I have attended many programs lately where, inevitably, someone from the audience asks the speaker or one of the panelists, “As a Jew, what should I believe about _____?” or “How should I vote about ______?,” or “What should I think about ____?” and each time I find these questions intriguing.
As a Jew, you have an obligation to believe, for example, that murder is wrong…but then again, as a human, you have the same obligation.
As a Jew, you have an obligation to vote, for example, for what you consider to be justice…but again, the same goes for any human.
As a Jew, you have an obligation to think, for example, about the world around you…and, yet again, this should be the same for any human, regardless of skin color, geographic location, or religion.
Unfortunately, although “as a Jew” we can see other Jews as “just another human,” much of the rest of the world does not view us this way…so the classification does hold certain standards, which is why these questions do, in some circumstances, make sense, but not in the way originally intended.
Often these questions arise when discussing Israel and/or American politics. “As a Jew,” one does not have an obligation to hold any particular beliefs. A Jew, for example, is not obligated to support the state of Israel. Many Jews across the religious spectrum, for whatever reason, do not support the state of Israel. Now, some Jews may criticize other Jews for not supporting the State of Israel, but some Jews also criticize other Jews for using the wrong condiment on a deli sandwich.
“As a Jew,” one is obligated, however, to know what is happening in Israel and to have an opinion, whether or not he chooses to vocalize it. “As a Jew,” he will be viewed by colleagues, friends, and neighbors as an expert on the latest headline, and “as a Jew,” he will be expected to answer questions. While no indication or support or condemnation is necessary in this situation, “I don’t know” or “I hadn’t heard” is not acceptable because “as a Jew,” you are expected to know, and you should know, what is going on around in the world that might affect you or your brothers.
So, then, whenever I am faced with these questions, here are my answers:
As a Jews what should I believe? You should believe that you can make the world a better place, and your opinions about every issue should reflect that.
As a Jew, how should I vote? First of all, you should make sure to exercise your right to vote, and you should do so in whatever way you believe will lead to justice.
As a Jew, how should you think? You should think. And you should know. And you should read and discuss and learn what you need in order to do so.
As a human, it is your right…as a Jew, it is your obligation.