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Jewish Tradition Dictates Fasting To Oppose Tyrants. We Should Fast To Overcome Trump.

“Go, gather together all the Jews who are in Susa, and fast for me. Do not eat or drink for three days, night or day. I and my attendants will fast as you do. When this is done, I will go to the king, even though it is against the law. And if I perish, I perish.” — Book of Esther, 4:16.

As I’ve been taught since Hebrew School, Jews have a long history with tyrants. The list, which includes Pharaoh, Nebuchadnezzar, Antiochus, Torquemada, Haman and the Russian Czars, is long.

In 2019, some would say we are faced with yet another tyrant: the one heading the U.S. government.

Like many other Forward readers, I am of that view. It makes sense: We’ve been on the side of the Civil Rights movement in the U.S., the oppressed Bosnians, the Tibetans, the families on our own border, and many of the persecuted around the world.

How can the majority of Jews who oppose President Trump — yes, I am aware he is popular in some Orthodox and other quarters — make an impact in November of next year, given our small numbers relative to the larger population?

In ancient Persia, according to the Scroll of Esther, when we had little ability to control our fate, we at least knew how to bond together in a singular act of solidarity, concern and prayer.

And it is this strategy that I propose America’s Jews take up in November of 2020. In response to the long list of President Trump’s abuses of power, authority, civility, and simple decency, I make a non-novel proposition: The majority of American Jews, who oppose this president, should fast, eating and drinking nothing from Sunday, November 1st, 2020, until we have done our duty as voters on Tuesday, November 3rd.

We do not have the votes, on our own, to turn President Trump out of office. But perhaps we have the moral imagination to help our country do so.

Imagine the effect on our similarly fed-up non-Jews, particularly in religious pockets of crucial states — Michigan, Pennsylvania, Florida, Wisconsin — to see their Jewish neighbors canvassing in their neighborhoods, perhaps looking gaunt and exhausted, and purposefully re-enacting the Purim ordeal they can read about in their own Bibles.

The Jews of ancient Persia — who were by historic accounts, well-assimilated into that culture — unified at Mordecai and Esther’s insistence, and drew together to fast and pray, anticipating Haman’s proposed annihilation of our people.

I’d like to believe that most Americans, left or right, religious or secular, generally yearn for a return to decency, normalcy, the rule of law, and temperate leadership. We should bond together in a similar spirit and make a statement with a public and widely visible fast.

At the same time, we can legitimately exercise influence and power through our democratic system, to speak out against the President’s incompetence, cruelty, mendacity, disloyalty to our allies, and his friendship with foreign despots, whose ways he has long sought to emulate.

On Shabbat ahead of that November 3, (Heshvan 26, 5781), I would encourage a day of prayer while we enjoy our relationships with G-d, for those who believe, and simple camaraderie with our fellow Jews, for those who doubt or disbelieve.

That Saturday evening, which also happens to be Halloween, and will no doubt bring a large number of Trump masks out into the streets, we begin the fast. The next day, we hit the streets, mask-less, and make our views known in the public square and at the doorsteps of our own communities, and of those in particular where the vote hangs in the balance, if 2016 patterns are an indication.

Those free to continue the effort on Monday would do so. And come Election Day that fateful Tuesday, we rush to the polls if we’ve not already voted remotely, then assist our neighbors in voting with our cars, our help traversing the roads and walkways, guidance to buses and subways.

The ill, pregnant women and others with health issues would obviously be well-advised to avoid a three-day fast. But some can contribute with either a “minor” fast or by playing a supporting role volunteering in phone banks, voter assistance efforts, or visible assistance for the cause on the streets and in the media.

This is not an “either/or” proposition. We do not have to choose between quietly fasting and political action. Because of the hard-won liberties won by better men and women in our government, military, and civic life, we can do both.

But the proposed fast may be especially powerful, and could be joined by all — liberals, conservatives, Democrats, and Republicans who may hold varying political outlooks, but who wish to unite in opposing this president. Even a solid Republican could fast, if she wished to express her wish for a decent, reliable and steady conservative candidate in 2024. You don’t have to be liberal to hate Trump.

It would make quite an impact on our neighbors around the world to re-enact our ancestors’ solidarity in the face of a modern threat.

Who’s with us?

Joshua Peck, a resident of suburban Philadelphia, is a longtime media strategist and advisor to law firms.

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