In a year when every vote counted, there were at least 800 new voters registered thanks to the living-room efforts of a handful of Jewish women in New York City. J-Vote was conceived by twenty-something Erika Katske and a few friends because of their “despair about all of the apathy we were seeing around us.”
“A lot of Jews have participated in voter registration,” commented Katske, “but I don’t think a coalition of Jewish organizations has ever carried out a voter registration drive on its own.”
Employed by a variety of Jewish organizations, these young women drew on their contacts to get the ball rolling. “This was a non-work thing,” she said, “but we were able to use our work connections.” Those connections included Congregation Beth Simchat Torah, where Katske is active, which hosted a pre-drive breakfast and a get-the-blood-going talk by Rabbi Sharon Kleinbaum. Supporting organizations also included the JCC on the Upper West Side, the American Jewish World Service, National Council of Jewish Women, Congregation B’nai Jeshurun, the NYU Bronfman Center and Columbia University Hillel. When the women first approached these groups, says Katske, they all asked, “Why hasn’t this been done before.”
Kicking off the drive, Rabbi Kleinbaum reflected on the halakhic rule that a synagogue must have a window, which she explained was a mandate for Jews to be involved in their communities. The group is hoping J-Vote “become a place for New York Jews to become part of political debate.” Contact Jvote2000@hotmail.com, Rsweder@jccnyc.org or read a profile of them on www.socialaction.com.