, actually one that is running for re-election, who created the voting districts. The gerrymander was so outrageous that it was ruled unconstitutional – just not in time for this election. So we have a cordoning off of Black voters and are living with impossible districts to represent…and it is all skewed to assure Republican majorities in House and Senate. We are also dealing with some people who were perhaps borderline in their behavior to start with and are now over the top….screaming at those of us who were registering new voters that we were rigging the election…and worse…much worse. At least he did not have a gun, which is also a possible option in NC. So, having seen some rather angry stuff, I ask that you stay safe while continuing to be of good courage. Thank you for going the extra mile. Every vote is important. Every vote counts.

    1. I received strict instructions in the training to back away from all unpleasantness, to simply report what I see and experience. I’m going to leave Jewish identifiers at home, other than my pocket prayer book.

      I’m at much less risk than many of the people I’ll be working beside. Moreover, I’m about as non-threatening a presence as you’ll ever see: a fat little gray-haired woman on a scooter.

      AND my baby brother (a good ole boy) is on speed dial. I’ll be fine.

  2. Praying you will be safe Rabbi Ruth. You are a brave woman and a shining example to us all especially in the contentious environment this election has created. May you always be in G-d’s Hands.

  3. It makes me so proud to know that you are playing those roles. Thank you so much and have a very safe journey.
    צאתך לשלום ושובך לשלום
    (Go in peace return in peace)

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