Yesterday, Americans elected a new leader. We join with Jewish organizations across the country in wishing the best to Donald Trump as he assumes the awesome responsibilities and challenges facing the President of the United States. We accept the outcome of this free election – and the blessing of living in a country that has enshrined the peaceful transition of power as one of the pillars upon which our freedom and security rests. And we will pray as Jews always have that God gives strength to our nation and wisdom to our leaders.
At the same time, we all know that last night was a stressful night for our nation and our community. A night of great uncertainty. A night of hopes and dreams as well as fear and nightmares for many of our fellow citizens on both sides of the election.
We are blessed to be living in a free and democratic country, but that means that we live with some degree of uncertainty in every election – especially when we elect a new President. I have voted in 13 national elections and each came with its own hopes, fears, and uncertainties but never more so than this year’s election. You all know that I am an optimist with great faith in our beloved country, the strength of our constitution, and our heritage of freedom and democracy. But it would do no good to fail to acknowledge that the democratic process is sometimes very painful, even in the greatest of countries.
Our role is not political. Rather, it is aimed at the repair of civil society and advocacy for the basic values of our nation, our people, and our faith. It is to defend our rights and the rights and dignity of all of our neighbors, especially the most vulnerable, the poor, people with disabilities, immigrants, and all who have been left behind and forgotten, remembering our most sacred values as a community and as a nation.
Our Torah commands us:
“Do not ill-treat a stranger or oppress him, for you were strangers in Egypt. Do not oppress a stranger; you yourselves know how it feels to be a stranger [literally, “you know the soul of a stranger”], because you were strangers in Egypt.”
Our Torah speaks to our individual capacity for kindness, strength, and justice, and our nation’s responsibility to be a welcoming place for all.
As we move forward, we must also re-dedicate ourselves to working together as a country, not as “red” or “blue” states, to restore civility; to remind ourselves and our neighbors of the values that made our great nation secure and humane.
That will require empathy. Too often, we exist in our own “bubble,” whether it’s our social networks, the media we consume, or the books we read. We must listen and get to know people who we don’t know or understand – those outside of our bubble – and we must reach out to them, so we can mend the rifts that were so painfully revealed during the campaign and move our country forward in unity.
CJP will continue what we have always done – to build on the values of what makes our country great and the Jewish values that guide our work; to support all in our community, through good times and bad; and to be a pillar of civil society in our Commonwealth and our country.