American Jews Face Their Days of Awe

As we enter this holiday season of personal reflection, I find myself pondering several existential questions pertaining to the survival of Israel and, by extension, the Jewish people.  What will American rabbis choose to talk to their congregants about in their High Holiday sermons?  On what issues will American Jews reflect as they pray to be inscribed for another year in the Book of Life?  And what is God "thinking" as he looks down upon his Chosen People in 2012, just 64 years after he returned them to the Holy Land after thousands of years of wandering the globe?

President Obama hosts an annual pre-holiday conference call with a carefully measured selection of American rabbis.  If only this were out of respect for the support that the Jewish people have given to him and his party.  But alas, the purpose of the Obama conference call is to sell his policies to his faithful followers and to provide marching orders to his generals in the field to follow as they mount their respective pulpits.  

In 2009, 900 rabbis listened silently to Obama narcissistically pronounce, "We are God's partners in matters of life and death."  They then proceeded to take that message to their shuls, and on the holiest day of the year, rabbis across the country told their congregants that it was God's commandment to support what has come to be known as ObamaCare.

In 2011, the president told his loyal servants, "The most important thing we can do to stabilize the strategic situation [in the Middle East] is if we can actually resolve the Palestinian-Israeli crisis. That's what feeds so much of the tumult in Egypt[.]"  Many of the rabbis on the call obliged the president in his "blame Israel" agenda by telling their congregants that Israel is occupying land that does not belong to it.  Early in the year, many of those rabbis simply nodded as Obama met with them in the White House and told them that Israelis must "search [their] souls" about their seriousness about peace with the Palestinians.

In light of recent events, it is difficult to determine what rabbis will choose to say in their 2012 High Holiday sermons.  But I do know of at least one rabbi in the New York area who has advised a congregant that the conflict between Israel and Iran has a different meaning for Americans from what it portends for Israelis and that we should not feel bad for supporting our president over Netanyahu.  And God knows what the rabbis will say about the anti-American protests in Egypt, the murders of the U.S. representatives in Libya, and the demonstrations across the Mideast and North Africa, but it would not be surprising if many jump on Obama's "Blame the Jews" bandwagon.

It used to be that I looked to my rabbi in reverence and heeded his words of wisdom.  But just like the Democratic Party of previous generations, rabbis are just not what they used to be.  The rabbis of the 21st century seem far removed from their ancestors, who fought for the freedom of the Jewish people from persecution and taught their congregants to respect God.  For while many of today's rabbis may believe that there is only one God, they are worshiping the wrong one and teaching their flock to blindly follow their misguided ideology.

Today's American Jews remind me of the Egyptian Jews who, guided by Moses, were freed from slavery only to find themselves worshiping false idols at the base of Mount Sinai because they had lost hope waiting for Moses to descend with God's Commandments.  Today, just over six decades after the murder of six million Jews at the hands of the Nazis, American Jews have again lost their way, worshiping another false prophet who is leading them down a path of destruction with tired and empty promises of hope that will never be fulfilled.

So it is with great curiosity and distress that I approach this season of repentance in the face of divisive rhetoric and angry admonitions directed at me by fellow Jews who dislike my political affiliations.  And if recent events are any indication of the issues upon which American Jews will be meditating during the Days of Awe, Israel will surely find herself alone in her struggle for survival.  Because while Obama is quickly losing Jewish support, a great many American Jews still support the president for reasons incomprehensible.

At a Republican Jewish Coalition grassroots event in Philadelphia last weekend, a Jewish woman called me "disgusting and Godless" for offering her materials on Obama's Israel.  On the 11th anniversary of the 9/11 tragedies this past week, I spoke before approximately 200 Jewish women from around the country.  Many in the room were quite receptive to my message that Israel should be a voting issue in the upcoming election -- not only because of the strategic role that it plays in America's national security, but also because it is the responsibility of the American Jewish community to support Israel's struggle for survival.

Sadly, there were also many women who attempted to shout me down, claiming that Obama is a wonderful friend of Israel and that Romney wants to outlaw abortion.  Ironically, while I was speaking, the news was breaking that Obama would not have time to meet with Netanyahu next week, although he would have time to appear on the Letterman show and meet with Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood president.  And within hours of a woman chastising me for addressing Obama's failed policies with Egypt and leading from behind in Libya, our embassy in Cairo was besieged, and four of our American representatives in Benghazi were assassinated.

I am not a rabbi, but if I had the privilege of leading a congregation and addressing America's Jews this year, I would most assuredly remind them how lucky they are to be living in America.  But I would also remind them that with that freedom comes a sense of responsibility.  We have survived millennia of persecution, and each and every enemy who has attempted to annihilate us has instead been destroyed -- but not without an expensive and painful toll on our people.

I would also remind my fellow Jews just how precarious the situation in the Middle East is.  History teaches that when a crazed lunatic announces his intent to annihilate us, there is a very strong possibility that given the opportunity and capability, he will follow through with that threat.  And the president is endangering our brethren in the Holy Land as well as our fellow countrymen here at home with his policies.  The Mideast is imploding, while Iran is the only country marching "Forward."

There will always be Jews for whom Israel is not a voting issue.  They are reminiscent of pre-World War II German Jews who were so happily assimilated into German society that they could not fathom the imminence of their demise.  And they are not offended when MSNBC airs a panel discussion on "[w]ho is the most dangerous player on the world stage today?  Is it the Supreme Leader in Tehran or Bibi Netanyahu?"

I cringe every time I hear a fellow Jew discuss abortion rights, free contraception, gay marriage, and Obama's greatness.  None of these issues matter in 2012.  Blue states will always uphold abortion laws, contraception is inexpensive and should not become a new entitlement, gay marriage is already being handled by the states as our founders intended, and Obama is not great.  But a certain portion of the American Jewish population will continue to worship a man who supports infanticide while they fret over free abortions and contraception for all.  And many will do so with the support of, and even the blessings of, their rabbis.

And while we can all attempt to wonder what God is thinking, I have enough humility to understand that I am not a partner of God in anything.  God has watched over the Jews as his Chosen People for 3,000 years and I believe He will do so for another 3,000 years.  But I am also not complacent, and on these Days of Awe I will, as I do all year, contemplate my responsibility to God and the Jewish people throughout the world.