A Report from AIPAC
Rabbi Edwin Goldberg
March 21, 2016
Washington, DC – I always figured this year’s conference would be electrified by the presence of presidential candidates in an election year. I had not considered the possibility that Donald J. Trump would be among the speakers. Nor would I have thought how quickly we would have sunk in the political culture of our nation. And yet here we are. These days I have often been thinking of the following story:
It is told that upon exiting the Constitutional Convention Benjamin Franklin was approached by a group of citizens asking what sort of government the delegates had created. His answer was: “A republic, if you can keep it.” The brevity of that response should not cause us to under-value its essential meaning: democratic republics are not merely founded and kept. They require sustained effort to maintain.
We are in the midst of an attack on the very nature of the Republic. Therefore, when it comes to the question of leadership, how we respond to inappropriate leadership is very important. I decided days ago to be one of the first rabbis to call for a boycott of the Trump speech. While Mr. Trump speaks I will be with other rabbis, studying texts on civility and responsible public discourse.
It has been pointed out that Trump is not antisemitic. This means little to me because he has unleashed a hatred that will turn antisemitic even if it is not yet reached that depressing milestone. History supports this inevitable truth. As Jews we have the responsibility to speak out against hatred for others because it is the right thing to do and it is also the smart thing to do.
This Wednesday night is Purim, a holiday that celebrates the triumph over a plot to exterminate the Jews of ancient Persia. The story of Purim warns us against those who assume the worst can’t happen, just because they don’t want it to. Good people can be conned, and not everyone is good; the very tolerance and open-mindedness that is sometimes ridiculed by politicians should not blind us to the fact that our republic may be in jeopardy.
We Jews, as much as anyone, have been enjoying the blessings of a republic. I hope and pray we can keep it.