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Saturday, June 23, 2018

At one time or another, I am sure all of us have lamented something said or done by one of our elected representatives, or have questioned the wisdom of a decision made by the people who represent us in government. In theory, we may have every right to offer critiques of our elected officials, but quite frankly, doing so when we have not even registered to vote is hypocritical. That doesn’t mean you have to be a political activist, it means you have to become an informed voter. Freedom is a privilege, not a right. You earn and keep that privilege by voting.

Like everything in life, getting involved in the political arena is only as complex and time consuming as you make it. There are those who run for elected office and choose to dedicate their lives to public service. There are individuals who focus their efforts on effectuating change in politics and government through grassroots advocacy efforts. There are people who pursue professional careers in government in order to become part of the process and be in a position to help others. There are people who endeavor to make an impact on the political process, in one way or another.

For the overwhelming majority of people in Bergen County’s Orthodox community that have no interest in becoming intimately involved in the political world, there are a few easy steps that they can and should take to get involved. Our community should focus on several critical areas: registering to vote, registering others, and becoming informed about the issues.

Every single person in our community that meets the eligibility requirements should be registered to vote, period. There should be no exceptions.  A “Voter Registration Form” can be easily accessed by going to the New Jersey Division of Elections’ website at www.elections.nj.gov, or by visiting the Bergen County Superintendent of Elections online at www.co.bergen.nj.us/elections.

After downloading and completing the form, it should be mailed or hand-delivered to the Bergen County Superintendent of Elections. In addition, voter registration forms are also available at Division of Motor Vehicles offices.

Once you are registered, exercising your right to vote by going to the polls on Election Day is crucial. Whether it is a federal, state, county, local, or school board election, your vote can play an integral part in shaping the future of our community.

We need to do a better job teaching our young people the importance of good citizenship and voting. Parents in our community, as well as our local yeshiva high schools, should put a particular emphasis on educating their children and students about one of the most fundamental rights afforded to us by the United States Constitution. As Jewish Americans, we take for granted many of the liberties that we are fortunate to enjoy. However, voting is a privilege that we should cherish.  If we do a better job educating people about the significance of political activism and the importance of voting, it would go a long way towards increasing political involvement in our community.

If we don’t engage, we are doing ourselves and our community a serious disservice.

We also need to be better informed about our elected officials and the public policy issues that affect our community, and how those officials vote on them. This lack of information often translates to a lack of interest, which is detrimental to our community. If we don’t engage, we are doing ourselves and our community a serious disservice.

Next November, Bergen County residents will elect three members of the Board of Freeholders. Democratic challengers Lorraine Waldes, the President of the River Vale School Board, Bergenfield Councilman Christopher Tully, and James Tedesco, the former Mayor of Paramus, will go up against incumbent Republican Freeholders Maura DeNicola, John Felice, and John Mitchell.

This race will have a direct impact on Orthodox Jewish communities throughout Bergen. For those who may not know it, the seven-member Board of Freeholders is Bergen County’s legislative branch of government. This policy-making body is responsible for a wide range of governmental duties, including enacting countywide ordinances, reviewing and approving all contracts entered into by the Bergen County Executive, and analyzing and ultimately
approving Bergen County’s annual budget, which exceeds $500 million.

With such an important election looming on the horizon, our community should take an interest in this race. We should familiarize ourselves with the candidates, their platforms, and their vision for the future of our county. It would benefit all of us if our community worked together to organize communitywide forums, and give candidates an opportunity to engage in a non-partisan dialogue about the issues, and address any concerns we may have.

We do not need to dedicate our lives to the political process. All we need to do is focus on enhancing our political involvement and knowledge just a bit. We cannot afford to sit back and wait for others to help us if we do not help ourselves. Our community must take action and show that we care.

N. Aaron Troodler is an attorney and a principal of Paul Revere Public Relations, a public relations and political consulting firm. Visit him on the Web at www.PaulReverePR.com or follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/troodler

By Aaron Troodler, Esq.