Saturday, August 12, 2006

Marc Gellman Get's it Wrong

Normally, I'm a big fan of Rabbi Marc Gellman's column in Newsweek. He's funny, humane, and insightful--just the qualities we all hope for in a professional God guy.

However, This week's fulmination against his fellow Jews for having the temerity to vote against Joe Lieberman has greatly disappointed me for reasons I set forth in the following e-mail which I posted to Newsweek:

Dear Rabbi Gellman,

As a fan of your column, I must nevertheless express some dismay at the view you put forth in your latest essay, "Joe and the Jews" in which you assert that being a good Jew required voting for Joe Lieberman.

While, as you point out, Catholics voted for Kennedy in record numbers, religious allegiance did not completely trump political views. I suspect William F. Buckley, a devout Irish Catholic, voted for Nixon. I imagine that Buckley looked at the candidates’ positions and decided which man would best serve the interests of his country.

Many American Jews do not share your belief that the Iraq War has served the interests of either the United States or Israel. Consequently, those who are registered democrats in Connecticut should not be made ashamed of their decision to help turn Senator Lieberman out of office. A candidate's position and competence should be the deciding factor, not his ethnic/religious affiliation.

In ordinary times, Senator Lieberman's tendency to veer to the political right would have caused mere grumbling among the Democratic Party followers in Connecticut. As you well know, these are not ordinary times. Today, he is seen by many as one who has served as an enabler to catastrophically bad policies.

What is especially disturbing is how you conjure the simplistic dichotomy of the Tribal Jews vs. the Cosmopolitan Jews--and then imply that the tribal view is superior and that the cosmopolitans veer dangerously close to being race traitors. I would hesitate embracing tribal politics given that so many of world's problems--particularly those in the Middle East--are rooted in blind tribalistic loyalties.

Finally, I would remind you that one of the greatest role models for Jews and Non-Jews is Baruch Spinoza who broke with his co-religionists because he belived that the search for truth represented a greater obligation than adherence to orthodox opinion and tribal loyalty. Perhaps Senator Lieberman's position in time will be vindicated. If so, then he will enjoy the status of a contemporary Spinoza, for having the courage to break ranks with his political tribe.

In any event, his fellow American Jews deserve the same consideration--the right to risk being wrong.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006