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Reform Jewish Leader Calls for Civic Participation

Pelavin: Let us not take for granted the liberty so many have fought and died to protect, the rare privilege of voting that the vast majority of the world's population does not possess.


WASHINGTON, March 30, 2004 - Mark J. Pelavin, Associate Director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, today joined faith leaders from a diverse coalition of religious organizations to announce the Faithful Democracy initiative. Pelavin issued the following statement:

    Our tradition teaches us: "Do not separate yourself from the community." Civic participation is a mitzvah. Mitzvah is often translated as "good deed," but it is more than that: it is an obligation, a commandment that brings us closer to God.

    In light of the prophetic tradition, when we vote we must look seriously at the ills of society. The political, economic, and moral challenges facing our nation demand a Jewish voice. In the face of these challenges, the number of people who exercise their right to vote - who actually decide elections - is frighteningly low. That trend is visible in the Jewish community as well. Though the voting rate of American Jews has been as high as nearly 90%, in recent years that rate has dropped to just over 50%. In a country where we represent only 2% of the entire population, our failure to participate in the democratic process directly threatens our freedom.

    Let us not take for granted the liberty so many have fought and died to protect, the rare privilege of voting that the vast majority of the world's population does not possess. How can we ignore that privilege? How can we shirk that obligation?

    We must not do either; we must rededicate ourselves to our civic responsibilities. That is why I am proud to stand with these distinguished leaders this morning, and to offer our support for the Faithful Democracy initiative.

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Faithful Democracy represents a growing coalition of religious organizations committed to promoting faithful engagement in the democratic process. It represents a broad range of faith groups and in many ways reflects the rich diversity of U.S. culture. Faithful Democracy is an organizing tool created by a group of national religious organizations to achieve the following goals:
-To increase the number of people casting informed votes in the 2004 elections.
-To increase the number of people with a commitment to responsible civil participation that is grounded in their religious values.
-To create or strengthen lasting partnerships between different religious groups, and between the faith community and secular organizations at the local level.
Through our website and grassroots efforts, we will offer people of faith a wealth of voter participation resources and numerous opportunities for coordinated action. For more information, visit www.faithfuldemocracy.org.

The Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism is the Washington office of the Union for Reform Judaism, whose more than 900 congregations across North America encompass 1.5 million Reform Jews, and the Central Conference of American Rabbis(CCAR) whose membership includes more than 1800 Reform rabbis.



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