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The Jewish stake in Jan. 6 is bigger than you think

In a world when common sense gun laws and Roe v. Wade are overturned, do facts still matter?

It’s very clear what the direct Jewish stake is in the Supreme Court’s ruling overturning Roe v. Wade, aside from the not incidental fact that Jewish Americans overwhelmingly support abortion rights. Making abortion illegal may, as the lawsuit filed by a South Florida claims, infringe upon Jews’ religious freedom. 

It’s also clear what the direct stake of the Jewish community is in the recent Supreme Court ruling that a New York law requiring residents to prove a good reason to carry concealed firearms in public violates the Constitution. Making it easier to carry a gun into or near a synagogue or Jewish institution cannot help but endanger the people inside.

But it’s not immediately clear what’s at stake for Jews in the Jan. 6 committee hearings. That’s why so much of the coverage has focused on the Jew-ish aspects: which committee members are also Members of the Tribe, which rioters were Jewish, what Jared and Ivanka said, how many times the Bible was invoked.  

But I’d argue these stories miss the biggest, most obvious Jewish angle: the importance of finding, and telling, the truth.

It’s so simple it’s almost corny. “The seal of the Lord is truth,” the Talmud says, while the Torah commands us to, “Distance yourself from words of falsehood,” a phrase used nowhere else in the Bible, and Pirke Avot reminds us. “On three things does the world stand: on justice, on truth and on peace.”

And what is Yom Kippur but a time when we distance ourselves from untruths we have spoken, reciting the Kol Nidre to disavow false oaths? Our most solemn holiday is about speaking, and living, in truth.

The Jan. 6 hearings put that value on TV. As much as they are about exposing the actions of the people involved in the attack on the Capitol, the hearings are really about correcting a lie, the so-called Big Lie, that the 2020 election was fraudulent. 

That lie is what motivated protesters to come from all corners of the country, and then to trespass federal property, assault police officers, threaten lawmakers, all in the belief they knew the truth. 

Perhaps that’s why our tradition puts so much emphasis on truth: Look what else falls apart when it is subverted. 

When leaders and institutions willfully ignore facts, democracy falters, the solid ground beneath our nation shakes. If this sounds partisan, it isn’t meant to be: No side possesses the whole truth, and no side is above lying.   

But: with all the jaw-dropping, behind-the-scenes drama that the Jan. 6 Committee has brought to light, it’s easy to overlook the fundamental truth behind the election itself: there was no widespread fraud.  

Consider this:

  • Republicans brought 82 post-election cases alleging voter fraud, which were tried before both Republican- and Democratic-appointed judges. They won four cases and partially won two others. The upshot? Just 486 provisional ballots were excluded in Pennsylvania. 
  • From 2016-2020, there were 107 convictions for voter fraud related to a presidential or congressional race: 102 cases involved one vote, three cases had seven votes or less, and two cases had an unknown number of votes.
  • As a result of recounts, Joe Biden’s margin of victory increased in Arizona by 360 votes and in Wisconsin by 87 votes, and decreased in Georgia by 891 votes, in an election Biden won by over 7 million votes.

I dove deep into this data in my new position as head of the A-Mark Foundation, a nonpartisan nonprofit that compiled it. What I’ve learned is that it’s not hard to find the facts, but it’s a real challenge to get them in front of the people who believe otherwise.

The Jan. 6 hearings may not result in prosecution. They may not change a single mind. Their sole power may be in establishing the truth, and hoping that enough fair-minded people are able to understand it and act, and vote, accordingly. 

But, yes, we live in a time when that hope may seem far-fetched. 

The facts are that making abortion illegal doesn’t result in less abortion — just less safe abortion. The fact is 59%  of Americans  — and 67% of American women — disapprove of the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade didn’t seem to matter.

The facts are that states with more gun regulations have lower rates of gun death. New York’s 100 year-old law regulating concealed carry, which the Supreme Court just overturned, contributed to the state’s low gun death rate, the fifth-lowest in the nation. The majority of Americans support more sensible gun regulation, not less. Didn’t seem to matter. 

A majority of Americans say the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol was planned, and 58%, in the latest poll, believe former President Donald Trump should be charged with a crime for his role in it. Will that have any impact? TBD.

These are truths that should matter, but seem not to. The will of the American people on abortion, the tragic statistics behind gun violence, the integrity of our election — all of it is apparent to those who want to see. But we are all seeing something else happening instead.

Where this ends I have no idea, but I’m not alone in worrying about what hangs in the balance when facts don’t seem to count.

Yes, American Jews have specific Jewish issues we care about and fight for. But our ability to do that, to live and love freely in this country, depends on one thing.

“Democracy is not just another issue,” writes Steve Sheffey in his pro-Israel Chicagoland blog, “it is the fundamental issue on which our ability to advocate for all other issues rests.”

As the Jan. 6 hearings draw to a close, remember: Truth itself is the Jewish stake. And the stakes couldn’t be higher.

 

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