People often ask me how the values I learned as a Jewish woman affect my everyday life and my public service responsibilities. And then they often ask why I am such a passionate Democrat.
When we speak of standing by Israel, we Democrats cherish Harry Truman, our President who recognized Israel; our late U.S. Senator Frank Lautenberg, who helped to lead the way for American aid to Israel; our current U.S. Senators, Cory Booker and Bob Menendez, as staunch supporters of Israel as they come; and all the Democrats today who have dramatically increased funding for the Iron Dome now protecting our sisters and brothers in Israel.
The heart and soul of the Democratic Party revolves around helping the vulnerable and the oppressed. We, the Jews, view the concept of family as not only caring for our relatives, but also standing by those in need around us. The Jewish values we feel in our “kishkes” require us to honor our parents, so we work to protect Social Security and Medicare. We are to act with compassion, so we support social services that care for the vulnerable. And that is why the Democratic legislature in NJ worked to get $400,000 in state funds to care for the frail, elderly Holocaust survivors still among us. That is why we keep Meals on Wheels funded and work to keep our nursing homes viable with adequate Medicaid funding.
Jewish values require us to welcome strangers. And that is why the DemocraticPparty supports a hospitable immigration policy. Because we are required to tend to the sick, we support affordable and accessible healthcare.
And because we are required to work for a just society, we attend to all the rights and needs of women. And we support access to quality education for all young people from preschool to college.
When we speak of beating swords into plowshares, it is Democrats who work to end gun violence. I tell them that it was Democrats who required insurance companies to pay for at least 48 hours in the hospital for new moms and their babies; it’s a Democratic legislature that passed funding for autism research; it was a Democratic legislature that banned indoor smoking to protect the health of our citizens and I could go on and on.
Now some would label all of these things as entitlements. I believe in them because of Tikkun Olam.
Rabbi Jack Moline, recently spoke to the Democratic Jewish Caucus in Teaneck, his words were very moving:
“Did we teach Roy Cho these progressive values? Did we make Cory Booker into such a mensch? Did we make them feel these things in their kishkes? No we did not. We found these friends, partners, these lovers of Israel, these good, good people in the place where authentic Jewish values meet authentic American values: in the Democratic Party. And you can take that to the ballot box. And don’t be fooled by people who say, oh, those are personal values, not collective mandates. Jews have built schools and hospitals and food banks and shelters for the community. We feed the hungry without proof of a Jewish parent. We comfort the bereaved without regard to their religious practice. And from Maimonides to modern Israel, our doctors and nurses and health care workers treat everyone. And every single one of those values has an analog in the policy positions we hold.”
And so when people ask me why I am a Democrat, and how Jewish values affect my governmental focus, I answer: look at our collective legislative priorities and accomplishments and you’ll know why.
By Senator Loretta Weinberg, NJ Senate Majority Leader