The Jewish community can flip the 6th

All eyes are on Georgia’s 6th Congressional District’s upcoming April 18 special election to replace now-HHS Secretary Tom Price’s vacant House seat–and the Jewish presence within the 6th District is substantial enough that it could swing this election.  The Atlanta Jewish community is uniquely poised to send a strong message, and I invite all 6th District Jewish residents to do their part to send that message by voting for Jon Ossoff.

Like other communities, today’s politics polarize the Jewish community; the issues dividing us provoke fervent emotion and apocalyptic visions, in particular regarding Israel.  Political disconnect within my community stuns us into paralysis to avoid conflict with other members of the tribe, or retribution from establishment organizations.

Perhaps the 6th District election can unite us.  Atlanta Jews–both within and outside the 6th–are already heavily mobilized in volunteering for Ossoff, individually and as part of both Jewish and non-Jewish organizations.  And there is a case to be made that Jews across the political spectrum should give serious consideration to casting a ballot for Democrat Jon Ossoff next month–and the case is not that he is Jewish himself!

We have seen a rise in anti-Semitism after Trump’s election.  Vandalism; widespread threats of violence to Jewish institutions including here in Atlanta (regardless of where some of these incidents came from, the post-Trump uptick is undeniable).  Whether you blame Trump’s own rhetoric for this–and one could argue that in failing to condemn these acts and stubbornly insisting in omitting Jews from Holocaust Remembrance Day, he is at least complicit–anti-Semitic white nationalists believe his administration is their moment.  Many others on Trump’s side of the political aisle are turning a blind eye to this issue.

Even within this race, there is reason to remain alert.   Republican groups have resorted to tactics such as ads with anti-Semitic subtext “He’s not one of us.”  And the timing of the election–set by a Republican official–is conveniently inconvenient for Jews who observe the last day of Passover as chag.

Donald “You’re Fired” Trump is a man accustomed to doing and saying whatever he wants without recrimination.  He manages vindictively, his way or the highway; his ends (be them lies, false promises, fearmongering, or creating chaos and distraction) always justify his means; his leadership cannot be questioned or criticized without harsh recrimination.  He brazenly disregards rules, norms, and ethical boundaries; he unabashedly elevates his cronies and relatives after eviscerating political enemies for the same.

As a CEO (or reality star), this can be a shrewd business strategy.  As a country’s top elected official, it is a few baby steps short of fascism.

This is the situation we face as we head up to April 18th.

Even the idea of running the country as a business intrigues you, we absolutely must remind the President that his role–and the role of his “shareholders” (the American people)–is different now.  Unchecked power–or the perception of it–is unkind to our tribe, emboldening those who hate us for who we are.  No matter where we stand politically, we benefit when our elected officials are accountable to us.

Setting aside my own views, I respect that Jewish support for this administration exists, and that many supporters ground their beliefs in genuine concern for our people’s security.  An Ossoff win will not change that Trump is president.  It will not gain the Democrats a majority.  It will not upend the policy of the administration, certainly not on Israel.

But this strongly-symbolic victory may awaken our leaders, show them that they cannot govern by bullying, that they must dial down the rhetoric and complacency that emboldens anti-Semitic words and actions. We could slow the momentum down the steep slope of authoritarianism that undermines the political power of minority groups and then scapegoats the most convenient among them.

Marshaling our community behind Jon Ossoff has the potential to humble the dominant party in Washington–and to show the nation that the people have power; that complacency about anti-Semitism and bigotry will have consequences; that neither Georgia nor the Jewish people can be taken for granted.

Vote Ossoff on April 18.

About the Author
Bonnie Levine is an attorney and musician, as well as a wife and mom of a three-year old son and a five-year old daughter. She writes about Jewish spirituality and observance, parenting, intersectionality, and the U.S. and Atlanta Jewish communities. Views are her own and not those of her employer, synagogues, or any other organization.
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