When presidential hopeful Al Gore named Senator Joseph Lieberman his running mate, the press immediately began to speculate about hidden anti-Semitism in the American electorate. Despite what you read in the papers, Lieberman is not the first Jew to run for national office—if you count that assimilated Jew from Arizona Barry Goldwater. Did anyone in 1964 worry about the fact that Goldwater's grandfather fled Poland because of the pogroms? As a teenager in Arizona, I remember hearing debate over his "extremism in the defense of liberty." But not a word of concern about his Jewishness.The history of Jews in Western civilization shows that true anti-Semitism targets even the assimilated, sees them as a greater threat because of the covert nature of their identity.Is America ready for a Jewish candidate? I believe the answer is yes. But the more interesting questions are these: Is the political world ready for a candidate who is concerned to close the gap between the legal and the moral? And can the political world accommodate the faith of an observant Jew?Let's look first at Jewish practice. Torah observance—keeping Kosher, observing Sabbath, and so forth—was designed to separate God's people from the surrounding nations. Some of that separation had an ethical character ("You shall not bear false witness") and some of it was symbolic ("You shall circumcise every male child on the eighth day"). But it was all designed to build up a strong sense of identity and ultimately of mission: to be "a light to the nations." A Judaism that contents itself with Torah observance for the sake of preserving a people's identity is shallow, flat, thin. But a Judaism that understands its moral mission to the rest of us is deeply textured and ...1
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