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Jewish leaders in Butler County recommend absentee ballots to observe Passover

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Passover is holiday for Jewish people to celebrate their freedom, reflect on the religion and celebrate their heritage and history, but the Pennsylvania primary election falls on the second day of Passover this year, Tuesday, April 23.

Rabbi Yossi Feller of the Chabad Jewish Center of Cranberry Township, said he has advised members of the center that if they want to enjoy Passover to the fullest, they should vote early or through absentee ballots.

“It’s definitely symbolic to specifically not vote on that day, but to do it early. That is honoring God and God’s commandment while celebrating the holiday,” Feller said Wednesday. “We are encouraging our members to vote absentee, to do early ballots either by mail or dropping it off early. That’s what I’m doing as well.”

Passover starts at sundown Monday and concludes after nightfall on April 30. Pennsylvania law sets most primaries in May, but in presidential election years such as 2024 they are held on the fourth Tuesday in April. Proposals to change this year's primary date, in part to avoid the Passover conflict but also to become more relevant to the presidential contest, were debated last summer and fall but failed to pass.

Feller said it is unfortunate that the Legislature could not agree on a date to move the primary election to avoid a conflict with Passover. Despite the conflict, Feller said he has not advised members of the Chabad Jewish Center to skip voting in the election, but to plan ahead for it.

“While it is very important to participate in our civic duty, that shouldn’t be done on a holiday,” he said.

Cantor Michal Gray-Schaffer of Congregation B’nai Abraham in Butler, also said she advised her members to vote early if possible. Congregation B’nai Abraham alerted people to the conflict through its bulletins and online newsletters at least a month ago, so as many people as possible could get a jump start on voting, Gray-Schaffer said.

Gray-Schaffer also said the first two days of Passover and the last two are particularly important in Judaism. However, people observe the religion in their own ways, so they may vote or even work their usual schedules during part of the holiday.

“Traditionally we aren’t supposed to work,” Gray-Schaffer said. “A lot of our folks would choose to work … what they choose to do is up to them.”

Gray-Schaffer said she predicts that many members of Congregation B'nai Abraham will still vote in the primary this year, even though it takes place during Passover.

“We are also not all observant to the point where we wouldn’t visit the polls, because we understand how important it is as citizens to vote,” Gray-Schaffer said. “It’s up to everyone to make up their mind and given choices since this is happening.”

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