There are so many things I would like to write about the upcoming elections. Suffice it to say this election poses for our consideration very different candidates with differing outlooks and strategies for their leadership. Hopefully we can plow through the chatter of the 24-hour news cycle which continues to over-report and make news out of non-newsworthy matters, leaving little time for serious reporting about the candidates and their positions. Of course, we should all take time to vote, but we should also take the time to understand the candidates and their positions. And that is the same for our state representatives (or other local races) through your choice for President of the United States.
In the past we have held a political forum featuring candidates or their representatives. I regret that we are not hosting a forum this year. There is greater competition for such debates. The candidates and their parties don’t accept every offer for these programs. And this year, the Jewish holidays rolling into October made scheduling very difficult. Hopefully, we will be back as host of a political forum in a future election cycle.
But there are two opportunities to receive expert pre-election political analysis by Dr. Chris Borick, director of the Institute of Public Opinion at Muhlenberg College. On Wednesday, Nov. 2, at 7:30 p.m. at Congregation Brith Sholom, Borick will be joined by Dr. Gordon Goldberg, professor emeritus of history at Kutztown University, and the progenitor of the Gordon Poll, a Jewish community fixture for a decade.
On Thursday, Nov. 3, Dr. Borick will reprise his pre-election analysis at Congregation Keneseth Israel at 7 p.m. I urge you to attend one or both of these programs. See more information about both programs on page 7.
This year we are commemorating the 40th anniversary of HAKOL. I do not know about the early years of HAKOL, but I know when I arrived at the Federation HAKOL was not accepting paid political advertising (for that matter, HAKOL was not accepting much paid advertising of any kind). Our HAKOL Editorial Board reviewed the issue of paid political advertising and approved a policy enabling the acceptance of such advertising over 12 years ago.
As a charitable not-for-profit organization, we act in accordance with IRS guidelines as well as the federal election regulations. Although the Federation must remain politically neutral, we are not prohibited from contact with politics or politicians. That’s why our Community Relations Council sponsors political candidate forums, organizes missions to Washington and Harrisburg to meet with our legislators, and mounts letter writing campaigns on issues of concern to the Jewish community. We are allowed to express positions on particular issues before our elected officials, but we are not allowed to endorse any candidates.
That decision rests with you and is done so – hopefully – out of a process of educating yourself on the candidates and their positions.
It is important for Jewish Americans, as individuals and as a community, to remain actively engaged in political discourse. Carolyn Katwan, then HAKOL editor and Federation assistant executive director, wrote in a February 2008 HAKOL column: “American Jews have exercised their right to vote enthusiastically and in percentages far greater than the national average. Our participation has served us well – on issues from Israel to civil rights to Soviet Jewry – and will continue to do so if we remain active, informed, engaged and accessible. The fact that candidates view our vote as important and significant demonstrates the role of the Jewish community in today’s electoral process.”
Over the years, our HAKOL Editorial Board and Jewish Federation Board of Directors have reaffirmed our policy to accept political advertising in HAKOL. This practice is mirrored in the vast majority of Jewish community newspapers sponsored by their Jewish federations. In accordance with federal regulations, our advertising policies offer equal access to all candidates. The presence of an advertisement does not represent an endorsement of a candidate; likewise the absence of an ad from a candidate does not reflect a position by HAKOL or the Jewish Federation of the Lehigh Valley on that candidate.
If the political prognosticators are correct, Pennsylvania – and the Lehigh Valley – will be important to the outcomes of the November 8th elections. Our Jewish community stands at the heart of the region and should take the time to educate ourselves. The candidates are seeking our attention and seeking our votes. Let’s wholeheartedly participate in the American political process as a knowledgeable and educated electorate. When that occurs, the best candidates shall surely win.
I am Mark Goldstein, and I approved this message.