The Politics of Purim: A Fitting Time for a ‘Jexodus'
On March 20, Jews around the world will celebrate the holiday of Purim, a time when we stopped “negotiating,” recognized the core values of Judaism, and stood up to the evil oppression of Haman. The story, from the Book of Esther, involves King Ahasuerus, the Persian ruler in Shushan, who was influenced by his evil minister Haman to kill all the Jews. We remember and celebrate the courage and strength of Mordecai and Esther in changing the king’s mind and saving the Jewish people from a massacre. This holiday is to be used to recommit ourselves to fighting anti-Semitism that is hiding in plain sight in the world, to take a stand like Mordecai and Esther and no longer tolerate the behavior of those who want to kill us. Purim compels us to stand up and insist that anti-Semites be stopped and publicly condemned for their behavior in all of its forms, including attempts to eliminate Israel as a nation.
I am a rabbi: a spiritual leader and teacher, not a political pundit, and my commentaries are always based on Jewish theology. As part of our religious observance of the holiday this year, maybe we need to embrace a “Jexodus” political movement in addition to our normal Purim celebrations.
Most Jews have voted Democratic most of our lives. Since the times of FDR, over 70% of Jews have supported the Democratic Party, and in the recent midterms, 76% of us voted that way. As part of observing Purim this year, I suggest that we all must exit from any involvement in the Democratic Party until the institutional anti-Semitism that has taken hold is removed and censured within the party. We must make it clear to the DNC that we will not give our support if we are taken for granted, and expect the party to support Judaism and Israel in the same way we have always supported the party.
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The Democratic Party has now officially adopted an anti-Semitic attitude and has become co-opted by modern-day Hamans: radicals who wish to see Israel destroyed, and every Jew marginalized or worse. We must be brutally honest, no matter how much it hurts. No longer is this the party of FDR, Truman, Clinton, Rabbi Heschel, and Dr. King. Senator Chuck Schumer (who for decades called himself “the guardian of Israel”), Nancy Pelosi, and Democratic leaders have cowered and surrendered to the extreme left of the party in the form of three clearly anti-Semitic freshmen representatives: Ilhan Omar, Rashida Tlaib, and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. And in their surrender, they have betrayed every Jew who has ever supported the Democratic Party. The freshman trio compares Gaza terrorists to civil rights activists; claims that “Israel has hypnotized the world” and is “evil”; defines Israel as “an apartheid regime”; and has demonstrated an almost worship-like reverence for anti-Semite Louis Farrakhan, who has called Judaism “a gutter religion.”
There was a time when the Democrats could be counted on to always support Israel, and to be intolerant of any form of anti-Semitism, and it was even a Democratic president who first recognized the State of Israel. But since the recent midterm election, not only has all support for Jews, Israel, and common decency been thrown out the window; but the leaders of the party have accepted the behavior of these bigots who would have our culture, religion, and nation of Israel destroyed. In January, Senator Schumer, supported by nearly the entire block of Democratic senators, backed down from supporting national anti-BDS legislation and refused to even discuss Senator Rubio’s proposed anti-BDS bill. Ocasio-Cortez thinks that Gaza terrorists are the moral equivalent of civil rights activists of the 1960s. Omar has made countless anti-Semitic comments, including the classic accusation that there is a Jewish cabal that has power over Washington because of “the Benjamins.”
Yet Nancy Pelosi stands proudly on the cover of Rolling Stone magazine with both of these anti-Semites. While Pelosi has semi-apologized for Omar’s many comments, she also placed the bigoted freshman from Minnesota on the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, the very committee that has jurisdiction over bills relating to foreign relations and, as such, Israel. Despite calls for censure, Democratic leaders including Pelosi, House Majority Leader Hoyer, and House Majority Whip Clyburn have all determined that Omar “isn’t really anti-Semitic.”
The holiday of Purim recalls how Esther and Mordecai made sure that the king would no longer support the anti-Semitic hatred of Haman. As Jews, we must remind Pelosi, Hoyer, and Clyburn that as non-Jews, they are not the arbiters of what is or is not anti-Semitism. Both out of an ethical responsibility and to ensure our own survival in the world, we must remind Senator Schumer that being the “guardian of Israel” means standing up to the racist behavior of these three anti-Semites, condemning and censuring them, and stopping these racists from co-opting the entire Democratic Party with their hatred of us.
I am not suggesting that every Jew should now vote Republican, although that is one of the choices. And this suggestion has nothing to do with and no bearing on supporting or not supporting President Trump. This is about the health of the Democratic Party.
I am suggesting that we should emulate the courage of Mordecai and Esther. Every Jewish Democrat must take a clear stand and withhold all support until the party returns to its traditional values regarding Israel and anti-Semitism. The Democrats are convinced that no matter how they abuse us, we will not turn away. But we must step away, both with votes and finances, until the party puts a stop to the outrageous behavior on the part of this trio. The Democrats need to realize that by accepting this anti-Semitism, they will lose all of their Jewish support.
By embracing this concept of “Jexodus,” Jews can make a clear statement to Democratic leaders, and force them to re-evaluate their values and their obligations. The danger is clear: unless we stop these hate-filled anti-Semites from controlling the Democratic Party, we are all in a very real and present danger.
This year, instead of just celebrating Purim by eating the traditional Purim pastry of Hamentaschen, let us all remember the examples of Mordecai and Esther. Let each of us make a real difference by letting the DNC and Democratic leadership know that if they continue to allow this behavior (and even encourage it through committee appointments and magazine covers), they will lose all Jewish support in every way. And then we will truly be observing this wonderful holiday and making the world a better place for not only Jews, but for all people committed to ethics, morals, and mutual respect.
May we all be blessed with a healthy and happy Purim, and like our ancestors thousands of years ago, make a change that benefits the world.