After reading numerous recent letters and comments regarding U.S. Rep. Chris Smith (R-Dist. 4) and taking time to reflect, I felt compelled to weigh in. I am a passionate, insightful, intelligent, and courageous Jewish Republican woman. I was in middle school when Smith was first elected to office, and now I’m 51 years old. Ever since the last presidential election, it feels as though our respect for the freedom of all in the greatest country in the world just got rolled back 60-plus years. Instead of feeling safe when I went to temple this past year, I felt more unsafe — despite extra security measures — than ever before.
I declared my affiliation with the Republican party when I turned 18, joining the party of compelling leaders like Lincoln, Eisenhower, and Reagan, who celebrated dignity and self-reliance. I also by no means forgot such inspirational people as Florence Prag Kahn, who in 1925 became the first Jewish woman elected to the U.S. Congress, and independent leaders like Dr. Martin Luther King, who never declared allegiance to a party, as his love for humanity led him and so many other heroes to stand up courageously for civil rights. These values were not antithetical to my Jewish values; in fact, they are a natural extension of the life lessons Judaism has
instilled in me.
I can scarcely recognize that party today, especially in the shadows of the sexual misconduct charges that have been brought to our attention — not only against those in the media and in leadership positions in corporations but against elected officials, as well. Various industries are now standing up and taking such accusations seriously — except for our own government. Some of the men who feel empowered would prefer to protect each other’s dirty little secrets, while looking to restrict women’s rights to control their own bodies. What happened to their core values, the honor and integrity to become leaders who do what’s morally right for everyone?
I want to see the Republican party great again. However, I am highly uncomfortable with how Congressman Smith blurs the line between church and state — especially since his church is not my shul. My guess is if Jesus were alive today, he would be preaching about loving thy neighbor as thyself — without judgment and regardless of country of origin, religion, or sexual identity. Our country was founded on the ideology of freedom. I would like to live free from hate — free from anti-Semitism, anti-Islam, and anti-LGBTQI, free from government officials (i.e., men) who may have their own agenda for making decisions about our bodies. Schools and houses of worship should be safe havens for people to come together, not crime scenes. These are not partisan issues; they are
I would like to quote Tara Setmayer, a former GOP communications director on Capitol Hill: “The Republican party is running the risk of complete moral bankruptcy.” People and groups steered by dangerous ideologies have unprecedented influence in Washington today, including white nationalists and neo-Nazi groups, anti-LGBTQI hardliners, child molesters, and businesses that care more about their own profits than the lives of our citizens. Congressman Smith has failed to be the vocal opponent to those forces within our own borders, where we live: in the United States, in New Jersey, in District 4.
We need our elected officials to represent us and be intolerant of intolerance. Instead of penning knee-jerk defenses or passionate condemnations of Smith, perhaps we should call for a purposeful new beginning.