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October 18, 2012

President Obama—The Choice of Jewish Voters

Listed in: Women's Issues, Israel, Other Domestic Policy, NJDC News, Opinions

Originally Published in The Baltimore Jewish Times

By NJDC President and CEO David A. Harris 

In less than a month, Americans will go into voting booths and cast their ballots. They will choose not only between two candidates, but also between two competing visions for America’s future. President Barack Obama and Mitt Romney represent opposing interests on most every major issue that we face. For the majority of Jewish voters the choice is a clear one.

The Torah instructs us, “Justice, justice shall you pursue.” It is this, along with the Jewish value of tikkun olam, repairing the world, that drives the Jewish community to pursue policies that foster social justice. Striving for social justice is also a core Democratic value, and it is one of the reasons why most Jews have supported Democrats since the New Deal - to say nothing of the 74 percent of Jewish voters who supported President Obama in 2008 and the dramatic majority that very likely will support him again this November.

In the past four years, President Obama passed the Affordable Care Act (“Obamacare”), which will increase the accessibility and effectiveness of health insurance for more than 20 million Americans. He ended the military’s discriminatory “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy, allowing LGBT service members to serve their country openly and proudly. His policies have helped to end gender discrimination - in the workplace through the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act and by health insurance companies through provisions in Obamacare.

The president’s record on Israel has been just as strong. Contrary to what Republicans wrongly have claimed, President Obama is a fervent supporter of Israel - indeed, Israeli leaders boast that the U.S.-Israel security relationship is stronger than ever. Since President Obama took office, he has restored Israel’s qualitative military edge and drastically increased military aid. It was the Obama Administration that fought the Palestinian unilateral declaration of independence at the United Nations and helped fund Israel’s Iron Dome - the advanced missile defense system that is protecting Israeli cities like Sderot from Hamas’ rockets. And Obama has been the global leader against a nuclear-armed Iran through years of crippling international sanctions. This president is easily one of the most pro-Israel presidents the U.S. has ever had - and those seeking to discredit him and politicize the U.S.-Israel relationship do Israel no favors.

On the other hand, one need not look too far to see why Mitt Romney is completely out of step with most Jewish voters. He has demonstrated that his foreign policy agenda is incoherent at best and dangerous at worst. He and running mate Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) have asserted that they would cut or eliminate altogether the social safety net, Medicare, Obamacare and education programs. Romney, Ryan and the Republican Party also have made it abundantly clear that they are looking to turn back the clock on women’s rights and LGBT rights. Their vision is simply incompatible with the values and political beliefs of the vast majority of American Jews.

For most Americans, the differences between President Obama and Mitt Romney are not small. But for Jewish voters who also weigh tikkun olam and social justice, the differences could not be greater.