“If you don’t vote, then you don’t matter. That is the simple truth.”
Chaskel Bennet, Board of Trustee Member of Agudath Israel
There is no disputing the harsh reality of Mr. Bennet’s statement, but far too many people fail to grasp the chilling and certain repercussions of failing to get to the polls here in Rockland County.
The deeper problem in Rockland County is that the ultra-religious sects for whom Mr. Bennet is working seemingly hold a belief that the electoral victories of their community comes with a license to trample the rights of the minority. This belief is the antithesis of everything our founding fathers worked to achieve, but it is also the simple truth of the matter.
The plight of the public school children in the East Ramapo School District is a perfect example of this. As President of the school board, Daniel Schwartz told a public school advocate, “You don’t like it? Find yourself another place to live.” In arguing against a veto-empowered monitor in East Ramapo at a Rockland County Legislature meeting on March 8th, 2016, Legislator Philip Soskin told the activists in the audience that night they needed to get ‘their people’ out to vote if they wanted to change the situation. The overall message in his speech seemed to be that losing an election has consequences and the interests of the majority outweighs the rights of the minority in East Ramapo.
Mr. Bennet’s quote at the top of this article comes from a meeting in November of 2015 organized by Agudath Israel of America, an organization which serves as a leadership and policy umbrella organization for Haredi Jews in the United States. The organization has been very successful in maintaining a political power base across the major Hasidic factions, which is surely not always an easy task. Its power in New York State should not be underestimated.
In this meeting in which Rockland County Legislator Aron Wieder was also a featured speaker, Mr. Bennet goes on to state that if you live in New York City it is an absolute waste to register as a Republican. He states that elections matter in the primaries and the winners of the Democratic primaries will most likely win the general elections. His advice is that any Orthodox Jew in New York City should register as a Democrat and by voting in the Democratic primary where there is low turnout, the candidate backed by the Orthodox community is 98% assured to be elected in the general election. Mr. Bennet’s comments apply just the same to large portions of Rockland County, which is why every voter registered in a political party in Rockland County must become educated and vote in party primaries if we are to have any hope of creating a political landscape where equal treatment for all and special for none rules the day.
On Tuesday, September 13th, registered Democrats in the 97th district which encompasses Orangetown and parts of Ramapo have the opportunity to do their part to ensure that the interests of the few will not be placed before the rights of the many by getting out to vote for Ellen Jaffee for New York State Assembly.
Ms. Jaffee had the political courage to step up and strongly advocate for the civil rights of all the children in the East Ramapo school district, knowing full well the bloc vote would come after her for it. And, come after her they did. Ms. Jaffee was subjected to a vicious smear campaign with the usual allegations of anti-Senitism. She stood firm in her beliefs that the civil rights of the East Ramapo children were more important than the interests of a religious sect that stands a good chance of ending her bid for re-election. For that reason alone, she deserves the support of every Democratic voter in both Orangetown and Ramapo.
Her opponent’s ballot petition signatures clearly show the Ramapo bloc vote is looking to replace Jaffee with someone who will be more loyal to their cause. Every single ballot signature her opponent received came from the Town of Ramapo, with 423 coming from Spring Valley, 304 from Monsey, 91 from New Square and three each from Airmont and Suffern. One of her opponent’s first orders of business was to adopt the bloc’s position that the primary issue in the East Ramapo School district is a matter of underfunding.
Anyone with half a brain can see where this appears to be headed.
As Mr. Bennet stated, the reality is that if we don’t vote, we don’t matter. In Rockland, we also face the reality that the ultra-Orthodox community is quickly growing into a voting majority that shows no signs of backing off a belief that the rights of the minority don’t matter when its side is on the winning end.
The solution currently at hand is simple. If you are a registered Democrat in the 97th district and want to matter, get out and vote for Ellen Jaffee on Tuesday, September 13th.