Episode 49: Jewish Women Vote (Transcript)

Episode 49: Jewish Women Vote

[Theme music]

Nahanni Rous: Hi! It’s Nahanni Rous, and this is Can We Talk?, the podcast of the Jewish Women’s Archive, where gender, history and Jewish culture meet. As history unfolds in this election season, we’re sharing voting stories past and present.

Jordan Namerow: My name is Jordan Namerow. I live in Boston. We are on our way to go to do our early voting. We're going to the Greek Orthodox Church banquet hall. That's where we cast our votes. And I have my five year old with me. Are you excited to come vote? 

Jordan’s son: Yeah.

Jordan: Why do you think it's important to vote? 

Jordan’s son: Since that’s what gives a choice of people if they want. So two people have to compete. And if the world votes for one person, that persons wins. And it gives them a choice of what they want for the president. 

Jordan: Exactly. Yeah. Voting is really important. In fact, you have come to vote with me in every single election since you were born. Can you believe that? The first time was when you were just a few months old? You were in a stroller and I took you. Well I'm so excited. We're about to walk in. Here we go.

Judith Rosenbaum: I'm Judith Rosenbaum, the CEO of the Jewish Women's Archive, and my strongest voting memory is going to the polls with my mom when I was a little girl. She would always take me into the booth with her. This was back in the 1970s when it was a real booth with a curtain, and it always felt so private and serious in there. And she would make this kind of emotional speech about how important the right to vote was and how people had fought and died for this right all over the world. And that as a woman and as a Jew, I should never take it for granted. And now when I go to vote, I bring my kids and I share with them this memory of my mom. And I get pretty emotional, too. And I hope that I've impressed on them the way my mom did on me what an incredible privilege and right it is to be able to participate in society with your vote.

Rabbi Claudia Kreiman: My name is Claudia Kreiman, Rabbi Claudia Kreiman. And I'm an American citizen. I'm also an immigrant to this country. I grew up in Chile, South America. I lived in Argentina. I lived in Israel. And I feel the urgency, the joy. And also I'm a little trembling and shaking, knowing that this is a very challenging time for all of us. We hope the results will bring us a better future. 

Isa Kaufman-Gabelle: My name is Isa Kaufman-Gabelle. I am a recent graduate and Washington state resident. And I just turned 24 years old. So this is my second election and I am extremely excited because it's important. And I think that voter suppression is in the back of people's minds. Is there a possibility that our vote may not count? And I actually ran into a little bit of a situation like that where I received my ballot a little bit later than most people in my neighborhood. And this was because I did not check my registration. And, you know, it could happen to a lot of people. And I didn't know how common it was. But my registration was labeled as an inactive. I was labeled as an inactive voter. And so it would not deliver to my permanent address if I had not basically re-registered, filled out this form that just confirmed my address. I'm grateful I did that. That was a revelation that I had. You know, not everyone in my family can vote. And, you know, I have to take advantage of this privilege to be a participant in this democracy. I'm just telling people to vote and make sure that other people are voting because, you know, we only have this one time. 

Rabbi Claudia Kreiman: I'm wearing a white mask that says vote. And recognizing this moment for what I hope would be a joyful moment for us. Where do I go? Here? Ok, thank you.

Sonia Pressman Fuentes: My name is Sonia Pressman Fuentes and I live in Sarasota, Florida. I met Alice Paul in the 1970s. She has been described as the most charismatic figure to come out of the suffrage movement. She was the founder of the National Woman's Party, which exists to this day. And she founded it in 1916. It was very moving for me to be seeing her at that time and the most striking thing she said, which has affected me to this day, was that that time I am now 92. And at that time, I think she was 90. And she said to me that she felt guilty and useless because she wasn't doing anything for women at her age. And I told her that was ridiculous and that she will never be useless and that is true to this day. I know what women did to secure the vote for women in this country and when I think that there is a woman that doesn't exercise that right-- women were beaten because of it, they picketed in front of the White House for 18 months in all kinds of cold weather. One woman gave her life for it. So I often think of those who came before and on whose shoulders we stand.

Rabbi Claudia Kreiman: Wow, this is very exciting. My glasses are getting all foggy because of the mask. But I am actually I'm excited to be doing this, knowing this is so important. Ok, here it is.

Jill Schupp: My name is Jill Schupp. I’m in Saint Louis county and I’m running for congress in Missouri’s second district. My first voting experience was when I was actually in the sixth grade. So it's a different voting experience than you might expect. But my teacher, Mr. Heiken, came in one day and said, today we are going to elect a class president. We talked about what that meant. And then people were nominated. And I was one of the nominees. And when it was time to vote, we all were supposed to put our heads down on our desks and cover our eyes so that we couldn't see who other people were voting for. And these thoughts crossed my mind. Do I vote for myself or should I do something and be nice and vote for someone else? What is the right thing to do? And to this day, I don't remember how I voted. But I will tell you that I did win and became class president. And since that time, I remember studying in Sunday school about Hillel, who had said, if I am not for myself, who will be for me? If I am only for myself, what am I? And if not now, then when? And when it came time later in life after sixth grade to vote for myself or someone else for a position. I always felt confident that if I was not for myself, why should anybody else be for me? So from that point forward I felt confident that voting for myself was the right thing to do.

Rabbi Claudia Kreiman: OK. I am now on my ballot. I have my ballot and I am on. I have my pen. I have to sign the early ballot envelope. Let me do that. Done. And now I'm going to vote. 

Victoria Tamas: I was born on December 1st, 1962. My father explained to me the whole business of how voting happened. He was a Hungarian refugee and this may have been his very first time voting. He seemed pretty excited about it and he took me with him into his voting booth. And he showed me the levers—there was a row of levers for the Democrats and a row of levers for the Republicans. And for a hungarian, he was pretty liberal. And he showed me how to vote for the Democrats. He gave me instructions: this is our row. And he let me do the levers for him. And I felt pretty great. Top five things I’ve done with my dad.

Rabbi Claudia Kreiman: I’m going to put in my ballot inside of my envelope. I'm shaking, actually, because I know… always voting feels very important. And I feel the urgency of the moment. I need to seal the envelope. I guess I’m going to put my mask down for a sec.

Melissa Kornfeld: Hi, my name is Melissa Kornfeld. I live in Atlanta, Georgia. And this year I chose to be a poll watcher. In the neighborhood where I was assisting, I would say ninety five percent of the voters were black. Last Monday was very, very disheartening to see what happened, although the voters were determined. The lines were eight to ten hours. And so you're looking at folks that got there at seven thirty in the morning and stood in line without any breaks. There was no water. There was no food. The bathrooms went out at a certain point and the spirit was incredibly high. Voters were telling us that they were voting like their life depended on it. They were not getting out of line. As a Jewish woman, I just believe in democracy. The fact that certain individuals are restricted from voicing their opinion, especially when they're minorities and there are individuals who are being disenfranchised, and as a Jew, that really raises a lot of issues for me. It triggers a lot of fear that we're not a true democracy if everyone can't have an equal voice. 

Rabbi Claudia Kreiman: Thank you. Yes, it is sealed with my signature. Thank you. And the most important thing: I want my sticker. Can I take one for my kids? OK, thank you. You can take mine. Good, I took two for my children. Signed, sealed and delivered. Wonderful. Thank you so much. Thank you. 

Rabbi Anna Boswell-Levy: My name is Anna Boswell-Levy and I live in Yardley, Pennsylvania. I'm a rabbi serving a Reconstructionist congregation here. On Monday, I went with my twin four year olds to drop off my mail-in ballot. It was a beautiful sunny day and the place was teeming with people. We all wore masks and were socially distant. And even though this election has been fraught with misinformation, fear, it was really great to be in this mixed multitude of people engaging in civic duty. And so I said the blessing, reminding me that this is holy work, adding my one voice to ensure that we create a more perfect union. The blessing I recited was written by Rabbi Jeremy Schwartz, also a Reconstructionist rabbi. I said “Baruch atah... Blessed are you Adonai our God, ruler of the universe who made us holy through mitzvot—or sacred duty—and commanded us to immerse ourselves in the needs of the public.”

Nahanni: Nahanni Rous here. I'd like to end with my own voting story. In 2008, I was visiting my family on election day in the swing state of New Hampshire. My parents, my young daughter and I brought my 98-year-old grandmother to the polls to vote for Barack Obama. She was in a wheelchair at the time, and rarely left her bedroom, let alone her house, but she was adamant about casting her vote in person. My grandmother was radiant when she came out of the voting booth. We stopped to pose for a picture, and she said, "That was the most important thing I've ever done in my life." She was born in 1910, and lived through a hundred years of change in this country. The fact that she had just voted for a black man for president filled her with a sense of hope and progress. I think of her now when I vote. We should all live as long and as fully as she did. And we should know that our voices and choices are consequential, and that with our participation, we will see progress in time.

[Theme music]

Thank you for joining us for Can We Talk?, the podcast of the Jewish Women’s Archive. If you haven’t yet voted or made plans to—by all means, go do it, and make sure your friends and family do, too. If you need assistance, call 866-OUR-VOTE. Thanks to Jordan Namerow, Judith Rosenbaum, Rabbi Claudia Kreiman, Sonia Pressman Fuentes, Isa Kaufman-Gabelle, Jill Schupp, Melissa Kornfeld, Victoria Tamas, and Rabbi Anna Boswell-Levi, for sharing their stories with us. This episode was produced by Ariella Markowitz and me. Our team also includes Judith Rosenbaum and Becky Long. Our theme music is by Girls in Trouble. You can still share your voting story, past or present, with the Jewish Women’s Archive! Check out JWA’s story collecting app, Story Aperture and record your story today. Special thanks Mikki Pugh for heading JWA’s Story Aperture project. This episode of Can We Talk? is sponsored in part by the Bronfman Fellowship. Do you know a Jewish 11th grader who loves to learn and thinks outside the box? Tell them about The Bronfman Fellowship, a free, pluralistic leadership program for Jewish teens. Bronfman Fellows explore the rich tapestry of Jewish ideas while making lifelong friendships with peers from diverse backgrounds. The program begins with an immersive experience in the Berkshires the summer before twelfth grade. Applications are currently being accepted and the deadline is December 14th. Apply today at bronfman.org (that’s “b-r-o-n-f-m-a-n dot org”). I went on this program myself when I was 17—and, actually, so did Judith Rosenbaum. It was life-changing for both of us. You can find Can We Talk? online at jwa.org/canwetalk, and anywhere you get your podcasts. Please take a moment to review us on iTunes, and share your favorite episodes with your friends so that others can find us. I’m your host, Nahanni Rous. Until next time.

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Jewish Women's Archive. "Episode 49: Jewish Women Vote (Transcript)." (Viewed on May 9, 2021) <https://jwa.org/podcasts/canwetalk/episode-49-jewish-women-vote/transcript>.

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