Why a Yom Kippur Election is Great for the Jews
By Anthony Frosh
Today is a great day for the Jews of Australia. The Prime Minister, our head of government, mentioned us in a major speech. In our grandparents’ time, when a chief or senior administrator mentioned the Jewish community in such a prominent speech in respect to an upcoming date, it was normally of the vein, “The Jewish community has three weeks to leave town.”
For those that missed the news today, Julia Gillard announced that the federal election would take place on September 14th, which falls on Yom Kippur. The PM said it was either Yom Kippur or AFL Grand Final day. This is more great news for the Jewish community, as it confirms for those of us who haven’t yet reviewed the fixtures that the AFL Grand Final does not fall on Yom Kippur.
Naturally, some might think that getting to vote in an election is more important than getting to watch the AFL Grand Final. Those that think this likely live in Sydney or Brisbane, where the indigenous football code is less popular. Of course, you can fully participate in the election by lodging a postal vote, but unfortunately, watching the grand final via the postal service is much less satisfying.
A Yom Kippur election is also a boon for those trying to encourage more of their fellow Jews to observe the Sabbath. Just think of all the Jews who would have broken the laws of Shabbat by voting on a regular Saturday who will now register for postal voting because Yom Kippur is a bridge too far. Once going to the trouble of registering for postal voting, some might even register on an ongoing basis.
Now I’ve read on social media how some Jews are concerned that voting early excludes one from taking into account information gleaned in the final days before the election. This is actually another positive, when one considers the quality of information that is promoted in this time. “Did you know that boat people throw their own children overboard…”
Perhaps this year it will be “Did you know that Greens leader, Christine Milne, is actually number three in line for the Al Qaeda throne?”
Or from the other side, “Did you know that Tony Abbott is such a misogynist that he plans to take the right to vote off women?”
I’m also looking forward to combining Breaking of the Fast dinner with a “Don’s Party” style vote-count get-together. After a 25+ hour fast, with your physical and mental energy depleted, you’re in the perfect condition to sit back and enjoy Antony Green, Laurie Oaks, or Graham “Richo” Richardson take you on a statistical and political journey of all 150 lower house seats, plus 76 in the upper house. I can hardly wait!
What I’m most looking forward to is when they review the seats, and Antony Green, the ABC’s election maestro, makes a comment like this, “Of course, it’s too early to call Melbourne Ports/Wentworth. There’s a lot of Jewish voters in that seat, and as we know, it was Yom Kippur today, and so we’ll have to wait for the postals to get a clearer picture.” I can see Jews collectively kvelling when that’s said.
What’s more, the Yom Kippur election will result in Australians learning a lot more about the diversity of Jewish identity and practice. Australians will learn that there are some Jews who will comfortably vote on Yom Kippur, some Jews who won’t vote on Yom Kippur, some Jews who won’t vote on any Saturday, and some Jews who will vote on Yom Kippur but will feel slightly guilty about it.
Postal voting also affords another advantage. There was a time when I would never have dreamed of voting below the line in the upper house. But the previous federal election, my wife introduced me to her own voting ritual. I’ll never forget the romance of sitting on the couch as a couple, with postal voting forms in hand, laptops on laps, and going through a seemingly infinite number of voting combinations, painstakingly researching each and every Senate candidate, and ordering them according to a range of criteria. Once you vote below the track, you’ll never go back!