Tiferet did it again. Ed Jerome and I, who were part of last week’s visit to Austin, arranged by our local Federation’s Jewish Community Relations Council, were the only President/Rabbi duo – I dare say – at the entire State Capitol. As one who has not participated in such a mission in over a decade, the trip to Austin stirred in me a number of positive reflections.
The State Capitol was jam-packed with any number of groups and organizations meeting with their elective representatives, awakening their interest and asking for their support on any number of issues. Contrary to what many of us believe, there are a good many people in this country who care enough about issues and concerns to take the time to meet with government officials, so that changes can be implemented in the way Austin does business. If we want our elective officials to care about issues that are important to us, we have to show them that we care ourselves. Otherwise, any State Representative has the right to say, “I would have gladly voted for (or against) this proposal or law, but nobody cared enough to bring it to my attention.”
In my office, I have an information packet similar to the one we were given for our day in Austin. It was left over by another group that chartered the bus on a previous trip. The sticker on the packet reads: Texas Muslim Capitol Day. I sincerely doubt that Muslims were concerned about Israel’s well being.
There were three items on our agenda; only one was directly concerned with Israel. We were asking that funding whether it be through subsidies, investments or contracts, no longer be allocated by the State of Texas to companies as well as other entities that support Boycott, Divest and Sanction when it comes to Israel and either refuse to purchase products made in Israel or cancel orders on such products. When someone in the group (we joined with the Houston, Fort Worth, San Antonio and Austin delegations) asked what early child care and care for special adults had to do with our mission (the other two items on our agenda) a certain rabbi spoke up. He said “If Representative Phil King from the 61st district of Weatherford, which in all likelihood has nary a Jewish constituent, can be so passionate about Israel and speak so strongly on its behalf, the very least we can do is take up issues that are for the good of the general public.” As far as I’m concerned, we Jews owe Representative King and others like him “big time.”
Those of us who are second and third generation Americans, especially those of us with Eastern European roots, can well identify with the question memorialized in Fiddler on the Roof: “Is there a blessing for the Czar”? The answer given was: “May G-d bless the Czar and keep him far away from us.” There are no (openly) anti-Semitic Czars in contemporary American government; there are no (openly) anti-Semitic Congressmen, Senators or other officials in contemporary American government. Call me hopelessly naïve, but I cannot help but feel that the majority of our elected officials want to see a safe and strong Israel. Let’s not take the freedom that is ours or the government we are blessed with for granted. Let’s thank HaShem for the democracy that is ours. Let’s show our gratitude by participating in the democracy that is ours. How many seats on the bus would you like me to secure for you on the next trip to Austin?