Why Jews Should be Open to the GOP

Read about why we are continuing this debate.   See the first perspective in this series (Democrat).

Seth Mandel is the former managing editor of several Jewish newspapers and is currently a foreign affairs writer based in Washington, D.C. This piece reflects solely the opinions of Seth.

When Rabbi Abba Hillel Silver got involved in pressing the cause of Zionism and the plight of the world’s Jews in World War II, he advised the American Jewish community against becoming pure Democratic partisans.

“He believed that both major political parties should be made to vie for Jewish support,” write Allis and Ronald Radosh in A Safe Haven: Harry S. Truman and the Founding of Israel. “It was a mistake, he thought, to be in the pocket of the Democratic Party and be taken for granted.”

The Jewish community didn’t listen, of course—they were mostly an unquestioning legion of Franklin D. Roosevelt supporters. And while we can’t say for certain what would have happened otherwise, we do know what followed: a refugee policy that closed the borders; a refusal to bomb the tracks leading to Auschwitz; and the infuriating and humiliating treatment of the St. Louis.

Today, Jews vote overwhelmingly for Democrats. Is this wise?

First of all, being a Jewish Democrat is a study in contradictions. Jewish Democrats say they want to keep strong the separation of church and state, yet implore us to support everything from government-run health care to cap-and-trade environmental policy in the name of tikkun olam and Torah values. They say they want a world free of discrimination, but then support policies that institutionalize race-based hiring and college admissions.

Then there is the issue of Israel. It’s pretty clear which party has a better record on standing up for Israel’s security—the GOP. But many Jewish Democrats mistakenly believe that Israel is strictly a foreign policy issue. It is not—ask anybody who prays daily. We mention Israel, Zion, and Jerusalem throughout davening, praying for our return. How do we conclude our Passover seders each year? By repeating the phrase, “Next year in Jerusalem!” The concepts of Jerusalem and Zion appear throughout Psalms, with only the most famous being the one that begins “If I forget thee, O Jerusalem….”

And we also have the notion that what happens in Israel doesn’t stay in Israel. This was acknowledged beautifully in a Jerusalem Post editorial during Operation Cast Lead in January 2009. The editors noted how Israel’s fight often becomes world Jewry’s fight, and that during Operation Cast Lead the security of Jews all around the world became a concern when anti-Israel and anti-Jewish rallies everywhere presented with a violent hue. Yet, Jews rallied in support of Israel’s right to defend herself.

“We Israelis don’t tell our Diaspora brethren often enough how grateful we are for their support, or how cognizant we are that what we do to defend ourselves sometimes complicates their lives,” the editors wrote. “So we’re telling them now: Toda raba!”

It’s also why Daniel Gordis writes, in Saving Israel, that the state of Israel represents the Jewish people’s sense of hope for the future and the very concept of Jewish survival. Therefore, he writes, there is “almost no chance” the Jewish people could survive if Israel does not.

Israel’s survival is thoroughly intertwined with our own. Support for Israel is not “dual loyalty,” it is self-preservation.

And while there are many “Jewish issues” on which the GOP is superior to the Democratic Party, even if we put aside the cultural issues like the right to life the GOP still wins out. School choice offers opportunities to Jewish day schoolers and their families throughout the country. Advocacy of the free market system is a defense of what has allowed Jews to thrive as never before. And the GOP’s defense of religious belief creates an atmosphere in which Jews can feel comfortable with public expressions of their faith.

Jews in America should be open to what the GOP has to offer. Once they are, the choice will be clear.

6 replies
  1. A
    A says:

    Alright I’ll bite.

    Here’s the illogic that jumps out at me:

    1. The opening discussion against becoming pure partisans is used in arguing that Jews should become partisan republicans.
    2. I don’t understand how it violates the constitution-guaranteed separation of church and state to support (1) universal healthcare and (2) companies and individuals compensating for the negative externalities created by the consumption of fossil fuels.
    3. Affirmative action policies are implemented precisely because of pervasive biases, whether conscious or unconscious, that cause discrimination against women and minorities. Affirmative action policies are intended to lessen discrimination and are not intended to hire or admit unqualified individuals.
    4. “It’s pretty clear which party has a better record on standing up for Israel’s security—the GOP” What an incredible statement and unjustified assumption, that is unquestionably used as evidence for the rest of the piece. One could write books about this statement. As a whole, both the Republican and Democratic parties are incredibly pro-Israel. I’m not going to argue which side is better, other than to note that no substantive peace progress has been made since Clinton in 2000.

    One could also write books about what it means to be pro-Israel. For example, I’m sure the ZOA and J Street-two organizations which consider themselves pro-Israel– would disagree. Some would argue that Bush and Condi Rice weren’t pro-Israel for pushing for a misdirected “Road Map” that wouldn’t lead anywhere without greater pressure on Arab leaders. When was the last time Bush (or Obama for that matter) acknowledged the sacrifices of the Jewish Gaza residents, who were forced to give up their homes and livelihoods in the name of peace, and without asking anything in return from the Palestinians who created a Hamas-stan in Gaza? Being pro-Israel should be and is a bi-partisan issue. By acting like only conservatives can be pro-Israel, they risk making the issue partisan.

    5. You write: “School choice offers opportunities to Jewish day schoolers and their families throughout the country.”

    Again, a big issue- Very briefly: I’m not sure what your exact point is here. Public funding for religious schools is clearly prohibited by the constitution.

    6. You write: “Advocacy of the free market system is a defense of what has allowed Jews to thrive as never before.”

    Who says Democrats are not in favor of a free market? Business regulation happens on a continuum from low to high. There is good regulation and bad regulation, and it’s definitely arguable which is which. Regulated markets can be free and can level the playing field for all participants. However Democrats are not monolithic on this issue.

    7. You write: “And the GOP’s defense of religious belief creates an atmosphere in which Jews can feel comfortable with public expressions of their faith.”

    The Democratic Party does not defend religious beliefs and create an atmosphere in which Jews can feel comfortable with public expressions of their faith? I must have missed that when I saw the videos of Dreidle Man jumping around in front of the giant Menorah in front of the White House. I also must have missed that when reading about the family that was chased out of the Christine O’Donnell-voting part of Delaware for speaking out against public school-sponsored prayer.

    8. I’ll close with a quote from a recent article by Rabbi Avi Shafran (a life-long Republican):

    So often we seem to feel a need to embrace absolute, take-no-prisoners political opinions; to reject any possibility of ambivalence, much less any admission of ignorance.

    Certitude is proper, even vital, in some areas of life. But in the realm of politics it can be, in fact usually is, an expression of overconfidence or worse.

    Reply
    • Muktza
      Muktza says:

      Nice try, but copies of the constitution are available to virtually anybody with internet connection or the ability to travel to any library in the US. So I recommend A to start reading our founding document before submitting such an intellectually vacant piece. I’m not going to respond to each and every ludicrous item in his/her comment, however, on the issue of the First Amendment, the constitution does not guarantee the separation of church and state; that interpretation came from a KKK pig (who later made it to the Supreme Court, courtesy of Hitler’s ally in his war against the Jews, president fdr) by the name of Hugo Black. Therefore, there is also no constitutional prohibition to publicly fund religious schools, unless you’re a brain dead democRAT who believes every dumb position of the AACLU (Anti American civil liberties union).

      Reply
  2. Steve
    Steve says:

    As a Republican (and conservative) Jew, I dont think Seth made a very convincing argument for why Jews should be (though actually are) conservative. I wont write out a whole long blag post, because I know no one woudl read it. But the main point is that Main Stream Judaism and Conservativism focus around family value, personal reponsibility and strong defense of Israel. Think about what your family beleives in; Good education, having the opportunity to better yourself and become succesful, strong commitment to Israel and global freedoms and the belief that only you can really make yourself to what you want to be. These are all values that the Republican party is based on.

    Reply

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