By Rabbi Yosef Shubert, Matzav.com
This week’s election has created a fervor that I haven’t seen in a long time and I think that that’s a good thing. But I have also witnessed reactions that clearly cross the line from political disagreement to below-the-belt bashing and slander.
I am not here to give mussar or tell people what to do. But as I’ve tried to do the past times that I have written here on Matzav.com, I would like to stress the importance of common sense and decency prevailing over emotions and vendettas.
For the sake of this discussion, I’d like to discuss the gubernatorial elections in New Jersey which has spurred lively discussion on this site and on various blogs. I don’t live in Lakewood, but I have close relatives who do, and I’ve been told that there are strong disagreements among a large segment of the kehillah with the endorsement of the local Vaad of incumbent Governor John Corzine. People feel that the endorsement doesn’t take into consideration of the “little guy,” the average frum Yid trying to make ends meet and paying the highest taxes in the nation. I happen to agree with them, based on my limited knowledge of the various candidates and the realities that have existed under Corzine.
Where I live, in New York, I know frum people who have had it with Mayor Bloomberg and his non-stop ticketing campaigns. While the frum community is expected to come out for Bloomberg at the polls, I am still on the fence and may cast my vote for Bill Thompson. I still have a day to decide.
Either way, my message here is that it disturbs me when election campaign lead to the direct bashing of people and askanim, by name, on websites, in articles, and in conversation. Suddenly, there is nothing holding anyone back from saying the Chaim Yankel, who is an active askan, is an absolute bum because he backs So-and-so. “Chaim Yankel is looking out for himself, not for us,” is what one hears.
And you know what? That might be true! But when did such speech become permitted? We have laws regarding the way speak for a reason – not for when it is easy to adhere to them, but for when it is difficult and for when we truly want to announce to the public that So-and-so is a less than virtuous individual.
You don’t have to agree with the Vaad in any town or in any city. But there is a way to disagree and a way to make your argument. I know this won’t be taken well, but the fact that various sites allow public criticism and mockery – yes, mockery – of askanim and other communal leaders, by name, or by clear reference, is a disgrace. And if this site would ever allow it, I would castigate the editors here just the same.
So how is one supposed to make one’s voice heard? Good question. The answer is by intelligently pointing out to the public the flaws of an endorsed candidate. The answer is by going to the polls and making your voice heard. The answer is by intelligently making the point that if your communal representatives are not looking out for your interests, you are going to lead or get involved in grassroots movements that will look our for the interests of the little guy.
You don’t like what is happening around you? Don’t settle for some coffee room banter. Get active, get off the fence and get involved. Stop leaving it to others.
The most straightforward argument I read on this matter was actually a letter that was emailed to me. The letter appeared in the Yated Ne’eman and I share it here with permission:
A PRINCIPLED VOTER
I have been very surprised to see a number of political endorsements addressing the Orthodox Jewish community asking them to vote for Democratic gubernatorial incumbent Jon Corzine of New Jersey.
The gist of the logic is that the endorsers would have us believe that our community can milk more money out of Corzine for education: schools and yeshivos as well as government help and protection regarding a number of local issues, relevant to the various Jewish communities that make up New Jersey.
As a resident of New Jersey who sees what is happening in my state, I am having difficulty finding justification for community leaders using or perhaps abusing their influence by urging the Orthodox community to vote for a person who has, at best, a very dubious record in many areas that are relevant to our community.
As pointed out in the front-page story of last week’s Yated, Corzine has driven the already high taxes in New Jersey to unprecedented levels; his massive toll hikes have cynically taken advantage of New Jersey residents dependence on highway travel, and his position on defi ning moral issues is completely at odds with the Torah viewpoint.
Perhaps even more importantly, the members of the Torah observant community must understand that a vote for Corzine is a vote for Obama!
The New Jersey race is being closely watched, and if a traditionally Democratic state goes Republican, this is the strongest message possible that we can send to Obama that his policies represent a danger to Americans and especially to acheinu Bnei Yisroel in Eretz Yisroel.
A vote for Corzine is a vote for Obama and just increases the probability of the Hitler in Iran going nuclear and threatening our brethren in Eretz Yisroel. A vote for Corzine just helps facilitate the atmosphere that let the Goldstone Report pass, and threaten Israel with pariah status in the world. A vote for Corzine tells Obama that you are not outraged at his lopsided outreach to the Arab world where all of their excesses are excused and Israel’s supposed faults are magnifi ed under a microscope.
A vote for Corzine tells Obama that he can continue with his ineffectual policies that embolden the Communists and quasi-Communists in China and Russia and wink at other human rights abuses in Sudan and everywhere else in the world except for Israel.
I am not an influential community leader, nor do I head a national organization or institution of learning, but I also don’t have the negius of any public fi gure whose organizations are sitting at the public trough.
I am just a simple resident of Lakewood scratching my head and trying to understand how local concerns override Klal Yisroel’s concerns.
A Working Stiff
This is the way we should fight for what we believe – in all situations. Not by name calling, not by resorting to lashon harah, and not by slinging mud, but by expressing our views coherently, and by building a grassroots effort led by regular, good, decent people, rather than those with extra time on their hands who like to stir the pot for the sake of stirring the pot.
See you at the polls tomorrow.