The opening invocation at the Republican convention came from the Orthodox Rabbi Meir Soloveichik, before whom the whole mass of delegates stood with bowed heads. He said:
Ribono shel Olam, Almighty God, You commanded Moses many years ago: Ukratem dror ba’arets le-khol yoshveha, “Proclaim liberty throughout the land, unto all the inhabitants thereof.”
Today, this biblical verse is emblazoned on the Liberty Bell, which embodies American independence. We Americans unite faith and freedom in asserting that our liberties are Your gift, God, not that of government, and that we are endowed with these rights by You, our Creator, not by mortal man.
You have called us to be a beacon of freedom to the world, and an ally of free countries like the state of Israel, an island of liberty, democracy, and hope.
Avinu Av Harachaman, Our Most Merciful Father:
● Bless and guide Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan as they seek to lead this great nation;
● Protect the members of the American armed forces, who defend the freedoms You have given us;
● Shelter the residents of the Gulf coast as they prepare to battle the storms that are upon them;
● And help all of us as Americans renew our dedication to the principle of God-gifted liberty, so America can remain a beacon of faith and freedom for generations to come. Amen.
One difference between the two addresses is the fact that the whole Republican convention heard Rabbi Soloveichik, while no-one but the cleaning crew was there for Rabbi Wolpe. There was a also a world of difference in the content. Rabbi Wild and Wonderful preached social work and psychobabble, while Rabbi Soloveitchik linked God’s revelation to Moses and the American founding, much closer in spirit to Cardinal Dolan than to the progressive Rabbi Wolpe.
It’s no surprise that progressive Judaism is imploding. In the past decade, the Reform and (poorly named) Conservative movements have lost 30% to 40% of their members by various estimates. If Judaism boils down to social work, why not do the social work, rather than bother with the laborious practices of an ancient religion? Progressive Jews have the lowest fertility rate of any identifiable (heterosexual) segment of the United States population, and half of their children intermarry. The American Jews will be a smaller, but far more devout, community a generation hence.
The cultural divide in the United States is now almost absolute; Democratic Party liberalism, which once embraced devout Catholics and observant Jews, cannot conceal its contempt for religion. Even the clergy who cling to the Democratic Party have trouble concealing their lack of interest in religion. On the other hand, Americans of faith have rallied together as never before: Catholic and Jew, Evangelical and Mormon. For this observant Jew, hearing an Orthodox rabbi quote Torah to open the Republican convention was a milestone for America as well for the Jewish people (not to mention the fact that Rabbi Soloveichik is associate rabbi of my synagogue). And to hear an overwhelmingly Christian audience listen to this rabbi was a great event. The good news is that Americans who seek the love and guidance of the God of the Bible have put their differences aside where the good of the country is concerned. My prayer is: Let this not be too late.