Julian Kossoff
Telegraph (Opinion)
March 25, 2010 - 12:00am

Over 80 per cent of American Jews voted for President Barack Obama; only African-Americans backed him in greater numbers.

They voted for him because he is a Democrat, a liberal and a reformer. They voted for him because he signalled early on that the right to health care, enjoyed by citizens of most Western nations, would be a top legislative priority and a signature moral mission.

Jews have always believed in subsidised medicine. Tzedakah (righteousness, fairness or justice) is the age-old religious obligation to give to charity, to help the poor, the weak and the sick. All are duty bound to give, but the rich must give the most – or be condemned.

Jews’ faith in the healer is likewise a factor in their enthusiasm for Obama’s historic legislation.

Judaism, throughout its literary canon and social practice, has sanctified the profession of doctor and the art of healing, and supports the proposition that the physician is not the adversary of God but, in fact, His agent, indeed His partner.

Thus Maimonides the pre-eminent medieval Jewish philosopher was also a doctor. Later, “my son, the doctor” became the dream of every self-made Jewish immigrant to America.

Indeed, it is the migrant roots that keep Jews loyal to the Democrat Party. Barack Obama, having “pulled himself up his bootstraps” by hitting the books, resonates with the American Jewish narrative.

Forget the noisy neo-cons and the Commentary crowd: the Jews of America may now be middle- and upper-middle-class, but the commitment to social justice that shaped the lives of their New Dealer grandparents in the slums of New York, Philadelphia and Chicago is now in their DNA.

The connection is personified by Rahm Emanuel, President Obama’s chief of staff and close personal friend.

Even unprecedented tension between the White House and Israel cannot break the bond. Days after Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s 45-minute telephone roasting of Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu, she spoke before 4,000 AIPAC delegates (ardent Zionists to their very core) and, noted an Israeli observer, there wasn’t a single boo to upset their loyalist applause.

Israeli voters may have moved to the Right, but American Jews are shifting Leftwards.

According to the Washington-based “pro Israel, pro peace lobby” J-Street, 82 percent of US Jewry supports the American government playing an active role in helping the parties to move beyond the current impasse and resolve the Arab-Israeli conflict. A further 71 percent support the American government in exerting pressure on both the Israelis and Arabs to make the necessary compromises to achieve peace.

Just as they supported the the epic struggle to bring healthcare to every American citizen that finally defied a century of failure and sabotage by entrenched interests, American Jews may yet play a key role in realising the moral duty to make peace.


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