The Problem With Rice (I)
I don’t know how those members of the Black Congressional Caucus who labeled criticism of UN ambassador Susan Rice racist and sexist got away with it (“In the Matter of Susan Rice,” editorial, Nov. 23).
She was being challenged because she created a false impression to the public at large, claiming the death of the American ambassador in Libya was not the result of a terrorist attack.
It is indisputable that she did so, though whether she did it knowingly is not yet known. I fail to see any connection to her race or sex in such criticism. I have no doubt that if a white male official did the same thing, he would be similarly criticized. Are those aforementioned members of Congress suggesting otherwise?
The Problem With Rice (II)
President Obama came into office with a plan to create more balance between America’s relationship with both Israel and the Muslim world. Political reality, however, got in the way and soon forced a midcourse correction. Susan Rice came to office with him but, relatively immune to politics, she remains an unconverted true believer.
I don’t know how much discretion she will have as secretary of state as far as Israel is concerned or how much President Obama will rely on her advice. I do know that at the very least she presents an unacceptable risk.
Rose Ellen Blatt
The Jewish Vote (I)
I found Rabbi Steven Pruzansky’s front-page essay last week (“The Jewish Vote: Same Old, Same Old”) very illuminating. It certainly got me thinking.
I agree with him that cold logic should have drawn most Jews to the Republican Party in the past few election cycles. As he demonstrates quite eloquently, in terms of values and issues we generally are more compatible with Republicans than with Democrats. However, I think it must also be stressed that American Jews continue to worry about their future as a very small minority and are more comfortable with a political party that is seen, rightly or not, as protective rather than merely tolerant of its citizens.
The Jewish Vote (II)
The same week Rabbi Pruzansky penned a sour grapes column following the Democratic Party’s sweep of the Jewish vote, an important story was taking place across the ocean. Israel was fighting a defensive war against Hamas, and President Obama demonstrated real leadership.
Contrary to the fears of many Orthodox Republican voters, the president expressed strong support for Israel. As international pressure grew, he insisted that the conflict would be best resolved by local stakeholders, firmly guiding Egypt into a mediator role. Regretfully, Hamas survives to fight another day. But even if we dismiss the record amount in military funding Obama has allocated to Israel in his first term, two words sum up the countless Israeli lives that were saved last week: Iron Dome.
And while Hamas insists on claiming victory, we should be confident that if the truce is broken, President Obama will continue to stand by Israel. A hakarat hatov is in order.
The Jewish Vote (III)
Rabbi Pruzansky writes: “Based on our race, status, education, employment, etc., Jews should be voting for Republicans but rarely do in significant numbers.” In other words, Jews should vote for Republicans, but they actually vote for Democrats; hence they must be voting based on irrational or misguided thinking.
Now, there are interesting features of Jewish voting patterns that merit examination, but I think the essential incongruity of the Jewish vote is somewhat overstated by Rabbi Pruzansky and others. Consider the exit polling regarding those factors – race, status, employment education, etc. – that Rabbi Pruzansky believes would make any Jew into a Republican Jew.
Most Jews are white, and it’s true that nationally the white vote went overwhelmingly to Romney (59 percent vs. 39 percent). However, Jews are among the most educated groups, and while more college graduates voted for Romney nationally (51 percent vs. 47 percent), in New York, California, Massachusetts and New Jersey, the college-educated vote went very heavily for Obama, more so than could be accounted for merely by the number of Jews in the electorate. Moreover, nationally Obama decisively won the vote of those who had done post-graduate study (55 percent to 42 percent).
Jews as a group are also among the highest earners, and it is true that high-income voters went largely for Romney, but the differences are not so stark as one might imagine. Among those with family income over $100,000, Romney won nationally by 10 percentage points (54 to 44). However, in New York, Massachusetts, California and New Jersey Obama won this highest income group.
Moreover, to the best of my knowledge, most American Jews live in large cities or suburbs. According to the exit polls, big cities and mid-sized cities voted decisively for Obama (69 percent vs. 29 percent and 58 percent vs. 40 percent, respectively) while the suburbs went only marginally for Romney (50 to 48).
Can this explain why almost 70 percent of Jewish voters selected Obama? No. But based on “race, status, education, employment, etc.,” there is no compelling reason to have expected a majority of American Jews to choose Romney. Instead, based on the nexus of location, education, and income, one might have expected large numbers of Jews to choose Obama, and that they did.
One final point: Rabbi Pruzansky states that “Orthodox Jewish voting patterns are almost the mirror opposite of the non-Orthodox,” which I would have taken to mean that 70 percent of Orthodox Jews voted for Romney. But what is the source of this information? According to the Republican Jewish Coalition survey, Orthodox Jews actually chose Obama over Romney (48 percent vs. 44 percent). There are certainly genuine differences between the Orthodox and non-Orthodox in voting behavior, but the only thing gained by exaggerating these differences is to make us feel more distant from one another.
The Jewish Vote (IV)
I was disappointed by Rabbi Pruzansky’s article. There is insufficient space to address his misreading of Jewish history (e.g. Jews and Judaism actually fared better in less religious and secular states), his selective use of history (e.g. he fails to mention the Republican president who forced Israel to retreat from Sinai in 1956) and his misstatement of facts (e.g. unemployment rate actually dropped during Roosevelt’s first term).
Let me answer his question of why Jews support Democratic candidates year after year by explaining my own vote. As an Orthodox Jew I am uncomfortable with women choosing abortion. But no one forces observant Jewish women to violate halacha. The Republican Party and many of its most prominent and influential members want to ban all abortions, even if the mother’s health is at risk. This will endanger lives of pregnant women and force Orthodox obstetricians to choose between saving their patients’ lives or committing murder as legally defined by Republicans.
As a fervent supporter of Israel I realize the greatest asset the U.S. brings to Israel is its economic and military strength and its influence in the world. George W. Bush was pro-Israel but he did the Israelis no favors by allowing U.S. strength and influence to erode during his term. When I vote I consider who will be most sympathetic to Israel but also who will best strengthen the U.S. and thus best be able to help Israel in the long run.
Orthodox Jews have much to teach our secular brethren. But maybe they have something to teach us. Three times the Torah tells us not to cook a kid in its mother’s milk and the rabbis, to the glory of our faith, built fences upon fences to ensure that we meticulously observe this commandment. Yet thirty-two times the Torah tells us to remember we were strangers in the land of Egypt so that we will be compassionate to orphans, widows and strangers. The Democrats have traditionally been the party that looks out for these interests, passing (over Republican opposition) programs like Social Security and Medicare that have helped numerous widows and orphans and pulled countless seniors out of poverty and let them spend their senior years in dignity; programs like Medicaid and early childhood education to enable children to enter adulthood healthy and prepared for life.
We should be proud that secular Jews still remember the importance of a thirty-two-fold repetition and base their votes on their interest in helping the poor, the orphan, the widow and the immigrant.
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