Once again, Rabbi Shmuley Boteach assumes that his beliefs and attitudes are universal and, once again, he’s wrong. He writes May 6 that “we welcome House Majority leader Eric Cantor of Virginia because whether you are a Republican or a Democrat, you cannot but admire the staunch and proud Jewish identity of the youngest House majority leader since the Second World War and the highest-ranking Jewish elected official in American History.” I don’t admire Eric Cantor and I don’t particularly think that to “greet every person you meet with a kind and pleasant countenance” is nearly enough to help “train a new generation of scholars in the art of broadcasting Jewish values.”
I wonder if Boteach witnessed the heartless treatment with which Cantor responded to a participant at a town hall meeting during the period when the Republican party was perpetrating falsehoods and denigrating President Obama’s efforts to reform health care. I had the “privilege” of seeing and hearing numerous times Cantor’s response to this woman with cancer who had lost her job and with it her health insurance, had to sell all her belongings, become completely impoverished, lose her house, and apply for Medicaid, and if that’s not enough, indigent services. Boteach truly perceives this as representing Jewish values?
I find an Orthodox rabbi presenting this as the ultimate portrayal of Jewish values incredibly perverse, particularly when juxtaposed with what Abraham Foxman reported in his article – that “a woman who could barely read and write,” a woman who had so little, could put her own life in jeopardy to save a child who was little more than a stranger to her. This was more of a “Jewish value” – a human value – than that expressed by Cantor. Fanya Gottesfeld Heller, a Holocaust survivor quoted in another article, spoke of the Polish man who saved her family, even refusing medical treatment because he thought it might put them in jeopardy, as exhibiting “Jewish values.” Heller also said, “We Jews had to take care of each other from cradle to grave” and “We all must care for each other, Jews, Christians, and Muslims.” Wallace Greene pointed out that “Jews fought against the Nazis by acts of kindness to one another.” Where, I ask you, is Cantor’s taking care of another, an act of kindness, or of any humanity at all in his response to that woman and his willingness to deny health care to all those who are financially strapped – or more, can barely or not at all afford it? And, as time has moved on and I’ve had more to hear from Eric Cantor, I’ve yet to discover evidence in anything else he’s uttered of the Jewish values I treasure.
Sadly, for Cantor himself, and even more so for the citizens whose lives he may so adversely affect, I find little or no Yiddishkeit in his attitudes at all. Sorry, rabbi, I need more than a smile when one greets me to consider that person a “mensch.”