JCRC Blog: Pitching in to Preserve Democracy

By Linda Geller-Schwartz
Chair, Jewish Community Relations Council
Published April 16, 2024

Fulfilling Our Responsibilities of Citizenship

In most American synagogues, Shabbat services include a prayer for the Government of the United States. As far back as Biblical times, Jews recognized the importance of residing in prosperous and stable states for our well-being. Despite our yearning to return to Zion, the conditions of exile were crucial for our continued welfare and survival. It is understandable that prayers for good governance in countries of residence have been a longstanding tradition.

Most modern prayers for the United States ask God to bless the leaders of the country, judges and officials in the hope that they will be wise, just and fair and that they will create happiness and peace in the land.

Some prayers place an obligation upon us, not just our leaders.

For example, the Conservative Liv Shalem Siddur provides an Alternative Prayer for our Country that states: “May each of us fulfill our responsibilities of citizenship with care, generosity, and gratitude…Bless those who volunteer to labor on behalf of us all; may they find the strength and courage to complete their tasks and fulfill their dreams.” This blessing extends beyond our elected officials, our judges, or members of the armed forces. You do not have to be elected or selected to volunteer to work on behalf of the community. This, too, is part of being a citizen and should be praised and blessed.

We all should educate ourselves on the issues and candidates and vote.

In between elections, we should advocate with our legislators for policies that we believe will create a more just country and world. When election time comes around, there are many volunteer opportunities which can allow us to exercise our responsibilities as American Citizens.

Opportunities for you to contribute:

  • Volunteer with a 501(c)(3) organization to get-out-the-vote on a non-partisan basis.
  • Volunteer with a political party to help mobilize its voters.
  • Work on a non-partisan basis in the Supervisor of Elections’ Office to ensure that the elections run smoothly.

Elections take a substantial workforce. According to Palm Beach County Supervisor of Elections’ Office, Wendy Sartory Link, it takes over 5,000 Election Day Workers at over 350 locations in Palm Beach County alone to run a successful Election Day. There are plenty of opportunities to volunteer, be trained – and even get paid. Not only is this an interesting experience, but you are also playing an especially important role in exercising your citizenship.

Become a Poll worker.

If you are interested in exploring the possibility of becoming a poll worker, please click here  to see the requirements, the positions and submit an application.

Be sure you are registered to vote.

If you intend to vote in the Florida primaries on August 20, check your status on the Supervisor of Elections’ website. If you plan to vote by mail in any election in 2024, go to the website above to ensure that your vote-by-mail request still applies. Even if you have voted by mail in previous elections, you are required to put in a new request to receive a ballot in the mail.

There are lots of opportunities in a democracy to be an engaged citizen. As Jews have always known, engagement is vital to society and especially to our own well-being.

Linda Geller-Schwartz is the Chair of the Jewish Community Relations Council (JCRC) of Jewish Federation of Palm Beach County. Prior to her retirement, Dr. Geller-Schwartz taught in the Women’s Studies and Sociology Departments at Florida Atlantic University. She earned her Ph.D. in political science from the University of Toronto and her M.Sc. from the London School of Economics and Political Science.