GOOD ADVICE FOR ANXIOUS BIDEN-HARRIS SUPPORTERS

Like so many of the people I talk to, I’ve been experiencing anxiety for months, and as we approach November my fear has only intensified that Trump will do anything and everything to steal the election despite national polls favoring Biden-Harris by a comfortable 7+% and swing-state polls showing a Biden-Harris lead most everywhere. In the days since Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg died, my grief and sorrow for our loss of this great woman has added to my apprehensions.    

On Rosh Hashanah day my family gathered as we always do after services, and my politically aware and savvy grown children expressed their strong belief that Trump will provoke chaos and violence before, during, and after the election, and that he will refuse to leave the White House on January 20.

I can’t predict what will happen despite my worries and fears. If you feel as I do, I’ve been asking what strategies there might be to better contain anxiety, be as positive as possible, and do all we can to help win the presidency, the Senate, expand Democratic margins in the House, and win races down the ballot.

The first, of course, is to financially support Democratic candidates, adopt states and Senatorial candidates and work to elect them, to vote early and safely, and to be certain that our votes are counted and that everyone we know votes for Democratic candidates.

Second, we can’t allow this dystopian malignantly narcissistic illiberal criminally negligent and nasty president to define the debate over the next 6 weeks.

Before going on, I want to give a shout-out to the Biden-Harris campaign. It seems to me that Joe and Kamala and their campaign leadership are doing most everything right. I applaud them. That said, I want to recommend that everyone listen to the September 17th episode of “Pod Save America” with Jon Favreau and Dan Pfeiffer, and especially the segment in which they question communications expert Anat Shenker-Osorio about the importance of positive messaging in the remainder of the campaign. Positive messaging can help contain our anxiety and at the same time better influence those still undecided voters who can help determine the outcome of the election. The interview begins 1 hour and 10 minutes into the podcast.

Here are Ms. Shenker-Osorio’s main points:

  • There is lots of panic among Democrats Ms. Shenker-Osorio acknowledged the anxiety but said that focusing on our fears has a potential demobilizing impact on us and on the ten percent of the population she calls “high potential voters,” those who haven’t yet made up their minds between Trump and Biden. When we focus too much on Trump’s mass of nefarious deeds, she says, we evoke a “fight or freeze response.” Activists want to “fight” but the “high potential voters” might freeze and decide that their vote doesn’t matter and they choose to stay home on Election Day.
  • “Messaging from Inevitability” – Ms. Shenker-Osorio urged us to speak positively about the victory of the Biden-Harris ticket, not IF we win but WHEN we win. People like to be part of a winning team and not part of a frightened losing campaign. We need to say out loud that the reason Trump is accelerating his anti-democratic and destructive actions is because he knows he is losing.
  • Characterizing Trump – Jon and Dan asked Anat how best to characterize Trump and counter his claim, for example, that he is the “law and order” candidate, though Biden polls better than Trump on this issue in key swing states. The key, she said, is to characterize Trump NOT as a strong man and authoritarian leader. Rather, we should characterize him for what he really is – weak, pathetic, bungling, dishonest, self-serving, ineffective, incompetent, corrupt, and a loser. This last characterization (i.e. loser) most especially drives Trump crazy and when we drive him nuts other forces in his Republican Party are forced to stray from their talking points. Shenker-Osorio says that talking about “law and order” is a trap for Biden-Harris supporters. Our messaging should be about who WE are, what WE believe, and what Biden-Harris will deliver on behalf of the nation, the middle class, black, white, and brown citizens, children, seniors, and our allies around the world. If we’re drawn into talking about law and order we stop talking about the tragic ravages of Covid, our economic well-being, jobs, health care, criminal justice reform, racial injustice, education, the environment, climate change, immigration, and America’s good name internationally.
  • Framing the Conversation in the Last 6 weeks – Ms. Shenker-Osorio said that we should name the values that we share with most of the country, that we all want our families to be safe, for our voices to be heard, for our rights to be respected, and for our nation to come together to address our multiple challenges in this age of Covid and economic meltdown. We need to give people a sense of meaning and agency and that Biden-Harris are the means to address the nation’s immediate and long-term needs. Yes, of course, Trump and his sycophantic illiberal minions are villains, but we ought not to lead with villainy. We lead with our heroes, our front-line health care workers, doctors, nurses, teachers, postal workers, men and women in uniform, career intelligence officers and diplomats, and all those helping sustain our lives, communities, and country. We need to avoid being exclusively purveyors of doom. Shenker-Osorio concludes that we must emphasize the positive result that we seek and that we WILL come through this horrible period of American history together. Framing the campaign in this way can help alleviate our sense of powerlessness and allay a measure of our anxiety.

I believe that Anat Shenker-Osorio is right, though I confess that despite all she said I continue to feel that free-floating anxiety and yearn for a national reboot. Personally, I’m going to continue to do those positive things for myself and my family that bring me pleasure and a sense of agency, exercise, healthy eating, sleep, and control the amount of news I absorb daily.

In Hebrew we say, chamatz v’eimatz, be strong and courageous!

IMMIGRATION AND TREATMENT OF THE STRANGER – Jewish Values and the Biden-Harris Ticket – Blog #6

The commandment to treat the stranger (ger) with respect and dignity is cited 36 times in the Hebrew Bible, more than any other commandment, probably because it’s among the most difficult of the 613 commandments to fulfill.

Most people gather together for comfort, support, and a sense of belonging in their familial, tribal, ethnic, cultural, and national groupings, but at the same time they can become distant from and suspicious of strangers (i.e. the “other”).

Dr. King observed:

“People don’t get along because they fear each other. People fear each other because they don’t know each other. They don’t know each other because they have not properly communicated with each other.”

There is much we Americans don’t understand about the “other,” especially those who come from foreign lands and who, based on a “well-founded fear of persecution” should they return to their home countries of origin, wish desperately to live in the United States.

We Jews understand well their plight, their fears, their desires and dreams based upon our own historical experience as a people who were expelled over and again from country after country as we sought safety and solace. Can we as a nation not provide that same blessing of safety and hope for others?

The Biden-Harris campaign’s values and policies concerning immigration, asylum, and “the other” comport completely with our own historic Jewish moral values and are irrefutably opposed to the Trump Administration’s xenophobic, discriminatory, bigoted, and cruel treatment of immigrant men, women, and children wishing to enter the United States.

The following are Jewish texts affirming our people’s moral and religious obligations to the ger-stranger [I’m grateful to “Rabbis for Biden” for helping to collect these passages]:

“You shall not wrong or oppress a stranger, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt.” –Exodus 22:20 – 9th century B.C.E., Israel

“You shall not wrong or oppress a stranger, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt.” Here it says simply and absolutely, “for you were strangers,” your whole misfortune in Egypt was that you were strangers there. As such, according to the views of other nations, you had no right to be there, has no claim to rights of settlement, home, or property. Accordingly, you had no rights in appeal against unfair or unjust treatment. As aliens you were without any rights in Egypt, out of that grew all of your bondage and oppression, your slavery and wretchedness. Therefore beware, so runs the warning, from making rights in your own State conditional on anything other than on that simple humanity which every human being as such bears within. With any limitation in these human rights the gate is opened to the whole horror of Egyptian mishandling of human beings.” –Rabbi Samson Rafael Hirsch, Exodus 22:20 – 19th century C.E., Germany

The ger. . . is a resident alien who has uprooted oneself (or has been uprooted) from one’s homeland and has taken permanent residence in the land of Israel…Having severed one’s ties with one’s original home, that person has no family to turn to for support. Thus deprived of both land and family, the ger was generally poor, listed together with the Levite, the orphan, and the widow among the wards of society (Deuteronomy 26:12), and exposed to exploitation and oppression.” (Ezekiel 22:7) –Rabbi Jacob Milgrom, “Reflections on the Biblical Ger,” Leviticus 17-22 (Anchor Bible, 2000), United States

“There shall be one law for you and for the stranger; it shall be a law for all time throughout the ages. You and the stranger shall be alike before God. The same ritual and the same rule shall apply to you and to the stranger who resides among you.” –Numbers 15: 15-16 – 9th century B.C.E., Israel

“The great moral to be derived is that every government among the people Israel possesses an obligation to conduct itself with integrity and fairness towards its minorities and those who are strangers in its midst. In so doing, it will sanctify the Name of Heaven and the name of Israel in the world.” –Rabbi Hayyim David Halevi, “Aseh L’kha Rav 7:70 – 20th century, Israel

“Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

–Emma Lazarus, The New Colossus – 19th century, United States

Biden-Harris Policy Platform on Immigration

The United States deserves an immigration policy that reflects our highest values as a nation. As President, Biden will forcefully pursue policies that safeguard our security, provide a fair and just system that helps to grow and enhance our economy, and secure our cherished values by:

  • Taking urgent action to undo Trump’s damage and reclaim America’s values
  • Modernizing America’s immigration system
  • Welcoming immigrants in our communities
  • Reasserting America’s commitment to asylum-seekers and refugees
  • Tackling the root causes of irregular migration 
  • Implementing effective border screening 

Read more about Joe’s vision for immigration at https://joebiden.com/immigration/#

I ask that you distribute these blogs to anyone interested in what the vast majority of liberal American Jews believe (according to all polls) especially those living in the states identified by the Democratic presidential campaign where the closest results will likely occur: Colorado, Florida, Iowa, Maine, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Texas, Virginia, and Wisconsin.

Especially distribute these blogs to young potential voters who historically turn out in smaller numbers relative to their percentage of the population and encourage everyone to vote early unless they are willing to stand in line at polling places despite the health risks.

Past Blogs include the following:

JEWISH VALUES AND THE BIDEN-HARRIS TICKET – Blog #1

HEALTH CARE – Jewish Values and the Biden-Harris Ticket – Blog #2

ECONOMIC JUSTICE – Jewish Values and the Biden-Harris Ticket – Blog #3

THE ENVIRONMENT AND CLIMATE CHANGE – Jewish Values and the Biden-Harris Ticket – Blog #4

SUPPORT FOR ISRAEL AND THE JEWISH COMMUNITY – Jewish Values and the Biden-Harris Ticket – Blog#5

A Prayer for the New Year – 5781

May we hold lovingly in our thoughts / Those suffering the loss of loved ones from Covid / And those struggling with illness and the health of family and friends.

May our hearts embrace / Those living under tyranny, subjugation, cruelty, and injustice, / And work towards the mitigation of their suffering.

May we recognize our solidarity / With the stranger, immigrant, and asylum seeker, / The outcast, downtrodden, abused, and deprived, / That no human being be treated as “other,” / That our humanity weaves us / Into one “fabric of mutuality, One garment of destiny.”

May we pursue the Biblical prophet’s vision / Of justice, compassion, and peace, / That we live harmoniously with each other, / Respecting our differences, / Cherishing our diversity, / Revering Divinity in every soul.

May we struggle / Against institutional injustice, / Xenophobia, racism, homophobia, antisemitism, and misogyny, / Governmental corruption and the perversion of truth, / The despoliation of the earth, seas, rivers, and air, / And attacks against America’s democratic institutions.

May we act / With integrity of body, heart, mind, soul, and spirit, / Despising none, defrauding none, hating none, denigrating none, / Honoring every creature of the earth.

May the Jewish people, the State of Israel, all peoples and nations / Know peace with justice in this New Year 5781. / May Americans embrace our higher angels, / And nurture kindness and love everywhere.

-A prayer written by Rabbi John L. Rosove – Rosh Hashanah 5781

SUPPORT FOR ISRAEL AND THE JEWISH COMMUNITY – Jewish Values and the Biden-Harris Ticket – Blog #5

The creation and development of the modern State of Israel is the single greatest achievement of the Jewish people in 2000 years. While Israel is the Jewish people’s national home and a refuge from antisemitism, it is also an historic opportunity for the people of Israel to live according to Judaism’s highest ethical and moral values while holding sovereignty and power.

A secure democratic State of Israel at peace with its neighbors alongside an independent, peaceful, and secure Palestinian State is essential not only to Israel’s long-term security and development, but to American Jewish identity and the future of the Jewish people around the world. The Biden-Harris campaign’s values and policies comports with Jewish, progressive Zionist, and Israel’s foundational values.

In a J Street Leadership conference call with Vice President Joe Biden on September 10, 2020, Biden expressed his long-standing support for the State of Israel, his beliefs about what will bring Israel lasting security and peace, and what he will do as President. He noted in our conference call the following:

  • Two-States for Two Peoples: Biden supports a negotiated diplomatic process resulting in two states for two peoples as the only way to insure Israel’s long-term security and democracy and Palestinian national rights;
  • Middle East Leadership: Biden has known personally every Israeli Prime Minister since Golda Meir and earned their trust by virtue of his support for the Jewish state and ongoing candor;
  • Anti-Annexation: Biden called upon Prime Minister Netanyahu and the Israeli government to stop immediately all talk of Israeli annexation of any part of the West Bank because he regards such a disastrous policy as being against Israel’s and the Palestinian’s fundamental interests;
  • The Palestinians: Biden promised to reengage the Palestinian Authority in talks and diplomacy leading to a two-state solution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, to reopen a US consulate in East Jerusalem, and to reinstate civilian funding to the Palestinian people that President Trump discontinued. He noted that the Palestinian leadership “hasn’t stepped up when given opportunities [to achieve peace].” As part of a process leading to a two-state solution, Biden said that the Palestinian Authority must change its educational system, stop inciting violence against Israelis, and focus on the economic needs of Palestinians. He said that both Israeli and Palestinian leaders need to show stronger commitment to peace negotiations, and he blamed President Trump for his one-sided and therefore destructive approach to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict;  
  • The Iran Agreement: Biden believes that the Trump Administration’s withdrawal from the Iran Nuclear Agreement was an historic mistake and that the United States must reengage with it. As President he will seek to do so and “if Iran returns to compliance” Biden will work with America’s allies to make the deal “longer and stronger.” He noted that the original agreement assured a most intrusive inspection regime of all Iran’s nuclear facilities, that many in the Israeli military and intelligence establishment supported the agreement, and that since Trump pulled the United States out of the agreement and replaced it with nothing. Iran has attained ten times the amount of enriched uranium to make a nuclear weapon than it did in 2017. “Instead of Iran being isolated,” as Trump claimed he would do, “we [i.e. the US] are the ones being isolated.” The old agreement, he noted, said that the United States could at any time take action against Iran if it violated the agreement which it did not do in all the time the US was part of the deal. Biden believes that a new agreement ought to include condemnation of Iran’s destabilizing actions all over the Middle East. He added that he believes that Trump has put Israel and the United States “in danger” by withdrawing from the Iran Nuclear Deal and endangered American Jews “by embracing far-right conspiracy theories”;
  • Israel and the UAE: Biden acknowledged that the Trump administration’s brokering of a normalization deal between Israel and the United Arab Emirates was a positive development. He said, “I think Trump is going to accidentally do something positive here,” though it needs to be said that the relationship between the Gulf’s Sunni Arab governments and Israel had been warming for years driven by a common animus toward Shiite Iran (Note: News of the rapprochement between Israel and Bahrain came after this call with J Street leadership. Neither deal (i.e. Israel with the UAE and Bahrain) addressed the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, a continuing threat to the security and democratic character of the State of Israel and to the national rights of the Palestinian people).

The following are the values and policies vis a vis Israel as stated by the Biden-Harris Campaign:

“Joe Biden’s record of unstinting support for Israel

  • Joe Biden’s stalwart support for Israel and his commitment to protect Israel’s security and strengthen our two nations’ partnership is deeply personal and spans his entire career.
  • Since his first trip to Israel in 1973 shortly before the Yom Kippur War, Biden’s commitment to Israel’s security has been unshakeable, fighting in the Senate for critical aid to Israel, calling it “the best $3 billion investment we make,” and opposing dangerous arms sales to its enemies.
  • As Vice President, Biden helped ensure unwavering support for Israel’s security. During the Obama-Biden Administration, he was a key advocate in securing support for lifesaving technologies like the Iron Dome, David’s Sling, and Arrow 3 anti-rocket and missile defense systems.
  • Biden helped shape the unprecedented $38 billion, ten-year memorandum of understanding for defense assistance to Israel signed in 2016, the largest such military aid package in U.S. history.
  • Biden has led efforts to oppose the delegitimization of Israel, whether in international organizations or by the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement here at home.
  • Biden took historic steps to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon. The Obama-Biden Administration imposed crippling multilateral sanctions, which brought Iran to negotiations, paving the way for the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) that prevented a nuclear-armed Iran.

A Biden Administration Will:

  • Sustain our unbreakable commitment to Israel’s security – including the unprecedented military and intelligence cooperation pioneered during the Obama-Biden administration, and the guarantee that Israel will always maintain its qualitative military edge.
  • Work with the Israeli and Palestinian leadership to support peace building efforts in the region. Biden will urge Israel’s government and the Palestinian Authority to take steps to keep the prospect of a negotiated two-state outcome alive and avoid actions, such as unilateral annexation of territory and settlement activity, or support for incitement and violence that undercut prospects for peace between the parties.
  • Reverse the Trump Administration’s destructive cutoff of diplomatic ties with the Palestinian Authority and cancellation of assistance programs that support Israeli-Palestinian security cooperation, economic development, and humanitarian aid for the Palestinian people in the West Bank and Gaza, consistent with the requirements of the Taylor Force Act, including that the Palestinian Authority end its system of compensation for individuals imprisoned for acts of terrorism.
  • Urge Arab states to move beyond quiet talks and take bolder steps toward normalization with Israel.
  • Firmly reject the BDS movement — which singles out Israel and too often veers into antisemitism — and fight other efforts to delegitimize Israel on the global stage.
  • Hold Iran’s government accountable and rejoin a diplomatic agreement to prevent a nuclear-armed Iran, if Iran returns to compliance with the JCPOA, using renewed commitment to diplomacy to work with our allies to strengthen and extend the Iran deal, and push back against Iran’s other destabilizing actions.
  • Ensure that support for the U.S.-Israel alliance remains bipartisan, reversing Trump’s exploitation of U.S. support for Israel as a political football, which harms both countries’ interests.
  • Support the critical economic and technological partnership between the United States and Israel, further expand scientific collaborations and increase commercial opportunities, and support cooperation on innovation throughout the region.”
  • See “Joe Biden and the Jewish Community: A Record and a Plan of Friendship, Support and Action” – https://joebiden.com/joe-biden-and-the-jewish-community-a-record-and-a-plan-of-friendship-support-and-action/

I ask that you distribute these blogs to anyone interested in what the vast majority of liberal American Jews believe (according to all polls) especially those living in the states identified by the Democratic presidential campaign where the closest results will likely occur: Colorado, Florida, Iowa, Maine, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Texas, Virginia, and Wisconsin.

Especially distribute these blogs to young potential voters who historically turn out in smaller numbers relative to their percentage of the population and encourage everyone to vote early unless they are willing to stand in line at polling places despite the health risks.

Past Jewish Values and the Biden-Harris Ticket Blogs include the following:

Jewish Values and the Biden-Harris Ticket – Blog #1

HEALTH CARE – Jewish Values and the Biden-Harris Ticket – Blog #2

ECONOMIC JUSTICE – Jewish Values and the Biden-Harris Ticket – Blog #3

THE ENVIRONMENT AND CLIMATE CHANGE – Jewish Values and the Biden-Harris Ticket Blog #4

 

THE ENVIRONMENT AND CLIMATE CHANGE – Jewish Values and the Biden-Harris Ticket – Blog #4

Today, September 11, 2020, is the 19th anniversary of the attack on America on September 11, 2001. The tragedy of that day and the loss of thousands of Americans changed the way we Americans see the world and strive to protect ourselves against the evil intentions of others. As a nation, we mourn our losses then and the losses of all the men and women in uniform suffered in the wars that came in 9/11’s wake as well as the innocent in Afghanistan and Iraq who were caught up in the fighting.

Now, we are experiencing yet another tragedy of far greater scale. Approaching 200,000 deaths from the virus in this country alone, so many tens of thousands of whom need not have died had the United States been led by a competent, honest, compassionate, and worthy President.

I turn now in this 4th blog in a series examining Jewish values on the Environment and Climate Change, the greatest single existential threat to the planet, with the policies of the Biden-Harris ticket.

From the Biblical era to the present, Jewish tradition is clear that we are stewards of the environment and that it is our religious and moral obligation to protect and preserve the natural world. These Jewish values comport fully with the Biden-Harris policy goals as opposed to those of the Trump administration that has undone so much of the progress of earlier administrations to assure a healthy and sustainable America.

The following texts span Jewish attitudes and date from the middle of the 2nd millennium B.C.E.:

God took and placed the human being in the Garden of Eden to work and protect it.” –Genesis 2:15, Mesopotamia, middle of the 2nd millennium B.C.E.

Should you besiege a town many days to do battle against it, you shall not destroy its trees to swing an axe against them, for from them you shall eat, and you shall not cut them down. For is the tree of the field a human, to come away from you in the siege? Only a tree that you know is not a tree for eating, it you may destroy and cut down and build a siege-work against the town that does battle against you, until its fall.” –Deuteronomy 20:19-20, Israel, 7th century B.C.E.

In the hour when the Holy One, blessed be God, created the first human being, God took the human and let him/her pass before all the trees of the Garden of Eden, and said to the human: See my works, how fine and excellent they are! Now all that I have created, for you have I created it. Think upon this, and do not corrupt and desolate my world; for if you corrupt it, there is no one to set it right after you.” Kohelet Rabbah 8:28 – Israel/Babylon, 600-950 C.E.

One day, as Honi the Circle-Drawer was walking along the road, he saw a man planting a carob tree. Honi asked, “How long will it take for this tree to bear fruit?” The man replied, “Seventy years.” Honi asked, “Do you expect to live another seventy years to eat its fruit?” The man replied, “I did not find the world without carob trees when I entered it. As my forebears planted for me, so I am planting for those who come after me.”                                              –Babylonian Talmud, Ta-anit 23a – Babylon, 500 C.E.

Rabbi Yochanan ben Zakkai said: If you are holding a sapling in your hand and they tell you the messiah has come, first plant the sapling, then go welcome the messiah.” –Avot d’Rabbi Natan B 31 – Israel/Babylon, 8th–9th century C.E.

The lights (i.e. sun, moon and stars) of the world suffer when a beneficial tree is harmed.” –Babylonian Talmud, Sukkah 29a Babylon, 500 C.E.

When a fruit-bearing tree is chopped down, a crying voice is heard from one end of the world to the other, but it is not audible to the human ear.” –Pirkei d’Rabbi Eliezer 34 – Italy, 8th–9th century C.E.

Ba’al tash’chit – ‘Do not destroy’ – was understood by our sages very broadly as including any act of needless destruction. ‘Not only does this apply to trees, but also whoever breaks vessels or tears garments, destroys a building, blocks a wellspring of water, or destructively wastes food transgresses the command ba’al tash’chit.’” –Rabbi Moses Ben Maimon (aka RAMBAM, Maimonides), Mishneh Torah, Hilkhot Melachim 6:10 – Spain and Egypt, 12th century C.E.

It is the way of the righteous and of people of action who love peace and are happy in the good of their fellows and who bring them close to Torah, that they should never waste even the seed of the mustard plant. And if they are able to save, they save everything from destruction with all their willpower. This is not the way of … the evildoers who do damage. They are happy with the destruction of the world, and they destroy it.” –Sefer HaChinukh 529 – Spain, 13th century C.E.

[The statutes relating to environmental protection represent the principle that] the same regard that you show to humankind you must also demonstrate to every lower creature, to the earth which bears and sustains all, and to the world of plants and animals…They ask you to regard all living things as God’s property. Destroy none; abuse none; waste nothing; employ all things wisely….Look upon all creatures as servants in the household of creation.” –Rabbi Samson Rafael Hirsch, The Nineteen Letters, Letter 11 – Germany, 1808-1888

BIDEN-HARRIS POLICY PLATFORM TO BATTLE CLIMATE CHANGE

“From coastal towns to rural farms to urban centers, climate change poses an existential threat – not just to our environment, but to our health, our communities, our national security, and our economic well-being. It also damages our communities with storms that wreak havoc on our towns and cities and our homes and schools. It puts our national security at risk by leading to regional instability that will require U.S military-supported relief activities and could make areas more vulnerable to terrorist activities.

Vice President Biden knows there is no greater challenge facing our country and our world. The following is his outline for a bold plan – a Clean Energy Revolution – to address this grave threat and lead the world in addressing the climate emergency.

Joe Biden believes the Green New Deal is a crucial framework for meeting the climate challenges we face. It powerfully captures two basic truths, which are at the core of his plan: (1) the United States urgently needs to embrace greater ambition on an epic scale to meet the scope of this challenge, and (2) our environment and our economy are completely and totally connected.

In 1986, Joe Biden introduced one of the first-ever climate bills in Congress. PolitiFact called him a “climate change pioneer” and dubbed his early leadership “a watershed moment.” Biden will lead the world in addressing the climate emergency by:

  • Ensuring the U.S. achieves a 100% clean energy economy and net-zero emissions by 2050.
  • Rebuilding the nation and ensuring that our buildings, water, transportation, and energy infrastructure can withstand the impacts of climate change.
  • Recommitting the United States to the Paris Agreement on climate change and lead an effort to get every major country to ramp up the ambition of their domestic climate targets.
  • Standing up to the abuse of power by polluters who disproportionately harm communities of color and low-income communities.
  • Fulfilling our obligation to workers and communities who powered our industrial revolution and subsequent decades of economic growth.”

See https://joebiden.com/climate-plan/# for The Biden Climate Plan

Note: In the weeks leading up to the November election, I am posting relevant Jewish texts articulating Jewish values and principles as applied to the significant challenges facing America along with the policies of the Biden-Harris ticket that comport with those Jewish values. I do so as one of hundreds of “Rabbis for Biden” who believe that the Trump-Pence Administration is threatening our democratic system of government and democratic norms, the U.S. Constitution, Jewish moral values and ethical principles, and America’s preeminent standing as a respected world leader.

Jewish Values and the Biden-Harris Ticket – Blog #1

HEALTH CARE – Jewish Values and the Biden-Harris Ticket – Blog #2

ECONOMIC JUSTICE – Jewish Values and the Biden-Harris Ticket – Blog #3

I ask you to consider distributing these blogs to anyone who is interested in what the vast majority of liberal American Jews believe (according to all polls) to Democrats, Independents, lapsed Republicans, Never Trump Republicans, and people who do not like Trump but are not yet convinced to support the Biden-Harris ticket, especially those living in the states identified by the Democratic presidential campaign where the closest results will likely occur: Colorado, Florida, Iowa, Maine, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Texas, Virginia, and Wisconsin.

I ask that you especially distribute these blogs to young potential voters who historically turn out in smaller numbers relative to their percentage of the population. Ask them to vote not only for the Biden-Harris ticket but for Democratic Senate, House, state, and local candidates.

Nothing is more important than getting out the vote and winning the above states and the Electoral College. Though Joe Biden will likely win the popular vote by millions of votes, he may yet lose the Electoral College and the election. Therefore, he must win by huge numbers in the above states. Everyone should be encouraged to vote early unless you are willing to stand in line at polling places despite the health risks.

 

“”Now that I am old I admire kind people.” Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel

[Note: I first posted this blog six years ago. In this age of the pandemic, economic collapse, unemployment, racism and bigotry of many kinds, and the run-up to the November election, the midah of kindness is particularly important.]

I am a collector of quotations on every conceivable theme. During the month of Elul (preceding the High Holidays) each year I revisit my ever-expanding collection with particular focus on the midot, the moral and ethical virtues that are Judaism’s foundational values.

The virtue of loving-kindness (Hebrew – chesed) is one such midah, and one I learned early in my life by example from my father (z’l) who taught my brother and me to “always be kind.” When our father died so long ago, this was a lesson I took deeply to heart not only for its own sake, but because by being kind (I like to think) I become worthy to be his son. I try and emulate his kindness in everyone I encounter.

I have in my collection pages and pages of quotations on the theme of kindness. I offer below a few of them:

When I was young, I admired clever people. Now that I am old, I admire kind people.
-Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel

Three things in human life are important: The first is to be kind. The second is to be kind. And the third is to be kind.
-Henry James

A thoughtful act or a kind word may pass in a moment, but the warmth and care behind it stay in the heart forever.
-Marjolein Bastin

Always be kind!
-Leon Rosove

The best portions of a good person’s life are little, nameless, unremembered acts of kindness and love.
-William Wordsworth

You cannot do a kindness too soon, for you never know how soon it will be too late.
–Ralph Waldo Emerson

Be kind because everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.
-Philo Judaeus

It is a bit embarrassing to have been concerned with the human problem all one’s life and find at the end that one has no more to offer by way of advice than to try to be a little kinder.
-Aldous Huxley

Too often we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, an honest compliment, or the smallest act of caring, all of which have the potential to turn a life around.
-Leo Buscaglia

Today I bent the truth to be kind, and I have no regret, for I am far surer of what is kind than I am of what is true.
-Robert Brault

The smallest act of kindness is worth more than the grandest intention.
–Oscar Wilde

Kindness is in our power, even when fondness is not.
-Samuel Johnson

I expect to pass through this world but once; any good thing therefore that I can do, or any kindness that I can show to any fellow creature, let me do it now; let me not defer or neglect it, for I shall not pass this way again.
-Étienne de Grellet du Mabillier

For beautiful eyes, look for the good in others; for beautiful lips, speak only words of kindness; and for poise, walk with the knowledge that you are never alone.
-Audrey Hepburn

ECONOMIC JUSTICE – Jewish Values and the Biden-Harris Ticket – Blog #3

This pandemic has stretched so many individuals and families to their breaking point, with unemployment numbers climbing, millions of people seeing their hours, wages, and health care cut, becoming food insecure, and entering into homelessness. Many people were already struggling to make ends meet before Covid-19. Many parents are worried about the economic future for their children and many seniors are frightened that their life savings are evaporating. The pandemic and economic hardship has particularly hit hard Black and Latino Americans, Native Americans, immigrants, and single parent families.

With structural weaknesses, inequalities in place, and a vanishing middle class, better education and job training for a 21st century economy will be necessary so that people will have the tools, choices, and freedom to advance without having to bear the burden of accumulated debt.

Caring for the needy, hungry, homeless, and most vulnerable is a core Jewish value and comports with the Biden-Harris ticket’s values and policy guidelines.

The following are a few examples of ancient Jewish text mandating the community’s responsibility to care for the poor, hungry, and homeless followed by Biden-Harris policy platform highlights.

“If… there are needy [people] among you, … do not harden your heart and shut your hand against [them]. Rather, you must open your hand and lend them sufficient for what they lack, … Beware lest you harbor the base thought … so that you are mean … and give nothing. They will cry out to God against you, and you will incur guilt. Give them readily and have no regrets when you do so,… there will never cease to be needy ones in your land.” –Deuteronomy 15: 7-11 – Israel, 7th century BCE

“‘Sufficient for what a person lacks’– this is a house. ‘What is lacking’– this is a bed and table.” –Babylonian Talmud, Ketubot 67b – Babylon, 500 CE

“… this is the fast I desire: to loosen the fetters of wickedness, to undo the bands of the yoke, and to let the oppressed go free, and that you break every yoke? It is to share your bread with the hungry, and bring the poor that are cast out to your house; when you see the naked, cover them, and do not ignore your brethren.” –Isaiah 58:6-7 – Israel, 8th century BCE

“How much is it appropriate to give to the poor? ‘Sufficient for their needs in that which they lacks.’ If they are hungry, you must feed them. If they need clothing, you must clothe them..” –Shulchan Arukh, Yoreh Deah 250.1 – Israel, 16th century CE

ECONOMIC JUSTICE – BIDEN-HARRIS POLICY PLATFORM 

Expanding Home Ownership, Biden-Harris will seek to

  • Invest $640 billion over 10 years so every American has access to housing that is affordable, stable, safe and healthy, accessible, energy efficient and resilient, and located near good schools and with a reasonable commute to their jobs
  • End redlining and other discriminatory and unfair practices in the housing market
  • Provide financial assistance to help hard-working Americans buy or rent safe, quality housing, including down payment assistance through a refundable and advanceable tax credit and fully funding federal rental assistance
  • Increase the supply, lower the cost, and improve the quality of housing through investments in resilience, energy efficiency, and accessibility of homes
  • Pursue a comprehensive approach to ending homelessness

Targeting the Wealthy and Corporations with Tax increases, Biden-Harris will seek to

  • Raise income tax rates from the wealthiest Americans and corporations
  • Raise the top income tax rate back to 39.6% from 37%
  • Tax capital gains and dividends at ordinary rates for those with annual incomes over $1 million
  • Tax unrealized capital gains at death
  • Apply Social Security payroll tax for those earning over $400,000 a year
  • Close stepped-up basis loophole
  • Raise top corporate income tax rate to 28% from 21%
  • Impose 15% minimum tax on book income of large companies (at least $100 million annual net income)
  • Tax profits earned from foreign subsidiaries of U.S. firms 21%

Reducing Student Debt, Biden-Harris will seek to

  • Forgive all undergraduate tuition-related federal student debt of those who make up to $125,000 and attended two- and four-year public colleges and universities, historically black colleges and universities and underfunded minority-serving institutions
  • Cancel a minimum of $10,000 of student debt per person
  • Forgive the remainder of loans after 20 years with no tax burden
  • Suspend monthly payments and interest of those earning less than $25,000 per year
  • Cap payments at 5% of discretionary income for the rest
  • Forgive federal loans of up to $50,000 over five years for those who participate in public service

Raising the Minimum wage, Biden-Harris will seek to

  • Raise the federal minimum wage to $15/hour

Building and Expanding the Nation’s Infrastructure, Biden-Harris will seek to

  • Spend $1.3 trillion on infrastructure over a decade. This includes $50 billion in his first year in office on repairing roads, highways and bridges, $20 billion on rural broadband infrastructure, $400 billion over 10 years on a federal new agency to conduct clean energy research and innovation, $5 billion over five years on electric car battery technology and $10 billion over 10 years on transit projects that serve high-poverty areas.

Supporting Rural America, Biden-Harris will seek to

  • Fight for fair trade deals
  • Invest $20 billion in rural broadband infrastructure
  • Create low-carbon manufacturing jobs
  • Reinvest in agricultural research
  • Improving access to federal resources and funds for farming or small businesses
  • Expand health services and medical training programs
  • Spend 10% of federal program funding in areas with persistent poverty

See the Biden-Harris economic plan at https://www.investopedia.com/joe-biden-s-economic-plan-save-the-middle-class-4769869

Note: In the weeks leading up to the November election, I am posting relevant Jewish texts articulating Jewish values and principles as applied to the significant challenges facing America along with the policies of the Biden-Harris ticket that comport with those Jewish values. I do so as one of hundreds of “Rabbis for Biden” who believe that the Trump-Pence Administration is threatening our democratic system of government and democratic norms, the U.S. Constitution, Jewish moral values and ethical principles, and America’s preeminent standing as a respected world leader.

I ask you to consider distributing these blogs to anyone who is interested in what the vast majority of liberal American Jews believe (according to all polls) to Democrats, Independents, lapsed Republicans, Never Trump Republicans, and people who do not like Trump but are not yet convinced to support the Biden-Harris ticket, especially those living in the states identified by the Democratic presidential campaign where the closest results will likely occur: Colorado, Florida, Iowa, Maine, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Texas, Virginia, and Wisconsin.

I ask that you especially distribute these blogs to young potential voters who historically turn out in smaller numbers relative to their percentage of the population. Ask them to vote not only for the Biden-Harris ticket but for Democratic Senate, House, state, and local candidates.

Nothing is more important than getting out the vote and winning the above states and the Electoral College. Though Joe Biden will likely win the popular vote by millions of votes, he may yet lose the Electoral College and the election. Therefore, he must win by huge numbers in the above states. Everyone should be encouraged to vote early unless you are willing to stand in line at polling places despite the health risks.

Abraham Lincoln – Tribute Delivered by Rabbi Isaac Mayer Wise – April 19, 1865

I’ve been feeling increasingly disgusted by our current morally bankrupt and corrupt White House occupant and his Republican sycophants and supporters and have thought to stop reading and watching the news so as to purge the toxicity as much as I can from my life. Yet, my anxiety about this election remains and I can’t stay away from the news for long. That said, I’ve been turning to reading history to offer me perspective.

In my library (inherited from my father) is a volume of collected tributes about Abraham Lincoln written and delivered immediately after his assassination beginning on April 19, 1865 and continuing until 1927. The book is called Abraham Lincoln – The Tribute of the Synagogue edited by Emanuel Hertz (New York: Bloch Publishing, 1927). Hertz (1870-1940) was a lawyer and historian.

Hertz collected and published sixty-six items in this volume, mostly tributes by rabbis but also including a moving poem by Emma Lazarus (1849-1887) whose verse (“Give me your tired your poor…”) graces the Statue of Liberty. Lazarus chose for her poem’s title the date of John Wilkes Booth’s capture and death, inadvertently giving it a day too late – April 27, Eighteen-Sixty-Five.

What follows here is a portion of a tribute delivered at the Lodge Street Temple in Cincinnati, Ohio on April 19, 1865 by Rabbi Isaac Mayer Wise (1819-1900), a Czech immigrant to the United States in 1846. At Rabbi Wise’s death he was called “the most important Rabbi in America.”

Rabbi Wise knew President Lincoln personally. His tribute of this greatest of American leaders, despite his human flaws, is an aspirational message for any would-be President and, for that matter, any American citizen and citizen of the world. After reading his words, I felt morally buttressed as I agree with Dr. King’s truth that “the ark of history is long but it bends towards justice.” I felt emboldened as well in the faith that as a nation we will climb out of the pit into which we’ve been dragged, hopefully after November 3 and then beginning anew on January 20, 2021.

“Abraham Lincoln departed… the generous, genial and honest man, who stood at the head of our people in this unprecedented struggle for national existence and popular liberty; whose words and deeds speak aloud of his … mind, purity of heart, honesty of purpose, confidence in the great cause, and implicit faith in the justice of Providence, which inspired him to consistency, courage and self-denial; this Abraham Lincoln who endeared himself to so many millions of hearts, and gained the admiration of other millions of people, both at home and abroad; whom the myriads of freedmen consider their savior, and tens of thousands esteem as high as George Washington, and feel as sincerely and affectionately attached to as Israel to her David…; this Abraham Lincoln, whose greatness was in his goodness, and whose might was in his unshaken faith, was assassinated. Blush, humanity! – He was assassinated. This is the lamentable fact which today bends so many stout hearts with sorrow and grief – speaks by the tears of countless myriads, and the dark clouds of mourning which envelop this great Republic….

…the assassin of Abraham Lincoln brooded over his diabolic schemes in the very capital of our country. Where shall we begin to speak of the enormity of our sins?… must we mention first the barbarous habit of bearing concealed arms to hide cowardice under the garb of crime? … or numerous and costly means to silence the crying conscience?

Repentance is the great lesson which this deplorable event should teach us. Away with your idols of silver and your idols of gold; away with haughtiness, selfishness, delusion, deception and barbarism; prostrate yourselves with humble spirits and contrite hearts…cry for mercy and forgiveness, then rise as better people, better citizens, true children of the living God – and you have honored the memory of him who died… Let him live in your virtues, resurrect in your patriotism; let him glow and shine in your aspirations, for the benefit of humanity, and the triumph of justice and liberty, of light over night, and right over might; and Abraham Lincoln lives as he wished to live – the benefactor of his people; and Abraham Lincoln departed as the Lord had spoken unto him that God might fulfill his divine promise: “and I will make of thee a great nation” [Genesis 12:2 comparing Lincoln with Abraham]. So let us do honor to the memory of the departed martyr of liberty.

The photographer or lithographer, the painter or sculptor, cannot externalize a man; he cannot give you more of him than a faint delineating of the outside, shape and features, the most unimportant portion, the mere case of a person. Monuments, however lofty and extensive, crowded with inscriptions and symbols, tell very little, after all, of the man himself, to whose honor they may be erected. The passions, feelings, struggles, victories, motives and thoughts of a great mind, and each of them is a real fraction of his existence, are so innumerably manifold and change so often, that no artist can represent a considerable portion of them. This is the case especially with the deceased, Abraham Lincoln. The best representation of his figure will not tell posterity who he was. His outside appearance bore no resemblance even to his real nature. The most skillful philosopher will fail in describing the man who stood at the head of affairs during this gigantic struggle, his cares and troubles, his sleepless nights and days of anxiety, his thoughts and his schemes, his triumphs and mortifications, his hopes and fears, and ten thousand more sentiments, feelings and thoughts, which moved his mind in the stormy period of his Presidential term.

…Let the actions of the deceased be our political creed, and Lincoln reigns perpetually; …he is immortal in his people.

“I will restore the Union,” he promised us, and twice he took the solemn oath to protect and enforce the Constitution of the United States. Let these two points be forever the beginning and end of our political creed. He gave liberty to an oppressed race, “And you shall proclaim freedom to all the inhabitants of the land” [Leviticus 25:10 – words inscribed on the Liberty Bell in Philadelphia]. Let us adhere to this great principle. All shall be free, all equal before the law. He was kind, charitable, and lenient towards the enemies of his country, longed and hoped for peace. – Let also these be cardinal points of our creed. Let us not be led astray by blind passions, hatred, a spirit of revenge; let us act entirely and conscientiously in the very spirit of the departed man, and we honor him. He reigns in death, and holds his dominion as though he were living still.

Let us carry into effect and perpetuate the great desires which heaved the breast of Abraham Lincoln; let us be one people, one, free, just and enlightened; let us be the chosen people to perpetuate and promulgate liberty and righteousness, the union and freedom of the human family; let us break asunder, wherever we can the chains of the bondsman, the fetters of the slave, the iron rod of despotism, the oppressive yoke of tyranny; let us banish strife, discord, hatred, injustice, oppression from the domain of humankind, as far as our hands do reach, and we secure to Abraham Lincoln a perpetual reign and dominion everlasting; we set him the most durable monument in the hearts of the human family; then he is not dead, not removed even, from our midst, and will live forever…the sudden removal of THE PERSON of Abraham Lincoln from our midst;…his personality, his essence and substance, his mind, his soul, his principles, may forever remain with us and be our guiding stars. So we may secure to him a perpetual reign, and a dominion everlasting; for the ideas of union, justice, liberty, peace, kindness, charity, forbearance and goodness are everlasting …

The lamented Abraham Lincoln believed himself to be bone from our bone and flesh from our flesh. He supposed himself to be a descendant of Hebrew parentage. He said so in my presence. And indeed, he preserved numerous features of the Hebrews, both in countenance and character.

…May the Lord send consolation to his bereft widow and children, and heal the burning wound of this country with his departure afflicted on her.”

Rabbi Wise ended his address with a prayer for President Lincoln’s family, the country, and the recovery of William H. Seward, Lincoln’s Secretary of State (1861-1869), who was nearly mortally wounded that same night on April 14, 1865 by another would-be assassin in league with the murderer of President Lincoln.

HEALTH CARE – Jewish Values and the Biden-Harris Ticket – Blog #2

This is my second blog in a series leading to the November election that shines a light on Biden-Harris policies and corresponding historic Jewish values. Please read my “Note” at the end.

Judaism affirms that health care is a human right, not a privilege, and that the community has a moral and religious obligation to care for the ill and dying.

Below are passages from Jewish tradition that affirm the obligatory role of health care workers and the community vis a vis the sick and the dying. Following these texts are the highlights of the Biden-Harris Presidential Campaign’s proposed health care policies, consistent with Jewish tradition’s values and directives. I am grateful to “Rabbis for Biden” that gathered many of these texts:

“Anyone who saves a single soul is deemed by Scripture as if that person had saved a whole world.” –Mishnah Sanhedrin 4:5 – 200 C.E., Palestine

“The duty to return a lost object to another (Deuteronomy 22:1-3) includes returning ‘a person’s body, for if one sees people dying and can save them, one should save them, whether physically or with money or with knowledge.’” -Rabbi Moses ben Maimon (aka RAMBAM or Maimonides), Comment to Mishnah Nedarim 4 – 12th century, Spain and Egypt

“One who has medical ingredients and one’s neighbor is sick and requires them is forbidden to raise the price above the standard value.” –Shulkhan Arukh, Yoreh De’ah, 336:3 – 16th century C.E., Safed, Israel

“The Torah gives permission to the physician to heal; moreover, this is a mitzvah (commandment) and it is included in the mitzvah of pikuach nefesh (saving life); if physicians [and health care workers] withhold their services [to the ill], they are considered shedders of blood [i.e. murderers].” –Shulkhan Arukh, Yoreh De’ah 336:1 – 16th century C.E., Safed, Israel

“In relation to the obligation to pay the costs of saving the life of a sick person who is in danger of dying: From the straightforward reading of [the Babylonian Talmud] Sanhedrin 73a [saving a life], we see that one is obligated to do everything to save that person, and if not, one transgresses the negative commandment: “Do not stand idly over the blood of your fellow human being (Leviticus 19:16).’” -Rabbi Shlomo Zalman Auerbach, Minkhat Shlomo, V.2, 86:4 – 1910-1995, Jerusalem

“It has been enacted that in every place in which Jews live, the community sets aside a fund for care of the sick. When poor people are ill who cannot afford medical expenses, the community sends them a doctor [or healthcare worker] to visit them, and the medicine is paid for by the communal fund.” -Rabbi Eliezer Waldenberg, Tzitz Eliezer 5:4 – 1915-2006, Jerusalem

“And it was learned that ‘any city that does not have in it these ten things, a Torah scholar is not permitted to live within it: …. a physician; [and] a surgeon…’” –Palestinian Talmud, Kiddushin 4:12 [66b] – 350-400 CE, Tiberius and Caesarea, Palestine and Babylonian Talmud, Sanhedrin 17b – 500 CE, Babylonia

JOE BIDEN’S POLICY PLATFORM CONCERNING PROTECTING AND BUILDING ON THE AFFORDABLE CARE ACT

“Joe Biden believes that every American has a right to the peace of mind that comes with knowing they have access to affordable, quality health care, and he opposes every effort to get rid of the Affordable Care Act. As President, he will protect and build on the ACA to ensure everyone has access to quality, affordable health care. Specifically, Joe Biden as President will:

  • Give Americans a new choice, a public health insurance option like Medicare, if their insurance company isn’t doing right by them or they don’t have coverage.
  • Automatically enroll low-income Americans who would have Medicaid but for their state’s inaction on the public option, premium-free and with the same scope of benefits as Medicaid.
  • Expand tax credits to help more families afford better coverage with lower deductibles.
  • Stand up to the abuse of power by prescription drug corporations.
  • Defend the rights of all people — regardless of gender, sexual orientation, gender identity — to have access to quality, affordable health care free from discrimination.
  • Ensure health care is a right for all, not a privilege by expanding access to contraception and protect the constitutional right to an abortion, reducing our unacceptably high maternal mortality rate, and doubling funding for community health centers.”

Note: In the weeks leading up to the November election, I am posting relevant Jewish texts articulating liberal Jewish values and principles as applied to all the significant challenges facing America along with the policies of the Biden-Harris ticket that comport with those Jewish values. I do so as one of hundreds of “Rabbis for Biden” who believe that the Trump-Pence Administration is threatening our democratic system of government and democratic norms, the U.S. Constitution, Jewish moral values and ethical principles, and America’s preeminent standing as a respected world leader.

I ask you to consider distributing these blogs to anyone who is interested in what the vast majority of liberal American Jews believe (according to all polls) to Democrats, Independents, lapsed Republicans, Never Trump Republicans, and people who do not like Trump but are not yet convinced to support the Biden-Harris ticket, especially those living in the states identified by the Democratic presidential campaign where the closest results will likely occur: Colorado, Florida, Iowa, Maine, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Texas, Virginia, and Wisconsin.

I ask that you especially distribute these blogs to young potential voters who, historically, turn out in smaller numbers relative to their percentage of the population. Ask them to vote not only for the Biden-Harris ticket but for Democratic Senate and House candidates as well as Democratic state and local candidates.

Nothing is more important than getting out the vote and winning the above states and the Electoral College. Though Joe Biden will likely win the popular vote by millions of votes, he may yet lose the Electoral College and the election. Therefore, he must win by huge numbers in the above states. Everyone should be encouraged to vote early unless you are willing to stand in line at polling places despite the health risks.