Make room for other issues

Make room for other issues

If you’re reading this, then you probably care about Israel. Most Chronicle readers do.

And if ever there were a time Israel needs her supporters, this is it. Rarely has the Jewish state seen threats to her existence greater than at this time.

Egypt is controlled by an anti-Israel, Muslim Brotherhood-led government. Syria is gripped by a civil war, which could bring another extremist regime to power. Hamas and Hezbollah are stockpiling weapons, which could be deployed in a future war, and, of course, the threat of Iran going nuclear is very real, indeed.

So, yes, we should be actively engaged on Israel’s behalf. We should care about Israel.

But we shouldn’t care only about Israel.

In politically charged times like these, some issues — Israel for one, the economy, of course, for another —have a tendency to push other issues from the public conscience.

Have you noticed that in this campaign season, the environment has mostly — though not entirely — disappeared from public discourse? It crops up only sporadically, like on occasions when the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is demonized for doing its job. Whether you’re a liberal or a conservative (or something in between) you need clean water, clean air and a healthy climate. These things won’t happen by osmosis. They need our attention.

 Or how about public education? Did you know public education budgets in 26 states are being slashed this year, affecting every grade level from K to 12? Pennsylvania isn’t one of them, but it’s near the break-even point, spending just $9 per student more than last year and ranking 18th out of all 50 states, according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. Thirty-five states are still spending less per pupil than they did before the recession. If our kids are to compete in a global economy, that must change.

Along those lines, the U.S. prison inmate population has shot up from 1.6 million in 2010 to more than 2.2 million in 2012, according to the Pew Research Center. Each year, at least $44 billion is spent on running correctional facilities in the United States — an increase of over $30 billion in 1987. Are we spending too much on prisons and not enough on schools? Are more people going to prison because we didn’t spend enough on schools? Disturbing questions.

Finally, what about social justice — a broad issue taking in everything from hunger to affordable health care to equal opportunity to affirmative action. Simply speaking, are Americans in it together or on our own?

We just touched on a few issues, and we’re not saying we’re right or wrong. We are saying Jews shouldn’t be a single-issue people. At this High Holy Day season, we should pause and consider questions that touch so many lives. Israel is a central concern to who we are as Jews, but it’s not our only concern.