Daniel Levin: ‘I Want Someone Who Brings People Together’
Rabbi Daniel Levin (50) of Boca Raton, FL, is a past president of the southeast region of the Central Conference of American Rabbis and served as a member of the Reform Movement’s Think Tank, a group seeking to create a “visioning process” for the future of Reform Judaism. He has also served on the Board of Directors and the Executive Committee of the Jewish Federation of South Palm Beach County.
What traits are most important to you in a candidate?
The candidates that I look for are those who have integrity—meaning they walk the talk. I tend to favor more moderate candidates who embrace the complexity of the problems and issues we face. I want someone who brings people together and who has realistic approaches to moving the country forward in ways that reflect Judaism’s ideals—protecting the vulnerable, lifting up the poor, and ensuring that our country has a strong defense and the educational opportunities necessary to empower people to achieve their best potential, irrespective of where they start.
What are your feelings about President Trump?
In addition to the policy differences that I might have with him on a whole range of issues, I find him to be morally repugnant in so many different ways that it hurts to hear his name.
What issues concern you most?
Climate change—anyone who would deny climate change or not see it as a mortal threat to national security is someone I would discount as a serious candidate. Ensuring health care for every American is also vital. But when someone says we’re going to have “Medicare-for-All” and it’s going to cost $33 trillion dollars, that candidate turns me off because I just don’t see that as a realistic policy proposal.
Does Israel affect your political views?
If I thought a candidate did not appreciate America’s special relationship with Israel, that would be a disqualifier. I do think one of the most dangerous things that has happened in recent years is the effort by some to use Israel as a litmus test or a wedge issue. I find that to be morally abhorrent as a Jew.
What do you think about the Democratic presidential field?
I’m still germinating on it. I thought Montana Governor Steve Bullock was a very compelling candidate. He’s someone who has proven he can pull people together as a Democrat serving in a red state. But like some of the candidates I like, he couldn’t get any traffic. So many people in my congregation are looking for that strong, thoughtful, compelling, moderate voice. They want somebody who is progressive on social issues, who is moderate to conservative on financial issues, who can pull people together to create realistic solutions in ways that work for capitalists and entrepreneurs and remedy the inequality that we see rampant in America. We need candidates who can speak to a broad range of the country and not just the base of the Democratic Party.
How is impeachment playing in your community?
I don’t think impeachment is likely to play a big role here, because people’s feelings are already baked in. The president is such a polarizing figure. I don’t know anybody who is wishy-washy about him. They either are ardent supporters of him, or they are detractors to their core. I don’t know anybody who has a vanilla feeling about the president. Personally, I support the impeachment proceedings because I think he’s violated the law in so many different ways.
Do you expect any surprises in the campaign?
I think the surprise may be that if certain people drop out and can coalesce around another candidate, somebody who appears lower down in the standings could end up shooting past the current front-runners.