Amendment Allowing Felons to Vote Gives Florida’s Jews Cause for Celebration in Midterms

Several rabbis cited the Jewish themes of repentance and second chances as reasons to champion the amendment, which will restore voting rights to nearly 1.5 million people


Although Tuesday ended in disappointment for Jewish Floridians who had campaigned for gubernatorial candidate Andrew Gillum and Sen. Bill Nelson, they did have some good news: The passage of an amendment, heavily backed by Jewish groups, to restore voting rights to nearly 1.5 million felons.

The genesis of this success story began over 18 months ago when a congregant brought an idea to Rabbi Greg Weisman at Boca Raton’s Temple Beth El. There were petitions circulating, organized by a group called Second Chances Florida, to get the felon amendment on the ballot for the midterm elections. The movement was not yet widely known outside of progressive circles, but this congregant had an idea: Isn’t this something the Jewish community should get behind?

Weisman, a rabbi who is currently a Brickner Fellow – a Reform movement fellowship designed to help rabbis and cantors become effective social justice leaders – realized that Jewish values did not mesh with the idea of permanently revoking the voting rights of felons. (The amendment excludes felons convicted of murder and sex crimes.)

The Reform movement’s Religious Action Committee connected Weisman with other rabbis and cantors across Florida. Other groups who partnered in the effort included the Nation Council of Jewish Women, the Anti-Defamation League and JOIN for Justice (Jewish Organizing Institute & Network).

“We asked ourselves as a team, what are the talking points within the Jewish community that show it is reflective of Jewish values?” he recalled.

Once it was on the ballot as Amendment 4, rabbis like Weisman had to start convincing people in their congregations and beyond that this was an amendment worth supporting.

During the High Holy Days, Weisman turned to the classic Jewish theme of teshuvah – repentance and return – to argue for bringing people who had served their time back into the fold.

“I gave my sermon on the morning of Rosh Hashanah and talked in part about getting involved in the election and to vote for Amendment 4 because our experience as Jews in other countries has often been to be denied a voice,” Weisman told Haaretz. “We do have a voice here, and I think we need to use that voice to right that wrong and stop people from being permanently disenfranchised.”

Kol hakavod to the Reform Jewish communities in Florida – and across the U.S. – who organized and mobilized to make this happen. This is huge. 1.4 million Floridians will have their voting rights restored #ReformJewsVote

Weisman and his colleagues also made videos and wrote op-eds. In one op-ed published two weeks before the election, he reached out to the wider Jewish community and made talmudic arguments that Florida’s policy – one of the most restrictive in the nation – ran contrary to Jewish values.

“We can reflect on the teaching in the Talmud that those who have performed teshuvah, who have repented and made amends for their past misdeeds, should not be reminded of those misdeeds (Baba Metzia 58b),” he wrote in the Jewish Journal, a paper published by South Florida Sun-Sentinel. “By continuing to disenfranchise former felons, we create a constant reminder of their past, and put them in a second class of citizenry.”

Weisman also noted that in the tractate Brachot, it says that “no leader should be chosen without the consultation of the community.”

Amendment 4 secured 64 percent of the vote in Tuesday’s ballot, passing the 60 percent threshold needed for passage.

“We’re elated,” Rabbi Gayle Pomerantz, senior rabbi at Miami’s Temple Beth Sholom told Haaretz. She and Weisman worked closely together, along with rabbis in other major Jewish communities in Florida, to promote the amendment.

“This was something we embraced 19 months ago as something where we could really make an impact on our state,” Pomerantz said. “We saw this as a matter of racial justice as well, because African-Americans are disproportionately affected.

“So often,” she continued, “we get involved in issues of social justice and can’t see the impact of the work we do. But this was an issue where we worked really hard, and once people saw the injustice of our constitution – and that this was a leftover of the Jim Crow era – we were able to move it forward.

“Particularly as Jews, we feel very much that people deserve second chances,” Pomerantz said. “Justice should be restorative and not punitive. If we want people to be integrated after they serve their time, we can’t put them in a perpetual cycle of being marginalized from society.”

A number of major Jewish philanthropists contributed to the campaign, including George Soros, Seth Klarman and Stacy Schusterman.

  1. #1 by Jim on 11/08/2018 - 9:34

    It doesn’t take much to be a felon in America. There’s convicted felons in shit-hole states like Texas who did nothing more than being in procession of a small amount of weed. Others became felons for defacing US coins to make jewelry out of. There are many examples like this. There are 3 degrees of felonies. So, outside of being a real criminal, ie, a murderer, rapist, child pornographer, Rothschild-jew banker, etc. what’s the big deal? Are these people to be punished for life?

    State & federal pardons are granted all the time, even restoring rights to firearm ownership.

    By the way, to my knowledge, NONE of these mass shooters were convicted felons; every one of them acquired their guns quite legally, so background checks did nothing.

    Jewry so wants people disarmed! Good luck with that! Also, anyone intent on committing crimes will do so, regardless of any laws. Look at Chicago, with an Israeli mayor and possibly the strictest gun laws in the nation; every street corner crack dealer has a GUN! It leads the nation in gun violence. It’s absurd. There’s 300 Million guns circulating around the US.

    A bit of common sense, please.

    ed note–indeed, a ‘bit of common sense’ is in order here.

    While it is true that there are ‘felonies’ that should not be characterized as such in terms of legal jeopardy, at the same time, all can rest assured that it is not those convicted of possessing a ‘little weed’ or of ‘defacing US coins’ who were the target of this constitutional change, but rather those convicted of crimes such as murder, rape, grand theft, possession/production/distribution of child porn, etc.

    More than this though, the ‘common sense’ that needs to be utilized in our understanding of this resides in the fact that if the Jews were the ones who pushed this through what this means BY DEFAULT is that it cannot be anything but bad for the rest of us.

  2. #2 by Drakoulas on 11/08/2018 - 9:34

    The Republicans in Florida just won by the skin of their teeth. I voted against Amendment 4. Just a fraction of these new 1.4 million “felon voters” would have been more than enough for a total Republican defeat. )ewish groups organize not only to go against common sense and simple reason, but by doing so, they feel more safe amidst the radical groups they recruit as allies and avant-gardes of their tribe. All of this is at the expense of your state and “your” safety.

  3. #3 by St. Longinus on 11/08/2018 - 9:34

    Gee, that’s a bit odd and funny in a very macabre way. Yews didn’t think Jesus Christ deserved a second chance after they had Him scourged and crowned with thorns. Pilate presented him to the pharisees and their crowd of unthinking cult robots and they screamed “Crucify Him! Crucify Him! May His blood be upon us and our children.”

    So much for Yewish “philanthropists” and their ideas about second chances.

  4. #4 by St. Longinus on 11/08/2018 - 9:34

    From the mouth of an extra-special Yew — and the golem audience laughs:

  5. #5 by Jim on 11/09/2018 - 9:34

    OK. Another thought; how many of these serious criminal felons are out of jail? The types MG mentioned usually get the key thrown away on them. (those convicted of crimes such as murder, rape, grand theft, possession/production/distribution of child porn, etc.) Meanwhile there are many felons who were guilty of far less charges and who “got their mind right”; is this majority never to have rights again?? Seriously?

    Also, how many major felons give a hoot about voting anyway?? And who do we have to vote FOR? A bunch of Rothschild jews & their Shabbos goys, that’s who!

    Bottom line; I think it’s making a mountain out of a mole hill.

    ed note–again, the Jews and especially those powerful groups such as ADL that played a vital role in bringing this all about did so for strategic reasons aimed at helping Jewish interests. Remember, this was not merely a Bill, it was an AMENDMENT to the state’s constitution, something that requires a LOT MORE in terms of money and politicking to get done.

    The Jews don’t throw money away for nothing, which goes a long way towards understanding/explaining why Jews win. It is very simple math–if the Jews want it, then it is good for them and bad for us, and quite frankly, I am more than a little surprised that something as elementary as this needs more than 3 second’s explanation in a forum such as this.

  6. #6 by Jim on 11/09/2018 - 9:34

    So, MG, no felon should EVER be allowed to vote again in his life? Forget that hundreds are pardoned and can then not only vote, but own guns as well…

    I get what you’re saying, but to what extent does it really amount to anything?

    The really bad guys are locked up. Talk about black & white perceptions. No gray, eh? Zero tolerance for those convicted of a felony? Why not just execute them? The jews may have pushed this, but again, any affect will be marginal. This law made it automatic; any felon could apply for his voting rights to be reinstated, and they nearly ALL were. Most won’t vote anyway. Your point is excessive in this case. So what? It’s nothing compared to the many other points on the jew agenda.

    Ed note–no one is offering/has offered any qualification on whether or not some felons pose a threat to society through their vote. What I have said, 3 times now in fact, is that whatever it is that the jooz sought to achieve through this measure is to their benefit and not ours. Why does something as simple as things need this much explanation?

  7. #7 by Know1 on 11/09/2018 - 9:34

    I’m afraid the answer is hard to hear… people have been dumbed-down to appalling levels, through the use of strategies such as education, tv, media, news, culture, chemicals, drugs, etc.

    People are essentially zombies* nowadays…

    *No need to wonder why there are so many zombie movies nowadays… all with extreme violence shown towards them…

  8. #8 by 5 dancing shlomos on 11/10/2018 - 9:34

    the eqalitarian yid
    if yid can vote and often
    why not other felons

    ed note–once again, the obvious point to all of this is being missed.

    This is not about ‘egalitarianism’. It is about the simple math that ALL of those who read this website regularly should understand that if the Jews dedicated a sizable amount of money, pressure, politicking and resources to this, by default then it can’t be good for anyone but them.

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