Thursday, June 24, 2010

Who is Joel Pollak... and Why Should I Care?

We have a unique opportunity in the the 9th congressional district of the State of Illinois. This heavily Jewish district which includes my own highly Orthodox Jewish neighborhood of West Rogers Park in Chicago is represented in the United States House of Representatives by Janice D.(Jan) Schakowsky (pictured).

Ms. Schakowsky is known as perhaps the most liberal member of congress – rated consistently between 90 and 100 percent by liberal ratings groups. Her support for the current President was immediate endorsing him out of the box when he announced his candidacy. She is supportive of just about all of his programs.

She is Jewish by birth but has rejected one of the most fundamental tenets of Judaism by marrying out of the faith. Her husband Robert Craemer is not Jewish.

In light of recent news it should be pointed out that her husband was sentenced to 5 months in prison in 2005 for bank fraud. It is interesting to note the sentencing disparity between Robert Craemer and Shalom Rubashkin who was recently sentenced to 27 years for bank fraud. While it is true that Rubashkin’s $27 million fraud was on a much larger scale than Craemer’s $2.3 million fraud - the sentencing disparity is nevertheless still shocking. Rubashkin got over 60 times that sentence! A comparable sentence for Rubashkin would have been in the neighborhood of about 4 years. But I digress. Schakowsky is not her husband.

Schakowsky’s support for Israel runs along the lines of J-Street from whom she received and accepted an enthusiastic endorsement. She is what is known in Chicago as a lakefront liberal. (That is a wealthy section of Chicago that has a very large and politically liberal Jewish constituency. She is one of those Jews who defines her ‘Judaism’ in terms of liberal political beliefs. The most Jewish thing about her is her last name.

I have never supported this lakefront liberal. Not because I am such a staunch political conservative. I am not. Although I lean more to the right than the left on most issues I do not march in lock step to the politically conservative agenda.

We in the Chicago Orthodox Jewish community have a unique opportunity to throw this ‘rascal’ out of office. The country is in an anti incumbency mood. The approval rating for the current President is at an all time low primarily because of his mis-handling of the BP oil spill.

The military is unhappy with his administration as was evidenced by General Stanley McCristol who made the unbelievably stupid mistake of having his views about members of the current administration including the President published in a national magazine.

That means that for the first time since she was elected in a landslide victory taking of 75% the vote – Jan Schakowsky is vulnerable. I think we ought to take advantage of that.

She supports a President whose treatment of Israel and its leaders has been widely criticized by members from both political parties. Relations between the two countries are at an all time low. Her endorsement by J-Street should give us a clue about where she stands on Israel. The views of J-Street about Israel are typical of the left whose views woefully lack any historical perspective. Those views are mostly based on what I would call the ‘underdog’ philosophy.

This is a philosophy that looks at who the underdog in any conflict and automatically sides with them no matter what. All else is irrelevant to them. Right and wrong - good and evil are relative concepts. It’s all about who they see as the oppressed and the oppressor. There is never any historical context or any other rationale.

They are so consistent in these views that pre 67 Israel was seen as the underdog and the Arabs as oppressors. Once Israel was victorious in the 6 day war – it didn’t take long for them to take the side of the oppressed Arabs in Palestine. This is who liberal Democrat Jan Schakowsky and her J-Street friends are.

Which brings me to conservative Republican Joel Pollak (pictured above). He is the Republican nominee for this house seat. His Jewish credentials are so superior to Schakowsky’s that it’s like comparing someone with a PhD from Harvard (his alma mater) to a high school dropout . I never met him but the first time I saw him was in an interview on a local news program where he was interviewed by a couple of news anchors. It was about his candidacy against Schakowsky.

The first thing I noticed about him was how proud he was of his Judaism. I could tell this without him uttering a word about it. He proudly wore a Kipa during the interview. He was not shy about at all about that. The interviewers asked him all manner of questions about his political philosophy and did not even touch upon his obvious Orthodoxy until the very end of the interview when one of those news anchors asked him if he thought his Orthodox Judaism would be an impediment to being elected. He of course answered that he didn’t think it would.

He is supported not only by the mainstream Republican party (which doesn’t mean all that much in Chicago) but also by famed attorney, Alan Dershowitz for whom he worked as a researcher on many of his pro Israel speeches. Pollak’s values are definitely out of the Republican Conservative playbook. But he is arguably more pro-Israel than most of his coreligionists.

This is a no brainer for me. We have an opportunity to have a religious Jew represent us - whose core values are similar to ours. We would not just be trading in one Jew for another. We would be trading in an observant Jew for one who is Jewish only by accident of birth and whose support of Israel is on par with J-Street.

As a patriotic American Jew who lives and thrives in this great nation I want my representatives in congress to reflect my values. Israel and the Jewish people is the number one issue for me. Support for Israel is not only compatible with my patriotism but actually reflects the views of the vast majority of Americans whose support of Israel in a recent poll was at an all time high.

Mr. Pollak’s political values and Jewish values so closely resemble my own that it would be criminal for me not to make known my early support for and endorsement of his candidacy. He has a shot against a very popular politician because of the anti incumbency mood. Her popularity among Jews is unearned in my view since it reflects only her liberalism which is not always compatible with Jewish values. She ought not to be rewarded with yet another term in congress. Maybe - just maybe - we can finally get an American patriot to represent us who shares our values and in the process happens to be a proudly observant Jew.