Monday, January 23, 2023

Is Being Observant an Impediment to High Office?

Republican Nassau County legislator and Orthodox Jew, Mazi Melesa Pilip (JTA
The debate between the right and left about the political situation in Israel is about as heated as I’ve ever seen it. The left thinks that the new government is the end of democracy. The right thinks it is a return to democracy. The argument centers around the revamping off Israel’s Judicial system. 

The left sees the Supreme Court as a bulwark against government abuse of power. The right sees the court as a usurper of power.  To reiterate my view, the answer to both the right and the left ought to be a meeting of the minds whereby the judicial branch should no longer have full power over the legislative branch (the Knesset) nor should the legislative branch have full power over the judicial branch.  That would make Israel a country of checks and balances. 

Although this is a hot topic right now, I want to change the subject. Is being observant - an impediment to serving in high office in America? Or is it perhaps even an advantage? There are several recent examples  that might answer the question.

First is the fact that there were more observant Jews in the highest level of the Trump administration than in any other administration of the past. That is unarguable. 

But Democrats are just as happy to have Jews serving in government as Trump was.

A Jewish Democrat who is an identifiably observant Jew, Josh Shapiro, was elected governor of Pennsylvania and as noted in the Forward:

Shapiro, a practicing Conservative Jew who keeps kosher, said he will be posting mezuzahs and keep a kosher kitchen in the governor’s mansion that will be overseen by his wife Lori. Shapiro featured challahs baked by his wife in his campaign launch video and said he will continue the tradition of Friday night Shabbat dinner with his family, which includes his four children and his parents and in-laws, at his new residence. 

(It’s nice to know that there are still some Jews in heterodoxy that value observance of any kind. It’s just too bad that Shapiro represents a dying breed of observant heterodox Jew in America.) 

Then there is the sad case of George Santos. His campaign was filled with a breathtaking number of lies. There is no doubt that he is unfit to serve in the House of Representatives.  He should be expelled and replaced. Not sure whether that is an option for an elected member of congress even if his election was the result of those lies. 

But if it is an option, what is even more amazing is who is strongly being considered to replace Santos – should he somehow be forced out. Her name iMazi Melesa Pilip . Pilip is a Republican who is also an Orthodox Jewish black woman originally from Ethiopia and then Israel. She now resides in New York and was elected to represent her constituents in the Nassau County legislature.  (A nice description of her can be found here.)

And let us not forget former Senator Joe Liberman who is openly observant. When in 2000 he was chosen by Al Gore to be his running mate, Gore's polling numbers shot up by 10 points - equaling Bush's numbers

Point of all this being that a being an observant Jew does not diminish the chance or the ability to serve at the highest levels of the American government. Whether by election or by appointment.  The Jewish people are highly valued in this country by the people running it – our elected officials. Regardless of whether they are on the political right of left. 

Just thought I’d mention it.