Encouraging Our Congregants to Be “Counted”


In the first chapter of Bamidbar (Numbers), the Bible tells us that God commanded Moses to count all of the members of Am Yisrael. Perhaps that’s why the United States Constitution requires that every decade the federal government count the number of people residing within our national border.

For 230 years, the United States has conducted a Census. The process plays an important part in influencing policies and decisions that personally impact us all, including our congregants, as well as in framing the conversation of who we are as a country.

Here’s how:

  • The Census determines how many Congressional representatives and electors a state receives. However, urban areas and large metropolitan cities are historically under-counted, which can mean not enough representatives in the U.S. House of Representatives where many urban Jewish communities exist. Moreover, the number of Congresspeople who represent a state are the same number of electors the state has in the electoral college for the election of a President. Accordingly, a community that wants to see its values represented in the presidential election needs to actively participate in the Census.
  • The Census determines where federal funding goes. The Census determines which programs and systems that are critical in our local communities and states will receive federal funding and in what amount. An under-count in our communities means that tax dollars paid by our community members might be distributed elsewhere. Things like local health care, housing, child education, and public transportation can be affected. Additionally, the law requires that information provided to the Census may not be shared with any other governmental agency for any purpose. Accordingly, if your community is supporting immigrants, their participation in the Census may not be used by immigration authorities.
  • The Census helps show where and how businesses can flourish. It’s no secret that businesses were hit hard as a result of COVID-19. It is going to take a while for them to recover. The data collected during the Census helps inform better decision making around business expansions, closures, hiring strategies, and other business practices in order to decrease perceived risks and increase return on investments. These informed decisions mean that, again, resources can reach our local communities and those who may need them most.

This year, the federal government has decided to shorten the period of time in which the Census is counted — this year, the Census is collecting data only through September. Please consider encouraging your congregants to be counted as part of the broader U.S. community this year by filling out the Census — it takes just 10 minutes! God’s mandate to Moses did not only mean that he had to do the counting, but that the people of Israel had to participate and be counted. Similarly, our synagogue members need to participate and be counted in this years United States Census. Please include a reminder in your synagogue newsletter, mention it in your programming, and highlight it on social media.

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