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Reform Jewish Movement Calls on Western States not to Schedule Presidential Primary on Saturday
Holding a presidential primary on a Saturday prohibits the full observance of Shabbat by forcing Jewish and other Sabbatarians to choose between full participation in the electorial process and remaining true to their own beliefs.


WASHINGTON, December 8, 1998-In response to reports that eight Western states are considering moving presidential primary elections to Saturday, the Reform Jewish Movement called on the Governors of those states to reconsider their position.

In a letter to the Governors of Utah, Arizona, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico and Wyoming, Mark J. Pelavin, the Associate Director of the Religious Action Center urged them to "avoid forcing those of your citizens who take their religious obligation seriously to choose between full participation in the political process and their religious beliefs."

The full text of the letter follows:

"We understand from press reports that eight Western states that include Utah, Arizona, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico and Wyoming are considering moving their presidential primary election day from a Tuesday to a Saturday. On behalf of the 850 congregations of the Union of American Hebrew Congregations and the 1.5 million Reform Jews nationwide I am writing to urge you not to do so in order to avoid forcing those of your citizens who take their religious obligation seriously to choose between full participation in the political process and their religious beliefs. As an organization dedicated to both our own religious tradition and the protection of religious freedoms guaranteed by the Constitution, we would seriously object to holding a presidential primary on a holy day for various Sabbatarian groups.

"For the Jewish people, of course, Saturday is the holy day of Shabbat. Shabbat symbolically parallels the seventh day of creation when God rested from creating the world. As we are taught in the 4th commandment, 'You shall remember the Sabbath and keep it holy' and we cherish each Shabbat. It is a day for the individual to step back from daily life to spend time concentrating on family, reflecting on life and praying to God.

"Holding a presidential primary on a Saturday prohibits the full observance of Shabbat by forcing Jewish and other Sabbatarians -- such as Seventh Day Adventists -- to choose between full participation in the electorial process and remaining true to their own beliefs.

"We are aware, of course, that absentee ballots are an alternative for some voters. However, they are not a substitute for those Sabbath observers who not only would want to vote but also to campaign or work the polls on election day. Moving election day to a Saturday, or even a two-day format that includes a Saturday, would limit participation by religiously observant Americans.

"Again, we ask you to reconsider the possibility of holding a presidential primary on a Saturday in Utah, Arizona, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico and Wyoming."

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The Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism is the Washington office of the Union of American Hebrew Congregations and the Central Conference of American Rabbis, representing 1.5 million Reform Jews and 1,800 Reform rabbis in 875 congregations throughout North America.



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