Pelavin: “Residents of Washington, D.C. fulfill all of the responsibilities of citizenship but are denied the most basic right to Congressional representation.”
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WASHINGTON, D.C., February 24, 2009 – Mark Pelavin, Associate Director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, yesterday afternoon sent a letter urging the Senate to support cloture for the District of Columbia House Voting Rights Act (S. 160) in an effort to move toward voting representation for the citizens of our nation’s capital. The full text of the letter follows:
On behalf of the Union for Reform Judaism, encompassing over 900 congregations across North America, with a membership of 1.5 million Reform Jews, I urge you to vote for cloture on the District of Columbia House Voting Rights Act of 2009 (S. 160) and ensure fair and equal representation for citizens of the United States’ capital.
Residents of Washington, D.C. fulfill all of the responsibilities of citizenship but are denied the most basic right to Congressional representation. District-dwellers fight to defend the principles of freedom and democracy abroad, yet have no vote at home when Congress decides to send them to war. They pay the second highest per capita federal income taxes in the country, yet have no vote on how the federal government spends that money. Having a voice in the creation of public policy is an integral part of American citizenship, yet those who reside in our nation’s capital are denied this right and have no say on health care, social security, environmental protection, public safety, and foreign policy, among the multitude of issues that affect their lives.
As Jews, long disenfranchised members of society, we are well aware of the importance of having elected representation. The Jewish community has valued inclusive democratic representation dating back to biblical times. In the Book of Numbers, we learn of God’s instructions to Moses to gather 70 elders of Israel to serve as representatives of the people (Numbers 11:16–25). Additionally, Rabbi Yitzhak taught, “A ruler is not to be appointed until the community is first consulted” (Babylonian Talmud, B’rachot 55a). We learn from these teachings the importance of representative government and accountability among those who serve the public.
Not only does the DC Voting Rights Act address a basic issue of fairness and justice for the 600,000 residents of our nation’s capital, but it also addresses an injustice imposed on the citizens of Utah. Utah narrowly missed being apportioned a fourth vote in the House after the last census, partially due to a miscounting of residents abroad. This bipartisan, vote-neutral bill would rectify this situation and is vital step forward in ensuring equal voting rights for all American citizens.
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, whose membership includes more than 1,800 Reform rabbis.