One of the most disturbing aspects of modern American Jewish life is the almost obsessive desire of many Jews to universalize every aspect of Jewish belief while downplaying the original meanings of customs and ritual. Leftist Rabbi Arthur Waskow help set this in motion decades ago with his “Freedom Seder” in which he hijacked the Haggadah recited by Jews on Passover to promote other causes. Since then, transposing the seder in order to morph the Jewish holiday that celebrates the freedom of the Jewish people into something that has nothing to do with the Jews and Judaism has become so commonplace it is something of a cliché.
This year, there are more egregious examples of this trend. The National Jewish Democratic Council has published a new version of the “Four Questions” from the Haggadah that is a paean, not to the liberation of the Jews from Egypt, but to the wonders of Barack Obama, to whom the NJDC directs Americans to express thanks rather than their Creator. One need only read the NJDC’s questions to understand their desperation to make up for three years of Israel-bashing by President Obama as well as to get a feel for the attitude of the group toward the president that can only be characterized as worshipful.
The president’s shaky record on Israel — which was made all too clear by the constant fights and sniping against the Jewish state that only abated once his re-election campaign began — has made it imperative for Democrats to pretend as if the administration’s stands on Jerusalem, the 1967 borders and years of failed engagement with Iran never happened. They can rightly claim he has not trashed the alliance with Israel and has even done the right thing at the United Nations and continued to fund programs begun under his predecessor like the Iron Dome missile defense system (which Obama falsely claims credit for initiating). He has also said all the right things about stopping Iran’s nuclear threat though his actions (and a series of insidious leaks from his staffers) have demonstrated that he is more concerned about stopping Israel from defending itself than actually doing something about Iran.
The NJDC’s questions also attempt to use Passover to promote their party’s stands on ObamaCare and the defense of entitlement spending that is bankrupting the nation. There is nothing wrong with Democrats taking those positions if that’s what they believe, but the attempt to link these partisan stands on divisive issues — about which Jews as well as non-Jews can disagree — with Judaism is absurd.
An old joke about Reform Judaism had it that the movement’s concept of the faith was merely the Democratic Party Platform with holidays thrown in. As unfair as such a characterization was, it appears the NJDC wants to go it one better by attempting to transform Jewish holidays into partisan talking points. Such things show no respect for Judaism by trivializing the Exodus as merely an excuse for political rhetoric.
Passover is the occasion for Jews to remember their liberation from Egypt and to embrace not only the gift of freedom but also the ability to worship God and His laws as a people. While seders are appropriate moments to remember those in need as well as other Jewish communities — such as that in Israel — which are assailed by foes, it is not the time to be delivering obsequious paeans to American politicians, no matter which party they belong to. That sort of absurd distortion of the festival of freedom bears a closer resemblance to idol worship than it does to Judaism.