[The Sept. 22] dismal Republican debate may have been painful to watch for many Americans — but especially so for American Jews. On national television, we witnessed a field of Republican candidates doing just about everything they could to remind Jews why they overwhelmingly support the Democratic Party.
From attacking health care reform and the social safety net to proposing flawed solutions to Medicare and Social Security, the candidates in [last week’s] debate made it clear that they are uninterested in preserving the programs and policies valued by the vast mainstream of our community. And that is to say nothing of their collective positions tonight on social issues, which so many American Jews find socially regressive, if not repugnant.
Moreover, the performance by former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney and Herman Cain left me wondering where they were … when Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu lauded President Barack Obama's speech to the U.N. and said that Obama wore his support of Israel like a “badge of honor.”
It is profoundly disturbing that these candidates would continue to engage in such attacks against this pro-Israel president based purely on partisan politics — despite all of the statements from Israeli leaders, the president's widely applauded record of diplomatic and military support for Israel, and the growing number of impartial, Republican, and Democratic observers calling out these candidates for their inappropriate and dangerous behavior.
As the candidates gain more exposure over the coming months, the historic bond between the American Jewish community and the Democratic Party will be reaffirmed and strengthened because most in our community will witness — again and again — that today's Republican Party is deeply out of touch with their Jewish values. The Republican primary process will help prove that the Democratic Party remains the one natural political home for American Jews.
David A. Harris
(The author is president and CEO of the National Jewish Democratic Council.)
Give teens responsibility
Nothing is being done to cultivate the leaders we will need in the future.
We send kids to Jewish summer camps so that they develop stronger relationships with other Jewish kids. Do you think that learning Jewish songs and folk dances is part of a leadership course? Do happy campers grow up to be more effective leaders?
We bribe our young adults with Birthright trips to Israel, so that they hopefully will stay committed to the Jewish community.
Get real! We are not doing anything to create leaders.
Teenagers do stupid things, but they are not stupid. They have all that pent up energy and imagination. Give them real responsibilities within the Jewish community that you think they can handle. Expect that they will succeed. Help them succeed. Don’t be afraid to point out their mistakes, but encourage them to persevere. Then give them another responsibility.
There are plenty of committees and other opportunities that need manpower.
You can only learn so much from a book. The rest you learn from doing, or at least trying to do something. That is why Junior Achievement is a part of the economic education within every community. That is why, in spite of all the manuals issued by the U.S. Navy, an older seaman teaches the younger seaman how to do his job, and it has been that way for hundreds of years.
You develop leaders by helping them learn to handle responsibility. Being given responsibility inspires self-esteem and confidence because someone actually thinks that he or she can really handle that responsibility. That greater sense of personal pride encourages the child to do even better.
The day after their b’nai mitzva, give the kids some responsibility.