Orthodox-Jews gain much when a fellow orthodox-Jew represents them in Congress. Senator Joseph Lieberman (I-Conn.) often came to the rescue of the Jewish community. Whether it was religious tolerance issues or Israel, Sen. Lieberman was a steadfast supporter of the community and served their needs. With his departure, the Jewish people will unquestionably experience a difference of representation in Congress; thus, it would be proper to replace him with another orthodox Jew in Congress. The 9th district of New York, which estimates to consist of thirty percent orthodox-Jewish voters, can serve as an opportunity to elect a person committed to the Jewish faith. The question remains, can David Weprin, a practicing orthodox-Jew, hold that post?
Sen. Lieberman is a man of faith. Many Jews serve on the Supreme Court, some held high-level positions in various administrations. Jews occupy 13 percent of the Senate, and they have 26 members in the House of Representatives. However, Sen. Lieberman is the only orthodox-Jewish representative in the Democratic caucus so far.
Yet, even Sen. Lieberman’s tenure has not been without controversy. Although he famously declared the Sabbath as a day of rest and even released a book about its beauty, he often did partake in sessions and votes on the sacred day, citing the cause of “saving lives.” He also raised eyebrows when he keenly pursued a bill that repealed DADT (which ironically passed on the Sabbath) and publicly announced that he does not say the traditional blessing “Shelo Asani Isha”. It undeniably caused the community much discomfort and humiliation.
Nevertheless, Sen. Lieberman was still a maverick, who more often than not put his faith before his career and party.
David Weprin deserves credit for his past commitment to the Jewish community; yet, the placing of his career and party before his faith is troubling and makes him the wrong contender for this position. His loyalty to the liberal stance of his party in place of his religion makes him a constant embarrassment for the constituents who ardently uphold the laws and customs of their belief. How can their conviction allow a person who practices Judaism, yet berated the core values in public, represent them and their values? How can they be at ease when a person rebukes his rabbi for upholding the Jewish values to the members of his community?
Yet, to his credit, it is not his faltering Jewish views that led to this rant and vote against his religious principles. He did not care to offend his Jewish brethren; it was rather a vote for “a civil-rights issue and not a religious issue,” as he explained later. His party-line vote is clearly in sync with his career. His naiveté is no less significant than his obliviousness to the peril of the rising national debt. His gullibility on this issue is equal to that of letting Social Security and Medicare go bankrupt. He is not anti-religious; he simply seems to be out-of-touch with the people and in-touch with the kingmakers in his party. Same-gender marriage is not a religious issue for a career politician that was hand-picked to walk toe-in-toe with the leaders in the party. He was simply chosen to reiterate and defend his party’s positions.
Sen. Lieberman understood that endorsing a Republican for president will not be popular among his peers in the Democratic caucus; yet, his faith was his priority. He understood that his career will end prematurely if he criticizes the President, but his religion took precedence over his occupation. David Weprin already said that he will support the President’s re-election; he supported the unpopular Affordable Healthcare Act which is not that affordable to business owners, because he is a Democrat. He was selected to represent the district because of his liberal positions. He will try to appease the community, but it will not happen at the expense of his party loyalty; after all, they hand-picked him to represent their views -– not those of the constituents.
It is for the same reason that Ezra Friedlander, the son of a distinguished rabbi in Boro Park (who perhaps opposes people who criticize the core values of Judaism), claims that Weprin “is better qualified to represent this community than probably anyone who has ever run for Congress.” He right in the eyes of a man who places his consulting firm before G-d, but for those who do not live off politicians and do take along religion into the voting booth, he is yet the worst to represent the community. Friedlander might lose money and a client if Weprin loses the race, but the community will win and gain a representative that is sensitive and compassionate to their values. David Weprin might be an orthodox-Jew, but he cannot and does not represent orthodox Jewry.
Dave Hirsch is a political analyst and columnist. He can be reached email@example.com
NOTE: The views expressed here are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of YWN.