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78http://www.beth-israel.org/blog/2012/01/Rabbi-Lyon%27s-Blog---01_06_2012
Rabbi Lyon's Blog - 01_06_2012
01/05/2012 09:22 AM Posted by:

From the Desk of Rabbi David Lyon
January 6, 2012

                This is a serious year with serious issues. The national election is around the corner. The easy part will be surviving ten more months of campaign ads and election rhetoric. Right now, the difficult part is sifting through the Republican candidates’ messages. They’ve all addressed myriad issues facing our nation and our world. But, their devotion to the Republican Party line makes it difficult to find significant differences between them, especially on subjects like the economy, Washington power, the military, and deficits. Every candidate makes nearly similar claims. That’s not the case with subjects like abortion, immigration and death penalty. These are “third rail” topics --- if they touch them they risk political death at the hands of party loyalists. Only Rick Perry, who is down in the polls has distanced himself from the pack by denying women access to an abortion even in cases of incest and rape. Even staunch conservative Republicans are scratching their heads and asking, “Really?”

                We have the right to choose our favorite candidates based on educated choices about their positions on everything facing our nation, politically, economically and socially. But, as Jewish men and women we also have an obligation to choose a candidate who can summon more than political will to govern; he must also summon the human will to see everybody as persons of value and worth. We are Jews who know the heart of the stranger, who are commanded to pursue justice, and who have been taught, “What is hateful to you, do not do to others.” Within these principles are solutions to the ills of our nation facing disproportionately increasing numbers of families and individuals falling closer to the poverty line.

                This past week, I watched the “60 Minutes” interview with House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, a Republican. He’s a Jewish conservative Republican. On camera, his wife disagreed with his conservative position on gay rights and abortion rights. You didn’t have to be an expert to see that Cantor was bothered by his wife’s admission on national TV. Though she was once a Democrat, she “converted” to be a Republican. Eric Cantor strikes me as an authentic Republican who subscribes to its serious tenets about the economy and taxes, but is he really, privately, a socially conservative Republican who would deny or turn back progress on women’s and gay rights? The menorah on the shelf of their family room in the background where the interview was held hinted that in his Jewish past he had to have learned familiar lessons about extending compassion to the stranger, giving tzedakah to the needy, and Rabbi Hillel’s Golden Rule on peace-making.

                Sadly and regrettably, Eric Cantor’s agenda has become less about conservative economic and social issues --- we’ve had Republican compromises on these issues in the past --- and more about the destruction (annihilation) of Obama’s presidency. Has it ever been uglier? Regrettably, their plan is failing the country. Gridlock in congress is destroying families and threatening their financial futures. Every day, more households are slipping under the poverty line and losing hope. Should they have to wait for relief until November 2012? In Judaism, suffering and poverty are not virtues. We can learn from difficult experiences, but they aren’t our goals.

                I honestly don’t know how I’ll vote yet, but my Jewish identity will surely inform the choice I will make. I do know that we cannot afford leaders who are trapped by ideology and then succumb to it. We deserve statesmen who understand their party’s principles as a subset of a larger national outlook that views prosperity, justice, liberty, and peace as inherent virtues available to every human soul.

                From my family to yours, Shabbat Shalom.

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