Tuesday, January 4, 2011

How Can a Jew be a Republican Today?

There’s been a lot of chatter in the blogosphere lately about the apparent discrepancy between the charitable teachings of Jesus and the “me-first” policies of the self-proclaimed Christian right. As a Jew, I have similar questions about the dichotomy between Jewish values and Republican ideology.  

It hasn’t always been this way. I remember some very prominent Republican Jews whose values aligned with those of Judaism. Senator Jacob Javits, who served in the ‘60s and ‘70s comes to mind. He was a fiscal conservative, but a proponent of civil rights who worked to end the war in Viet Nam.

One of the tenets of Judaism is “Tikkun Olom”, which means “repairing the world.”  While there are as many interpretations of Tikkun Olom as there are Jews, in essence the term refers to each Jew doing his or her part to make the world a better place for all its citizens, whether through charitable acts, working with the underprivileged, saving the environment, or providing care to those in need.  Yet the current Republican agenda is in direct opposition to this concept. Tax cuts for the wealthy, denial of rights to women and gay Americans, kowtowing to corporate polluters, and imprisoning one of every 100 Americans goes against the grain of Jewish values. .

Eric Cantor, the highest ranking Republican Jew in Congress, wants to deny medical care to over 50 million Americans, restrict earnings for those at the lower rung of the ecomonic ladder, and provide more benefits to soulless corporations.. I have a tough time equating his position as a congressman with the teachings of Tikkun Olom.

Many Jews turn to the Republican party because of their support for the right-wing factions in Israel and have established an unholy alliance with fundamental Christians who view the Jewish state as a linchpin in their ultimate salvation. Whether their bellicose attitude toward Iran benefits the quest for Israeli security is the topic of another blog, but it falls right into the current Republicans’ thinking of “declare war now and ask questions later.”

It is possible to be fiscally conservative and do what is morally right. Unfortunately, that’s not the way the current crop of Republicans and Republican Jews are behaving. People of all faiths should closely examine the tenets of their religion and ask themselves whether their political leanings are consistent with their faith teachings.

What is hateful to thyself do not do to another. That is the whole Law, the rest is Commentary.” Rabbi Hillel - first century BCE

1 comment:

  1. I trust your last sentence applies at least as equally to Nancy Pelosi as it does to Eric Cantor.