Windows and Doors

Windows and Doors


Lone Republican Jew in the House

posted by Brad Hirschfield

New House Minority Whip, Eric Cantor, the only Jewish Republican in the House, spoke tellingly with US News and World Report’s Dan Gilgoff. Cantor’s comments are intriguing, especially those about the role of Judaism in his politics, the importance Jewish Republicans and his definition of support for Israel.
Noting that Jewishness is important to him, Rep. Cantor cannot name a specific instance in which it shapes his thinking. Why is that? Does he not really mean it? Having met him numerous times, that doesn’t seem the correct analyses. So what is?
Cantor, like many people, has a hard time simultaneously affirming that Judaism is both multi-faceted (two Jews, three opinions) AND capable of providing concrete guidance on specific issues. The inability to appreciate both of those facts creates people who either invoke their interpretation of Judaism as THE interpretation of it, or individuals who can make no real decisions because there are always alternatives in the offing.
Rep. Cantor could make a real contribution by helping those in his party, who are especially fond of using religion in the former way, to see that they can stand for a faith-based agenda without decrying those who happen not to share their interpretation of what faith demands. That would be a real Jewish contribution to American politics.
Cantor is certainly correct about the importance of his role as a Jewish Republican. Precisely because there are many ways to be Jewish, no party should have a lock on the Jewish vote. But his assertion that friends of Israel should be nervous about the Obama administration is entirely uncalled for. Even if Cantor’s assertions are accurate, what benefit accrues in lowering expectations on the President-elect about the US-Israel relationship?


None. It’s purely partisan politics and fear-mongering, neither of which is good for America or Israel.
The strength of the relationship between Israel and the US is not rooted in partisan politics, and Eric Cantor steps in dangerous waters by suggesting that it is. The strength of the relationship is rooted in shared values of democracy and freedom. While members of different parties may differ about the policy implications of those shared values, they remain the foundation upon which the relationship stands. Suggesting otherwise opens the door to a variety of claims about the abuse of “Jewish power” on Capitol Hill and a variety of anti-Semitic canards.
Eric Cantor is a good man and a great friend of Israel. In light of both, he should pull back from politicking an issue as close to his heart and important to this country.



  • Yossi Lieberman

    Philosphy is the love of knowledge and search for truth. Rabbi Brad apparently is neither a philospher or truth seaker. Eric Cantor on the other hand appears to be both. The fact is that Obama can not be both a friend and defender of Israel and a friend and defender of Israel’s enemies of whom there are many. Eric Cantor would be wrong if he didn’t warn us about Obama’s friends. And Rabi Brad and Eric Cantor can not both be right. I choose the leader who values truth over nationality and religion.

  • Robert

    And I find your “truth” to be a selfish lie.
    Israel is the most paranoid little country on earth, paranoia evidently having been a saving grace in previous generations. But Obama’s main task as President with regard to Israel is to keep it from being the George W. Bush of the Middle East and pre-emptively bombing its neighbors lest they possess a fraction of the destructive power of Israel. And if that offends Israel, except for the fact they also maintain the power to nuke the US, I don’t care.

  • Scott R.

    Robert,
    You don’t have to care if Israel is offended.
    But I hope you understand that we don’t give a damn when the anti-Semites are offended.

  • Zvi Weiss

    Yossi -
    While Obama appears to have advisors [apparently] likely to be hostile to Israel, there appears to be little value calling this out right now — before we have seen anything. I would remind you that various Rabbinical groups (many likely to have been against Obama, the candidate for varous reasons) have all called for supporting the President.
    Further, I find it somewhat sad that Mr. Cantor’s “jewishness” ONLY appears in terms of his support for Israel. If Mr. Cantor can not articulate HOW “being Jewish” shaped his thinking, then how IS that “jewishness” important to him? While I disagree with the notion that Judaism is “multi-faceted” to be able to tolerate anything, I *do* feel that there are very good core ideas that can and should be articulated. Examples of this can include: “Traditional” Jewish attitudes on Abortion — balancing the Mother and the unborn child; how Jews react to religious symbols of the “majority” — understanding the true power of “religious symbolism”, etc. That Mr. Cantor is unable to do this is — to me — sad.
    Robert –
    I can only assume that you do not wish to follow the news media reporting Iran’s behavior. In addition to waging a war by proxy (funding Hamas and Hizbullah) against Israel — a war that just about everyone “tolerates” as long as Israel does not try to protect itself [at the point that Israel takes any sort of reprisal to protect itself then at THAT point, everyone wakes up and condemns to one degree or another Israel]. However, in addition to that overtly hostile behavior, Iran has repeatedly declared that Israel is to be wiped off the face of the earth. Iran, a country with VERY rich Oil reserves, is pursuing a program of Nuclear Energy that has EVERY appearance of attempting to develop a nuclear weapon. Against which enemy does Iran need Nuclear weapons? Or, do you simply accept Iran’s denials in the face of all other evidence? Iran is also developing missles that can reach all parts of Israel. So, let’s see:
    1. Developing a missle to target Israel
    2. Engaging in a program for Nuclear weapons (by the way, why ELSE does Iran have so many centrifuges)
    3. Declaring that Israel is to be wiped off the face of the earth
    And, you think that Israel is PARANOID for regarding this as an existential threat???
    Or, perhaps, you share the belief of those that Israel is really an “illegitimte” state but you claim that you are not anti-semitic because (a) you [are / may be] Jewish and/or (b) because you claim that you are “anti-zionist”. Well, I have news: There have [unfortunately] been throuhout history Jews ready to sell out and abadon their fellows — your claim of being Jewish [if you are] means nothing. And, the claim of “anti-zionist” really IS nothing more than anti-semitism. Denying the Jews the rights and claims to their land can only stem from an anathema to treating Jews like others… perhaps forcing them to be “accursed” because of their refusal to accept the Nazarene (which was the reason why the Vatican refused to support a Jewish Homeland).
    So, it seems to me that you are either willfully ignoring the news when you regard Israel as being “paranoid” — or anti-semitic and denying Israel the same basic rights as other sovereign states to defend themselves.

  • Jean

    Robert:
    Even “paranoids” have real enemies. Israel is smart enough to recognize real threats when they see them. The people of the United States are less astute, even though we were targeted for jihad over 30 years ago. Obama should be learning from Israel if he is to be an effective United States president, not running away from reality and hiding his head under a rock the way his constituent base seems to be.
    As for Eric Cantor’s inability to articulate how being Jewish has shaped his world view, I can understand that completely. When one’s faith is so totally ingrained into one’s thought process, it is difficult to cite particulars with regard to a specific issue. Ask any environmentalist why they believe in global warming, for example, and you’ll get the same lack of substance in their answer – for them, global warming is a matter of faith despite the evidence to the contrary that is readily available. Religion shapes behavior even if the person can’t explain it.

  • http://LizBerneyforCongress.com Elizabeth (Liz) Berney, Esq.

    As a strong supporter of Israel, and as a Jewish Republican challenger who ran for Congress this past November against a leftist Jewish Democrat incumbent, I was troubled by Rabbi Brad Hirshfield’s criticism of lone Republican Congressman Eric Cantor’s interview remarks.
    Rep. Cantor is absolutely correct to point out the serious concerns with Obama’s Israel influences and Obama’s posture on Iran. President-elect Obama’s Israel affairs appointments are extreme leftists – the very people about whom concerns were raised during the election campaign. Virtually all of them have a history of pushing Israel to make suicidal concessions, and of supporting Palestinian leaders who continue to promote terror. Deeply anti-Israel advisor Samatha Power promotes cutting off aid to Israel, and instead funding a Palestinian state and protecting the Palestinians from Israel perpetrating “genocide” on the Palestinians. Power was fired from Obama’s campaign in May for calling Hillary a “monster” – but has apparently now been selected for a high level foreign policy appointment in Obama’s administration. Then there’s Obama advisor Dan Kurtzer. According to news reports, Kurtzer will be Obama’s Special Envoy to the Mideast. Kurtzer is known for being one of the architects of the failed policy of bringing Arafat back to Israel, and recently stated that he wants to put the future of Jerusalem on the table in peace talks. The there’s Susan Rice, Obama’s nominee for U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations. Rice’s history includes advising John Kerry (when she served as his senior foreign policy advisor) to promise to appoint Jimmy Carter and other hostile-to-Israel persons as Mideast envoys. Senator Kerry later rejected Rice’s advice as “unbalanced.” Rice also served as Assistant Secretary of State when the State Department considered Yasser Arafat to be a genuine peace partner and made Arafat the White House’s most frequent foreign visitor during the Clinton administration.
    In addition, the Obama transition team’s recent meeting with what they consider to be Jewish leadership was overwhelmingly populated by pro-Palestinian leftist fringe groups such as “Peace Now,” “J Street,” and “B’tselem,” who were all screaming against Israel.
    The general consensus of those who have been watching the formation of the Obama administration is that it will be an administration which exerts unprecedented pressure on Israel to make one-sided concessions which will severely endanger Israel’s survival.
    Further, as Rep. Cantor notes, Iran is an existential threat to Israel and the U.S. Obama’s apparent weakness on Iran is of grave concern. Iran is six months to two years away from nuclear warhead capability, is building 12 anti-ballistic missiles per month capable of reaching Israel (which Iran has already tested), and is 3 years away from the capability of launching nuclear missile attacks on American cities from vessels which are far offshore.
    Unfortunately, an Obama administration will be assisted by my opponent in the 2008 election, Democratic Congressman Gary Ackerman. Ackerman has been abusing his position as head of the Mid-East Subcommittee to accuse Israel of having “illegal outposts” and to repeatedly promote sending our U.S. tax dollars to the Palestinian Authority and Mahmoud Abbas, despite Abbas’ and his government’s continuing incitement of terrorism and the PA’s announcement that 40% of the funds which the PA receives from international donors is sent to Hamas. Ackerman also watered down the Iran sanctions bill and publicly stated that he, personally, wants to meet Ahmadinejad with no preconditions. Almost every time I walk outside, someone in my community approaches me and tells me how concerned they are about Ackerman and Obama’s positions on Israel and Iran, and how sorry they are that I lost the 2008 election. I wish I was in Congress to give Rep. Cantor more support for his “lone Republican” voice.
    Rabbi Hirshfield correctly points out that Israel and America share the values of democracy and freedom. One of those freedoms is freedom of speech. After applauding American freedoms, Rabbi Hirschfield should not urge Rep. Cantor to be silent about the dangers that the Obama administration poses to Israel’s and America’s safety.
    Speaking out is also a Jewish imperative in circumstances such as this. The Talmud insists: “Do not idly stand by your brother’s blood” when we see such dangers. Rabbi Hirshfirsh should praise Rep. Cantor for having the courage to speak out – instead of accusing Rep. Cantor of “partisanship” and “opening the door” to a variety of “canards.” Have we forgotten what occurred when most American Jews were silent during World War II?
    Elizabeth Berney, Esq.
    LizBerneyforCongress@gmail.com
    LizBerneyforCongress.com
    5th Congressional District of New York (Northeast Queens – Bayside, Whitestone, Little Neck, Douglaston, Jamaica Estates, Flushing, etc. & Northern Nassau County – Great Neck, Roslyn, Port Washington, Manhasset, etc.)

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