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Debbie Wasserman Schultz finds it hard to be a Jewish, pro-Israel Democrat. First, there is the media bias from outlets like MSNBC. During this past summer’s war in Gaza, the network aired a biased “Palestinian perspective” and “panoramic view of the results of the war in Gaza.”
Clearly they were highlighting what is Israel had done to Gaza and the plight to Palestinians, and my first thought was, ‘Where is the balance, where is the spotlight on what Jewish children in Israel go through from being victims of rocket attacks?’ The media’s coverage, it’s not just MSNBC, I’ve seen it on CNN and even in the broadcast media, as well…
And then there is her difficulty reconciling her Jewish values with progressivist cultural nonjudgmentalism. In the same talk, Ms. Schultz made the anodyne observation that the future of Jewish life in the US is in question as younger (liberal) Jews are less committed to living Jewish lives and raising Jewish families: “We have the problem of assimilation. We have the problem of intermarriage.” After the audio leaked, she was forced to walk back these remarks, lest anyone think she was some kind of racialist.
At an annual Jewish community event in my congressional district, I spoke about my personal connection to Judaism and in a larger context about the loss of Jewish identity and the importance of connecting younger generations to the institutions and values that make up our community. I do not oppose intermarriage; in fact, members of my family, including my husband, are a product of it.
Sally Kohn, too, finds it difficult to be both liberal and Jewish. Like a good progressive, Ms. Kohn ignored the science and chose not to have her daughter vaccinated against childhood diseases.
Having a child, especially as an upper-middle-class white lesbian couple, felt like it came with a million decisions. Do we use sperm from a friend or a sperm bank? Do we have the baby at home or in the hospital? Co-sleeper or crib? Björn or Ergo? Cloth or disposable? On and on and on.
So to be honest, when my mom—a mathematician with a fast Internet connection who I love deeply and trust implicitly—sent us a 46-page report on the pros but mostly cons of vaccines, it just seemed like one less decision to make. “In most cases the risk of harm to a healthy, breast-fed infant from a vaccination far exceeds the risk of harm from the disease itself,” my mom wrote on page 1.
Now she regrets her decision. Of course, she does not blame the Prius driving, composting, organic food-eating culture in which she lives for reinforcing her misinformation. Rather, she says, “It didn’t help that I’m Jewish. We’re a neurotic and paranoid tribe.”
For what it’s worth, I’m a neurotic and paranoid member of that tribe too — which is why I was anxious that my children should not contract potentially debilitating or fatal diseases.
My relations are also among those who are finding it difficult to be both Democrat and Jewish. Eighteen months ago, my father told me he had lost faith in Obama, as a result of the president’s capitulation to the Iranian mullahs. This past summer, he canceled his New York Times subscription in response to the paper’s biased coverage of the Gaza war. Last week, he wrote his Democrat congressman to excoriate him for partisanship — Democrat co-sponsors of the Kirk-Menendez bill (which would impose sanction on Iran should negotiations fail) have been backing away from their own bill, in response to White House pressure. He believes that Democrats worry about emboldening Republicans more than the Iranian regime.
A couple of weeks ago, I got to listen to our local AIPAC regional director. She emphasized the group’s strict nonpartisanship. Any bill the group endorses must be co-sponsored by both Democrats and Republicans. A questioner asked: How does the incoming Congress compare to the outgoing one? The director said that before the election, AIPAC met with every candidate for US House and Senate. Among the 114 new incoming members and senators, 113 signed onto a pro-Israel policy statement. “This is the most pro-Israel Congress ever,” she said. Funny that. It’s also the most Republican Congress since the State of Israel was established.
In the Old Country, there was a Yiddish saying: Schver tsu zayn a Yid, “It’s hard to be a Jew.” In America, thank God, it’s not so hard. But cognitive dissonance makes it increasingly difficult to be a Jewish Democrat. It will be interesting to see, in the coming years, how that dissonance is resolved.Published in