Four Jewish Groups Protest Sabbath Voting for Anti-poverty Corporations

Four Jewish organizations have protested to Mayor John V. Lindsay against the scheduling of community anti-poverty corporation elections on a Saturday on grounds that it would disenfranchise observant Jews who are unable to go to the polls on the Jewish Sabbath.

The B’nai B’rith’s Anti-Defamation League called the selection of Saturday “blatantly discriminatory.” The Federation of Jewish Philanthropies of New York said the decision to allow the antipoverty corporations the option of holding elections on either Saturday or a week day “was taken in disregard for the rights of the Jewish community.” The elections are to be held next April.

The two other organizations, both Orthodox, declared unacceptable a tentative compromise proposed Friday by the city administration which would spread the elections over two days–Saturday for general voters and a Sunday or week day for observant Jews. According to Rabbi Abraham Gross, president of the Rabbinical Alliance of America, the plan discriminates against Jews who will have only one day to vote compared to two for the rest of the community and who, for religious reasons, will not be able to have poll watchers on Saturday.

S. Elly Rosen, executive director of the Association of Jewish Anti-Poverty Workers, made the same points and noted in addition that according to Jewish law no Sabbath observer may have his name on a voting ballot on the Sabbath day. Rosen added that “It is wrong to set a precedent of holding elections on a Sabbath day” as “elections always have been and should continue to be held during the week.” He suggested that if the goal is larger voter participation the elections should be held on two week days.

Neither the Federation nor the ADL have commented so far on the compromise suggestion which reportedly emerged from a meeting of city and anti-poverty officials in the office of Deputy Mayor Edward Hamilton. Informed sources said the compromise would set up two consecutive election days in April, one a Saturday and the other a Friday or a Sunday.

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