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November 04, 1994 - Image 5

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1994-11-04

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Community Views

Editor's Notebook

A Jewish Prism
For Election Views

It's The Proposals
That Scare Me



As the election ap-
proaches, you and
I face a myriad of
races and ballot is-
sues to ponder. In
just a few days, we
must decide for
whom we will vote
for U.S. senator,
for member of the
U.S. House of Representatives,
for governor and Lt. governor, for
state attorney general, for secre-
tary of state, for state senator, for
state representative, for various
judgeships, for state university
trustees ... the list seems to go on
and on.
Were it not complicat-
ed enough, in many races
the two "major" parties
have been joined by oth-
ers, such as the Liber-
tarian Party, the
Workers World Party,
the Natural Law Party
and independent candi-
And then
there are four
ballot issues, three
placed there by the
initiative of proponents
of the issues, while the
fourth is automatically
brought before voters in 16-year
My fear is that voters, Jewish
or otherwise, will be so over-
whelmed by the length of the bal-
lot and the seemingly endless
choices that they will decide not
to vote or to vote only in a few
races. I would not be surprised if
the turnout is quite low and that
some races will be decided by a
handful of voters.
As Jews, we must recognize
that we have a stake in the elec-

David Gad-Hart is the executive
director of the Jewish
Community Council.

tion process as a whole and, in
particular, in this election. A de-
cline in voter turnout is a symp-
tom of public disenchantment
with the political process. When
people disconnect from their most
elementary civic role, the legiti-
macy of the whole system is
brought into question. We know
from our history that such a de-

velopment can ultimately be dis-
astrous for religious minorities.
In this election, Jews should
view the various races and issues
through a "Jewish prism," not ex-
clusively, but in addition to the
other criteria that we use to de-
termine how we will vote. We
must ask ourselves what Jewish
interests are at stake? What is-
sues are paramount in this elec-
tion, and how can I use my
Jewish values and experience to
evaluate the candidates' positions
on those issues?
Certainly, Jews will respond
to these questions in different

ways. But while we each have
our own unique way of defining
Jewish interests and concerns,
the point is that we should be
asking the right questions. Fur-
thermore, we should not assume
that these questions should be
applied only to the elections for
federal office. Increasingly, our
interests and concerns are being
acted upon at the local and state
For example, the issue of gov-
ernment support for religious-
oriented schools has received
attention recently in the gu-
bernatorial race and is like-
ly to become an even bigger
issue next year in the Leg-
islature. Many Jews have
strong views on this issue
and should take them
into account when as-
sessing the various
candidates for state
\ executive and leg-
islative office.
A little-known bal-
lot issue should also re-
ceive much more
attention from the Jewish
community. Proposition A
would trigger a state con-
stitutional convention, one
that could be vulnerable to
forces that wish to weaken the
state constitution's strong sepa-
ration of church and state. If this
is a special concern to you, then
I urge you to inform yourself
about this proposition.
I hope you will not allow the
sheer mass of the ballot to dis-
courage you from going to your
election site on Tuesday. In
preparation for voting, review the
various election guides that ap-
pear in daily newspapers. And
then make informed choices, in-
formed by your own special per-
spective on the world, including
your Jewish prism. ❑

Crisis vs. Continuity


Frankly, the news
from around the

world and the sour
mood of the Amer-
ican electorate are
sufficiently cur-
dling. I didn't need
the fund-raising
blurb from the
World Jewish Con-
gress informing me that "fright-
ening levels of anti-Semitism"
have been "unleashed," that "ha-
tred is on a rampage," and, com-
plete with cutesy little graphics, a
virtual catalog of current horrors:
"Bombings, beatings, Nazi ral-
lies, skinhead attacks, Holocaust

denial, ethnic cleansing ... racial
tension in USA, popularity of ul-
tra-nationalists, gains by Italian
fascists, new virulent anti-Semi-
Believing, as I do, that we need
to wean ourselves away from the
tradition that seeks to promote
Jewish identity by emphasizing

* To date, 46 people have
signed up for a new program of-
fered by Boston's Hebrew College
that will cost $1,200 a year, last
two years, and involve them in
100 hours of Jewish learning in
the classroom, plus many addi-
tional hours of homework.
Along with a range of new and
(and exaggerating) Jewish mis- newly invigorated programs at
ery and vulnerability, I read such the Hebrew College, it suggests
bloated appeals (for the WJC is that there's still an appetite for
not unique in its scarifying tac- Jewish learning. Boston is plain-
tic) with dismay. Invariably, the ly not alone, as witness the ever-
overkill induces in me a perverse expanding Wexner program and,
desire to balance the scales with here and there, the initiation of
countervailing evidence. Here- Wexner clones.
with, then, some good news:
CRISIS page 44

By now, all of us
have to be
drowning in a
sea of lawn
signs, paid polit-
ical promises
and plenty of fin-
ger pointing. But
before you throw
away your insta-
sponges, jar openers, emery
boards (we're up to our cam-
paign buttons in emery boards),
bumper stickers and everything
else that's
been handed out during this
campaign, let's make sure that
we don't overlook a major issue
Before you go on with this
column, read the one next to
this one, by David Gad-Harf, ex-
ecutive director of the Jewish
Community Council. What rm
doing is picking up a piece of his
Community Views column and
underscoring it. When you walk
into the voting booth on Tues-
day, Nov. 8, you'll probably al-
ready know your choices for
Lansing, Capitol Hill and even
the courthouse. Hopefully well
all have done some homework
on our candidates of choice. Re-
alistically, though, many of us
are knee-jerking it and just go-
ing with the political flow. That
could be political party lines,
name familiarity or even Jew-
ish last names.

Those proposals
will affect your life.

But when you get beyond the
names and you see the ballot
proposals, we're not talking
names or political familiarity
here. Instead, you've got to do
some reading ahead of time. Mr.
Gad-Harf is warning us to play
particular attention to Propos-
al A, a measure that could open
the state up for a constitution-
al convention. It's up for a vote
every 16 years and this is the
year for it. Both gubernatorial
candidates and major business
and labor organizations are op-
posed to it, largely because of its
cost. The cost, though, can be
measured in more serious terms
than dollars. Simply stated,
Michigan could be looking at
narrowing the church-state is-
sue. Michigan's active religious
right could directly affect issues
of abortion rights and even civ-
il rights for homosexuals. You
think this doesn't affect you?
Think again, and think hard.
Yes, you can look at me as be-
ing politically paranoid, but I
don't want government from
the Christian right having this
kind of influence on basic civil

rights including right-to-life is-
sues and even right-to-death is-
And this is just the potential
of one ballot proposal. Disagree
with what I'm saying here?
Fine. But I'm going to vote on
Tuesday, and I'm going in with
the questions read. If you choose
not to read the questions, don't
argue with the answers you'll
get. Yes, you might vote for
Wolpe or Engler or Abraham or
Carr, and that will either be
your problem or your conviction.
But the ballot issues result in a
legacy that your children will
have to live with. The propos-
als are as important, if not more
important, than the people
you'll vote for on Tuesday.
Again, don't ignore them. I
guarantee you someone who
lines himself up with Pat
Robertson knows exactly what
Proposal A is all about. De-
pending on who is elected to
serve as delegates to such a con-
vention could change all of our
lives. But, again, whether you
are for Proposal A or against it,
at least read it and the other
Suppose you knew that a de-
cision was being taken out of
your hands that could directly
influence your life.
You wouldn't let that happen,
be it lifestyle, civil rights, in-
surance payments, anything.
Be courageous, get the info
ahead of time. And vote.
What to do with the old lawn
signs? Nothing is more pathet-
ic than a wet, wilted lawn sign
after an election. Reminds me
of when gentiles throw out their
Christmas trees after their hol-
iday. One friend of mine, who
held office for 20 years, used the
same lawn signs for each elec-
tion. The sign had a photo of
him with wire rimmed glasses
and dark black hair. By the
time he ran for office for the fi-
nal time, his hair was gray and
he wore contacts. But he used
the same lawn signs.
Our communities should pick
up the election litter like they
do spring cleaning and fall leaf
bags. Give the buttons to the
kids and rip off those bumper
stickers. As uncluttered as our
lawns will be, so will radio sta-
tions and televisions be free of
political ads. Be glad it's over,
happy we have the process and
content with the knowledge
that in two years we get to do
this all over again. Only this
time, for president of the Unit-
ed States.
That ought to be even more
of a nail-biter than we're expe-
riencing now.
I'll be in need of emery boards
by then. ❑

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