Why I’m Hosting an Election-Edition Shabbat
Here are Aviva Rosman’s dinner plans. She’s the COO and co-founder of BallotReady.org, the nonpartisan online voter guide to every race and referendum on the ballot. BallotReady is currently live in 25 states with a goal to inform 1 million voters this election. When not knee-deep in the ballots and boundaries of local elections, Aviva enjoys cooking Shabbat dinner with her husband Colin, cat Prince Myshkin, and basset-beagle dog Gately.
By now, most of my friends are sick of talking about the election. It seems like it’s been filling my Facebook feed for the past year and with a month left until Nov. 8 I’m expecting at least a couple more arguments at Yom Kippur break fast.
In spite of my political exhaustion with candidates named Trump and Hillary, I’m excited to bring people to my Shabbat table to talk about something else – the over 40,000 candidates running for offices besides president. Far more than the president, these candidates – for school board and city council, judges and county commissioners – will shape our daily lives for the next four years.
Here are my top five tips for hosting a great Election-Edition Shabbat
1. Design your patriotic menu.
For my Election Shabbat, I’m hosting a potluck and asking everyone to bring a recipe that represents their home state. In addition to our usual challah and chicken, I’m making baked beans from Boston. Don’t forget to post your dinner on the OneTable platform — here’s how.
2. Create your guest list.
I have some super political friends and some friends who I’m still reminding to register to vote. For me, Shabbat is a great time to bring all types together. And while some of my friends get anxious that they don’t know enough when it comes to politics, the truth is that almost all of have no idea what we’re talking about when it comes to local races.
If you’re reluctant to talk about sex, politics, or religion, Election-Edition Shabbat can potentially hit on all three! If your preference is for lively discussion, plan a Shabbat where you tackle the tough issues – is voting for a third party candidate principled or irresponsible? Where does everyone stand on some of this year’s tough ballot measures on charter schools, marijuana legalization, minimum wage, and plastic bags?
If you’re like me and you prefer a more peaceful Friday night, there’s still a lot you can talk about. What are the changes you would like to see in your community? How do you personally make decisions in downballot races? What are the values you look for in candidates? How are you spending this election season creating the country that you want to see?
4. Assign people homework.
Shabbat should be about rest, which is why I gave out research ahead of time. Each guest was assigned a downballot office – state’s attorney, water reclamation district, comptroller – and asked to come prepared to give an overview of the race.
5. Commit to making a difference this election.
This election, it may be easy to feel discouraged – to think that one vote doesn’t matter, that you don’t like any candidate, that your state’s electoral college fate is already decided. But of the 40,000 people running for office, there are many places where your vote will be important, for criminal justice reform, health care funding, the quality of our water and the leadership of our schools.
This Rosh Hashanah, I heard the following story from my rabbi: The Kotzker Rebbe once asked, “what is the difference between East and West?” He answered, “one small step.” This election offers the opportunity to make a difference this election at all levels of Government. One small step I’m taking this election cycle – gathering my friends for Shabbat to talk about our community – our hopes, our worries, and how to build the democracy we want to see.