Touching base with a friend recently, she asked what I was up to, and having just returned from the pool of a local Jewish community center, I whimsically replied, "I've been swimming with Jews." This inside joke became a bit more pertinent as we discussed the New York Times piece "On Israel, Jews and Leaders Often Disagree," a roundtable discussion regarding the discomfort many Jews feel about Israel and the pressure not to go against "acceptable" currents on the matter.
What a difference two and a half years make. When Democratic presidential candidate Al Gore selected Connecticut Sen. Joe Lieberman as his running mate in 2000, there was a surge of Jewish pride and support. Now that Lieberman has announced his own candidacy in the 2004 presidential race, there's a surge of Jewish doubt and ambivalence. Why?
The objections to the Lieberman candidacy reveal a nice mix of Jewish fears and neuroses. However, they don't withstand serious scrutiny.
A Jewish president would provoke anti-Semitism. Actually, one of the most heartening aspects of the 2000 election was precisely that having a Jew on a major party ticket for the first time was a big yawn among non-Jews. We braced ourselves for the backlash -- andÂ nothing.
Despite its air of celebration, Passover is a bittersweet remembrance, one in which the joy of liberation is marked by the pain of recollection of what we were liberated from and what we lost on the way from Egypt to Eretz Yisrael. Our seder liturgy reflects that ambivalence, although it may require hearing some unfamiliar music to remind us.
As the United States intensifies its war against terrorism at home and abroad, the Jewish community may be poised to serve as a bridge between the Bush administration and some of its critics in the civil liberties community.