Voting and Tikkun Olam

By Maddy Lerner, Board Member

 October 24, 2023

Over the past couple weeks, I’ve been distracted, distraught, and horrified. Focusing on other subjects and not the Israel-Hamas War has seemed all but impossible to me. And truthfully, it still plagues me. Like so many of you, I have family in Israel and their safety has consumed my every thought. I wake up every morning, reaching for my phone to see what I might have missed overnight. I have sought comfort from my family, friends, and fellow activists. In these conversations with my support system, the words “Tikkun Olam” (repairing the world) kept floating around in my head.

To the Jewish people, Tikkun Olam means that we have the power to repair the world – and we have a duty to do so. This is one of many reasons why I am proud to be Jewish. This duty and commitment to peace and needed change is an integral part of our observance. So as I shift to another issue, please know that during this time, it is important to take care of yourself and your loved ones. Take the time to process and heal. Take the time to ask for space or support. I stand with you in solidarity.

The more I thought about Tikkun Olam and the important of peace and change, the more I thought about another timely topic – voting.

Growing up, my family was very politically engaged. Likely as an infant, you would find me seated amongst my family as they were engaged in a conversation on the state of the country – or the world. As a child, I started to understand the political terms my family used. As a young teen, I even felt comfortable contributing to the conversation. All this to say, it wasn’t a surprise to anyone that I started volunteering on political campaigns when I was in high school. Today, I can say that I’ve been in the political field for over a decade.

When you go doorknocking, you almost never know who is going to be on the other side of that door. It could be someone who is friendly and kind, someone who supports your cause. It could be someone who slams the door in your face. But it might be someone who is adamantly against voting in general. One tool you pick up in canvassing is to know when you can’t change someone’s mind. But I often think about those who don’t see the importance of voting. And then I think about education surrounding voting.

So apologies because I’m now going to get on my soapbox.

It is important to vote in every election – even when it’s not a presidential election year. Any given year, you could be voting for: President, Senator, Representative, Governor, State Senator, State Representative, Mayor, School Board, etc. All of these posts have an impact on your daily life – whether you see it publicly or it’s more behind the scenes. All of these people are ultimately elected to represent YOU. So why not have a say in it?

A few times I’ve been asked: “Why are you voting? It’s only city council on the ballot right?” As a woman, I wouldn’t have been allowed to vote just over a century ago. I think about the number of women in America who couldn’t vote before 1920. I think about those who fought for women’s suffrage. This is a privilege and a duty that I have that so many before me did not. Aside from the magnetic pull I feel towards a polling station on election day, this and so many others are the reasons I find to vote.

So this year, on Election Day in Minnesota – Tuesday, November 7 – I encourage you to consider voting. I encourage you to have your voice heard. I encourage you to speak up for those who cannot.

In the spirit of Tikkun Olam, I will be voting on November 7 and I hope you will do the same.

My Experience at the 22nd Century Conference

By Sam Gault, Communications & Engagement Manager

 July 19, 2023

I was honored to receive a McKnight Foundation scholarship to represent NCJW MN at the 22nd Century Conference, which took place on July 6-9 in beautiful downtown Minneapolis! It was an inspiring gathering of pro-democracy activists, organizers, and researchers, and I’d like to share some of my key takeaways with you.

The conference was hosted by the 22nd Century Initiative, which seeks to build a truly multiracial and pluralistic democracy in the U.S. in this century. To this end, the immediate aim of the 22nd Century Conference is to foster strong pro-democracy coalitions to block the agenda of authoritarian movements while promoting equitable participation and pluralism.

One of the most provocative and fascinating sessions I attended, put on by Showing Up for Racial Justice (SURJ), was titled “White Privilege Is Real but It’s Not an Organizing Strategy.” The facilitators began by contrasting authoritarian organizing, which creates divisions, with progressive organizing, which fosters intentional and strategic cross-class relationships on the basis of shared material interests. They went on to distinguish between two types of progressive organizing: race-avoidant vs. genuine allyship. The former, which presents narrow, community-specific issues through an apolitical lens, can be an effective means of identifying and addressing immediate problems them (e.g., “The streets in this neighborhood are not safe for pedestrians, so let’s demand that the city build sidewalks!”), but tends to ignore the systemic injustices underlying those problems. The latter, by forging multiracial coalitions across class lines, “calls in” white people to support movements led by Black, indigenous, and people of color (BIPOC) on the basis of mutual interest (e.g., “All people need, and deserve, to live in safe and healthy communities. We all do better when we all do better!”). Thus, while it is necessary for white activists to acknowledge and reflect upon their own privilege, the SURJ facilitators cautioned against falling into the trap of simply stopping there: The real work for white anti-racist activists consists in recognizing their shared interests with BIPOC-led movements and organizing to support them!

I also attended a wonderful session—the facilitators of which included Brandon Schorsch, the Combating Hate Organizer at Jewish Community Action—entitled “Weapon of Movement Destruction: Fighting Antisemitism and Its Weaponization in Minnesota and Beyond.” Among other topics, we discussed the importance of taking antisemitism more seriously in progressive circles. Efforts to combat antisemitism often get siloed because so many progressives assume (incorrectly) that all Jewish people are white, whereas there are actually many Jewish people of color, and white supremacists do not consider any Jews to be “really” white. The paradox of contemporary authoritarian politics is that they claim the mantle of fighting antisemitism (e.g., by falsely accusing progressive organizers or politicians of antisemitism) while simultaneously reviving old (often Medieval) antisemitic tropes and conspiracy theories. It is therefore vital for progressive organizers to recognize that antisemitism fuels today’s antidemocratic, authoritarian movements and to take a united stand against it and all other forms of hate.

There is so much more that I could say, but this blog post is getting rather long, so please feel free to email me ( if you’d like to chat about what I’ve said here or learn more about the conference!