Pittsburgh Jews hope to convince lawmakers with sweet treats to change primary election date

PITTSBURGH — Pennsylvania’s primary election is still a few months away, but some in the Jewish community are raising concerns now. They’re pushing to change the date because it falls on Passover and could impact a broader population when it comes to voter turnout.

State Rep. Abigail Salisbury (D-Swissvale) and several other women in the Jewish community turned to a different kind of diplomacy - a sweet gesture - baked with high hopes in mind.

“I’m optimistic at the power of the babka,” Salisbury said.

The woman spent much of their Sunday rolling and kneading dough inside Salisbury’s Swissvale kitchen. They’re baking dozens of loaves of babka - a traditional Jewish braided bread - to send to every legislator with a message.

“We are trying to remind people not to forget about us,” said Salisbury.

The group is reminding lawmakers to pass a bill that would change the date of the state’s primary election next year. It falls on April 23, the first day of Passover for Jews.

People like Rebecca Elhassid of Squirrel Hill who observe the holiday, won’t be able to work or vote.

“It’s extremely important, always, but particularly in this moment, to not disenfranchise voters, not exclude a particular group of voters,” Elhassid said.

Many local synagogues and Jewish spaces, including the JCC that are used as polling places, will be closed on the day of the primary impacting not only Jewish people who vote there but everyone else.

“It’s too important of a right that our democracy is founded on to make people have to choose between religious observance and voting,” said Salisbury.

Salisbury will hand deliver the sweet treats to legislators in Harrisburg on Monday, hoping to convince them to change the primary date to April 16 before the end of the session this week.

“I have the opinion that you don’t give up until it’s literally too late,” she said.

If a bill is not passed by the end of this session in December, it’ll have to be reintroduced next year which by then will be too late to change the date.

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