For California’s Jewish voters, the gubernatorial contest represents a clear choice between a candidate, Jerry Brown, who has a proven track record of support for Israel and a robust commitment to the progressive Jewish values of tikkun olam, and his opponent, Meg Whitman, who has a thin public record that tells little about her views toward Israel or her commitment to the ethical values of tikkun olam.
I served in the Assembly during most of Jerry Brown’s tenure as governor. As chair of the Subcommittee on Energy, I worked closely with Gov. Brown in his efforts to make California less dependent on imported foreign oil and to lead the country in innovations in renewable resources.
As governor, he was fresh, innovative, visionary and anti-bureaucratic. He shunned the trappings of his office — drove a Plymouth, ditched the Governor’s Mansion — but he knew how to make things work, and he can do it again.
Brown’s entire public career reflects a commitment to the values of tikkun olam. As governor, he passed America’s toughest anti-pollution laws, added more than 700,000 acres to the state parks system and implemented innovative clean energy programs that led to the creation of 1.5 million jobs.
If elected, he will ensure the full implementation of AB 32, the California Global Warming Solutions Act, which will reduce greenhouse gas emissions by approximately 25 percent over the next decade.
Brown has protected all of us by fighting for equal rights and against discrimination. He appointed more women and minorities to state positions than any previous governor. He has been an unambiguous supporter of a woman’s right to choose.
Since becoming attorney general, he has continued to work for the rights of all Californians. He opposed Proposition 8, which banned same-sex unions, and petitioned to have it declared unconstitutional.
For his entire public life, Brown has been committed to protecting Israel’s security. At his first meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin in 1978, Brown said he offered the “clear message that peace will not come from making concessions before you even sat down to the negotiating table.”
Brown continues to send that clear message. As the current attorney general, he has been outspoken in his support of a state law requiring public pension funds to divest from companies doing business in Iran.
Gov. Brown’s vigorous promotion of trade between Israel and California has benefited both places. In 1978, he nurtured the growing Israeli-California high-tech alliance by announcing a joint solar energy research project.
Now the innovation economies of Israel and California are intertwined, and partnerships between Israeli and Californian businesses flourish. More than 1,500 California firms do business in Israel, and, in 2007, we exported more than $1.7 billion worth of goods to Israel.
Brown’s commitment to clean energy will only strengthen trade and ties between California and Israel, the world’s leading incubators of alternative energy companies. About half of all U.S. clean-tech investment is in California, and Israel has more than 400 firms working on clean and green technology.
Clean tech promises both to create jobs in California and to enhance Israel’s security. As governor, Brown will implement an innovative jobs plan that would make California a leader again in clean-energy technology and will spur job creation and investment — both here and in Israel — in the clean-energy market.
Brown’s opponent, Republican Meg Whitman, has a scant public record of support for Israel and has demonstrated little commitment to the values of tikkun olam. She has failed to vote for most of her adult life; she paid $200,000 to an employee she assaulted and paid another $1.8 million to settle a shareholder lawsuit for her ethically dubious insider stock deals while on the board of Goldman Sachs. Whitman promises to stand in the way of our environmental protection laws by vowing to suspend implementation of AB 32 for at least a year. Whitman has made the abolition of the capital gains tax the centerpiece of her “job plan” — a proposal that will benefit California’s richest residents while creating a $5 billion shortfall in our already strained budget.
Whitman opposes federal funding for abortion; she criticized her opponent in the primary election for receiving the support of Planned Parenthood; she opposes same-sex marriage; and she supports kicking undocumented immigrants out of our state-funded colleges and universities. Simply put, these are not the values of tikkun olam.
In contrast, Brown’s support for Israel and his dedication to a career of public service in sync with the values of tikkun olam makes him the right choice for Jewishvoters and the right choice for a better California.
Mel Levine is a former member of the U.S. House of Representatives and the California State Assembly. He is a former chair of the Jewish Community Relations Council of The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles.
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