Haaretz’s Bradley Burston responded to attempts by certain Republican Jews to brand Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney as “the real tikkun olam candidate.” Burston wrote:
Neusner suggests that it is time that American Jews - 85 percent of whom voted for Roosevelt in 1936 and 1940, 90 percent for Johnson in 1964, and nearly 80 percent for Obama in ‘08 - made a historic turn.
‘You can stick with a president who believes deeply in the power of the state and who has done a lot to make tikkun olam voters happy, but who is, without question, endangering our nation’s ability to pursue tikkun olam programs in future years,’ he writes.
Or, ‘you can switch to a candidate who believes in the power of individual freedom - and has shown through his own example of voluminous giving of charity to his church and his community that prosperity and success breed far more tikkun olam than can be achieved through the taxing power of the state.’
If the Republican Convention has been any measure, there are still a number of questions Neusner might want to answer on the issue of tikkun olam.
Is it repairing the world, as the party platform holds, to ban all abortions, no exceptions?
Is it repairing the world, as Paul Ryan’s Wisconsin has sought, to break, denigrate, undermine and eliminate the very unions that Jews were so instrumental in creating, and which gave generations of immigrant Jews a crucial start on the ladder of success in America?
Is it repairing the world to ridicule the existence of global warming?
Is it repairing the world to flatly oppose same-sex marriage?
Is it tikkun olam for Republican legislators to take pride in blocking Democratic economic proposals even when many of those Republicans supported similar proposals in the past?
Is it tikkun olam to advocate preserving tax breaks for the wealthiest Americans, while cutting essential social services and laying off such public sector employees as police, fire-fighters and teachers?
When New Jersey Governor Chris Christie speaks of Americans’ courage in having overcome the Great Depression, does he really believe that this was a matter of individuals and small businesses acting on their own?
Could it be that the Medicare and Social Security that the Republicans seem suddenly so concerned about saving from the clutches of Big Government, were expressions of tikkun olam as practiced by Democrats in 1965 and in 1935?
What is it, exactly, about the Republican credo that is meant to repair the world?...
From where I sit, I suspect that Neusner may have the order of things reversed. It appears strongly to me that in America, government programs to repair the world - and, in the process, end black-white segregation, promote literacy, and provide opportunities to immigrants and the poor - have been essential for the creation and preservation of freedom and free markets, and for offering the benefits of both to as wide a spectrum of Americans as possible.
I suspect that this election year, as they have in decades past, American Jews will again vote to repair the world. For the great majority of them, repairing the world, or at least taking your best shot at it, will still mean Barack Obama.
Click here to read Burston’s full piece.
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