The United States is a democracy, where every citizen has the right to vote according to what is in his or her best interest. While that certainly pertains to each individual, it pertains even more so to members of a community with common interests – as any group that votes in common carries far more weight than an individual voting alone.
In the democratic system, elected officials put their constant effort into trying to pleasing voters who support them, or whose support they believe they can later win. Since its impractical for those running for public office to reach and convince individual supporters one by one, they work extremely hard to reach out to groups of voters who share a common set of interests and who they can appeal to as a group.
From the federal level on down to the state and local levels, groups like the NRA, AARP, labor unions, Evangelicals, environmentalists, etc., carry disproportionate political clout – for one reason, because these groups are organized, and because they vote in unison. This is true in every race- in competitive races this is even more true – voters organized into such groups can more than sway the election result.
While these large organized groups always have their own internal differences between individuals and even between subchapters – they still vote in unison. They don’t want to lose the political benefits that voting in unison brings. This is often referred to as “coalition politics.” Elected officials know this well, they see over and over that ignoring a major coalition can cost them their political career.
Coalition politics continue well past election time, to the nuts and bolts of governing – advocacy, legislation, regulation and funding.
Coalition politics is most important for minority groups, it can ensure that their needs don’t get lost amongst those of the majority population. This is true for voters in regions that are dwarfed by higher populated regions. For example, in N.J. the bulk of political power rests in the North Jersey counties of Essex and Union, which include major population centers like Jersey City, Hoboken, Union, and Newark. Officials in state government pay less attention to Central and South Jersey, and only do so when Central and South Jersey are part of large cohesive groups.
Unity is Especially Crucial for Lakewood
The dynamics of Lakewood circa 2017 are exceptionally unique, especially for a region like Ocean County, New Jersey. The frum community, in particular, is booming, bli ayin hora. The dynamics of Lakewood’s Torah community, with 30,000 children in private schools, with needs related to infrastructure, the challenges of growth, traffic, taxes, education funding, transportation, cultural sensitivity, social services, Shabbos and Yom Tov accommodations, etc., are unlike those dealt with by other New Jersey municipalities.
As imperfect as it is at times, our municipal, county and state governments have become attuned to the needs of the Lakewood community. Our neighborhoods, Shuls, mosdos haTorah, shopping centers, and business sectors are booming and state of the art. The reason Lakewood and surrounding towns are able to accommodate our families is because with Siyata D’shmaya we spoke strongly with one voice- and the officials hear that voice – making our communities recognized around the world as being beautiful, hospitable and affordable places to raise a frum family according to the highest Torah ideals.
This cannot be taken for granted, nor is it guaranteed to stay this. Try contrasting that with what happens in Ocean Township, Toms River or Jackson when you want to open even one Shul or school, versus Lakewood, which has 150 Mosdos that are founded and run with no government hassle.
The same goes for Mikvahs, Shuls, Succahs, special ed, busing, and every area of communal life. We are blessed with a strong police-community relationship; with special Public Works accommodations before Pesach; with schools able to expand to educate our children; with Hatzalah as the only volunteer service in the state licensed to have paramedics; with agencies like the LRRC and LCSC as resources for social services; CHEMED for quality, affordable healthcare; the LSCW, and much more.
We speak loudly for tax relief, calling for low property tax rates for the municipal portion of taxes; and we have created a one-of-a-kind solution to the nonpublic school busing crisis –when almost no frum community in the United States receives busing.
We are bentched to have witnessed thousands of cases where our many askanim have effectively communicated and advocated on behalf of individual community members who faced difficulties in dealing with various government entities –because we speak with integrity and care – as one.
This is all the direct result of tens of thousands of hours of Klal work and relationship building by Vaad members and affiliated askanim over the past quarter century. More than time and technical effort, government officials and agencies trust in The Vaad’s integrity and the knowledge that it cares for the interests of the Lakewood community as a whole.
The Work Continues – Let’s Do It Together!
No one, let alone The Lakewood Vaad members, believes that our advocacy work is done. On the contrary, with so much growth and success, there is so much more to do – and there is an increased motivation to make more strides.
There is work to do to alleviate heavy traffic in various points in town. Over the past 5 years The Vaad members intensified their efforts with the municipal, county and state governments to open new roads, widen existing ones and add turning lanes, etc., so that residents spend as little time as possible in traffic. Many of these projects are already underway, others in the advance stages of lobbying or preparation. Many new sidewalks have been built and streetlights have been repaired and strengthened in neighborhoods throughout Lakewood.
The Vaad and many affiliated askanim recognize the need for strong focus on making any growth smart, so that we combine a high quality of life with our needs. Anyone who has recently been at a Zoning Board or Planning Board hearing can attest that the rules have tightened and that more care is being given to how future development will take place.
Lots of work remains to be done to solve the school funding crisis in the Lakewood School District. Our District is grossly underfunded; students and teachers are suffering; and the frum community is unfairly targeted for blame in the media. The Vaad has worked aggressively to voice our community’s support for quality public education in the media and governmental quarters. The Vaad also intensified its efforts to fix the broken State school funding formula, which is the root of the crisis, at all levels – government advocacy, legal litigation and explanation to the media.
We need to continue to work on holding the line on property taxes for our overburdened homeowners. This includes continuing our successful multi-year streak of not raising the municipal tax rate; but also to ensure maximum efficiency in government spending in education, fire, county and all other expenditures covered by property tax revenue.
And much more…
The Lakewood Vaad is Here for You
The Lakewood Vaad stands at the forefront of community advocacy in Lakewood, as well as surrounding townships, as we have for the past quarter century.
The Vaad, covering Rabbinic, schools, social services and business worlds, works closely with the Igud Hamosdos who represent the Mosdos which educate our children, with business owners, taxpayer groups, with Agudath Israel of New Jersey, and with elected officials from throughout our region.
Individual community members can have legitimate disagreements with some decisions that are made at the community or governmental levels. The Vaad not only respects that, but encourages feedback and dialogue. They constantly re-evaluate and re-calibrate their askanus based on the evolving needs of the community, as expressed to them at the grassroots level.
With election season once again upon us, it is crucial to bear in mind that diminishing the unity of community and its vote – and by extension harming the power of advocacy – will never solve any particular issue. On the contrary, it makes it more difficult for those in government to listen to anyone. We all lose.
Let’s keep on winning the battle of building a Torah Kehilla that is L’shem U’Litifrees. Let’s keep on serving every yachid and the Klal, with total integrity and ehrlichkeit and under the full direction of Daas Torah – as was the custom in Klal Yisroel for all generations. To do that we need you!
The time for achdus is now!