I have a confession to make. Most people who know me at least fairly well already know that I am conservative in my political leanings. But with that being said I am very proud to be able to call many of my closest friends liberal Democrats. In fact, I think it is downright critical that there be plenty of committed Jews in both parties and I will tell you why.
The recent events at the Democratic Convention demonstrated in the clearest possible terms why it is necessary to have Jews involved with both political parties. The Democrats came within a hair’s breadth of officially implementing a platform that did not even mention G-d and that did not identify Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. As an aside, is there another country whose capital is not identified? I feel that when Israel is held to a different standard than the rest of the world it is a case of anti Semitism, perhaps subtle, perhaps unintended, but anti Semitism nonetheless. And yes, I do believe in the existence of anti Semitic Jews, may G-d have mercy.
I have no doubt that the thundering Jewish voices that came in response to the purposeful omission of G-d and Jerusalem helped change the platform (unfortunately not to the extent of getting all of the pro Israel language from previous conventions reinserted) so that these two critical components should be included. But I believe that the opposition of Jewish Republicans was not what moved the Democratic leadership to reverse course (and to do so despite the humiliating circumstances). No indeed, it was the protestations of Jewish Democrats that did the trick.
What would happen if committed Jews were not members of both political parties? I shudder to imagine the implications. I believe that the party could be hijacked by the numerous forces who would see harm done to Israel and the Jewish people, G-d forbid. In other words, having Jews in both parties helps Jews to fulfill our divinely mandated mission; “To be a light unto the nations.” To demonstrate Jewish values, even (or perhaps especially) in the tumultuous and confrontational world of politics, is an awesome responsibility. To make sure a party platform is appropriate and just, is why Jews are needed to support both sides of the political spectrum.
It is important that during this highly politicized season we remember to see each other as brothers and sisters, not enemies to be destroyed, G-d forbid. For those of us with passionate views that differ from those whom we care deeply about, it may be wise to avoid discussing politics. Of course we can engage in trying to win over some political converts. But when we see that our friend/neighbor/brother/sister is deeply entrenched in his/her viewpoint, the best bet is to call a mutually respectful truce. The truth is that our personal relationships are more important than our political philosophy.
When engaging in political discussions remember not to be shrill and to be aware of the feelings and sensitivities of the other party. People on each side of the political spectrum have very good reasons for being where they are, and people who are passionate about their positions are not foolish. After all, it is G-d who created some of us with the left side of our brains being dominant and others with the right side of the brain being dominant. G-d loves the beauty of diversity and He loves those who are devoted to Him whether they are liberal or conservative.
Rabbi Eilfort is Director of Chabad at La Costa, North County Jewish Center. Rabbi Eilfort welcomes readers’ comments at RabbiE@ChabadatLaCosta.com.