Pundits would have us believe that the recent congressional vote in New York was won by the Republican because of dissatisfaction with President Obama and his policies, and because of the Republicans’ unfettered support for the government of the State of Israel. Cleveland Jewry should have a particularly strong interest in the race for the presidency which is already fully underway, as this community is the largest Jewish community in a major swing state. As hard as it may seem to believe, Cleveland Jewry has a good chance of determining who will serve as the next president of the United States.
If the pundits are correct, Brooklyn voted for a Republican for the first time in decades largely because of Obama’s unpredictable attitude toward Israel. One might confidently assume that the Democrats would have preferred that the election had fallen a week later. In this one week President Obama stood by Israel more forcefully than ever before when he saved the staff of the Israeli Embassy in Cairo through his personal interaction with the government of Egypt. It is also the week in which he vowed to veto any Security Council resolution calling for the recognition of a Palestinian state, and in which he told the UN General Assembly that any resolution that they pass as a shortcut will not bring peace to the region.
For many this is an unfamiliar president. Where is the president who in previous speeches promised that Jerusalem would never again be divided, and then recanted? Is this the same person who has spoken several times about sites of world terrorism, listing city after city, but has never in any of those speeches noted even one Israel city that was bombed? Is this the same president who said that peace negotiations must start from the 67 borders?
As Jews head into the High Holy Days, Jewish liturgy calls on every Jew of every stripe to undergo serious self examination, to evaluate a full year of activity, and to make amends for any. The pundits, it seems, would have every Jew determine if one is an American Jew or a Jewish American. With their linkage of the New York vote with consideration of Israeli defensive requirements those pundits would have all believe that Israel is the only issue that separates Jewish voters from the pack, and that being pro-Israel is fundamental to Jewish identity.
This writer is fervently an American Jew. There is no question that to some degree, even while trying to remain as objective as possible, I am biased toward Israel’s welfare. As the father of three, all of whom have made aliya, there is a personal stake in being pro-Israel that is even greater than an attitude developed through a lifetime of Jewish devotion. When I vote, though, I vote as a patriot to the United States. Voting is a demonstration of my love for American roots, and devotion to stand by her, meeting my constitutionally guaranteed obligation to determine my country’s future path. When I stand up to support government policy, or when I protest and seek to condemn government policy, I am still behaivng as a true patrio who believes that one can be devoted to one’s country while still being critical of those who lead her.
When this writer votes as an American Jew, Israel is one of only many issues that determines which way a vote will be cast. To be an American Jew is to view all that occurs through the prism of Jewish values and ideals. Approaches to improving and resolving issues of economy, poverty, jurisprudence, education, national defense, tax law, and employment are all issues with Jewish responses. When evaluating candidates for office, this Jew strives to understand how a candidate will act to improve American life the most, and the degree to which that candidate will reflect the Jewish values I hold dear. To cite President Reagan, this Jew will vote for the candidate who best resets America as a city on the hill.
To see the world through Jewish ideas is to large measure the purpose of my Jewish living and upbringing. It is certainly one of the key components of any educational program to which I have devoted the bulk of my life’s work.
In the coming weeks I will be looking hard at myself and trying to make myself a better person for the future. I will look inward to see who I truly am, and what I truly hold important. As I do that, I will gain a better sense of what truly matters, and have greater guidance as to how to cast my ballot when the elections of 2012 come around. Through this next year, just now beginning, I will be looking at President Obama and his opponents, deciphering what they are truly espousing, and determining who is acting best by Jewish standards.
If the Democrat lost the election, it was not because of Israel. It may have been because of the lockstep in which both parties now follow their leaders. If that is true, it was not just a one issue referendum but a challenge to all candidates to do that for which they are elected, to honestly represent the will of their constituents. Perhaps the Jewish voters had a better sense of how that is to be.
A Happy and Sweet New Year to all readers.