I am not a one-issue voter. As an American and a Jew, there are many issues that concern me.
Support for Israel and its security is always important. But so, too, are protections that uphold separation of religion and state, assure access to reproductive rights, support fair immigration policy and many more. So ‘is it good for the Jews?’ isn’t really the question I ask. Rather, is it good for those who seek to live Jewish values and uphold the responsibility we have for one another, as a nation and as a people? And do we, and the leaders we select, reflect these qualities?
So as I look to the political drama in Israel, I’m chagrined that the question posed by many Israelis and American Jews is ‘Who else can lead us?’ No one person is irreplaceable, nor should they be. Even Moses embraced the wisdom of Jethro, his father-in-law, that leadership responsibility can and should be shared. From my personal experience as a leader within the Conservative movement and other institutions, my ultimate responsibility was to assure a successor to whom to pass the torch.
But no matter the issue, in all aspects of leadership, integrity matters. Israel’s form of coalition government is challenging; it’s a democracy with lopsided influence from the ultra-religious right. I’m painfully aware that a signed agreement forged through two years of face-to-face negotiation in the prime minister’s office to support egalitarian prayer at the Kotel, including equal access and dignity, was quickly put aside by the government due to political expediency. In its place are threatening behaviors and violent confrontations at the Kotel toward Masorti and Reform Jews and clergy. This is unconscionable. Perhaps most distressing to me is the communal leadership that advocates intolerance toward any expression of pluralism within a democratic state.
Politicians make many choices, but sacrificing integrity and embracing fear and intimidation is not what citizens deserve from their leaders.
As this election nears, I hope voters will act to preserve the values and ideals at Israel’s heart and for which it has fought and sacrificed. This is our beloved Israel, embraced by Jews throughout the world. Yes, I’m an American and a Jew. I’m one of six million Jews living in the diaspora. I, too, have a lifelong stake in Israel’s success and in its future, just as it’s had in me. And I believe integrity is the issue that matters.
Margo Gold is the immediate past president of United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism.