The end of the marathon presidential election race this week (though the final results were not known as this page went to press) puts a period on a fascinating campaign that held the nation's attention for more than a year. But the election of a new president and Congress is not the end of politics or public policy.
On the contrary, the dawn of a new political era highlights the need for the community to take a break from the partisan warfare that has been tearing us apart and rededicate ourselves to advocacy on issues of importance to the Jewish community.
Of course, American Jews are far from united on a host of issues. On both domestic and foreign policy debates, deep disagreements remain. But, as much as those debates deserve to be aired without attempting to repress minority views, there are still some basic principles around which the overwhelming majority of the community ought to be able to rally.
The first of these is social justice, and care for the sick and the elderly.
At a time of economic crisis, it is always those least able to care for themselves who are most at risk. In particular, the growing population of Jewish elderly on fixed incomes may find themselves in trouble as the financial downturn deepens. While there is no consensus as to the precise fix for many of these problems, the Jewish community must focus itself on the need to ensure that Jews living on the edge of poverty are not abandoned.
As the nation prepares to consider new ideas for expanding heath-care coverage and measures designed to avoid further economic dislocation, our voices must be raised on behalf of those at risk.
Just as important in the coming years will be continued Jewish advocacy for the cause of human rights around the world.
Political and religious persecution around the globe is a quintessential Jewish issue and cannot be dropped because of our preoccupation with our pocketbooks. Sadly, concern over the ongoing genocide in the Sudanese province of Darfur has remained a marginal issue, despite the huge cost in lives. Though most foreign-policy issues have been put on the back burner because of the panic on Wall Street, it is imperative that our advocacy on this point should not be drowned out by other concerns.
Lastly, the need to speak up on behalf of the State of Israel is just as important as it has ever been.
Though, in recent years, backing for the Jewish state has become a political football, to some degree, there can be no question that backing for its security is still a point on which the overwhelming majority of Jews can agree.
In the coming months, Israel's people will choose a new Knesset and prime minister. This is a time when our focus must be on making sure that Israelis are allowed to make their own choices. And, once these choices are made, we will have the obligation to support the government they elect and make certain that it is not subjected to undue pressure by any outside force.
At the same time, we must continue to sound the alarm over the danger that Iran's nuclear program poses, not only to the survival of Israel, but to the security of the entire world. Though we pray that Tehran can be constrained by diplomacy, our message must be clear: Under no circumstances can the fanatics who run Iran be allowed to possess the ability to make good on their threat to annihilate the Jewish state.
Despite our differences, there are many issues around which American Jews can unite. Though partisanship can never be entirely ignored, it's time for Jews of all political stripes to put aside their differences and work together to support social justice, human rights and the security of the State of Israel.