May 19, 2024
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Linking Northern and Central NJ, Bronx, Manhattan, Westchester and CT

Their Ways Are Not Our Ways

The August 26 edition of The Jewish Link featured two interesting letters. In “Time to Leave the Democrat Party,” Martin Polack argued how the Democratic party does not serve our values or interests, and it is time to leave it. In “The False Narrative That the Democratic Party is Antisemitic,” Earl Sandor made the case that the Republican party does not reflect our values or serve our interests.

It appears to me that they are both correct … and this should not be a surprise. These parties are both non-Jewish institutions. Their faith is not our faith, their culture is not our culture, and their values are not our values. The question then becomes: How should we behave as a result of this disconnect?

With regard to leadership of our own institutions, our approach is usually fairly straightforward: As Jewish institutions, we can require that all the power in said institutions be held by those who do share our faith and values. (As an aside: The one exception to some extent here is in the matter of security; in their role, the non-Jewish people who keep our shuls and schools safe need the ability to take appropriate action in an emergency. Even then, there is much that can be done, and indeed is done well by our shuls in Teaneck. Our shuls use Six Point Security, which was founded by an IDF veteran and therefore has a Jewish leadership. Six Point displays a high degree of competence and professionalism, ensuring that even those who do not share our values still respect them, and that if an issue does arise it will be handled in a satisfactory and transparent manner. Finally, all long-term decisions are still purely made by the shuls and not by Six Point.)

Political parties, however, are not Jewish institutions and we cannot (and should not) control them, so how do we respond to the inevitable disconnect? In this matter, I believe it is important to distinguish between party membership and voting patterns. Party membership has practical implications only with regard to primaries, and therefore should be determined on that basis. Much of the time, that will mean registering for the more influential party (for most Jewish Link readers, that will be the Democrats), as their primaries are more likely to determine who is elected. However, there may be reasons to register for the other party, such as each primary vote counting for a larger percentage of the total, or if the difference between primary candidates in areas of relevance is greater for that party (and thus the outcome of the primary is more important).

When it comes time to vote, we should keep in mind that neither party fully serves our values and interests, and therefore take each contest on its own merits. In some contests, Polack’s points will ring truer than Sandor’s, and in others it will be the other way around. In others, it may be that some members of our community believe the Democratic candidate to be better and others find the Republican more suitable … and that’s OK. In such a disagreement, each side does have the same faith, culture and values as the other, so a slight disagreement about how best to serve those values is far less important than that which we have in common.

(Note: I would like to thank Eytan Kobre of Mishpacha magazine, whose writings are the source of many of the ideas in this letter.)

Yitz Kornbluth
Teaneck
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