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The Student News Site of Walt Whitman High School

The Black and White

The Student News Site of Walt Whitman High School

The Black and White

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June 19, 2024

Jamie Raskin, other officials discuss the future of democracy at local synagogue

The+program+included+a+discussion+on+the+current+state+of+democracy+and+steps+that+individuals+can+take+to+help+uphold+democratic+ideals%2C+both+locally+and+globally.
Amada Robles
The program included a discussion on the current state of democracy and steps that individuals can take to help uphold democratic ideals, both locally and globally.

On Dec. 10, Congressman Jamie Raskin gathered with other local officials at Temple Sinai in Washington D.C. for a panel discussion titled “Rededicating Ourselves to Democracy.” 

The program included a discussion on the current state of democracy and steps that individuals can take to help uphold democratic ideals, both locally and globally. The Davis Center for Social Justice sponsored the event, holding it in honor of Rabbi Hannah Goldstein’s 10th year of leadership at the synagogue, and to supplement their robust voter action campaigns.

The event began with opening remarks and continued with a lively panel moderated by President Biden’s former chief of staff Ronald Klain. The panelists included Founding Board Member of the Center for Common Ground Andrea Miller, Director of the Brennan Center’s Elections and Government Program Daniel Weiner, Associate Director of the Religious Action Center Barbra Weinstein, Vice President of Academics at Close Up Scot Wilson and Raskin. The speakers presented their perspectives on a variety of issues throughout the program, including the causes of the recent decline of democracy, the importance of the youth vote, and how individuals can get involved to help ensure the continuance of free and fair elections. Approximately 400 people gathered online and in person to see the panel, according to organizer Carole Brand.

“The goal for this event was to encourage more people at Temple Sinai to get involved in dedicating ourselves to democracy and freedom,” Brand said. “We would also like to encourage people under the age of 30 to help us with that goal.”

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Rabbi Hannah Goldstein opened the event with a speech about the importance of taking action in the face of tragedy and the particular resonance of the program on the nights of Hanukkah. She explained that Hanukkah, the Jewish holiday of lights, is not a time to mourn or to fast but rather a time to take action. Following her remarks, Raskin, who is a member of Temple Sinai, spoke about the pillars of democracy and his various policy goals, which include fighting to abolish the electoral college, make Puerto Rico a state, decrease voter suppression tactics and prevent gerrymandering. He ended his speech by emphasizing the importance of the fight for democratic principles and against the authoritarian tendencies, mentioning the recent supreme court cases and laws that he believes have eroded democracy.

“We are in the struggle of our lives, the fight of our lives to defend what we believe in,” Raskin said in his speech.

The panel discussion that followed included a series of questions, first posed by the moderator and then by the audience. The questions covered topics such as voter suppression, Judaism in relation to democracy, and the ongoing Israel-Hamas war. The dialogue was helpful and informative, temple member Nora Gordon said. She was grateful that panelists spent time explaining specific actions that individuals can take to defend democracy — such as texting friends the link to register to vote, volunteering as a poll worker and participating in phone banking initiatives before elections.

“I really appreciated that they were able to offer specific actions that made me feel more empowered and less helpless,” Gordon said.

While the nonpartisan program focused primarily on the decline of American democratic ideals, panelists also discussed the importance of open political dialogues in tumultuous times. Wilson mentioned the necessity of supporting democracy across the political spectrum. He emphasized that discussion must be at the heart of democracy, and that refusing to be involved in conversations surrounding democratic ideals is fundamentally undemocratic.

Panelists also reiterated the role young people play in the effort to uphold free, secure and fair elections. 

“There’s no person who has a greater stake in the next election than the youngest person in the room,” Weinstein said during the panel.

As the program ended, panelists discussed their goals for the future, as well as how individuals can support the spread and growth of democracy. Junior Max Freeman attended the event and felt empowered by the panel’s overall message.

“My biggest takeaway is that it’s going to be all hands on deck to try to protect the democratic institutions we have in place,” Freeman said. “Anyone can play a part in protecting democracy.”

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Rebecca Waldman
Rebecca Waldman, Opinion Writer
Grade 11 Why did you join The B&W? I wanted to report on the issues that impact our community and write stories that make a difference. What is your favorite board game? Clue

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