By: Jonah Keyak  | 

Why I’m Orthodox and Pro-Obama

As an Orthodox Jew voting in the upcoming elections, there are several issues that concern me. The most important are: ensuring the safety of Israel, preventing Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons, and protecting my religious freedoms. I want my president to have, as the 2012 Democratic Party platform states, “an unshakeable commitment to Israel’s security,” and to be a person like President Obama who said “If somebody was sending rockets into my house where my two daughters sleep at night, I'm going to do everything in my power to stop that.” Now, we know that “it is not what one says, but rather what one does,” that is important (Mishna Avot, 1:17). The numbers say it all, and the President has given nearly $10 billion in military aid to Israel, the most financial aid that America has ever given to Israel during a president’s first term.
During my two years studying in yeshiva in Israel, I had to run to the miklat (bomb shelter) several times. I once spent an entire week sleeping in one. President Obama approved spending hundreds of millions of dollars to support Israel’s short-range rocket defense system, Iron Dome, showing the American people how much he values the lives of Israelis who live within rocket range of terrorists. This system has saved hundreds, if not thousands, of lives. I am personally grateful to the President, not only for potentially saving my life, but also for enabling me to learn Torah in Israel, at the Yeshiva of my choice.

When President Obama defended Israel in the U.N. against the Palestinian Authority’s unilateral bid for statehood in September 2010, Dr. Simcha Katz and Nathan Diament, the President and Director of Public Policy of the Orthodox Union said, “The Orthodox Union commends President Barack Obama for his clear statement of opposition to the Palestinians’ effort to unilaterally seek recognition at the United Nations instead of at the negotiating table with Israel. We also commend President Obama’s strong statements of support for Israel and his Administration’s commitment to Israel’s security.” Mitt Romney often says the “right things” about Israel while in Israel, but given his history of flip-flopping and saying anything to get elected, I do not have much faith in his ability to defend Israel in an effective manner.

My next concern involves America assisting Israel in preventing Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons. Spearheading the harshest sanctions that Iran has ever faced, President Obama risked America’s economy for the sake of Israel and demanded that Iran’s central bank be cut off from the global economy. With little economic backlash for America, the President was overwhelmingly successful in critically damaging Iran’s economy. The President enacted economic walls, which have cornered Iran and successfully burdened its economy, to ensure that Iran will not develop nuclear weapons. In response, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said, “For the first time, I see Iran wobble under the sanctions that have been adopted and especially under the threat of strong sanctions on their central bank.” And Israeli President Shimon Peres said, “The United States and Israel share the same goal, to prevent Iran from developing a nuclear weapon. There is no space between us…. [Peres] was also appreciative of the anti-terror efforts of U.S. President Barack Obama and said that the President’s achievements in this respect were impressive, especially because he had succeeded in the difficult task of forming a coalition against terrorism that had imposed effective economic sanctions against Iran.” (JTA January 4th 2011) On top of these sanctions, President Obama is currently preparing, with Israel, a plan to militarily disable Iran's nuclear plants, if needed. The President has said multiple times that every option is on the table, including a military strike.

Not only is the President helping to keep Israel strong and secure, but he also stands with us here at home. What scares me most about a potential Romney Administration is that he would not hesitate to allow the government to implement his religious beliefs. Yes, we both come from religious communities, but what he calls moral is not necessarily what I would call moral. “Agudath Israel opposes initiatives that would make abortion unlawful even in situations where termination of pregnancy is mandated by religious law as it is, for example, under Sinaitic Jewish law when the pregnancy endangers the life of the mother.” (Agudath Israel of America, National Public Policy Position Paper) According to Governor Romney’s religious views, it is immoral to get an abortion under those circumstances, but according to halakha we are allowed to abort a fetus in order to save the mother’s life. The secular American government should not be allowed to determine the halakhik practices of Orthodox Jews.

So, as an Orthodox Jew voting in the upcoming elections, I will support President Obama because of his unwavering support of Israel, his actions against Iran, and his policies that allow me to practice my religion freely. Shkoyach, Mr. President.