I know what you’re thinking: That I am going to tell you who I am backing in the 2020 presidential elections in the United States. I’m actually going to do better than than that! I’m going to tell you who I am voting for in the August primaries here in Florida, in the 2020 presidential elections and in every single election I will ever be voting in! Not only that, but it will be reflected through very Jewish lenses.
I am voting for candidates who:
- Demonstrate responsible leadership and management – Real leaders take responsibility and take charge. In the book of Shemot (Exodus), Moshe, the prince, witnesses a taskmaster beating and Israelite. He takes charge of the situation, responds, and accepts the consequences of his action (self-imposed exile). It is during that exile that it revealed to him that he has earned the right to the leadership of the Israelites.
- Empathy – Both Moshe and David in the bible are chosen for their roles as they are leading sheep. The Jewish lens is teaching us that if you can show concern for lowly animals, you will most certainly empathize and be able to lead human communities
- Ability to work with others, across all lines of authority and approaches. Two Jewish teachings: In the creation story, God actually consults with his “cabinet” before creating the first human (“Let US create…). And in the Talmud, the quote “These teachings and these teachings are both words of the Living God” remind us to value and respect differences of opinions. Without differing opinions, the Talmud doesn’t exist. Without Talmud, Judaism as we know it doesn’t exist.
- Love of humanity – In my experience I have seen educators who “don’t like children” and politicians who don’t love and respect those they lead. It doesn’t work. “You shall love your neighbor as yourself” applies to everyone. but it’s especially important to live that mitzvah in leadership.
- Honesty and Integrity – Personal and professional integrity matter. A LOT. Because the phrase Adonai Eloheichem Emet, which ends the rectation of the Sh’ma is often translated as “The Lord your God is true” is sometimes (also correctly) translated as “The Lord your God is truth” – that is, is manifested through truth. Oh, and a name for God is Shalom, peace. The word Shalom, derives from the root Sh-L-M, meaning complete and denotes integrity. I expect my leaders to demonstrate those Godly qualities.
- Values-driven – Those who are driven by consistent core values may be swayed in specific situations for political reasons, but will remain faithful to the values they hold dearest. Israelite leaders in the bible stray. Often. But the prophets move leaders like David and other kings back to their core values. And the good kings in the bible recognize that they’ve gone astray and find their way back.
- Humility – Good leaders never believe that they have all the answers. Looking at Moshe again, he readily accepts the constructive criticism of his father-in-law, Jethro, and fashions an entire system of justice around the advice he is given. The ultimate praise of Moshe appears later in the Torah, which describes him as the most humble of all people
- Stands on issues that matter – That’s right. This is the last on my list for a reason. Yes, I want to know that my political leaders care about healthcare for all. Yes, I want to know that my leaders will confront racism and bigotry wherever they raise their ugly heads. Yes, I want leaders that will support Israel (even if they disagree with specific policies of Israel). But politicians are gonna politic. And that means that there will be a lot of bartering because that’s how the game is played. So I will go with the leadership and character of candidates I will vote for, and expect that, when those considerations align, the specific policy platforms will fall into place.
And there you have it, my endorsements for this year and forever.
Listen, I’m not a politician. Not by any stretch of the imagination. I am not even a registered party member anymore…changed my registration to “no party” in order to avoid the snooping that the federal government was trying to do, when it demanded that states turn over voter records.
I’m just a Rabbi. A Jewish educator. I vote Jewish. That is to say, I care about a wide range of issues and I look at them with a mindset that says: My Jewish values don’t dictate my vote, but they definitely inform it. Specifically, my Jewish lens includes:
- Personal integrity. Not perfection. Striving for good. Striving for ethical. Striving for moral [includes idea of teshuva, that a person can change and improve]
- Truth [a name of God]
- Peace and its pursuit [Shalom is another name of God]
- Responsibility [Ours is a religion of responsibility, not of rights]
- Consistent values
- Compassion [according to the rabbis, a litmus test of a Jewish person]
- Justice [as in: Justice, Justice you shall pursue]
- Strength [not power. Strength]
- Standing up for minorities [I’m a member of a minority religious group, so I notice] or for those historically disenfranchised
- Partnership with God [or with the Godly, if you prefer] in protecting creation
- Security and safety [“the wolf shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the young goat, and the calf and the lion and the fattened calf together; and a little child shall lead them”]
- The security, safety and peace of Israel as the sole Jewish state in the world
So, when it comes to state-wide or national positions that are going to be on the ballot, I’ll be sending off my questionnaire to candidates and publishing those who answer these simple questions:
- What are the five top values that guide you in life and in public service?
- Are you respected by those of the other party/parties?
- How do you “play in the sandbox” with those whose views you disagree strongly?
- Are you respected by those in other branches of government?
- How do you “play in the sandbox’ with those in other branches, especially when they oppose you?
- How will you protect the right to bear arms?
- How will you protect citizens from gun and other violence?
- What do you think of scientific knowledge, such as global warming? Should our country be joining the rest of the world in environmental action? Is coal “clean” as a fuel, in your opinion?
- Do your religious beliefs, or those of religious leaders you honor, promote the idea that Jews (or Moslems, or any other group) will “not be saved” or “are doomed to burn”because they haven’t accepted a particular religion?
- What actions will you pursue to safeguard the security and promote peace in Israel?
- What are the three special interest groups or corporations that contribute the most to your campaign/s?
How about you. What are YOUR questions for those who want your support as they pursue leadership roles?