Why I want to be the values-voice in the US Congress
LAST UPDATED: 02/06/2012 21:44
No holds barred: Why would a rabbi run for Congress? Because the problems we’re seeing in our great nation are caused by a values erosion.
Rabbi Shmuley Boteach Photo: REUTERS
In 2008 I was asked to be a national co-chairman of “Rabbis for Obama.” The
position might have given me access to the leader of the free world and perhaps
important leverage given his testy relations with Israel.
But I declined
the offer. Though I am inspired by President Barack Obama’s personal story and
see him as an exemplary husband and father, I disagree with the Democratic
president on too many issues. And now, in the same spirit, I have cast my
yarmulke into the ring by declaring my desire to seek the Republican nomination
for Congress in New Jersey’s ninth district where I live. I am now actively
exploring the viability of my candidacy and my ability to integrate existing
responsibilities into the considerable effort a successful candidacy will
Why would a rabbi run for Congress? Because the problems we’re
seeing in our great nation are not caused by an economic downturn but by a
values erosion, and I intend to be the values voice that Congress so desperately
The values that have dominated the American political landscape
for decades are the American obsession with gay marriage and abortion, to the
exclusion of nearly all others, which explains why our country is so incredibly
religious yet so seemingly decadent. It’s time to expand the values conversation
and policy agenda.
Let’s begin with really saving the institution of
marriage by focusing squarely on the outrageous 50 percent divorce rate. I will
promote legislation that will fight marital breakdown by making marital
Let’s give husbands and wives whose families
are collapsing a financial incentive to get the help they need so that their
kids don’t end up like yo-yos bouncing from home to home. I am a child of
divorce and hosted a national TV show that saved families from being part of a
tragedy that must finally be addressed on a grand scale.
And while we’re
at it, let’s consider legislation to recreate an American Sabbath so parents
have an incentive to take their kids to a park rather than teaching them to find
satisfaction in the impulse purchase. Bergen County, where I live, has Blue Laws
that keep shopping malls shut on Sundays allowing families to coalesce around
the dinner table rather than the department store.
Beyond helping the
family this will also help counter the growing materialism that continues to
poison the American soul leading to the near-collapse of a $10 trillion economy
just three years ago when we had homes that were never large enough, cars that
were never new enough, and designer labels that were never fashionable
Eighty-one percent of 18- to 25-year-olds surveyed in a Pew
Research Center poll said getting rich is their generation’s most important or
second-most-important life goal, while 51% said the same about being famous. I
am pro-wealth, but only when it is consecrated to a goal higher than mere
consumption. That is why I propose a moment of silence to start the day in
public schools so children are given time to reflect on issues and a Being
larger than themselves.
Separation of church and state is key in our
nation. But that means not imposing a religious creed on any citizen rather than
chasing G-d from public life. We should also be combating the growing narcissism
of our kids by proposing a year of national service after high school. Just 2%
of the American population protect our freedom in the military while the
remainder do scant public service, and with one daughter now entering the
Israeli army and a son who has been nominated to West Point, I believe strongly
in kids who choose to serve.
The reality-TV generation, which experiences
exploitation as a way of life, needs to rediscover human dignity.
President Obama, well intentioned as he may be, doesn’t understand about his
propensity to throw money at every social problem, aside from bankrupting us
through ever greater debt, is that of course people want food, clothing, and
shelter. But more than anything else they want a life of dignity and
Dignity is the human aura that accrues to the
individual through self-reliance. A dependent life is a fundamentally
undignified life. Self-respect is earned through the sweat of one’s brow. Yes,
people want to pay their bills and we all seek material comforts. But more than
anything else we seek an existence infused with a sense of relevance and
meaning. Government must, of course, provide a safety net for a rainy day. But
only self-reliance creates a sunny life. I will promote policies that lessen the
size of government so that citizens can take both moral and financial
responsibility for their own future.
As a father of a large family, I
wish to champion the fiscal accountability necessary for working parents to
survive this economic downturn through a lessening of the outrageous tax burden
and allowing them to keep more of their money and spend it on their families. We
need a flat tax and a simplification of the tax code that addresses both Warren
Buffet’s point, that billionaires should not be paying taxes that are lower than
their secretaries, but that is consistent with bringing taxes way
When it comes to education, parents have a right to choose who
educates their children and to which schools they send their kids and, as such,
vouchers for parents empowering them with school choice are a must. It is
outrageous that one of the most important decisions of a parent’s life, namely
the people and environment that will influence their kids, is made by the
government. But we must simultaneously strengthen our public schools by
introducing more values-based learning as well as a dress code that fosters
dignity and self-worth.
In foreign policy I believe in the obligation to
resist evil and I intend to be a voice of firm American resolve against tyranny.
President Obama has allowed America’s global leadership to seriously weaken. The
war against Gaddafi was one that touched me personally. I led the campaign in
Englewood to push the tyrant out of our neighborhood when he sought to live in
the Libyanowned compound that is my immediate next-door neighbor and whose
tax-exemption I have fought for three years.
But even when Gaddafi began
slaughtering his people, it was the British and the French, rather than our
president, who led the assault against the dictator and Obama has done almost
nothing to stop Assad from slaughtering the citizens of Syria. Worst of all, it
seems that under our president’s watch Iran will build a nuclear weapon. I will
push for and support the drastic measures necessary to ensure that so dangerous
and murderous a regime never acquires a doomsday device.
has, thankfully, reversed course on his unfair pressure on Israel and deserves
credit for increasing military and intelligence cooperation with the Jewish
state. But who is to say that this has not happened because of his shellacking
in the 2010 midterm elections and that the pressure won’t resume if reelected?
For this reason, and because Israel is America’s most stalwart and reliable ally
– championing American-democratic ideals in the world’s most dangerous region –
I intend to be Israel’s staunchest supporter in the United States Congress,
should the good people of the New Jersey’s ninth district see fit to choose me
as their representative.
Shmuley Boteach, ‘America’s Rabbi,’ has just
published his newest book Kosher Jesus, which has already hit several bestseller
lists on Amazon. He served as a political talk-radio host on WABC, America’s
most-listened to station, won the London Times Preacher of the Year Award at the
Millennium, and received the American Jewish Press Association’s Highest Award
for Excellence in Commentary. Follow him on Twitter @RabbiShmuley.