Monday, July 04, 2011

God Shed His Grace on Thee

There is a scene in an episode of CSI:NY where a police crime scene investigator played by actor Gary Sinise speaks to a Holocaust survivor after solving a case involving her and a Nazi war criminal. As I recall the scene she asks him why he took special interest in that case? (Until he was caught the Nazi was hiding in New York for over 60 years disguised as a Jew. So complete was his deception that his son had become a Charedi Baal Teshuva!)

Sinise proceeded to tell her about his father’s experience as a world war two soldier who liberated Buchenwald. Sinise told her that he promised his father, a hero that he idolized that he would never let a Nazi war criminal get away with his crime no matter how long after the war he was caught.

This scene is indicative of the American sense of justice and right. It is why the vast majority of Americans - from the political left to the political right are so supportive of Israel. Except for some truly leftist university professors, there is a near universal acceptance of the Jewish perspective on that subject. In fact I would posit that in many cases Americans are more Zionist than most American Jews!

Nowhere was that better demonstrated than by the most recent visit of the Israeli Prime Minister to congress where he received 29 separate standing ovations while addressing a joint session of congress. It was more than gratifying to see that in light of the President’s tilt to the Arab position. This is not to say that the President is not supportive of the State. I believe he is fully committed to Israel’s existence as a Jewish State.

That congress on both sides of the political aisle by its actions at that joint session rejected that tilt is just one of the reasons that every single Jew should be grateful to to God for the existence of this great country and its great people. It is clear to me that since the Holocaust there has been a steady increase and acceptance of the Jewish people and the Jewish State.

This was brought home again by Rabbi Akiva Males in last week's Jewish Press op-ed. Rabbi Males was recently involved in the OU’s annual mission to congress and the administration to lobby for Jewish concerns, not the least of which is the welfare of Israel. Here are some excerpts:

...the main reason I returned with a sense of reassurance had to do with many of the remarks I heard from lawmakers who have few Jewish voters in their home districts. Several described how important Israel is to them. Call me cynical, but since they have little need to appeal to Jewish voters, I took their remarks seriously.

I heard Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT) describe the strong bipartisan bill in support of Israel he and Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-CT) are sponsoring. (Did you know Senator Hatch wears a mezuzah around his neck and tries to read through Tanach each year?)

I heard Sen. John Boozman (R-AK) tell us how many of his constituents back in Arkansas have told him emphatically that he "better not turn his back on Israel."

I heard Sen. Mark Pryor (D-AK) tell us that though he ran his campaign on cutting the Federal budget, and is extremely passionate about doing that, many of his constituents have told him "to cut as much of the budget as possible - but not to ever cut any U.S. aid to Israel."

I heard Sen. Lieberman describe how his non-Jewish Zionist friends on Capitol Hill often remind him that there are a lot more Christian Zionists out there than there are Jewish Zionists.

I heard Sen. Dean Heller (R-NV) tell us how impressed he and his wife were by their recent first trip to Israel. They were particularly moved by the Shabbos night meal they experienced at the home of their observant hosts, watching a family create a sacred atmosphere and interact so well with one another at the Shabbos table. Seeing their hosts bless their children touched them more than anything else on the trip.

I heard Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) tell us emphatically that now that the Palestinian Authority has partnered with Hamas, many senators feel the need for a clear U.S. policy stating that unless the PA cuts its ties with Hamas, all American aid will be cut. In fact, he told us that such a bipartisan bill is in the works.

Finally, I heard from Rep. Tim Scott (R-SC), an up and coming leader in Congress who defies so many stereotypes. He is an African-American Republican with a proud kippah-wearing Orthodox chief of staff.

Rep. Scott described his disadvantaged childhood growing up in a single parent home, and how he credits his success in life to two Jewish high school teachers who believed in him and pushed him to excel. He spoke about how Israel is his inspiration - because as he sees it, Israel understands that success is the only option. Rep. Scott said that while he is a newcomer to Washington, he has quickly learned that Israel is the only issue in Congress with absolute bi-partisan support.

There are two important things to glean from this.

One is to see just how important it is to try and constantly be a light unto the nations and make a Kiddush HaShem. And of course the corollary to that is to understand the potential damage that a Chilul HaShem can do. Imagine if Representative Scott’s Jewish teachers had ignored him, or worse discriminated against him - instead of pushing him to excellence.

The other is the genuine support of Israel by our elected representatives. Remember that much of it comes from public servants who have virtually no Jewish constituency. They are free to express as negative a view on Israel as they wish without fear of losing the Jewish vote. It is a tribute to them that they and their non Jewish constituents are so supportive of the Jewish state.

If one does not see from this the ethical imperative of showing this great country our gratitude and support, then nothing ever will.

God bless the United States of America.