Without Fear or Favor
With less than five weeks to go before Election Day, the two major political parties are already gleefully beating the stuffing out of each other with bare-knuckled attacks. While sometimes distasteful, forceful advocacy is certainly a part of democracy. Yet as much as both sides wish to demonstrate their own virtues and the perfidy of their opponents, that's not the purpose of this particular paper.
As the sole weekly Jewish newspaper of Greater Philadelphia, the Jewish Exponent recognizes that Jews are Democrats and Republicans, liberals and conservatives, as well as every other variation on the theme. To pretend that any party is the only acceptable path for a Jew would be a disservice to the interests of the entire community, which has friends and foes on both sides of the aisle.
Though we do not endorse candidates, it remains our duty to bring issues of concern to the attention of readers. By asking questions and placing the issues in perspective, we offer the public an opportunity to hold these parties and candidates accountable on all the issues, including Jewish ones. Though partisans will inevitably seek to tilt our coverage, we remain committed to laying out the stories of this election in an even-handed manner.
In avoiding endorsements while still playing a part in holding the parties accountable, we are confident that our readers understand that they can make up their own minds without any censorship or heavy-handed editorializing from the likes of us.
The Power of Memory
The holiday of Sukkot, which begins this weekend, is an event that offers something for everyone. As such, it is one that deserves not to be shoved aside after the end of the 10 days encompassing Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur.
In biblical Israel, Sukkot was a feast of Thanksgiving that was a time of one of the annual pilgrimages to the Temple in Jerusalem. In that spirit, many have embraced it as an environmental feast, in which the four species of plant that we commemorate with lulavs and etrogs now stand in for an ecology-friendly Jewish view of the world. But as valid as this "green" interpretation of tradition might be, it's essential for us to recognize that the core of Sukkot is the same belief in the continuity of Jewish history.
The sukkahs -- in which the observant dine next week -- symbolize the temporary dwellings of the Jews following the Exodus from Egypt. We ask ourselves to think about the condition of our ancestors, who wandered the desert on their way to the Land of Israel millennia ago and then to symbolically invite in the patriarchy (and for those of us who embrace egalitarianism, the matriarchs) of our people into our own sukkah.
In a culture in which history is the day before yesterday, focusing on the distant past is a hard sell. But Sukkot is a potent antidote to such attitudes. The important thing about the Jewish experience is that there is no real separation between our history and our current predicament. Thus, as we look around and see Jews in Israel recently made homeless by Hezbollah terrorist missiles, and others -- both abroad and at home -- still living in need, the imperative to remember that we once wandered homeless in search of permanent shelter against the winds of hate remains a crucial lesson.
Perhaps we ought not to need to eat outside for a week to understand the duty to express our solidarity with Jews in peril around the world. But if that's what it takes, then perhaps it's more important than ever for as many Jews as possible to take a moment to shake a lulav, and to sit and eat in a hut where you can still see the same stars that once shined down on our ancestors.