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Reuven H. Taff
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Congressman Jamie Raskin: Find your moral conscience

The US Rep’s call to stop the operation in Gaza reveals a profound failure to appreciate Israel’s current existential crisis
US Rep. Jamie Raskin speaks during the final US House Select Committee hearing to Investigate the January 6 Attack on the US Capitol, on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC, on December 19, 2022. (Mandel NGAN / AFP)
US Rep. Jamie Raskin speaks during the final US House Select Committee hearing to Investigate the January 6 Attack on the US Capitol, on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC, on December 19, 2022. (Mandel NGAN / AFP)

For years, Maryland Congressman Jamie Raskin has been admired for his service and leadership roles that positively represented both his constituents and the American Jewish community. However, recent actions by the congressman unfortunately reveal him to be not a reliable friend of Israel or the Jewish people in a time of great peril.

On November 17, Raskin joined 23 Progressive and radical Democrats calling for an immediate ceasefire between Israel and Hamas. His insistence on effectively stopping Israel’s military campaign in Gaza contradicts President Biden’s own carefully-considered stance.

More critically, the Congressman’s call to stop the operation reveals a profound failure to appreciate Israel’s current existential crisis. The war to dismantle Hamas is not a battle of choice; if the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) are blocked from carrying out their mission, Hamas will survive, proclaim victory, and maintain its vice grip on Gaza. Much of Israel, including Tel Aviv, will remain vulnerable to missile attack; the kibbutzim and towns immediately adjacent to Gaza, including the city of Ashkelon, will become uninhabitable due to fear of renewed Hamas incursions, including by tunnel.

Yes, Israel’s very existence could be called into question. As an American Jew who also happens to be a member of Congress, Raskin’s stance that would effectively cripple the modern State of Israel is both shocking and inexplicable. The few Jews who participate in anti-Israel protests and loudly demand an immediate ceasefire represent an extreme minority of the overall American Jewish community, thus placing the Congressman well outside the mainstream of his own constituents.

Another distressing incident to many Jews this week was the Congressman’s curve ball condemnation of New York Representative Elise Stefanik.

Without question, Jewish students, because of their ethnicity and religion, are under siege on campuses across the US in manifestations of pure anti-Semitism. During a hearing last week, Stefanik, who happens to be a staunch ally of Donald Trump, justifiably called out the presidents of MIT, Penn and Harvard for their failure to effectively respond to blatant calls for the genocide of Jews. Their tone-deaf responses are well-documented.

Yet Raskin, in lashing out at Stefanik, went out of his way to condemn…the condemner!

The congressman found it more politically advantageous to criticize Stefanik for her politics than to focus first and foremost on the obscene failure of the university presidents to effectively protect their Jewish students, leaving those students more exposed than ever.

Congressman Raskin’s stances in recent days lead to one sad and unavoidable conclusion: he has lost his moral compass and has shown a clear willingness to throw Israel and Jewish college students under the bus.

I call on the Congressman and his colleagues to stand with Jewish students and with Israel in these challenging times. The weight of this moment transcends the political arena; it demands principled leadership. I sincerely hope that Congressman Raskin, a beacon of public service, will rise to the occasion, resurrecting the previous moral clarity that has defined his legacy.

Should he be unable to find that moral conscience, in my perspective, his name will be etched within Jewish history in infamy.

About the Author
Reuven Taff has spent 50 years serving Jewish communities. For 25 years, he was the rabbi and spiritual leader of Mosaic Law Congregation in Sacramento, California, now serving as Rabbi Emeritus. As a Hazzan and Jewish Educator, he served as Cantor and Educational Director at Beth El Congregation in Phoenix, Arizona and Headmaster of Gesher Jewish Day School of Northern Virginia. In addition to his blog on Times of Israel, his opinion pieces have been published in The Sacramento Bee, Sacramento News and Review, The Wall Street Journal, USA Today, The Algemeiner, The Jerusalem Post, The Jewish Forward and other publications. He can be contacted at rabbitaff@mosaiclaw.org.