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Isn't it a religious obligation to vote in political elections?

President Obama, when campaigning, spoke of transforming America with his new approach to governing and has said that he looks up to President Lincoln as a role model. However what is unfolding now is an administration with a trifecta of scandals involving: the cover-up of the failure

to secure and protect the four Americans in the consulate in Benghazi, the head of an IRS division

pleading the 5th Amendment concerning the illegal targeting of conservative groups who wanted

to form political non-profits and the Justice Department, including Attorney General, Eric Holder, running roughshod of the press which now requires an Inspector General to investigate.

Obama himself, with regard to these scandals, either failed to act, as in the case of Benghazi, which if

true would be a dereliction of duty, an impeachable offense. Or he is strangely unaware of the

abuses of different agencies under his charge such as the Justice Department and the IRS. So instead of straightforwardly dealing with these serious failures in his administration, the President in a major address, rehashes apologies for the U.S on how we conducted our war against Al-Qaeda and pledges not to use predator drones on the enemy unless there is near-certainty that there will be no collateral damage.

In this address, President Obama proclaims that the war on Al-Qaeda is winding down and "There have been no large-scale attacks on the United States [since 9/11], and our homeland is more secure." He utters these words despite the catastrophe of nearly 200 casualties in the Boston bombing, resulting in shutting down the city for a day, the murderous shooting at Ft. Hood where 13 military men lost their lives and the Benghazi consulate attack where four American personnel were killed in a U.S. post - all committed by Al-Qaeda network operatives.

Additionally, catastrophes nearly happened, with the "underwear bomber", who almost blew up a plane over Pennsylvania and the "Times Square bomber" who almost inflicted on Times Square what the Tsarneav brothers did to the Boston Marathon. In all of these cases, Homeland Security dropped the ball by not following up on leads or warnings and different agencies didn't "connect the dots". In light of these terrorist prevention failures, why would the President go even further into denial about the Islamic Jehadi threat by saying that the war on Al-Qaeda networks is winding down? The answer is; to pacify his base on the Left who could possibly shield him from the onslaught of the right and middle, regarding his scandal ridden governance.

Barack Obama started his political career as a state senator. Local politicians govern locally and sometimes rise to national prominence. So electing the right local politician is making the right choice for the city or state, for the here and now, but it is also sometimes feeding the right person into the pipeline for higher office in the future.

Before 9/11/2001, I spoke to an old classmate from Yeshivah high school. I told the classmate that I was very interested in politics. "Politics is a bunch of bologna" he said. Unfortunately, this is symptomatic of our times even after the event of 9/11 and the continuing attacks thereafter. Of course politics matters! How sad is it that today's yeshivah youth do not feel a connection with their secular environment in terms of civic engagement. All the talk about "dirty politics" and "politics is bologna" is an expression which comes from ignorance and complacency that things are ok and we don't have to worry about it. In light of international terrorism that spans over continents and regimes like North Korea, Iran - with its proxies, and even China, how do we have an assurance that here in America things will always be ok?

It has been written about in this paper how local office holders affect the Jewish community with respect to Jewish concerns, i.e. eiruv, mikvah, bris, shuls, yeshivos and Tomchei Shabbos etc. On the national level our government policy is crucial with respect to the state of Israel, of course. Furthermore, besides Jewish concerns, we all need our city, state and country to offer basic economic and political freedoms along with common sense government support. Basic health of society is a prerequisite for a free and thriving Jewish community.

Throughout Jewish history, Jews were subjugated to the most inhumane treatment, ranging from being treated as second class citizens with respect to professional opportunities, denial of property rights to violence and murder committed against us, culminating in the most egregious barbaric event witnessed in the Holocaust.

However, let us also not forget that there were periods in the last 3,000 years that times were good for Jews, besides when we had our own Temple, such as in the Ottoman Empire and the 1,000 years that Jews were in Europe before it ended in the Holocaust. If the Torah admonishes us "ushmartem m'ode l'nafshosechem" (care for your bodies) to live with a healthy lifestyle, it would stand to reason that the Torah requires us to secure our city, state and country to make sure it too is operating in a healthy fashion.

I must admit, that while growing up I wasn't inculcated with the idea of serving in the military and neither were many others in my school. It was only after 9/11 of 2001 when I was so angry at those who attacked our country that I was practically ready to join our military in whatever capacity that was feasible, had it been necessary. During relatively more peaceful times, notwithstanding when American wars are being fought on foreign soil, efforts to protect our community and country requires a mere civic engagement with non-profits or political involvement, for those who have not signed up for military service.

Rabbi Schonfeld and I'm sure others also, have written here, in the Queens Jewish Link about the trend of frum young married couples, once financially able, who are moving out of our community. Obviously, the reasons why families move out of an area are tied to limited economic opportunities and uncomfortable housing accommodations but also, I submit, emotional ties that young people may not have with their communities, also factors in to it. Being involved with the fabric of a neighborhood and a community by way of civic groups, yeshivah and synagogue events and political participation, all tend to bond people together which translates into a loyal community group with less inclination for some to want to move out.

Of course many people are fayukt (harried) with family and employment responsibilities. I was not as active with politics when I was working for the Post Office and managing my real estate concerns, as I am now, being retired. But habits learned early on, are learned well - that's what the ad executives on Madison Ave say anyway - and it's incumbent upon those of us with time for community concerns, to try to the best of our ability to convey to young people the importance of civic, communal and political involvement as well as attending yeshivah and synagogue events.

Most of us don't find the time to attend political clubs but many don't even find the time to vote, especially in Primaries. Many young people, I'm sure will say, that they don't even have the time to register to vote! It is precisely this concern that is currently being addressed by CHAZAQ, a kiruv and community oriented organization founded by the Meirov brothers, by launching soon - a big voter registration drive - in our area to get people, especially young people, registered to

vote! In that way, when election time comes around, we as a community will feel the power of our ethical choices to vote-in decent and responsible people to represent our community. Let's send a

big unambiguous message to candidates that they have to get OUR APPROVAL to be elected to


On the other hand, many of us middle aged and senior members, who for many years have already been registered but proudly carry the flag of right wing conservatism, Ala. being registered in the Republican party, this also needs remediation. Let's be honest here and acknowledge that Republican candidates, in many parts of NY city, including our own district, have not won in decades in the General election. Of course their Republican registration is useless in the Democratic Primary and the Democratic Primary is really the only thing that counts! For such proud Republican voters, when they vote in the General election, are like people who arrive late to a party (celebration) when all the liquor and cake was already consumed. Such folks get tired of voting because their vote means nothing and ultimately end up not voting at all!

I spoke to someone from the community in a store who reads my articles from this paper. Naturally I was happy to hear that, but then he said "Why do you write like such an arch conservative? Who among the Republicans have ever endorsed the great social programs that we have, such as Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid and Food Stamps?" Well despite the fact that there is great abuse in these programs, mainstream Republicans, of course, do not want to dismantle them. Moderate or practical Republicans want these programs also. Politically conservative Americans, Democrat or Republican, just want a fiscally responsible government along with a sober domestic and foreign policy towards those who want to do us harm.

John Kennedy in his inauguration message of 1961 said: "And so, my fellow Americans: ask not what your country can do for you — ask what you can do for your country." By doing "more for your country", he was not referring to paying more taxes because, in fact, Kennedy lowered taxes and the country was better off for that. In our times, John Kennedy would be considered a Republican!

Last week I submitted to the Board of Elections my change of party registration from Republican to Democrat. If anyone who is a moderate Republican in an historically dominated Democratic district wants to have an impact on the local political process then I urge them to change their registration to Democrat because a moderate Republican and a conservative Democrat are basically interchangeable and that way they can vote in the Democratic Primary where our local leaders are coronated. We've martyred ourselves as Republicans long enough - why continue the charade?

Lastly, if someone can't get to the polls on election day then vote by absentee ballot. The important thing is - don't be a kvetcher. Get out and vote. It's your mitzvah obligation to do so!

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