Opinion | Returning A Mensch to the White House

By | Aug 13, 2020
Latest, Opinion

What would it mean to see a mensch like Joe Biden in the White House? A great deal for the United States, for the American Jewish community and for Israel’s security.

In this age of pandemics and polarization, it may be hard to envision. But it’s not a mystery. Someone who prizes decency and embodies dignity. Someone who exercises empathy and exhibits patience and understanding. Someone who lives, breathes and acts on the basic beliefs which are unique to Jewish tradition and universal in application—to pursue justice, welcome the stranger, open your hand and your heart to the needy and love your neighbor.

Does the current occupant of the Oval Office meet that definition? Not even close. As we pass the third anniversary of the Charlottesville “Unite the Right” demonstration, replete with swastikas and anti-Semitic slogans, Donald Trump said there were “very fine people, on both sides.” He vilifies immigrants, promulgates policies which separate children from their parents, rejects science, and strives to strip health care under the Affordable Care Act away from Americans just as they need it most. 

And as to the Jewish philosophy that if you save a single life, it’s as if you’ve saved the world? Nearly 150,000 Americans lost to COVID-19—and counting—says that Talmudic principle hasn’t found a foothold anywhere in the current administration and its apathetic response. 

Simply put, Donald Trump has failed the test of menschlichkeit from day one. And it shows not only in his backward policies and dangerous rhetoric, but in the divisive situation we see right now. 

Fortunately, we live in a democracy. A presidential election is fewer than 100 days away. We have a chance to vote our values and clear a path back to character in our commander-in-chief. Because Joe Biden is a mensch.

I don’t make this claim as a distant observer analyzing which politicians represent our values—and which ones miss the mark. Though dayeinu, that would be enough. 

I’ve been blessed to see firsthand who Joe Biden is as a U.S. Senator, as a vice president and as a human being; a man who took time from his vice-presidential responsibilities to attend the shiva for my wonderful wife Fran. 

For American Jews, the evidence comes up everywhere you turn.

Joe Biden has worked tirelessly to realize the promise of tikkun olam. A leading force in extending affordable health care and literally saving millions of lives. A champion of women’s rights and reproductive freedom. A voice for civil rights who supported the cause of justice for African Americans from his earliest days in office—and who has remained a strong advocate for immigrants and equality for all people. A fighter for our children’s safety in the face of unrelenting gun violence. A public servant who vows to tackle climate change as the existential crisis it is. And now a clear, compassionate voice for an all-out, fact-based effort to help Americans survive COVID-19, not try to wish it away.

Take these together, and so many more examples, and you see a leader who’s spent the better part of his life trying to perfect our world. He helps without expectation of a return or recognition—a far cry from what we see in the White House today.

When it comes to the startling rise of anti-Semitism the past three years—too often answered with deafening silence from President Trump, from Charlottesville to Pittsburgh to Poway to Jersey City—you couldn’t find a more vocal ally than Joe Biden, determined, dedicated and unflinching in his resolve to restore American ideals of welcome, belonging, and respect for the rule of law. And you won’t watch him ever back down to the likes of white nationalists or Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) backers or attempts to delegitimize Israel on the world stage.

When it comes to fulfilling hatikvah, the hope, for a secure Israel in the historic homeland of the Jewish people, you couldn’t ask for a better friend than Joe Biden. 

From his first trip to Israel as a freshman senator on the eve of the Yom Kippur War, when he met Golda Meir and Yitzchak Rabin; to his key role securing a historic, $38 billion aid package during the Obama years; to his advocacy for Israel’s Iron Dome anti-missile system and his staunch backing of a two-state solution—from these experiences and so many since Biden understands what is necessary to maintain a strong U.S.-Israel relationship. He has defended Israel from unfair attacks in their retaliation from Hamas rockets during the 2014 Gaza conflict. He knows how to be an honest broker for peace. He will do what it takes to ensure Israel remains a secure, Jewish, and democratic state. 

When it comes to the true meaning of tzedakah, you couldn’t search for a stronger advocate in the pursuit of justice than Joe Biden. This is where I’ve witnessed his commitment and compassion the most: during the Clinton and Obama-Biden administrations, I led the negotiations to provide belated justice to Holocaust survivors. Together with my ongoing role as special negotiator for the Jewish Claims Conference with Germany, I’ve negotiated over $17 billion in recoveries from Swiss and French banks, German and Austrian slave labor companies, European insurance companies, art and property restitution and compensation. 

Without a doubt, Joe Biden was my strongest supporter. In fact, he launched and led an unprecedented initiative for the U.S. government to aid poor, elderly Holocaust survivors in the United States, more than a third of whom live at or near the poverty line. That effort resulted in $12 million allocated to the Jewish Federations of North America for survivors in need.

That’s the soul of a man who believes in the power of public service with all his heart and uses that power for good.

Top Photo: Gage Skidmore

7 thoughts on “Opinion | Returning A Mensch to the White House

  1. Pathcoin1 says:

    The Federal response to the COVID-19 outbreak is outstanding. It should be used as a text book example of logistics in mobilizing entire industries to produce necessary products, in short supply, almost from a standstill.

    The statement that the 160,000 deaths from COVID-19 is incomplete. The majority of deaths were due to the actions of Cuomo (NY), Murphy (NJ), Wolf (PA) mandating that nursing homes, who care for the frail elderly, to take frail elderly patients that were COVID-19 positive. If there is condemnation, then it should be centered on the actions of these governors.

    Deaths from COVID-19 are a statistical quagmire. Conflation of those who died with the virus and those who died from the virus makes it is impossible to know the true virulence of the organism.

    That said, the organism is a pathogen and people will die. But so is the seasonal flu, and people die. 67% of the deaths occurred in the frail elderly; patients who died statistically died in the same year they were likely to die from other causes.

    The majority of the remainder had either obesity and/or diabetes type 2. Both of these are self inflicted conditions. Both of which are greater in the American population than most other developed countries. And both which contribute to deaths from COVID-19.

    Lying with statistics is akin to bearing false witness against one’s neighbor. Anglican common law helps us here. When we go to court, we swear to “tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth”. Anglican common law realized that people can lied with the truth. As did Mark Twain when he said “there are statistics, damn statistics, and liars”.

  2. Miriam L says:

    Yes, we need a mensch. Good article from Mr. Eizenstat, who has done so much good work in the world

  3. Heartbroken says:

    Sarsour not only supports Sharia law, she is a strong advocate of the BDS (Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions) movement, the organized campaign to economically crush Israel. She recently endorsed Joe Biden.

  4. Heartbroken says:

    During his brief speech for the EMGAGE/Muslim Brotherhood online event, presidential candidate Joe Biden made a number of comments which bear review and attention as they reveal a gross lack of understanding of the very organization with whom Mr. Biden is working – Hamas/EMGAGE – as well as his ignorance about the Islamic Movement in the United States, its modus operandi, and the doctrine it follows – sharia.

  5. Heartbroken says:

    Jewish people are horrified, alarmed by, and condemns the roles given to notorious antisemites, Israel-haters and Farrakhan-lovers at the Democratic National Convention (DNC) this past week. The DNC included Linda Sarsour, Tamika Mallory, Imam Noman Hussain, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, and Pastor Frederick Haynes.

  6. Heartbroken says:

    I wonder why Mr. Eisenstat keeps quiet after all Trump`s peace agreements in the Middle East?

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