By Yosef Israel Abramowitz
We clearly live in an era where democracy cannot be taken for granted. In fact, failure to constantly nurture and strengthen it leaves open the door for negative political forces to chip away at its core, whether in the US or Israel.
These negative political forces are not looking out for the common good or the average citizen, who are expendable in their eyes to serve the interests of power or greed.
Here in Israel, we held our breath as America went to elections, with the knowledge that if there wasn’t going to be democratically elected regime change in the United States, it would stall any efforts here to escape our current, painful predicament.
We know the Jewish community played a pivotal role in the Biden-Harris victory, in terms of donations, leadership and votes. According to the Jewish Democratic Council of America, headed by our friend Halie Soifer “in five states—Georgia, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, Nevada and Arizona–Biden won by margins that were less than the number of Jewish votes he received, which means that the Jewish vote was absolutely essential to his victories in those states, without which he would not have been elected.”
America dodged an undemocratic bullet and much work will still need to be done to restore trust in key institutions and to lift the level of dialogue past the 140 characters of Twitter.
Israel seems like forever on the verge of elections, turning every news cycle into a cynical barrage of attempted manipulations of the public. This has ruined civil discourse, thoughtful dialogue and political compromise that would serve the public good during our current economic crisis.
As an American Jew who made aliya out of conviction that we have been gifted the return to our ancient homeland to create an ethical nation-state that can serve as a (renewable) light unto the nations, let’s just say we have plenty of work to do. My teacher Rabbi Levi Weiman-Kelman calls what we have here “a messy miracle.” I could wax poetic about the miracle part, which is real, but what we really need is to tackle head-on the dynamics that are holding back Israel from fulfilling the promises made in its prophetically-inspired Declaration of Independence.
That’s why as an idealistic Israeli citizen and member of the Jewish Funders Network I support, along with my wife Rabbi Susan Silverman and fellow JFN member Yuval Lion, Lucy Aharish and the revolutionary, participatory DemocraTV. Seven thousand of us make modest monthly donations to air a nightly Facebook live show that is the most powerful corrective to the erosion of civil society. Lucy Aharish is a national treasure, an Israeli Arab who thoughtfully challenges Israeli leaders thru a values-lens that most American Jews would identify as their own. She was fired from her day job by the Israel Broadcasting Authority for hosting an on-line protest against the Prime Minister—a warning shot against press freedom—so we created a revolutionary TV show for her that is free of all commercial and political pressures.
I am a better citizen for having this nightly course be part of my life, as are hundreds of thousands of others. I am more optimistic about the future of Israel because of Lucy Aharish and her stellar team. I am a better Jew for being part a movement to save Israel from slipping further away from the core values of her founders.
Hey, American Jewry. You played a pivotal role in strengthening American democracy. With Hanukkah around the corner, now join us to strengthen the forces of light here in the State of Israel so we, too, can prevail.
Named by CNN as one of the world’s top six Green Pioneers, Yosef Israel Abramowitz is proud to serve on the Steering Committee of DemocratTV.