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February 19, 2009 - Image 44

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 2009-02-19

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

Opinion

OTHER VIEWS

The Ceremony

Yad Binyamin, Israel

G

o, Michigan!" I screamed, hop-
ing my target would hear me,
standing nervously among his
friends, waiting for the ceremony to begin.
Hear me he did. He
smiled appreciative-
ly and waved, happy
to see a familiar
face. And then we
found seats for the
ceremony.
Last week, my
entire family trav-
eled to Latrun, the
old tank base sit-
Rabbi Reuven
ting on a hill atop
Spolter
the Jerusalem-Tel
Special
Aviv highway, for
Commentary
a hashba'ah — a
swearing-in cer-
emony for an entire platoon of soldiers in
the Golani Brigade. While usually attended
by close and distant family members, we
attended the hashba'ah to lend support to
Anschel Berkman, an Oak Park native and
former member of my old shul, the Young
Israel of Oak Park.
Anschel and his older brother, Avraham

Berkman, both graduates of Yeshivat Akiva
in Southfield, currently serve in the Israel
Defense Forces as chayalim bodedim —
lone soldiers, foreign soldiers who serve
without family in Israel. While Asher's
adoptive family had come to the ceremony
as well, we were a needed "taste of home
connecting him to his family and the com-
munity he had known for so long.
Although it was simple and straight-
forward, both my wife, Rena, and I found
the ceremony both moving and powerful.
The soldiers marched onto the stage fol-
lowed by their officers in increasing order
of rank. (Israeli soldiers are not known for
their prowess in marching. They clearly
train harder to fight than to march.)
Several dignitaries spoke, including the
commander and chief rabbi of the Golani
Brigade. Few listened. Then the head of
the ceremony led the soldiers in the oath,
as they pledged to "defend and protect the
citizens and State of Israel: promising to
sacrifice "even their lives" in Israel's defense.
Afterwards, each platoon commander
led his soldiers as they shouted together
at the top of their lungs, "I swear, I swear,
I swear!" Finally, in the most serene part
of the ceremony, each soldier approached
his commander, saluted, and received both

a rifle and a Bible,
symbolizing that the
strength of the IDF
lies not only in our
military might, but
in our connection to
God, and to the Land
and people of Israel.
Watching several
hundred young men
pledge their lives to
protect me, my mind
wandered to the last
2,000 years of Jewish
Rena, Bezalel, Simcha, Leah, Petachya and Rabbi Spolter
history, when Jews
with
Anschel and Avraham Berkman
could only dream of
the ability to defend
and protect them-
selves, much less in the
them for their service. I give credit to their
Promised Land. Standing in the concrete
parents — Mark and Badonna of Oak
bleachers under a warm and star-filled
Park — for raising children devoted to the
evening sky, we sang "Hatikvah" — the
Jewish people. And I pray that God contin-
hope. Rena pointed out that this was the
ues to protect them and the thousands of
first time we had sung "Hatikvah" as citi-
other soldiers who put their lives on the
zens of Israel. Lihiyot am chafshi b'artzeinu, line to protect the living dream that is the
to be a free nation in our land — this was
State of Israel.
now our family, counting on young men
like the Berkman boys from Michigan to
Rueven Spolter is former rabbi of Young Israel
protect that right and privilege.
of Oak Park. The Spolters made aliyah in 2008.
I honor them for their devotion. I thank
His e-mail address is: rspolter@gmail.com .



Fix Military Voting

E

very single vote should be count-
ed! That is the mantra in every
election cycle. In every close race,
demands are made by all candidates that
every single vote that was legally cast be
counted.
In Minnesota, they are still counting.
No winner has yet been declared in the
race for the United States Senate; and the
incumbent Senator, Norm Coleman, has
taken the matter to court to get thousands
of disputed absentee ballots tallied. The
hue and cry has made national news. And
in the razor-thin presidential election
of 2000, the cry from Florida was heard
around the world.
Yet, in that year, and in more than half
of the states in 2008, ballots legally cast by
thousands of U.S. servicemen and service-
women went uncounted, untallied — cast
aside.
Why? Because in these states, election
officials didn't allow enough time to send
out absentee ballots for the troops to vote
and return those ballots by Election Day.
And in 16 states, Michigan included, the

C2

February 19 • 2009

process is set up in such a way
on time, with no glitches. No
as to make absentee voting by
hold up in getting out ballots,
service people almost impos-
no delays in the postal service
sible.
and all citizens and troops get-
According to the Pew
ting the ballots marked up and
Research Center on the States,
in the mail within two days —
the current Michigan voting
even those troops serving on
process for service people
the front lines in Afghanistan
overseas — and, for that mat-
or Iraq. But Michigan absentee
ter, all Americans living and/or
ballots were not mailed out on
working outside of the United
Shelly
Sept. 8 because the Democratic
States — takes at least 57 days.
Goodman
Party didn't complete its nomi-
The count starts from the date
Taub
nation process until Sept. 7.
the service person or citizen
Community
So the ballots couldn't even be
electronically sends a request
View
printed by Sept. 8. This is not
for a ballot, until that ballot is
a partisan issue; it is a com-
returned and counted. This
mon-sense issue that affects
timetable allows for absolutely nothing to
all Michiganians outside the country who
go wrong. According to Pew, at least 13
wish to vote.
more days are needed for the process to
That is why I have placed a resolu-
work fairly and properly.
tion before the Oakland County Board of
In the last election, ballots were to be
Commissioners urging them to demand
sent out on Sept. 8 and returned and
that the state Legislature change the pro-
counted by Election Day, Nov. 4. Do the
cess to make sure all votes are counted.
math. In order for that timetable to work,
It would only take two changes in the
every step of the process had to be done
current process to make that happen, and

neither would cost taxpayers a cent — in
fact, one would even save them money.
First, send blank ballots out earlier, and
accept completed ballots later. Second,
eliminate the requirement that ballots
be sent out and back via the U.S. Postal
Service. Allow the secure electronic trans-
mission of blank ballots to the troops.
How hard is that?
Personally, I think it is dreadful that the
votes of those men and women who have
volunteered their time and their lives to
protect our freedom are not counted.
If our young men and women are will-
ing to leave their families and give their
all to fight for me, you can bet I'll give all I
have to fight for them. Let every one of us
make enough noise to get this Legislature
to change the laws now It is the right and
decent thing to do. 7_

Commissioner Shelley Goodman Taub, R-West
Bloomfield, represents the 16th District, which

encompasses Bloomfield and West Bloomfield
townships and a portion of the city of Orchard
Lake Village.

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