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June 6, 2013

Gov. Walker Doesn’t Represent Jewish Values

Listed in: NJDC News, Opinions

Originally published in the Los Angeles Jewish Journal

By Aaron Keyak, Executive Director of the National Jewish Demcratic Council

Governor Scott Walker is a right-wing conservative. He stands staunchly against a woman’s right to choose and has limited women’s access to affordable and essential health services. As governor, he has unnecessarily cut billions of dollars from his state’s schools. And, perhaps most infamously, he has lead the charge to drastically curtail the rights of public sector employees, such as teachers and civil servants.

Walker is one of America’s most right-wing governors and many of his policies are down right extreme. His record is clear.

Then why did the Republican Jewish Coalition (RJC) decide to select Walker from among our country’s hundreds of Republican elected officials to honor this Sunday in Beverly Hills?

Remember, RJC is a group that, in a post-election analysis, highlighted “real concerns over the Republican Party’s views on social issues, such as abortion and gay marriage” and declared that Republicans “must earn the trust and votes of non-traditional republicans” including women and Jewish voters.

If anything, Walker is the exactly type of Republican that RJC should be rejecting. There are few Republicans who are more out of step with the American-Jewish community than the Governor from Wisconsin.

According to a comprehensive and non-partisan Public Religion Research Institute 2012 survey, 77% of Jewish Republicans support abortion rights, which stands in a stark contrast to the severe limitations Walker placed on a woman’s right to choose. Walker’s most recent budget deliberately cut $1.1 million from Planned Parenthood, forcing the closure of many rural health clinics that provided crucial health services to low-income women. That should be appalling to those who claim to represent Jewish Republicans, not to mention, completely contrary to the values of the 93% of all the Jewish-Americans who were polled and “favor legal abortion in all or most cases.”

Walker also remains opposed to same-sex marriage, favored by 81% of those Jewish-Americans who were surveyed, but it is not only on social issues where Walker remains completely out of step with our community. Walker continually opposes Jewish values when it comes to our religion’s call ofTikkun Olam, or “healing the world”—identified overwhelmingly by Jewish-Americans as an important value “that inform[s] their political beliefs and activity.”

As one of Walker’s first acts as governor, he sought to eliminate rights of public sector employees. In response, 70,000 people went to the Wisconsin State Capitol to express their outage, including numerous Jewish groups that voiced their support for public sector employees and organized labor. The employees attacked by Walker are the center of our communities. As it is written in Devarim, “Do not take advantage of a hired man…. Otherwise he may cry to the Lord against you, and you will be guilty of sin.”

The Jewish community has a long-standing involvement in organized labor and our tradition mandates the fair treatment of employees, while Walker’s actions treat public sector employees unjustly and unfairly. Our public servants deserve our support and should not see their rights unduly targeted by the most powerful person in their state.

At the same time that Walker takes advantage of his state’s workers, he also is undermining opportunity for their children’s future. Walker slashed funding to educational institutions across the board. Between local school districts, the University of Wisconsin System, and Wisconsin technical schools, the 2011 Wisconsin Act 32 cuts nearly $2.6 billion from public education. This resulted in higher tuition, larger class sizes and fewer teachers, and was a strong blow to the Jewish value ofTikkun Olam.

It is hard to find a single issue that is shared as an important priority by both Walker and the American-Jewish community. Further, even when it comes to the Middle East, notwithstanding that many governors lack a strong foreign policy profile, Wisconsin is not even one of the more than 20 states that have divested itself from companies that do business with Iran.

Walker has made it a priority to cut funding from programs important to the Jewish community and fights against some of our most deeply held policy positions. This should be a surprise to no one, least of whom would be Walker himself.

Then why is the RJC rejecting its own post-election analysis and choosing to honor someone so diametrically opposed to the overwhelming number of Jewish-Americans?

Perhaps they will change their minds.

Aaron Keyak is the Executive Director of the National Jewish Democratic Council