The outpouring of emotion across the nation and beyond to Barack Obama’s election victory, even among many who did not vote for him, has brought about the possibility of an era of national conciliation. As an Orthodox Jew, I particularly yearn for this, as this past year’s campaign has brought to the surface modes of behavior that our Torah and our sages urge us to abjure.
As the waves of election-year passion recede, it behooves us to examine our actions and to ask ourselves the following: Is it possible that we harbor latent traces of racism? Have we been overzealous in our desire to work for the security of Israel, conjuring antagonists where none exist? Have we thought about the needs of other communities in addition to those of our own? Have we vetted every story attacking the character and associations of each candidate, or did we go viral with spurious and outrageous claims? I single out my community because, as yeshiva principals and Orthodox rabbis can attest, these problems have surfaced disproportionately among us.
Our country is under threat; countless fellow citizens find themselves in dire circumstances. Israel, too, desperately needs for us to reclaim our pre-eminence on the international stage. The demands of our immutable Jewish values have not fallen with the market. We all fall short, sometimes spectacularly, of our ideals. There is no shame in that, but we should be ashamed if we refuse to learn from our shortcomings. Let us act constructively to support the efforts of the new administration. Should the need arise to criticize our government, let us do so with respect, with facts, and with reasoned argument, and not with innuendo and rancor.