Many years ago, Rabbi Levine posed the question to my confirmation class at Adath Emanu-El: Are you a Jewish American or an American Jew? It was an interesting question that I still contemplate often. The concept of the question was, do you think of yourself as a Jew that is also an American, or as an American who happens to be Jewish.
This question came to mind today as I interviewed two active Jewish individuals that identify themselves as conservative, republican Jews. This is not an easy revelation in many Jewish circles as so many in the Jewish community typically view themselves as moderate liberal to very liberal, myself included. The Jewish Republicans can easily caucus in the same room as the Gay Republicans, Trial Attorneys for Tort Reform and the conservative hippies’ movement. In many Jewish communities coming out to your congregation that you are a Republican may be more difficult than being accepted as a gay or lesbian. The clergy at many synagogues usually find it as easy to speak in a sermon about a liberal political agenda, as their comfort level in supporting Israel in the same manner.
As a Jewish Democrat, I’ve easily found this acceptable without question. However, there are Jewish Republicans…aren’t there?
Yes, there are, and many times Jewish Republicans are dismissed pretty quickly when political conversations come up between Jews. Many Jewish liberals just know
that they are right, and the right is wrong. Jewish liberals claim that they want discourse; they claim they are correct because they are open minded and progressive, so everyone else is wrong. I say this with some authority because in college, this was me. Of course, I attended college during the Bush Administration, so I may have been correct, but that does not take away from the fact that I was shutting out Jewish conservative view points, simply because of the wing they were coming from.
That is not open-minded or progressive.
Today, I am still a liberal Jew, like the majority of my minority, but I’m a reformed liberal Reform Jew, and open to rational political discourse from the left and the right. And my hope is that other open-minded Jewish liberals will start being open minded to political discourse that differs from their own.
I interviewed two very interesting Jewish individuals who define themselves and their Organization as politically conservative. The first was Sheldon Goldstein, a primary candidate for the Republican Party race of the 30th
Congressional District in Texas, and second was the founder of the Jewish Tea Party and local Pittsburgh public servant, Joshua Wander.
Sheldon Goldstein Republican Jewish Texan
Interviewing the Jewish Republican Texan, Sheldon Goldstein made me wonder
[caption id="attachment_499" align="alignright" width="300" caption="Sheldon Goldstein - Republican Candidate for Congress in Texas 30th Congressional District"]
what it was like possessing such an interesting epithet. Goldstein told me about anti-Semitic comments made publicly and privately about him being a rich, Jewish, white, lawyer. He even told me about incident during a debate in which another candidate threaten him physically and the authorities were notified. Being Jewish in Texas was historically never easy, but competing in the Republican primary found Goldstein as even more of a pariah.
However, when I asked Mr. Goldstein which was more difficult, being a Jew in the Republican Party of Texas or being a Republican in your Jewish Community, he emphatically claimed the latter. Sheldon Goldstein had to fight tooth and nail in a very contentious primary race, and only with the full support and dirty tricks of the National Republican Party and lies and deception from his opponent, was Sheldon Goldstein defeated.
Mr. Goldstein’s opponent tried to spread false information about his law practice
; claimed that he had little charitable giving and that he purchased his endorsements. But interviewing Sheldon Goldstein you hear the voice of a calm, collected individual, an individual who funded his own campaign with over one hundred thousand dollars of his own funds. He did this because he truly believes that we need tax cuts, smaller government, strong national defense and he believes that he, not Stephen Broden, is the only person in the 30th
District that can defeat the Democratic Congresswoman, E.B. Johnson, and bring those ideals to Washington.
Whether you agree with Sheldon Goldstein’s platform or not, his outcast status in the Jewish Community should be unacceptable. Mr. Goldstein is an articulate, rational thinker, and has true conviction behind his ideas.
The Jewish Tea Party
My second interview was with Joshua Wander, co-founder of the Jewish Tea Party
with David Zuckerman. Joshua is a conservative Republican, who liked the Tea Party ideology, but couldn’t attend many of the events because they were held on Friday nights or Saturdays. The Jewish Tea Party, and even the National Tea Party, is not the crazy, racist, fundamentalist you see on TV. Speaking with Mr. Wander, the Jewish Tea Party has simple ideas for how the government should be more transparent and fiscally conservative.
When asked about specific policies agendas of the Jewish Tea Party, Wander says, “We hope just like the Wiki System, that eventually the truth will come out if everyone puts in their share.” Wander has contentions with many of policies put forth by the Democratic Party, but when he puts on his Jewish Tea Party hat, he stays very politically neutral, and encourages all ideas, within reason. Wander says, “One of the great things about the Tea Party is it is grassroots, there’s no official umbrella organization regulating it, so that allows a lot of different views to come and have a public debate. I think that is essential in our system. Unfortunately with all the talk of bi-partisanship, I do not see much of that happening in the actual government happening. “
I asked Mr. Wander what the Tea Party stand was regarding foreign policy and more specifically, what the Tea Party thought about Israel. Wander relayed that he couldn’t speak for everyone, but that many throughout the movement opposed the isolationism espoused by Ron Paul. “Most tea party members are very supportive of Israel, they understand that Israel is our only ally in the Middle East,” he says, “that Israel is the closest thing to a true democracy in the Middle East, and it would be silly to turn our back on them. I think that a lot of Tea Partiers are deeply religious, regardless of what religion that is, and they obviously have deep feelings for Israel from a religious standpoint.” But the Tea Party and the Jewish Tea Party is open for debate, even regarding Israel.
Next, I asked Mr. Wander, “What is the most difficult part of explaining the Jewish Tea Party to other Jews?” Wander says, that, “For many years, Jews have been scared to come out and say they are conservative…I think the Conservative movement in general is portrayed in a negative way in the Jewish community. I think if you look at a lot of Jewish values, that a lot of them are conservative, they’re not as liberal as one might think.”
The gun rights movement is a pretty big example of the rift between Jews on
conservative and liberal issues. Wander’s belief in Gun Rights, despite being raised in an anti-gun household, stems from his belief that, “Jews throughout history would have fared much better if they had guns, much more so than the general public.” Due to the Jewish history of persecution, Wander says, “Imagine if Jews in the Holocaust, during the war, had guns…One of the first decrees that Hitler made was to get rid of the guns. He knew he couldn’t do what he wanted to do in his plan, if the citizens had guns. I can just imagine that if all the Jews had guns that the Holocaust would not have occurred, I couldn’t imagine how it could occur.”
Lastly, I question Mr. Wander on the Jewish Tea Party’s stance on certain social issues including Gay rights and Abortion rights. “The Tea Party, within reason, is pretty open to any thing people believe and they are open to believe as they choose.” But, Wander cautions, “Most Tea Partiers are going to be on the conservative side socially and fiscally, so you probably aren’t going to find a Gay or Pro-Choice Tea Party.”
The Jewish Tea Party raises funds through their website, blog, and facebook group. The Jewish Tea Party and the other Jewish conservative groups are growing by word-of-mouth. Wander says, “One of the reasons for the Jewish Tea Party is to show Jews it is ok to be conservative, it’s ok to get out there and say, ‘I have certain beliefs, and they may not be congruent with the vast majority of liberal Judaism, but I have my opinions, I’m entitled those opinions, and I’m entitled to voice those opinions, and we (The Jewish Tea Party) are backing those people any way that we can.”
Doing research on this article was very eye opening for me. As I said earlier, I am a Liberal Jew, and I’ve always been very proud of my beliefs, but I don’t know if I was always open minded when it came to conservative ideas, and if you’re truly progressive, you should listen to both sides before you make your decisions. Whether Mr. Wander or Mr. Goldstein view themselves as Jewish Americans or an American Jews, I do not know, but I know that despite their disagreement with the majority of Jews, they are both great Americans and greater Jews, working to make our country better for us and our people.
Are you a Jewish Republican? Let’s start the discussion! Comment on the article below, and let’s start accepting the discourse of all ideas in the Jewish Community.
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Sheldon Goldstein an attorney and small business owner, who looks to bring conservative fiscal policies to Washington to help boost our economy and spur growth of jobs. Sheldon Goldstein and his wife, Michelle, are principals in the firm of Goldstein & Scopellite, PC, where they specialize in family law, litigation, mediation, and probate and business law. In addition to his law practice, Goldstein owns and operates two small business ventures.
A strong believer in small and efficient government, Goldstein participated in the historic march on Washington in September 2009. After joining hundreds of thousands of concerned Americans in the march, Goldstein decided it was time to stand up to career politicians who have lost touch with working families.
“Too many leaders in Washington care only about catering to special interest groups and finding new and wasteful ways to spend our tax dollars,” said Sheldon Goldstein. “To protect taxpayers, I will bring badly-needed fiscal responsibility to Congress and stand up to the politicians who are spending our country deeper into debt and expecting our children and grandchildren to pay the bill.”
Goldstein has long been active in Dallas County volunteering his time and providing donations to various non-profit and charitable organizations include Union Gospel Mission, Jewish Federation, Salvation Army, Toys for Tots, Dallas Food Bank, SPCA, Humane Society of the United States
and other animal foundations.
Goldstein and his wife, Michelle, are the proud parents of one daughter, Kimberly, and they attend Temple Emanu-El. He graduated from The University of Texas at Arlington before earning his law degree from Texas Wesleyan University School of Law.
You can visit Sheldon Goldstein’s Congressional Campaign website at http://www.goldsteinforcongress.com
or his Facebook page at http://www.facebook.com/sheldon.goldstein
or follow him on twitter @goldsteintx30
. You can also visit his law firm’s website, Goldstein & Scopellite, PC.
The Jewish Tea Party
The Jewish Tea Party was founded by Joshua Wander and David Zuckerman. Josh Wander recently ran as the Republican write-in candidate for mayor of Pittsburgh after having served as the elected Pennsylvania State Constable for the Borough of White Oak. He received his bachelor's degree in Talmudic law with honors from a prestigious rabbinical college in Jerusalem. He then served as a commander in the IDF and officer in the United States Air Force aux. before graduating from the University of Pittsburgh with a master's degree in public and international affairs and a global studies certificate in conflict resolution and a regional concentration in the Middle East. Politically, he served four years as an adviser in the Israeli parliament and four years as the online content editor and political correspondent for The Jerusalem Post before being elected as State Constable in 2003. Wander has been assigned and loyally served in global hot spots including: Iraq, Lebanon, Haiti, Northern Ireland and Israel. He is the founder of the D4DR Club and Jewish Preppers. He is an appointed Republican Committeeman.
You can visit the Jewish Tea Party blog at http://jewishteaparty.blogspot.com/
and you can join their Facebook fan page
and follow them on Twitter @jewishteaparty
Complete Interview with Jewish Tea Party Founder Josh Wander as an MP3
Jewish Republican Resources