Arnold D. Samlan
Jewish Educational Leader, South Florida

How to Earn my (Jewish) Vote in the US

This week’s social media adventure began for me with a tweet from President Trump proclaiming that “Jews are leaving the Democratic Party” and declaring that the Democratic Party doesn’t “care about Israel or the Jewish people.” When I voiced my opinion that Jews are perfectly capable of determining what parties or candidates they wished to support, I received comments (overwhelmingly from those who are not Jewish) trying to make sure that I  know that the Democratic party is the “Party of Infanticide, Socialism and Jew-haters. In other words, Nazis.” Other comments were even more insulting and less helpful. Ironically, many comments were from those wishing to assure me that Republicans are pro-Jewish, while informing me that Jews are clearly not capable of making their own political decisions!

To be sure, there are issues with how the Democratic party is positioning itself on Israel issues (and there is tremendous diversity among its elected officials on these issues) and its response to anti-Semitism in its ranks have been less than fully convincing. But given the 50,000 votes a Holocaust denier in Illinois running on a Republican ticket gained in a recent congressional election, it’s fair to state that we have problems across the party divide.

Living in Florida and being proudly registered as “no party affiliation” excludes me from voting next time around in a primary election. But I feel that I will want to. And I am, quite frankly, open to offers from any party. Six months before the primary, I need to switch to a party affiliation or be denied the right to vote in it. So here is the email that I intend to send to every presidential candidate before then:

Dear Sir or Madam:

I will be registering to vote in the upcoming presidential primary. In order to do so in my state, I am required to select a party with which to affiliate. Despite a strong commitment to independent voting, I will do so in order to cast my lot with one of the candidates. If you would like my affiliation and my vote, I require your responses to the following:

  1. Would the people you work with, your friends, your children, and your spouse or partner consider you a genuinely decent person with a strong sense of values and a solid moral compass? 
  2. How should the health and well-being of American citizens, including its aging members and those affected by poverty , be taken care of in today’s and tomorrow’s world? Be specific and explain who is going to pay for what.
  3. What ideas do you have to ensure that today’s children are prepared educationally for a world that doesn’t yet exist?
  4. What proposals do you have to end access to guns on the part of those who are a potential threat to public safety and to remove assault weapons from the general public, while protecting the rights of law-abiding citizens to own guns that are appropriate for legal purposes?
  5. Do you believe that there is knowledge and expertise in science and academic research, as well as wisdom of those in the military and foreign affairs that must be taken seriously as we look towards the future of the United States and our planet? If so, what are the threats you see (environmental, political, etc.) that concern you and how would you plan to address them?
  6. Do you unequivocally condemn anti-Semitism of all forms as well as prejudice and bigotry against all minorities, religions or foreign groups?
  7. Do you support a strong and secure State of Israel? What steps will you take to bring Israel and the Palestinians to the negotiating table to move their conflict closer to resolution? How will assuring the rights of women, LGBTQ individuals and minority populations be part of these negotiations?

I look forward to your response and wish you the best as you compete to earn my vote.

About the Author
Rabbi Arnie Samlan, Chief Jewish Education Officer of the Jewish Federation Broward County, Florida, Is a rabbi and Jewish educator whose work has impacted Jewish learners, community leaders and professionals across North America. All blog posts are his personal opinions and are not meant to reflect viewpoints of the Jewish Federation.
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