WASHINGTON (JTA) — Eighteen Jewish organizations asked the Iowa Democratic and Republican parties to change the 2010 Iowa caucus to avoid Shabbat.
Both party’s caucuses have been scheduled for a Saturday — Jan. 23, at 1 p.m. — and that "effectively disenfranchises members of the Jewish community," says the letter to the state’s party chairs, the Democrats’ Michael Kiernan and the Republicans’ Matt Strawn.
"Jews who observe the Sabbath could not work on caucus day to support their candidates of choice," the organizations write. "Worse, since caucuses do not allow for absentee voting, there would be essentially no opportunity to participate in this important process. This is utterly inconsistent with the values of our pluralistic democracy" and will "force members of the Iowa Jewish community to choose between their faith and their civic duties."
Iowa party leaders said this summer that the schedule was chosen to encourage greater participation in an off-year election.
Groups representing the four major religious streams, the National Jewish Democratic Council and the Republican Jewish Coalition signed the letter. It was coordinated by the Jewish Council for Public Affairs.