Jerusalem, ISRAEL — The High Holy Days have now come and gone, and the Torah cycle has begun afresh. Rolling open our Torahs to Genesis has brought the religious Jewish world into a reflection of all things new: A new year, a new school season, a new expression of our best intentions.
Those of us in Israel are also living amid new, uncertain international dynamics:
The Arab Spring has drenched the arid landscape around us and continues to gurgle toxic steam as some of our neighbors shift uneasily into their newly defined governments– many which have become wild cards in respect to Israel– while others like Syria are intentionally destroying many of their own people in their struggle to maintain power. And while the world waits for the United Nations to take up its professed purpose “in promoting and encouraging respect for human rights,” Syria’s 20-month civil war – the arsenal of President Bashar “No Consequences” al-Assad versus rebel fighters in full expression of the Arab Spring versus hundreds and thousands more civilians who get in the way – has left 30,000 people dead.
Not to ignore the deeply apprehensible human slaughter going on around us, Israel’s responsibility to protect its own people demands of Israel’s government a heightened sensitivity to the Arab Spring turned tumultuous sea—and a greater awareness of what to expect for our little Middle East democracy in the years to come.
We look across the sea, as well, to our historically No. 1 ally caught up in the fervor of the upcoming elections to newly define the political leanings of the U.S. majority. Israelis necessarily take notice of each platform’s policy with respect to Israel; but, even there, the debate has fallen not just to the presidential contenders.
Hundreds of U.S. rabbis – mostly Reform, Conservative or Reconstructionist – following a traditional Jewish lean toward voting Democrat collaborated behind President Barack Obama’s campaign in 2008 under the title “Rabbis for Obama,” and more than doubled their number for the 2012 campaign.
In recent weeks, Rabbi Dr. Bernhard Rosenberg from Congregation Beth El Edison, New Jersey – as a registered Democrat – began a countermeasure grassroots campaign called “Rabbis for Romney,” making an appeal to the more than 600 “Rabbis for Obama” to rethink their support of the incumbent president, and “to address the concerns of the Jewish voters concerning the State of Israel and the preservation of authentic Biblical values.”
As the only public member of his campaign, Rosenberg says he will not divulge the names of the other Rabbis for Romney to protect them from the severe criticism he has endured. Rosenberg’s demonstration of his constitutional freedoms has incited Internet comments calling for him to be burned in a gas chamber.
“I don’t want to happen to them what happened to me,” he said. “I’ve been attacked like you’ve never heard—by rabbis, Democrats. I am a registered Democrat. I voted twice for Clinton. I’ve also been a Republican. This has nothing to do with party politics.”
Rosenberg’s creation of “Rabbis for Romney” in order to counterbalance the politicized Jewish bima (pulpit) within the pro-Obama campaign undoubtedly provides a morale-boosting endorsement of American Jews whose values are more deeply consistent with those of the Republican Party—giving them courage to vote their values, though it goes against “majority Jewish tradition.”
“Because of our tradition,” says Reb Tevye the Milkman in Fiddler on the Roof, “every one of us knows who he is and what G-d expects him to do.” The reality is that tradition defines a structure of identity for the Jewish people, which we perpetuate as faithfully as the customs of our immediate families. I have a Jewish friend who votes Democrat because his parents vote Democrat—only because it is their family tradition.
However, as true as it was for Reb Tevye’s daughters to move away from pure familial tradition, The Solomon Project’s survey of exit polls between 1972 and 2008 showed, since 1984, the younger generation – Jewish voters under 30 – as least likely to vote Democratic compared to other age groups, and those age 60 or above as most likely to maintain the Democratic trend.
According to Rosenberg, most Jews are living in the past.
“The Democratic Party of today is not the one of yesterday. At the recent Democratic convention, they booed Jerusalem as the capital of the state of Israel. The message was clear. We are dealing with a party that was hijacked by Moslems, Leftists, socialists and Israel haters—and that is a very bad sign,” Rosenberg said to News Blaze Op-Ed contributor Nurit Greenger. “I am not certain what a Republican victory would mean for the future of the United States. I do know, however, what the present path means, and that scares me beyond adequate words.”
With parents that survived Auschwitz, Rosenberg’s unflinching understanding is that the security of Israel – the only nation promising indefinite refuge to any Jewish person – is vital to the security and existence of the Jews as a people.
“‘Anti-Israel’ has become the code word for anti-Semitism, and every Jew in the United States must understand this,” Rosenberg told Greenger. “Whether Zionist or not, the fate of Israel is inexorably tied up with the fate of Jews worldwide.”
If the safety and longevity of Israel is the most important question on the table, can we be courageous enough to ask ourselves the tough questions?
Such as: Are we defending our traditional political party more than we are defending our traditional identity?
In the end, no matter which side of the aisle you sit, your obligation does not end November 6. As an American, I encourage you to fulfill your responsibility as an American, to vote. As a Jew, I encourage you to fulfill your responsibility as a Jew—to know yourself and to protect your identity and your people.
“The first thing you have to know is yourself. A man who knows himself can step outside himself and watch his own reactions like an observer.”—Adam Smith
To know yourself is to know your origins, your identity and your future, and as a Jew, to know that you are responsible to advocate for the Nation of Israel’s existence. For in Israel’s existence, you will continue to exist.