The Jewish community has been hard hit by the murders that took place in Toulouse but at some level we have been at a lost on how to deal with it, besides the usual articles bemoaning the state of the world and fundraising for the survivors, obviously a positive thing. Still, something has been missing in this picture and this has not gone unnoticed. One of my students asked me why we are not doing anything like the way that Al Sharpton and the bunch have mobilized around the Trayvon shooting. Honestly, I had to think about this. The cases are different: Trayvon’s accused murdered has not even been arrested while the Toulouse murderer is already dead and now somewhere very unpleasant. What are the issues that needs to be addressed? How do we address them?
(Clearly, the issue is that Jews need to be safe and be able to live without fear and intimidation no matter where they live. Our job then is to take action to see that our interests are protected, both here and abroad. I would like to offer this twofold strategy to college students for approaching this issue, which is certainly applicable to any major issue that needs to be addressed.)
The first issue is awareness, awareness that anti-Semitism is alive and well. I remember when I was a kid the big thing was “Save the Manatees!” There was many articles and much money donated to the cause. Clearly it worked since I remember it even now. Jewish students need to make noise and be very public. This can’t simply be left to the organizations that have traditionally represented Jews since their views are widely known and their actions are seen as inherently having an agenda. It must be organic, and slightly in-your-face as well. The most important thing is that people are aware of the issue, and then you can gain support. And the issue is very straight forward: Jews are being persecuted and this must stop. People need to be made aware of how Jews are treated around the world, and even about anti-Semitic incidents that happen at home. It’s a very simple argument to make for why should people care: if we can spend so much time and energy protecting sea mammals, can’t we at least exert the same effort to protect people?
The second issue is political clout, or lack thereof. Despite the number of Jews involved in politics is high, the influence that Jews have is watered down by the fact that both parties assume that Jews are owned by one party or the other depending on their religious orientation. This is not how Jews should approach politics. A colleague of mine said that we become irrelevant as a voting block if we consistently go with one party or the other. Rather, we should follow the example of the last election, where we became crucial by voting for candidates rather than parties. Jews were credited (or blamed depending on your perspective) for the election of Bob Turner, the first Republican to hold New York’s 9th district in over 80 years, and at the same time delivered a landslide victory for Democrat Phil Goldfeder in the Assembly race. If we are really to affect change, we need to vote for candidates that are good for Jewish interests (and who tend to be good for everyone ex. George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, L.B.J).
In the spirit of the Passover season, let us ask the Four Questions, and in this way we will know who to vote for:
Has this candidate actively condemned attacks on Jews here and abroad (for example: Toulouse, the Holocaust Museum shooting, and the Riverdale bombings)?
Has this candidate taken definitive action to curb the rising number of anti-Semitic incidents and to protect Jewish students from intimidation on college campuses?
Does this candidate truly respect Israel’s sovereignty, as in recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, recognizing Israeli sovereignty in the West Bank and the Golan, and promote Israel’s right to defend herself?
Does this candidate only seem to take interest in our community when it’s time to fundraise and get out the vote?
Unless someone has never been in office, it’s easy to look at their voting records, not to mention look up comments that they have made on TV and in print. Not everyone needs to do all of the legwork, but someone should, and all of the findings need to be made as public as possible. If you can let the world know about tomorrow night’s frat party, you can vet a candidate too.