Op-Ed: Hassidim, Kollelniks, Jewish Social Workers-Can It Be?
Some of the rumors floating around Israel about voting decisions in the US Jewish community are stranger than fiction, but then life has a tendency to be that way, so I have decided to bring them out into the open one by one. We have reached the countdown and everything must be laid on the table.
I am not writing to those Jewish liberals for whom gay and abortion issues and the fact that there is a man of color in the White House come before Klal Yisrael. That is too complex a problem to resolve in an article. A good many concerned people have tried to do so, and another one is irrelevant anyway.
Still, there are rumors.
Rumor I: People are saying that hassidic communities in the New York area fear African-American reprisals if they vote for Romney, since voting patterns of tight-knit communities can be traced and are even publicized.
The thought of that fear in the land of the free is shocking, but may not be so far off the mark. I certainly don't know whether it is based on an outdated pogrom mentality or the wise understanding that nothing changes when it comes to anti-Semitism except the excuses for it and the actions that law enforcement authorities take when it occurs. One need only recall civilized British apathy in the 1929 Hevron massacres when 67 defenseless Jews were brutally killed while the England's finest twiddled their thumbs.
On the other hand, if that fear really exists, it means that the hassidic Jews also believe that Obama, who is in tune with that population, does not mind the thought of reprisal– so that voting for him means knowingly electing someone who might conceivably observe such actions, for this or any other reason, with equanimity.
It also means that these voters do not realize that there is a long view out there: if Romney is elected, he would clamp down hard on any signs of election-related African-American lawlessness – and thereby effect a long term change in the way populations view their options for action vis a vis others, i.e. now, the Jews, in their midst.
In my opinion, Romney will demand law and order, that is the kind of expectation he has of US citizens, as opposed to the apologetic understanding and explanations of violent behavior, as Obama does. Romney would act swiftly to preserve law and order the American way.
Rumor II: The rumor about the kollel community is more shocking, because it is based on materialism and not on Jewish historic fears.
The word has it that many kollel families subsist on food stamps and are afraid that Romney, the conservative Republican, will limit their scope.
This is a tough one for us Israelis to hear, mainly because it is shattering to believe that Torah-oriented people would put food stamps, and the financial crutch they provide, before the security and welfare of their brothers in Israel - even if that is what enables them to continue in yeshiva. I believe that the rumor of this insular and egotistical antithesis to the idea of klal yisrael - this short term thinking - is a base lie, spread by people who don't like yeshiva leit. Prove me right.
And then there is sub rumor I - that the Torah community feels that the candidates are both goyim anyway, so it doesn't matter. It does. The difference between them is in the non-meeting with Netanyahu on his last visit to the U.S. When you don't even pretend to like Israel's Prime Minister, you have crossed a line, you are not ashamed to have people know how much you deride the Jewish state. The distance from anti-Israel to anti-Semitism is really short, infinitesimal, because they are actually the same thing.
And don't tell me sub rumor II, the complaint that says Romney is a Mormon who believes you can be converted after you are dead. Remember, he is not going anywhere with that belief, not even to the Jewish cemetery, but Obama already has Israel's back – its living back – and is prepared to stab it.
Rumor III: Jewish social workers have Jewish hearts. That's no rumor. They really care about their clients. Rumor here is that they are afraid that welfare and social services for addicts and the needy will be reduced if Romney gets in.
I wish they would worry about their elderly clients, those whose lives will be much less valuable once Medicare is sliced by Obama. And as far as welfare goes, having rules and more supervision with regard to welfare might get some recipients out to work, into drug rehabilitation, or into spending their welfare checks on food for their children – or whichever improvement you need Romney's help to fight for.
And no one is going to let people suffer. Not to worry.
Israelis want Romney to be the next president and are very nervous about this election. The US citizens among them voted in unprecedented numbers; 80,000 absentee ballots went off to election districts and 85% of those voted for Obama, say the polls. The Israeli mainstream media are trying to convince voters that if Obama wins, Netanyahu must not be re-elected in the upcoming Israeli elections, because the two do not like one another. However, Israelis are afraid of Obama per se, no matter whom the next Israeli PM turns out to be – and right now, it looks as though it will be Netanyahu.
Why? They feel that any positive aspects of Obama's relationship to Israel are going to disappear once he doesn't need Jewish support. And they remember what he did and said during this term – he put "daylight between the US and Israel", pressured Israel to stop building in Jerusalem which he considers a settlement (!), said the indefensible Auschwitz 1949 borders should be the basis for negotiations, tries to appease the Islamists and the Muslim Brotherhood and feels at home with them, can't stand Netanyahu and thinks settlements are the reason the Arabs don't like us rather than insisting they stop incitement against Jews. All the above is topped by Iran's nuclear ambitions, where Israel's fears are just "noise" to Obama.
All Jews are responsible for one another, said our Sages. And all Jews have people they care about in Israel, even if they may not know them personally Take a long look at what Mordecai said to Esther in the Megillah (4, 14). "Do not delude yourself into thinking that you will escape the fate of the Jews because you live in the king's palace...". It didn't work then and it won't work now.
(Note: The opinions expressed in this article are the writer's. R.S.)