Progressively Speaking: Why American Jews voted for Joe Biden

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Progressively Speaking: Why American Jews voted for Joe Biden

Student rabbi Lev Taylor takes a topical issue and looks at a progressive Jewish response

Joe Biden celebrates his election to the presidency after a victory speech outside the Chase Center on Riverfront Saturday evening.

News Biden Victory Speech (Photo by William Bretzger/USA Today Network/Sipa USA)
Joe Biden celebrates his election to the presidency after a victory speech outside the Chase Center on Riverfront Saturday evening. News Biden Victory Speech (Photo by William Bretzger/USA Today Network/Sipa USA)

In response to the recent US elections, activist Dove Kent said: “We’ve seen the Jewish American community turn out in record numbers over the last few years for the values that define our community.” 

Kent works for Bend the Arc, a movement of Progressive Jews in the USA, which has dedicated most of its recent efforts to help combat President Trump’s agenda. 

She is right. Jews showed up to vote against Trump in surprisingly high numbers. At the most recent election, 77 percent of American Jews voted Democrat. That’s seven percent more than last time. It makes them the most left-leaning religious group. Why is that?

Most American Jews were neither likely to be personally affected by Trump’s anti-immigration policies, nor to be on the receiving end of the racist policing that sparked the Black Lives Matter movement. But these are precisely the issues that animated Jewish voters, says Kent. “Our ancestors gave us the blueprint for responding to injustice.”

What mattered to many at the ballot box was the moral direction of the country. Images of immigrant children held in cages and of black people attacked by police will be familiar to British readers and were deeply concerning to our coreligionists across the Pond.

The same issues concerned our Biblical antecedents. When the prophet Jeremiah saw the injustices in Jerusalem, he called out to its citizens to stop oppressing foreigners and vulnerable people. He chastised the city’s leaders for lying and committing perjury. Our tradition tells us exactly what kind of people we shouldn’t have in government.

These religious values, inspired by the Torah, seem to have mattered much more to American Jews than whether they were personally affected. This is a positive testament to their integrity. The Talmud teaches that if you can protest against the sins of your city and fail to do so, you are culpable for its sins. 

Far from ignoring injustice, our fellow Jews came out to rally against it. Now they want to hold to account the President-elect, Joe Biden (pictured). Kent promises they have big plans to make sure the anti-racist values of American Jews are taken seriously. “We’re bringing the lessons of the Torah into the streets,” she says. 

Let’s learn from our friends Stateside and bring that same zeal for justice to the UK.

  •  Lev Taylor is a student rabbi at Leo Baeck College

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