My home is located on a very highly trafficked corner just a few miles from JFK airport, a half a block away from the train station, and across the street from a bus stop. We are literally surrounded by trains, planes and automobiles, which turns my home into a very popular address a this time of year. When I say, “this time of year,” I am referring to election season. Why, you may ask? Well it’s because of the all-powerful sign on my front lawn! Apparently my corner is a choice location for free advertising, and I am thrilled to lend a piece of my turf to the right candidate.
After speaking with a friend of mine that is heavily involved with a particular candidate’s campaign last week, I agreed to make room for a lawn sign for him in my yard. Two days later, I came home from work and found that there it was a new sign on my corner! It was all decked out in red, white and blue touting the re-election of that particular candidate. However, there was one issue—it was not for the candidate that my friend and I had spoken about. I thought perhaps I had forgotten his name, or maybe my friend is working on multiple campaigns so he got confused. I called him up and it turned out that not only had he not placed that sign there, but in fact it was a sign for the opposition! My friend was planning on doing his rounds the next day and someone had already planted another sign on my fertile soil! So I went ahead and called the politician’s headquarters for clarification on the matter and they apologized.
Competition incites people to act in funny ways. However, this past week I had the opportunity to see a competition that looked completely different. I had the privilege to attend the kickoff seminar of this year’s JUMP (Jewish Unity Mentoring Program) competition. The six-month initiative is designed to challenge teams of high school NCSY-ers to develop a unique and creative way of identifying and dealing with issues and challenges in their schools and communities. These lessons are critical to prepare tomorrow’s leaders by giving them a broader understanding of the global concerns facing the Jewish people. Through leadership training workshops, team building exercises and lectures about the importance of chessed (acts of kindness), kiruv (reconnecting other Jews to Torah and mitzvot), fundraising and Israel advocacy within the Jewish community. The JUMP Seminar outlined a variety of ways in which the students can become effective activists for the Jewish people.
As I floated from group to group, I was inspired by seeing such grassroots excitement and dedication for making a difference in each of their communities. These high school kids were passionate about trying to figure out what types of challenges they could take upon themselves in order to make a difference in their smaller towns. However, even though each group was competing against one another, it was refreshing to see a couple hundred NCSY-ers from all around the country still being courteous and sensitive to one another. Ironically, that very night I watched the Presidential Debate. Here were two men squaring off, both of them have no greater desire than to lead the free world. Both men love America, however, they seemed to forget how to act like well-mannered individuals in the face of competition.
So back to my busy campaign corner. There I was pulling this sign up from my lawn and I thought, hey, this lawn sign incident is all about sensitivity to other people.. Perhaps candidates need to spend some time at JUMP before they can represent their parties.
Remember to vote early and often!
Have a great month!
Rabbi Yehoshua Marchuck