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Politics & Jewish Values

Politics & Jewish Values

Associate Editor

Thursday, September 11th, 2008

The other day, Sen. Barack Obama’s Jewish outreach director, Dan Shapiro, said the Obama campaign will emphasize to Jewish voters that the Democratic Party’s values are “in sync” with “historic Jewish values,” while “John McCain’s values are not.”

That is something we hear not only from politicians but also from Jewish journalists all year long, that liberal political positions are “Jewish,” based primarily on the fact that more Jews vote for Democrats.

What most Jews do, though, is not the determinant of Jewish historical values. Most Jews don’t keep strictly kosher but we can’t therefore conclude that eating lobster is a Jewish historical value. Most Jews intermarry. Is that a value? Plenty of liberal Jews supported Stalin in the 1930s. What does that prove?

Shapiro mentioned Obama’s views on the Supreme Court as being somehow Jewish. Obama, like most Democrats, believes that judges should legislate liberalism from the bench. In fact, too many politicians in both parties believe that a judge ought to be able to tell Congress, in advance of any actual case, how he or she would rule, particularly on abortion.

Obama has said, “We need somebody who’s got the heart, the empathy, to recognize what it’s like to be a young teenage mom. The empathy to understand what it’s like to be poor, or African-American, or gay, or disabled, or old.”

In other words, the facts of a given case must be weighed against the skin color, the sexual preferences, or the unhappy childhood of the plaintiff or defendant. It’s like the Jets goofing on Officer Krupke in “West Side Story,” “Officer Krupke, you’re really a square; This boy don’t need a judge, he needs an analyst’s care! It’s just his neurosis that oughta be curbed. He’s psychologic’ly disturbed!”

But according to Pirkei Avos [Ethics of the Fathers 1:8], that’s not how you run a court. Instead, when serving as a judge “do not act as a lawyer; when the litigants stand before you, consider them both as guilty, [only] when they are dismissed from you, consider them both as innocent, provided they have accepted the judgment.”

Which value is more historically Jewish, Obama’s or Pirkei Avos’?

What about the value of teaching sexual abstinence?

Since Gov. Sarah Palin’s ascendancy, many Democrats have mocked her advocacy of teenaged sexual abstinence. We’ve been told by many Democrats that abstinence doesn’t work.

A blogger on the far left’s Daily Kos wrote, “If Sarah Palin still supports abstinence-only sex education for public schools after this experience with her daughter, what does that say about her judgment as a policy maker?”

It says that Palin’s judgment is in line with historical Jewish values. There are more than two-dozen Orthodox high schools for girls in the 11 counties of the New York metropolitan area, from Kiryas Joel to Riverdale to Long Island and New Jersey. Combined, there are as many students in these schools as in a mid-sized American city. Every single one of these Jewish schools advocates abstinence.

Sure, there are kids in some of these high schools that do “everything but,” but that just goes to prove that they have been taught a sense of how far is too far, a sense that does not exist in most American public high schools.

Does teaching abstinence work? Last year there were zero unwed pregnancies among these thousands of Jewish teenaged girls.

Last time we checked, in American public schools where children are taught sex-ed detached from religion — almost all of these schools run by municipalities with Democratic mayors and city councils, there were 140,000 unwed teenaged pregnancies.

Who do you think has a better handle on historical Jewish values, the religious schools with zero unwed mothers, or the schools with 140,000?

And what if a yeshiva high school girl gets pregnant, as did Bristol Palin? I don’t really care to judge a case without the whole story, but even with several Bristol Palins, the statistics are still overwhelming in favor of abstinence.

And the issue isn’t whether Bristol has “historical Jewish values,” the issue is whether the Democrats can claim it.

What about charity?

Everybody can agree that charity is a historical Jewish value. Surely on this measure of compassion the Obama supporters will be “in sync” with Jewish values, rather than the McCain supporters.

Guess again. According to a study by a professor at Syracuse University, written about by George Will earlier this year, although liberal families average 6 percent higher income than conservative families, conservatives give 30 percent more to charity. Conservatives also donate more time and more blood. Residents of states that voted for John Kerry in 2004 (how many homes do Kerry and his heiress wife Teresa Heinz Kerry have?) gave a smaller percentage of their income to charity than did residents of states that voted for George W. Bush, who carried 24 of the 25 states where charitable giving was above average.

There are plenty of reasons to vote for the Democrats, but when one party insists that they are more in sync with Jewish values, Jewish voters should do their homework.

Doing your homework is a Jewish value, too.

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