Years ago, I came to the conclusion that, as a Jew, I am religiously homeless. While I am not very observant, I feel very Jewish — I just don’t perform all the rituals or believe in many of the archaic rules. But at the same time, I am unabashedly pro-Israel and believe that Jerusalem is the center of the Jewish world. In truth, I simply do not care to bend my beliefs to fit into a mold. I learned long ago that my religion is between me and the almighty. My Judaism is a Judaism of the home. My family does not go to synagogue. We have no local community to attach ourselves to. However, we have created a comfortable existence where Hashem understands that when we light Shabbat candles, we do it with a Jewish soul.
Essentially, I am caught between two halves of a whole. In truth, I don’t always feel welcome within the Jewish world, either because I am not religious enough in some synagogues, or because my politics are seen as a failure in others. I follow no platform, nor do I have knee-jerk reactions to events or ideas that govern the Jewish people. Essentially, I don’t like being told what to think or believe.
Years ago, I also came to understand that, as an American, I am politically homeless. My father was a Reagan presidential appointee, and in the Reagan era, I saw a respect of country that I had not seen before. I grew up in the 1960s and 1970s, when there wasn’t much love of country around. Hatred and denigration of the U.S. had become the cultural norm. I did not agree with everything the Republicans at the time stood for, but I felt proud to be an American.
My view of the GOP changed when “F**k the Jews” James Baker became secretary of state. I knew right then and there that I no longer belonged — if I really ever did. Since then, Republicans have slowly moved away from small government, constitutionality, individual freedoms and respect for decency. Republicans today make excuses for a boor of a man and turn a blind eye to cruelty, incivility and lack of humanity.
But I did not turn to the Democrats, who still laude President Jimmy “Israel is an apartheid state” Carter. Democrats, since the 1960s, have slowly started to embrace left-wing anti-Israel policies. Democrats booed Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, and had on their 2016 platform committee people who support BDS and would destroy the Jewish state if given the chance. Moreover, Democrats sold us a flawed nuclear agreement that had no real hopes of preventing a nuclear Iran, but managed to finance a resurgent Hezbollah and genocidal Syria. Meanwhile, today’s Democrats shrug at the anti-Semitism of progressive-non-progressives and Louis Farrakhan, while embracing those spouting double standards for Israel, in the hopes of winning elections.
In truth, I became an independent — in the 1990s, long before it was cool to be an independent. I became a person who votes for a candidate and not for a particular party. I hold these representatives to their words. If they break their word, I vote against them.
I did not vote for Barack Obama and yet I support Obamacare. As the parent of two autistic young men, I found that the legislation helped not only my family but also a myriad of people who identify as having a disability live fruitful lives. Is the legislation perfect? Not by any means. But it was a good place to start.
I did not vote for Donald Trump, and yet I supported his move of the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem. The sky did not fall. World War III did not start. And the world understands that Jerusalem, whether divided or undivided, will remain a part of the Jewish people. Did this bring a lasting peace with the Palestinians? Not yet. Sadly, I doubt it will. But it was a good place to start. To show Israel’s enemies that Israel and the Jewish people in general are not going to disappear no matter what they hoped for.
So, without a political party, what do I stand for, you ask? I stand for compassion. I stand for respecting individual rights. I stand for recognizing the absolute humanity in every individual on the planet. I stand for the rights enshrined in the U.S. Constitution’s Bill of Rights and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. These basic rights, endowed by our creator, belong to every person; no matter their birthplace, religion, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, disabled or non-disabled status or the color of their skin.
What I have learned over the years is that I simply do not need to belong to a branch of Judaism, nor to a political party, to believe in what is true — and to do what is right.
So does the future belong to the political independent and the unaffiliated Jew?
We, the Jewish People, have so many issues. None of them really new, by the way. Does any student of Jewish history think this is the first time in over 3,500 years that factions or branches of Judaism haven’t agreed with each other on issues from dietary laws to “who is a Jew” to even military actions? We need to remember that it wasn’t divisions among the Jewish people, but baseless hatred that caused the destruction of Jerusalem leading to 2,000 years of diaspora, disenfranchisement, slaughter, pogrom, inquisition and Holocaust.
You don’t have to belong to a temple or adhere to one branch of Judaism or another in order to see that it is important to end divisiveness and strife. I think the broken Kotel Agreement, the finger-pointing about intermarriage (which has been going on since I was a child, decades upon decades ago), writing off less religious Jews as being lost to Jewish history: This lashon hara is indicative of where we are as a people right now. You don’t have to belong to a temple to love the people of Israel, to be attached to the land of Israel, to adore Tanach Israel. And, while we revel in a resurgent Jewish culture, a reborn state of Israel, and a free, proud, strong Jewish America, my heart hurts, because I do see a divisive history repeating itself in so many negative ways.
We also live in a world where there are professional pot-stirrers among the political pundits and talking heads. The people who need to create issues to stay in the forefront. The people who care nothing for the truth, care nothing for the damage that they do. They sow dissension in the country in the hopes of holding on to their own political power. But does any student of American history think this has not happened before? Have we not had divisions, argument and turmoil? Have we not had upheaval and massive social change? Have we not argued, screamed, marched, yelled and propelled ourselves forward on every level of humanity? Nations grow, change and mature.
America has met every challenge laid before her. It has made her stronger. It has made her wiser. It has given her the strength and fortitude to move forward. Because America is her people.
It is We the People. We who will not stand for a less-than life. We who will not allow others to take from us the right to live as we please, say what we please and stand and fight for what we believe to be in the best interests of our posterity.
Our enemies see our arguments, our fighting, our politicking as a weakness. They choose to exploit it to further their own ends. But what they do not understand is that our free society — our free thinking, our freedom to thunder at authority and at each other — is actually our greatest strength.
And when we stand up and exercise our freedom, when we exercise our rights and liberties, we guarantee a bountiful future for our children. So, we will argue. We will fight. We will demand from each other an active and informed citizenry. American freedom does not depend on one political party over another. It doesn’t depend on the Democrat, the Republican or the independent alone. American freedom depends on us all. And from where I stand, and from what I see, despite all the handwringing and the doomsaying, Americans are still quite awake and capable of having their say.
This nation is going to be just fine.