Daniel Cherrin shares his New Year’s resolution: let’s rededicate ourselves to political engagement support our community philanthropically.
There is a story in the Talmud about a young man who had fallen into a coma. When suddenly he awakened, his father was sitting by his side. Startled and grateful, the man asked his son what he experienced during that brief journey to the next world and back. The son answered, “I saw an upside-down world.”
From this brief journey we learn that a world upside down affects everyone. We cannot carry on as we once did before. We get distracted; making decisions becomes difficult. We lose our sense of who we can trust.
This is a lesson to help mourners through a difficult time, such as the one I experienced following the recent passing of my father. After the passing of a loved one, our world is turned upside-down. We get disoriented and lose our way. Slowly, we find our way back. This is also a lesson for all of us to better understand our world today and the opportunities in the months ahead.
Not only are we in a new year, we are also in a new decade. This is our chance for a do-over, to start from scratch and reconnect to the very place we got distracted from.
It also is our time to fix our world — together. It is time we find purpose in what we do, at work and at home, with our families and in our community. The Hebrew word for purpose is kavanah. It is a term commonly used in prayer, but the concept has a much broader application. In prayer, it is about being present and fulling the mitzvot.
I recently attended a lecture by Robert E. Quinn, a professor with the Ross School of Business at the University of Michigan. In his latest book, The Economics of Higher Purpose, Quinn tells us that the purpose of a leader is to recognize the common good and sacrifice for it so that others will follow.
There is no better time for us to take this opportunity to reflect on the past several years to help each of us prepare for the months and years ahead and to be present in the world around us.
The past decade was a difficult one. We emerged from a recession and saw a political tidal wave of changes, not just in the United States, but all over the world. With these changes, we witnessed an increase in anti-Semitism and violent acts of terrorism targeting schools, shuls and shops.
Anti-Semitism is on the rise again as Jews are being targeted by terrorists in New York, New Jersey, Germany, California, Italy and the United Kingdom.
Anti-Semitism is hard to stop, and it is hard to educate the ignorant. But what if we elected more Jews to positions where they can prevent it or quash misinformation by other influencers? If we elected more Jewish people to office in America and abroad, while investing our time in building relationships and fighting against all forms of hate, then perhaps we can minimize the impact.
While more than 6 percent of the U.S. Congress is Jewish, with 34 Jews among the 535 lawmakers in the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate, in Michigan, there are just two Jewish legislators, one of whom will be term-limited next year.
In 2020, we will not only elect the next president of the United States, we will elect or re-elect a U.S. senator, members of the U.S. House of Representatives, members of the Michigan House of Representatives, county-wide seats, township supervisors and trustees, state supreme court justices, university regents and judges.
It takes courage, commitment and heroism to run for office. These people are putting their reputations on the line to stand up and speak out against injustice, to help their communities overcome challenges and to improve our quality of life.
Many of us are involved in the community. We sit on boards, volunteer for nonprofits and make financial contributions to organizations that make a meaningful impact. As we sit on these boards or volunteer, we grow frustrated as to how these organizations are filling a void left by the government. A void left in part due to a lack of understanding of where the real needs are.
We can no longer hide behind the veil of tikkun olam; we need to take additional steps and become more engaged politically and with our elected officials.
Philanthropy is vital to our community but so, too, is political engagement.
As a community, we do a great job of building relationships. Some of us may even travel to Washington to lobby Congress. But how often are we leading caravans to Lansing, to Pontiac or Detroit? Why aren’t we in Lansing or in our city halls more often supporting legislation or policies that benefit or protect our community? Why aren’t we part of coalitions to support a broader agenda or advancing our own? And why aren’t we out in the community working diligently to encourage people to run for political office?
The time is now to recruit more people from our community to run for office. April is the filing deadline. There is plenty of time to find more bold leaders who are willing to stand up and speak out, not just around the dinner table but to take the next step and run for office. Then we need to educate the candidates on what issues matter to us and how they can help support our community.
As we enter a new decade, I challenge you to think about your purpose and rededicate yourself in becoming a part of a network of advocates who will not only support our community philanthropically but also get involved politically, even run for office.
Daniel Cherrin is the founder of North Coast Strategies, a public relations firm. He recently announced his intention to run for elected office.