Op-Ed By: Ezra Friedlander
Now that the election is behind us, the contentiousness and tension of the campaign and election seasons should too be left behind. It is of the upmost importance to share our perspectives on the conduct of the election and how to move forward.
This should represent an opportunity to reckon with ourselves and our conduct throughout the campaign. Before anyone gets heated allow me to explain, we should recognize what is beneath the façade of militant identification to a candidate.
In the aftermath of the 2020 Election, I feel a conversation with my fellow Jewish brethren is warranted. I would like to make clear: this is not in any way partisan nor meant to admonish anyone, rather to remind each other of the proper Jewish conduct in the general public, especially in the face of the most contentious Presidential election in our nation’s history.
What is most troubling and worrisome is the potential long-term ramifications and the probable negative fallout this past campaign will take on the Jewish community.
Allow me to elaborate; while engaging in the political process and the subsequent discourse regarding which candidate would be a better president is “as American as apple pie” and ought to be encouraged, there is a line that when crossed could negatively impact the welfare of our Jewish community today, and even more so in the future.
Having the Jewish community engaged in political campaigns on both sides is beneficial. We all have a right, as individuals, to our political viewpoints, and to engage with them. In fact, we should be encouraged to do so.
However, what I and many of us witnessed this past year was cult-like behavior. The cult-like behavior expressed itself in messianic terms, framing the candidate in idolatrous proportions, clouding our judgment in evaluating the candidate and his policies and inhibiting his followers from practically assessing the opponent.
This behavior is an amateur manifestation of how to engage in the political process, it doesn’t bring support to your candidate, it actually diminishes the importance of the election and why you should support that candidate in the first place. More compelling to us, it exudes unwanted attention to our community.
Yes, unwanted attention is a negative byproduct of such idolatry-politics.
While others may counter my argument saying that this is simply how the campaign in the general public was run, that should never be an excuse for Jews; for better or for worse we are held to different standards.
Another negative aspect I’ve witnessed is the denigration of the opposing candidate to the extent that it can cause lasting damage to building relationships.
In this age when media can be transmitted to literally millions of people instantaneously, the imagery coming out of our community in the months leading up to the election was reminiscent of demagoguery. This persisted to the point where the image of our community being led by and consisting of active proponents of such idolatry became widespread. This portrayal is diametrically opposed to our values and how our community actually behaves.
Granted, it is only a few, but because of our distinct dress and behavior this is easily manipulated by those who don’t share our interests and who seek to negatively portray us. If not addressed thus could become more widespread within our community.
As someone who is in constant interaction with the secular world at large, I can tell you that the noise our community created pertaining to the election was nothing short of the complete opposite of what our community should portray itself as and the complete opposite of what our community has historically portrayed itself as.
Especially as someone in the government and public relations fields, I can tell you with absolute confidence this is detrimental to our community’s security and political influence.
I know the prevailing argument in the street is “so what who cares?”, but honestly (I reiterate this 1000000 times) only by building bridges, by establishing relationships with and engaging others, especially those with different viewpoints, can a minority community like ours survive. By staying in our little cocoon, we will never be able to achieve the results we so desperately need.
Now that Joe Biden is the acknowledged President-Elect, we as Jews have a moral obligation, to pray for his success as we did for our outgoing President, Donald Trump. This is the Jewish way.
Even if you did not vote for Joe Biden and wished for him to lose, understand that you and your community’s survival and success is dependent on the nuance of our political maneuvering and the democratic process.
I firmly believe it is in the interest of our community to promulgate bipartisanship; the existence of our community is contingent on bipartisanship. A pertinent example: President Trump’s commutation of the unjust and outrageous sentence of Sholom Mordechai Rubashkin. People did not realize that there was an inconspicuous effort to secure the support of prominent Democrats to support the commutation, including the liberal icon then House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi.
This show of bipartisan unity was not only a vital piece in securing Rubashkin’s commutation, but in fact was even highlighted by the Trump White House. Even in an additional case, the Nachmani case (another travesty of justice), it was Democrats who at direct request of the White House threw their support behind commuting her sentence.
I am not trying to diminish President Trump’s role in these commutations, in fact he deserves the lion’s-share of the credit and then some, rather I am trying to emphasize that it is behind these casual observances of bipartisanship that amazing feats of politics are achieved. It is the best strategic move to maintain a foothold in both parties. We must cross the aisle continuously.
In no way am I saying that I do not want anyone to criticize the incoming Biden administration. We must criticize the President when he makes a mistake, whomever he may be. It is vital to the democratic process, but the matter in which we do it makes all the difference.
Today’s allies are tomorrow’s adversaries, and today’s adversaries are tomorrow’s allies.
It may seem like we are in one camp today, but this could all turn on a dime, hence the critical need to understand that as American society changes — and it perpetually does– we as members of the Jewish community must acknowledge this and pursue policies and behaviors that reflect this.
We all hope that the next four years will be productive and bring us and the whole nation progress, growth, and unity. We pray that the President should receive divine inspiration to govern correctly and efficiently and do the best for America and our community.
Ezra Friedlander is CEO of the Friedlander Group, a New York City and Washington D.C. based public policy consulting group.