Friday, May 13, 2011

Left vs. Right, Wisconsin, and our singularly minded URJ

In a URJ Ten Minutes of Torah posting sent last Friday (otherwise known as “Political Friday”, IMHO), Rabbi Dena Feingold of Kenosha, Wisconsin makes the incredible leap from Leviticus 25:10 in that week’s Parashah B’har, to yet effectively another political diatribe on government sponsored wealth redistribution. Her quote from this passage – “... proclaim liberty throughout [all] the land unto all the inhabitants thereof” brings her to this stunningly false conclusion:

“In the United States, tax-supported social programs and unions for workers are long-accepted institutions that have successfully provided some degree of economic equity. But in Wisconsin this year, seeking to solve the state’s economic woes, taxes were cut, a law was passed to deny union bargaining rights, and a budget that removes many aids to the poor was proposed. Instead of yovel, a progressive fix to help the vulnerable, many view these acts as regressive and harmful to the most-needy among us.”

The URJ often reflects such philosophies in its blogs, Ten Minutes of Torah downloads, and certainly at its Biennial confabs: as such, only government sponsored largesse and social re-engineering can possibly represent the only “progressive” solution to society’s ills. These statements are made as if no other – albeit a conservative – solution could be constructive: basically, our way or the highway. Everything else reflects a solution founded in evil intentions

For years now, I’ve argued directly with our URJ Rabbis for more open-minded representation of counterpoint political solutions whose leanings might be more right than left, less government intervention than more, greater private incentive in the free market vs federal spending – well, you know the drill. While as a political conservative I believe my philosophies represent better solutions, given the singular left leaning nature of URJ political proclamations as sole truth, I don’t even get to the level of reasonable debate: I thus can only focus first on calling out the lack of counterpoint representation in our movement’s political culture to try to achieve a platform for that debate to begin.

While in direct communication two very high level Rabbis at the URJ have agreed with me, and promised change, I’ve seen none over the past years. Isn’t “Torah study” – albeit, what Ten Minutes of Torah is supposed to represent – by nature a debate, point-counterpoint, a myriad of possible interpretations? Why then, does the URJ not allow politically conservative Jews our voice? Trust me, they don’t.

I defy anyone who knows me or my ilk to claim we’re not socially progressive. We just believe in a different way of getting there: a minimum safety net, perhaps, but entitle those without by providing economic incentives; private initiative and effort trumps public welfare; wealth is a good thing, though one should employ it righteously; NO WAY is there ever going to be an equal distribution of it, and YES life is not fully fair. We need to provide the freedom and opportunity for folks to bring themselves up from the “unfair”; as such, government represents the most inefficient method for achieving economic opportunity. Further, there is no such thing as economic equality: a great canard continually used by those on the Left to foment class warfare.

I sharply disagree with Rabbi Feingold on the recently played out Wisconsin farce. Regarding the rather outright selfish nature of its government unions, Rabbi Feingold omits that their benefits outpace equivalent measures in the private sector; that collective bargaining was not abolished for everything; and that government growth and tax increases choking Wisconsin hurt only the very folks she wants to protect. Perhaps the greatest farce of all: collective bargaining allows those government unions to negotiate with legislators whose campaigns for office they help fund. A chicken in the hen house?

The Socialist movement of the 1930’s and early 1940’s is over; those systems have proven their economic deficiencies, and collapsed. The worldly kibbutz concept is all but finished. All served well at times in their day, but real Tikkun Olam is not achieved primarily through government largesse. INDIVIDUALS repair the world – those who can provide individually, and those who can achieve if provided the tools, freedom, open markets, and incentives to better their lot – with most of government out of the way.

Jeremy Serwer
May 13, 2011

1 comment:

  1. Thank you, Jeremy.

    I think this post exemplifies what is one of the best qualities of Yiddishkeit. We are all mishpucha, and as in all families, there will be quarrels; there will be disagreements -- some acute and stretching the limits of tolerance. Hopefully, there will be respect for differing opinions and a willingness to consider all points of view.

    If we survey the whole of recorded Jewish history, we can glimpse evidence that this ideal has been expressed L'dor v'dor. As the URJ transitions to new leadership, it would be well served to keep this in mind and to remain open to hearing the voices of those who are not rooted firmly in the popular politics of the moment.

    "That which is hath been long ago, and that which is to be hath already been; and G-d seeketh that which is pursued."

    (Ecclesiastes 3:15)

    Tikkun Olam is a process spanning epochs and transcending political affiliations. But when it comes to Tikkun Olam, left, right, or something else, aren't we all in the same family, and on the same side?