Category Archives: american politics

A call to Action

Like so many, I am deeply unsettled about events. My response is a sober, somber, and urgent call to action. Many of my friends and colleagues have spoken eloquently denouncing the vile behavior in Charlottesville. But speeches, outrage, and resistance do little to change the behavior of haters, or those feckless holders of power unable to speak to moral issues for fear of alienating a political base.

All people of good conscience must take a stand and actively support those who condemn the despicable hatred demonstrated in Charlottesville. A moral stand does not know political right or left; the courage to speak against evil is an expression of the American Values we hold dear and our basic humanity. This is a fundamental binary choice. If there ever was a litmus test for a politician, surely this is it.

For those of us who already have representatives who uphold Virtue, we cannot be satisfied that we have done our part. We must lend assistance to those in other places where this battle remains engaged. The time for action has never been critical; the stakes have never been greater.

What Race are You?

What Race do you identify with?

Marathon

((Rimshot))

Actually, that isn’t the opening joke in my lounge act, but part of an important recent conversation.

I was asked this question in the Red Cross Blood Drive pre-screening. The inquirer, an African-American, was completing the questionnaire and asked me to identify myself by race. There was a time when I would have responded Caucasian/White. But I uncomfortably paused and then quipped Marathon. We laughed and then we skipped the question. But, I actually do not know how to answer that question anymore.

I am not ashamed of what is now called my “white privilege.” As a Jew in America, the ability to call myself Caucasian/White is on some level a sign that we made it and have gained popular acceptance. But perhaps this acceptance remains elusive. This simple gathering of data for statistical tracking purposes has become a marker of something more complicated and fraught.

The dream of some, where we entered the melting pot of America and assimilated into a homogenous culture was a vision of many immigrants. This vision propelled many to immigrate to the land where Emma Lazarus and the Statue of Liberty beckoned. America was something new, different and better accepting all of us, and creating unbridled opportunity and equality.   That, however, was the myth for most. The reality was quite different for people outside the mainstream culture who were marginalized, persecuted and oppressed. Our national aspiration to realize our myth has been a slow and often painful evolution.

I am a Jew. I am a proud American. But I do not fit into the “white box.” Or maybe I am not comfortable residing there. I have become more sensitive to the racial issues in our country. Perhaps it is because the privileged position I have enjoyed has come under fire, not from the political left, but from the ugly anti-Semitic elements that have become emboldened and found their public voice in this new chapter of the American experience. My schools, my community centers, and my people have been the subject of a new round of persecution. Our cemeteries are desecrated; our houses of worship and community are vandalized. It is a wake-up call that the civil rights we fight for in this country are truly our own.

I am compelled to stand up for the things I believe in, the values that truly make America great, and a devotion to equality under the law and of opportunity for all. We have made great strides, but we have so much further to go. It is a marathon. Run with me.

 

Imperial, Imperious, Imperiled Presidency

 

As I reflect on the first month of the new President, it appears clear that the arc of the presidency is shifting. The Founding Fathers were deeply concerned about an Imperial President and created checks and balances to help prevent the Presidency from devolving into a Sovereign. However, a combination of the Legislative branch ceding power to the Executive and a desire for decisive quick action has undermined the traditional process of lawmaking and enforcement. Debates have long raged over the creep towards an Imperial President. These debates have become increasingly political, accusing our Presidents of becoming imperious in the use and abuse of power. Now we appear to have arrived at a new tipping point; the Presidency is imperiled.

Erratic behavior, divisive language, pronouncements without an apparent understanding of the complexities of issues have led to a situation where the President risks marginalizing himself and his office. The Congress is potentially poised to fill the void and assume a position of primacy, provided a strong leadership can restore healthy debate and a cohesive vision for the nation. This is no small feat, but Mr. Ryan, the Speaker of the House, and Mr. McConnell, the Majority Leader of the Senate, could reassert the power of the Legislative Branch of Government.

The President must put forth a unified strategic vision that goes beyond provincial nationalism. His design needs to embody our core values including liberty, equality, and the pursuit of happiness, domestic tranquility. The President’s leadership must also protect and include all Americans. These priorities must also reconcile with our place as the leader of the free world. If the President is unable or incapable of fulfilling these responsibilities, legitimate power will shift to those who are capable, lest our system risk irreversible damage and decline. A government of, by and for the people must preserve, protect and defend us from adversaries both foreign and domestic.

It is our obligation to our nation and ourselves to demand no less. Too much hangs in the balance.

 

 

There’s got to be a morning after

I was thrilled to see the level of engagement around the country this past Saturday. The civil rights that so many have fought so hard to achieve are precious and will neither be surrendered or taken away. But preserving, protecting, and expanding our civil rights requires vigilance and hard work that started the day after the protest marches and needs to continue as a daily commitment against those who would threaten these precious rights.

Our Rights should be self-evident but we cannot treat them like an entitlement. For many, our Rights were achieved only after hard work and even bloodshed, and they remain vulnerable. Marching is the beginning of organizing and speaking out is the beginning of developing a political voice. Although the administration is in place for the next four years, the Congress is up in two. The politicians must know that we will support only those who safeguard and champion the rights we hold so dear.

The morning after is when the hard work begins. So after the Women’s March, we must take the next steps. Find your place to make your actions count. 10 Actions in 100 Days is a place to join those already organized to continue the work. Together we can make a difference, preserving and protecting the Rights we hold dear.

www.womensmarch.com/100

 

Constancy in the face of Change

safetypinThe election has many of us anxious, unsure of what will happen to us next, fearful that strides we have made will be stripped away.

The ground did shift underneath us all last week. But the tremble did not cause us to fall. I am no different from who I was last week in the matters that count. Last week I stood tall, aspiring to create a nation of dignity, equality, opportunity, safety and security for all our citizens. This week I stand perhaps taller and more firmly in those ideals and values. There is a greater sense of urgency in my posture today, but this is a good thing. Our movement forward has never been easy. The fight for human rights and inclusion, a nation freer from prejudice, hatred and fear have been an ongoing struggle. But our commitment remains, our resolve undiminished even if the challenge might be greater.

Today I wear a safety-pin on my lapel to let people who are fearful know that they are not alone. As an American, a Jew, and a Rabbi, I stand with them and I will continue to do my part as an advocate, and that we continue to stand side by side. We march forward dedicated to bringing America’s blessings to all.

Joining hands we move forward together toward a brighter future. We are the change we envision.

 

An Open Letter to Jared Kushner

An Open Letter to Jared Kushner

Mr. Jared Kushner

Publisher

The Observer

1 Whitehall St.

New York, NY 10004

November 11, 2016

Dear Mr. Kushner:

Congratulations to you on the victory of your father-in-law becoming the President-Elect. The election was fair and the people have spoken. However, this election has left a deeply divided country, many of us fearful because of things Mr. Trump has said and the groups that allied with him. We must see the repudiation of racism and bigotry, and Donald Trump must extend the hand of peace and wholeness.

You have claimed that Donald Trump is not an Anti-Semite. However, his words of divisiveness preyed on the fearful and the hate mongers. Groups including the Alt-Right, White Supremacists, and the Ku Klux Klan have rallied to your father-in-law finding permission to boldly and blatantly express their despicable views. This cannot be abided.

You uniquely have the president-elect’s ear as a confidante and advisor. You must use your position to speak on behalf of those genuinely fearful of persecution and loss of civil rights under the protection of a Trump Administration. The values you hold as an American and a Jew are antithetical to hatred and bigotry. Your full-throated voice must be raised to help heal and bring our country together, re-assuring all our citizens they are safe, their civil rights intact and sure, that all of us enjoy the full protection of law and dignity.

Sincerely,

Rabbi David Levin

Witness or Activist?

Uncle_Sam_(pointing_finger) The political contest unfolding in the race for President is unlike anything we have witnessed. Not in recent memory have such divergent views been offered as the vision for the United States of America. But will we merely watch from the sidelines or will we engage?

It is incumbent upon us to engage. We can engage by learning all we can about the visions each candidate puts forward and sharing our thoughts with those around us. We were taught it was impolite to discuss politics. So I suggest that we discuss the issues at stake instead. We discuss our view of the government’s role in the lives of its citizens and we discuss the role of our nation in the world. Jewish values of tzedakah, social responsibility through sharing our blessings with the disadvantaged among us and creating the world we aspire to see, are at the heart of who we are as Jews and as a nation. We stand for protecting the oppressed, feeding the poor, clothing the naked, and sheltering the homeless.  We must continue to champion these ideals.

Instead of delving into ugly character assassinations, let us seek to promote our particular worldview and discuss which person and which party supports our view and is equipped to fight the fights necessary to achieve that vision.

Respectful conversations about who we are and where we are going should  always be welcome and they are never more important than they are now. The ultimate expression of this conversation is voting and casting a ballot for a candidate. This is the highest declaration of our commitment to our future.

 Will you be a witness to history or an active part in its unfolding? The choice is yours.