Jewish Values are the Salvation of the Republican Party

November 19, 2012 7:46 am 0 comments

2012 GOP convention banner in Tampa, FL. Photo: wiki commons.

A ‘malignant weapon’. That was the phrase used by a friend of mine — a national TV host who inclines toward Republicans but this year voted Democrat, to describe how Republicans use religion. “Why has religion made Republicans harsh. Shouldn’t it give them a soft heart?”

The congressional campaign I ran was based on the idea that the economic malaise in America was due to a values erosion. So long as we obsess over abortion, gay marriage, and contraception to the exclusion of any other values, we cannot fix our problems. I ran to start the process of replacing the austerity of some of the Christian social values, which have defined the GOP for decades, with the positive and life-affirming values of Judaism.

I also knew, from my many lectures before women’s groups, that the sexual obsession that has come to define Republican social values could cost the GOP the election. At the start of my campaign, one Republican leader told me, “Americans want to hear about the economy, not values issues.” He was right. But little did he realize that extremist social values rhetoric would wound Republicans. There is now a consensus that the GOP’s alienation of women due to the social sexual obsession, as well as the alienation of Latinos due to their position on immigration, did incalculable harm to the GOP.

Here is what confuses me about Republican Jewish donors. They give the party their money when their values are probably even more relevant at this juncture. Why do those Jews who support the party generously not clamor for a greater infusion of Jewish values that would change the conversation away from values that alienate to values that inspire?

I care about the Republican Party because of its strong emphasis on the dignity that comes from economic opportunity and self-reliance, a robust foreign policy that holds dictators accountable for slaughtering their people, its emphasis on school choice, and strong support for Israel. And anyone who cares about the party knows that it can no longer postpone a serious reexamination of its sexual values obsession. My great teacher, the Lubavitcher Rebbe, advocated a ten point plan for people to start leading more spiritual lives. Only one of those ten was about sex, namely, the laws of Jewish family purity. That’s ten percent focus on sex. But the Republican trifecta of abortion, gay marriage, and contraception, is one hundred percent about sex. How strange is that?

And for those Democrats who are gloating about the Republican loss, with all due respect, at least the Republicans are trying to highlight moral issues, even if they’re misguided. The Democrats do not offend with their values because, with the exception of economic values issues, they barely discuss the subject. Here, then, is what the GOP must do to rebuild itself.

1. Repudiate the religious extremists who are obsessed with abortion, rape, and sex. If candidates want to speak about legitimate rape or divinely-sanctioned rape, let them do so from an asylum. Not as official representatives of the Republican Party. If they want to obsess over sex and reduce all of America’s greatness to a trifecta of social sexual obsession, they can. They can create the “All-sex-all-the-time Party.” But get this conversation out of the GOP. The Republican Party represents more than opposition to abortion, gay marriage, and contraception. Judaism, for the record, allows contraception, believes that sex is for intimacy and pleasure as well as procreation, and has a far more lenient position on abortion than Catholics or Evangelicals. And since the Christian position on abortion is based on the Hebrew Bible, specifically Exodus 21:22, the time has perhaps come for Christians to look to the Jews for a different understanding of this text.

2. Preach positive inspirational values that lead to altruistic citizenry. Bring the values conversation out of the bedroom and show Americans you’re prepared to talk about values in the boardroom and the living room. Stop talking exclusively about gay marriage and focus on saving heterosexual marriage. Make marital counseling tax deductible. Pass legislation creating a year of national service so America raises generations of more altruistic youth. If the Republican argument is that Democrats are winning elections because they have become the ‘Free Stuff Party,’ then counter by making the GOP into the ‘Serve America’ party. Embrace and co-opt the JFK’s credo of asking more about what we can give to our country rather than take from it.

3. Embrace the Biblical Teaching of Loving the Stranger. No one should come into this country by breaking the law. But there might be something personally virtuous in a man or woman who steals across the Rio Grande at great risk to feed their babies and send money back to poor families. America has to stop illegal immigration. But that doesn’t mean it has to demonize illegal immigrants. We need to distinguish between those who steal into our country to blow up buildings and those who come in because they regard America as a land of opportunity. Stop ignoring the twelve million undocumented workers who form a shadow economy and who are not paying taxes while benefiting from living here. Mass deportation is unrealistic and immoral. Penalize them for having broken the law, but give them a path to remain here and contribute.

4. Focus on legal immigration from Latin American countries, as opposed to Europe. As my friend Robert Goldbaum, who was a Romney surrogate, told me, Latin American immigrants want to come to America because they love its opportunities and want to work. This is different from the entitlement-addled economies of Europe whose immigrants are used to, and expect, government programs. Latino immigrants are deeply in sync with American values of hard work and entrepreneurship. The Republican Party should be taking the lead in pushing for far higher quotas for Latino immigrants as opposed to other regions.

5. Show the black community that Republicans understand the history of adversity African-Americans have faced. There is little chance that many African-Americans will vote Republican right now. But it makes no difference. The Republican Party should undertake a grand gesture to give the lie once and for all that it is a party insensitive to black concerns. This is, after all, the party of Lincoln. The Republican house should sponsor a bill for the construction of a monument on the national mall commemorating the greatest American evil of all, namely slavery, to demonstrate Republicans are attuned to African-American history and suffering. But while we commemorate the past, we move forward to the future. The Democratic Party often takes the Black community for granted, as I saw in my own race where my challenger did not even turn up for the NAACP candidates’ forum. President Obama skipped the NAACP convention as well. Drive home Republican emphasis on school vouchers and how the Democratic Party has caved to the teacher’s unions to put teacher tenure before children’s education. In my campaigning, most African-American parents whom I met strongly supported vouchers, charter schools, and school choice.

6. Women, women, women, and more women. Destroy the myth that the Republican Party is hostile to women. According to Gallup, the 20-point gender gap in this presidential election set an all-time record. Republicans should stop obsessing on the uteruses of young women and instead pledge to reduce abortion by focusing on the Guttmacher Institute’s data that 85% of all abortions take place outside of marriage. Strengthen marriage, educate men to respect women, and you’ll automatically and significantly reduce the number of abortions. Stop making this a legal battle.

7. Have more kids. For a party that so strongly opposes abortion, we sure aren’t having enough kids. People believe the Republican Party is the rich people’s party. This is an unfair and inaccurate characterization. But what is certainly true is that while immigrant communities (most of whom vote Democrat) continue to have large families, those who are better off economically have fewer children, statistically. Stop complaining about immigrants. The more Americans the better. But the growth of the indigenous population, of people reared from birth in this great nation, is just as important.

Shmuley Boteach, whom The Washington Post calls ‘the most famous Rabbi in America’, is the international best-selling author of 29 books, and will shortly publish “The Fed-up Man of Faith: Challenging God in the Face of Tragedy and Suffering.” Follow him on Twitter @RabbiShmuley.

Leave a Reply

Please note: comments may be published in the Algemeiner print edition.


Current day month ye@r *

More...

  • Book Reviews Personalities How a Jewish Leader With 3 Months to Live Created a ‘Seminar’ on Life

    How a Jewish Leader With 3 Months to Live Created a ‘Seminar’ on Life

    JNS.org – What would you do if you found out that you had only three more months to live? Gordon Zacks was a successful businessman, a leader of Jewish life, and a confidante and adviser to President George H.W. Bush. He knew that he had prostate cancer, but doctors advised him that it was very slow-growing and nothing to worry about. Then came the day when the doctors told him his cancer metastasized to his liver, and that he had [...]

    Read more →
  • Blogs Theater 10 Things I Learned From My Play About Holocaust Denial

    10 Things I Learned From My Play About Holocaust Denial

    Last month, my one-man show Hoaxocaust! Written and performed by Barry Levey with the generous assistance of the Institute for Political and International Studies, Tehran ran in the New York International Fringe Festival, where it won an Overall Excellence Award. The play has now been selected to run in the Fringe Encores Series at Baruch College’s Performing Arts Center, for four performances which started on Thursday, September 11. Getting the play to the stage was not easy, however. Here are [...]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture Israel Israeli Music Producer Racks Up Over 535,000 YouTube Hits – in Two Days

    Israeli Music Producer Racks Up Over 535,000 YouTube Hits – in Two Days

    Phenomenon: Tel Aviv-based musician and “sampler” extraordinaire, Kutiman (aka Ophir Kutiel) has hit another one out of the park with “Give It Up,” a fully-functioning song in its own right, assembled from hundreds of ameteur and instructional music videos. The Jerusalem-born musical prodigy is best know for his diverse online musical projects. In the latest video, uploaded to YouTube on Sept. 12th, Kutiel thanked most of the musicians and individuals he chose to include in the meticulously-edited clip, which opens with [...]

    Read more →
  • Theater US & Canada Behind-the-Scenes Reel of Ridley Scott’s Moses Epic Shows Scenes Using 4000 Extras (VIDEO)

    Behind-the-Scenes Reel of Ridley Scott’s Moses Epic Shows Scenes Using 4000 Extras (VIDEO)

    A recently released behind-the-scenes reel of Ridley Scott’s upcoming film Exodus: Gods and Kings shows just how far the director has gone to portray one of the Bible’s most famous narratives. In the clip, which shows scenes involving up to 4,000 extras, the visionary director discusses what drew him to the biblical tale of Moses. “The Moses story was a massive challenge, which I really love. I wanted to explore the complexity of his character and I was stunned by [...]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture Jewish Identity Turner Classic Movies Showcases ‘Broad Sweep’ of the Jewish Experience on Film

    Turner Classic Movies Showcases ‘Broad Sweep’ of the Jewish Experience on Film

    JNS.org – Since 2006, the Turner Classic Movies (TCM) cable and satellite TV network has hosted “The Projected Image,” a month-long showcase examining how different cultural and ethnic groups have been portrayed on the big screen. At last, after previously covering African Americans, Asians, the LGBT community, Latinos, Native Americans, Arabs, and people with disabilities, the annual series is delving into Jewish film this month. “The Projected Image: The Jewish Experience on Film,” whose first segment aired Sept. 2, runs [...]

    Read more →
  • Book Reviews Jewish Identity An Inside Look at the Hasidim (REVIEW)

    An Inside Look at the Hasidim (REVIEW)

    The sight of young girls in pinafores and young boys wearing peyos – sidelocks – dangling over their ears is a sure sign that you have entered the enigmatic precincts of the Hasidim – the pious ones. Veteran New York Times journalist Joseph Berger’s new book, THE PIOUS ONES: The World of Hasidim and their Battles with America, takes the reader on a journey into the enclaves where various sects of Jews live a seemingly outmoded way of life in [...]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture Jewish Identity How Jewish Television Pioneer Milton Berle Inspired Modern Comedy Stars

    How Jewish Television Pioneer Milton Berle Inspired Modern Comedy Stars

    JNS.org – Today’s comedy superstars, especially those whose careers are driven by television, may very well owe their success to pioneering Jewish entertainer Milton Berle. Born Mendel Berlinger in Manhattan in 1908, Berle became America’s first small-screen star. Aptly nicknamed “Mr. Television,” he influenced and helped promote the work of hundreds of younger comics. “Milton Berle was deceptively successful and very Jewish,” says Lawrence Epstein, author of The Haunted Smile: The Story of Jewish Comedians in America, published the year [...]

    Read more →
  • Jewish Identity Sports Jewish ‘Hoops Whisperer’ a Secret Weapon for NBA Stars

    Jewish ‘Hoops Whisperer’ a Secret Weapon for NBA Stars

    JNS.org – Idan Ravin’s friends chipped in to buy him a humble but life-changing bar mitzvah gift—a basketball hoop his father attached to the roof of his garage. Little did his friends know that years later, he would be the personal trainer of National Basketball Association (NBA) stars Carmelo Anthony, Kevin Durant, Dwight Howard, and Stephen Curry. Ravin’s new book, “The Hoops Whisperer: On the Court and Inside the Head of Basketball’s Best Players,” details his rise from a Jewish upbringing [...]

    Read more →



Sign up now to receive our regular news briefs.