It’s the Jewish New Year- when Jews hear the clarion call of the Shofar, urging us to hear in the wailing of the instrument an opportunity to take responsibility for our actions, repent and dedicate ourselves to live in moral ways that serve the world, our community and God.
When my father brought my mother home to meet his parents, they asked, “is she Jewish?”
When my mother brought my father home to meet her parents, they asked, “is he a Democrat?”
The answers were equally important.
Raised in an observant Jewish home, I internalized the values of Rabbi Hillel (“do not do unto others that which is hateful to you” and “If I am not for myself, who will be for me? If I am not for others, what am I? And if not now, when?” ). I took seriously the obligations to community and to justice.
Raised in an equally observant Democratic household, I internalized the values of FDR (“The test of our progress is not whether we add more to the abundance of those who have much; it is whether we provide enough for those who have too little”), JFK (“ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country”) and MLK (“Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere”). I took seriously the obligations to work towards a more perfect union- one in which all men (and women) were created equal- endowed by their creator with inalienable rights- and that they should be treated accordingly.
Though my religious faith and practice have waxed and waned over the years, my commitment to Democratic politics has not.
For some, politics is something with which they engage (nominally) every four years when the cacophony of elections intrudes upon their lives. But for me, politics holds the place that some people reserve for religion.
Politics, in all its imperfect ways, is about building a community that takes care of its members.
When thinking about Black Lives Matter, Syrian refugees, crumbling infrastructure and underfunded schools, I hear the calls of Hillel, Roosevelt, Kennedy and King.
In the wailing of the Shofar, I hear the pain of many and I know that this year, politics is an important way to respond to that clarion call.
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