Although I grew up in an extremely involved political family, I have not been active in any political party or campaign since June 1983. That is the year I was ordained as a rabbi by the Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion in Cincinnati, Ohio.
After ordination, as I served congregations in Wisconsin and Pittsburgh, I kept faith with a uniquely American bargain: As the congregations I served were tax-exempt, I would refrain from partisan politics. I might express views on issues, but never about parties or candidates. I refused to have a lawn sign showing support for a candidate as I believed I represented all members of the congregations I served as rabbi, no matter how they chose to vote.
I am now retired from congregational life and I am free to express my views more openly. And what a time to do so!
We face hatred, division, anger and fear on a scale that I frankly do not remember from my early years, despite having marched in protest against the Vietnam War. We face physical danger from gun violence and climate change. We face spiritual harm from racism, anti-Semitism, and wackadoodle conspiracy theories.
We look to leaders for everything from hope to practical policies to guide us out of the morass of problems we face as a country. The current occupant of the White House is giving us neither.
President Trump tosses gasoline on the fires of hatred and suspicion and refuses to take responsibility for the blatant public health failures in response to the COVID-19 crisis. He panders to terrifying groups like QAnon because he says, “They like me.”
Our most sacred text, the Torah, clearly teaches that even kings are subject to the rule of law and may not govern according to their self-interest or their whims:
In Deuteronomy 17:17-20, we read:
“And he shall not have many wives, lest his heart go astray; nor shall he amass silver and gold to excess.
When he is seated on his royal throne, he shall have a copy of this Teaching written for him on a scroll by the levitical priests.
Let it remain with him and let him read in it all his life, so that he may learn to revere the LORD his God, to observe faithfully every word of this Teaching as well as these laws.
Thus he will not act haughtily toward his fellows … ”
Of the two candidates for president this year, only one has demonstrated that he will neither be goaded by wealth nor guided by a straying heart, and that is Joe Biden.
Only one candidate has steadfastly stood for our religious values and laws, and that is Joe Biden.
Only one candidate has refused to let his heart be haughty and place his wants over our needs, and that is Joe Biden.
Only one candidate has kept faith with his faith throughout his life, and that is Joe Biden.
As Election Day approaches, I refuse to despair. Rather, as a proud American, a faithful Jewish leader who cares deeply about this country, I will work for and vote for Joe Biden.
I don’t need America to be great, I need it to be good. And Joe Biden is a walking role model. Despite countless setbacks, Joe Biden has never stopped being good. I want him to help make America good again. That is why this rabbi is passionately in favor of Joe Biden for president this fall. I hope he can help bring out the goodness in all of us, regardless of party or politics. We need a good man to be a great president. That good man is Joe Biden. PJC
Emeritus Rabbi Jamie Gibson lives in Pittsburgh.