"The Jewish Vote"
by: Joshua Schwartz
There is a humorous maxim that states that Jews earn like Episcopalians but vote like Puerto Ricans. This quip is made all the more poignant as a report just recently was published declaring Jewish Americans to be the most successful minority in the nation. And yet, with all the monetary success and the siren song of lucre, the Jewish people has yet been able to retain a reputation for passionate idealism that translates into political action.
However, this image appears to be tarnishing as the days go by. When folks speak of the "Jewish vote," more and more they refer to how a political candidate sees America's relationship with Israel. In the infamous 2000 election, our current president received a large spike in Jewish voters, longing for a candidate with a laissez-faire attitude towards Israel, an understandable reaction to the Clintonian collapse of the late 90's.
Before I continue, it is incumbent upon me to assert that to care deeply about a candidate's middle-east policy and position on Israel is right, considering the precarious position in which Israel finds herself today. In addition, a sincere concern for Israel's future is not tied to any political party, but is rather tied to the wellbeing of amcha, the Jewish people the world over.
As a twenty-one year old college student, one who has voted in but one presidential election in previous years but has had preferences and passions for the political process going all the way back to fifth grade, I must admit that it is this election which has gotten me the most excited, the most active, and the most engaged. As a nation, we find ourselves at a critical juncture in history. We are embroiled in a war with seemingly no endgame, in economic conditions becoming more and more worrying, situated a rapidly shifting and increasingly unsure world. 1% of the citizenry are imprisoned in the Land of the Free. The winds of change, they say, are blowing, with all candidates from both parties seeking to take the mantle of change and the future upon their shoulders.
It is not the purpose of this meditation to advocate for any specific candidate or policy positions (though I would be glad to do that, rest assured). Rather, it is a declaration of intent; a manifesto of sorts. I am deeply engaged in this election not merely due to my American citizenship, but as a deeply committed Jew as well. It is my Jewish neshamah (soul) that calls out to me to face the nation in which I live with critical analysis and with appreciation. With heartbreak over our mistakes and erring. With love that yearns for only the best for our great nation.
It is my Jewish soul that turns my eyes towards the plight of the poor, the hungry, the homeless, and it is my common sense that no matter how many times I staff the Ansche Chesed homeless shelter through the wonderful Va'ad Gemilut Hasadim, these issues must be confronted on a larger scale. It is what I learn from my daily Torah study that simply will not allow me to ignore the voice of the oppressed, in this land, in all lands the world over. This is the voice that called out to God from Hebrew throats parched by Egyptian sands, yearning to be free. This is the voice that protests when his or her garment is unduly retained over night. This is a voice that must be as pressing as that which created the world. Let there be light that brings to light the sufferings of the innocent, the light that warms our hearts and will not allow them to freeze or harden. Let this be the Jewish vote the candidates will court, one which will be a voice, a light to the nations.