Choosing the Path of Parshat Re’eh Parshat Re’eh

This Shabbat we read the parshah of Re’eh and my haftorah is from the prophet Isaiah,  recited on Rosh Chodesh. This new month is Rosh Chodesh Elul. The word Elul is an acronym for the Hebrew spelling, meaning “I am my beloved’s and my beloved is mine.” It can be interpreted as how people love each other or the relationship between God and the Jewish people.

Parshat Re’eh opens up with the famous quote, “See this day I set before you blessing and curse.” This is saying that the Israelites who follow the mitzvot of the Torah will earn a blessing, and those who don’t will be cursed. According to  the Torah, the nation is  commanded to worship only the one God of Israel when they are entering the land and to destroy the foreign idols. And if they do not, they will be cursed. But who is actually bringing the curse? Is it God or the people? We can ask this question about our own lives even today.

Does an individual bring down curses upon him or herself by his or her behavior? These “natural consequences” can feel like curses: for example, when a person insults or harms another person and is then punished for his behavior by losing a friend or having to pay for his negative actions.  He or she feels a lot of regret for what they have done and may wonder why they feel cursed.

In the haftorah we read about the return of the Jewish people from Babylon to the land of Israel. The theme of this haftorah for this special Shabbat also refers to God’s creation of the world and to God’s promise to the Jewish people to remember God’s special relationship with them.

In creation, the moon represents light. When we perform mitzvot we bring light into the world. My mitzvah project is volunteering at the Baltimore Humane Society, where I help out with the small animals that are in their care. The mitzvah of Tzaar Baalei Hayim is an important mitzvah to follow because God created animals when God created the world, and we should not hurt God’s creations. When we observe God’s mitzvot, we have chosen the path of blessing.

Julia Willis is a seventh-grade student at Krieger Schechter Day School.

The Movement for Black Lives Platform Gives Us Hope, Not Fear

On Tisha B’Av, 10 friends, Jewish residents of Baltimore City, met to discuss the recently published Movement for Black Lives (M4BL) policy platform. On the day we mourn the destruction of our Temple, the exile of the shekhinah (divine presence), the ruthlessness of empire and the dispersal of our people into centuries of diaspora, we also attuned ourselves to the familiar cries of Eicha (“How?!”) rising from our city, whether in mourning for Freddie Gray, Tyrone West and Korryn Gaines or in righteous anger over the systemic police racism and sexism confirmed by the recent Department of Justice report.

Several of us belong to organizations advocating for racial and economic justice here in Baltimore or to organizations involved in pursuing justice in Israel/Palestine. Some of us belong to shuls and other Jewish communal organizations. However, we gathered not as affiliated individuals with an agenda, but to simply read and consider the platform on its own terms. We encourage others in the Baltimore Jewish community to read the platform independently and in community. It is an astounding project, both visionary and practical, which lays out a clear, comprehensive and transformative vision for racial and economic justice. As white Jews and as residents of Baltimore and the United States, we feel inspired and eager to participate in the movement in our various ways.

We are pained by many responses of the institutional Jewish community to this platform, both here in Baltimore and throughout the United States. We are saddened that many white Jews in our communities have chosen to center ourselves and our anxieties in our public responses to the M4BL platform rather than centering the experiences and demands of black people and communities.

In particular, we are disappointed that much of our community’s public discourse surrounding the M4BL platform has focused on Israel. We understand that our community’s hypervigilance to criticism against the State of Israel is born from centuries of persecution. We acknowledge that in our collective conscious, the Nazis or Cossacks (or Inquisition or Crusades or …) are always around the corner, and so, for many, the existence of a strong and militarized Jewish state seems to be the only assurance of safety in a perilously anti-Semitic world. For many, physical or political threats against the State of Israel feel like direct threats to our existential safety as Jews.

We do not deny the existence of anti-Semitism nor do we wish to minimize its impact. At the same time, we recognize the mechanisms and lasting impact of trauma. Trauma limits our capacity to discern the difference between real and perceived threats and to respond accordingly. When all we have is a post-traumatic hammer, everything feels like an anti-Semitic nail. Therefore, it is understandable that some would elevate concerns about Israel rather than express outrage over systemic police brutality or residential redlining or any of the dozens of other policies that perpetuate racial apartheid here in the United States. But this is a knee-jerk, post-traumatic response. It inappropriately redirects emotional attention and material resources away from marginalized communities that have asked for our support. This response puts us on the wrong side of justice.

So, too, does calling the M4BL platform “odious” and “dishonest,” saying its authors “just [don’t] get it” and threatening “consequences,” which the Baltimore Jewish Times did in its recent editorial (“Black Lives Matter, and So Does Israel,” Aug 10). Statements like these have denigrated the Movement for Black Lives and called on us to sever ties to it. This approach divides Jewish and black communities, prevents us from finding common calling in our overlapping and distinctive histories of violence and trauma and keeps us from building relationships of mutual understanding and solidarity against all forms of oppression.

We have the responsibility to face our inherited trauma, to understand how it informs our present and to do the work of healing, both for own sake and in order to participate fully in the work of racial justice.

The authors are Baltimore City residents and social justice organizers.

Mike Pence, Trump’s VP Pick, Supports Traditional Jewish Values

With the presidential race heating up, a number of progressive Jewish commentators have portrayed the Republicans’ vice presidential candidate, Indiana Gov. Mike Pence, as a conservative extremist opposed to Jewish beliefs and values. As officers of the only statewide, grassroots Jewish and Israel advocacy organization in Indiana — who also have had the privilege of working closely with Pence and other Indiana legislators of both political parties to pass important pro-Jewish, pro-Israel legislation — we dispute this inaccurate portrayal.

In fact, there is strong reason to believe that such opposition to Pence is much less a reflection of his positions than an indication of how far many Jewish Americans have strayed over recent years from core Jewish beliefs.

Take for example Pence’s demonstrable attachment to the Jewish State of Israel, which he has called “America’s most cherished ally.” In sharp contrast to many of his critics, Pence is a vocal supporter of Israel’s right to defend itself against sworn enemies such as Iran, Hezbollah and Hamas. While some of Pence’s opponents support the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement, which opposes the existence of a Jewish state in any form, he recently signed into Indiana law what Israel’s ambassador to the United States, Ron Dermer, called “the toughest anti-BDS legislation in the nation.”

Why don’t Pence’s undeniably pro-Israel positions help win over his Jewish critics?

Douglas Bloomfield in a recent anti-Pence piece argued that “for most Jewish voters, support for Israel is not a determinative issue but is often around fourth of fifth on their priority list.” Bloomfield is correct when he observes that for far too many American Jews, the security of Israel is of little importance. Pence’s support for Israel doesn’t resonate because much of American Jewry has chosen to distance itself from the Jewish state.

Another example involves social issues related to marriage and family. As it turns out, Pence’s positions on these issues are largely in accord with traditional Jewish beliefs.

An important aspect of traditional Judaism involves discriminating or distinguishing between one thing and others. Of course, the type of discrimination we are referring to is not like the historical prejudice of whites toward blacks. But  Judaism involves discrimination nonetheless.

Kodesh, the Hebrew word for holy, implies separating or making something distinct. For practicing Jews this concept applies to dietary practices, clothing, family and marital  relations and keeping the Sabbath. Making distinctions also requires making value judgments. Pence’s religious perspective, which shapes his positions on marriage and family, is also  dependent on making distinctions. This type of thinking is disdained by liberal Jews, who have redefined Judaism as  rejecting distinctions within the Jewish tradition and in their relations to non-Jews.

Another example involves religious liberty, a concept that has allowed American Jews historically unprecedented space and freedom to pursue their lives as Jews. Pence’s statesmanship has been grounded in the American constitutional tradition of individual rights and limited government, which are required for religious liberty to flourish.

Pence’s opponents, however, are opposed to these classic  liberal ideals and support the use of government power to compel people to abandon their religious convictions in the public square. For traditional Jews this in effect means being forced to adhere to whatever happens to be the prevailing social norms. This type of behavior is akin to classical anti-Semitism, which demanded that Jews abandon their discriminating religious beliefs.

This issue arose with Indiana’s Religious Freedom Restoration Act, or RFRA, which Pence signed into law in 2015. Though Indiana’s RFRA is one of 21 state RFRA laws, Democrats have built an entire campaign against Pence by claiming that his RFRA was designed to deny LGBT civil liberties. At the 2016 Democratic convention, Nevada state Sen. Pat Spearman claimed that Pence “used religion as a weapon to discriminate.” U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts argued that Trump “picked a vice president famous for trying to make it legal to openly discriminate against gays and lesbians.” Hillary Clinton’s campaign characterized Pence as the “most extreme VP pick in a generation,” claiming that “Pence personally spearheaded an anti-LGBT law that legalized discrimination against the LGBT community.”

These claims have been echoed by some Jews. Rabbi Dennis Sasso, whose Indianapolis congregation is affiliated with the Conservative and Reconstructionist movements, asserted that Pence’s failure as governor is most evident in his support of RFRA, since it “allows a private business the right to restrict or limit services to LGBTQ persons on religious grounds.” The Indianapolis Jewish Community Relations Council testified before the state legislature that if RFRA were adopted, “people could use their religion to justify almost any discriminatory action they choose to take in their public lives.” In his article, Bloomfield wrote that Indiana’s RFRA law permits “Indiana businesses (to) refuse to serve gays, lesbians and others by citing religious objections.”

In reality RFRA is nothing like what its critics claim. Indiana University law professor David Orentlicher observed that it was “designed to protect religious practice from discrimination by government.” Orentlicher, a Democrat, is himself a former Indiana state representative and currently a candidate for Congress. Law professor Douglas Laycock, who helped write the federal RFRA law, notes that religious freedom laws are mostly used for a wide range of reasons  including “churches feeding the homeless” and “Muslim women wearing scarves or veils.”

“They’re about Amish buggies. They’re about Sabbath  observers,” he said.

RFRA neither intends to nor enables the wholesale denial of LGBT rights and does nothing to permit or promote discrimination against LGBT individuals as individuals in the marketplace. In fact, its critics are using it as a smokescreen to conceal their own wholesale rejection of fundamental constitutional and religious principles, including religious liberty. The real, underlying issue that prompted such fury against Pence is that the RFRA may, depending on how the courts rule, permit individuals and businesses to adhere to their religious beliefs on how to define marriage. Supporters of RFRA believe in the classic liberal idea that government should not compel citizens to abandon the free exercise of their religious beliefs in the public square.

It is ironic that an evangelical Christian politician who has demonstrated tenacious support for the Jewish State of  Israel, who advocates aggressively for religious liberty and who supports the practice of traditional Jewish values has been so demonized by individuals and groups claiming to represent Judaism. As American Jewry drifts further from its  traditional religious moorings, we should expect to see more of such rhetoric.

Elliot Bartky, Ph.D., and Allon Friedman, M.D., are the president and vice  president, respectively, of the Jewish American Affairs Committee of Indiana.

Unfair Play

In this broiling summer of Zika, of floods in Louisiana and fires in California, of the shootings of unarmed black men by police, of police by African-American snipers and of the patrons of a gay bar by a Muslim man, the international brouhaha caused by four American Olympic swimmers at a Rio de Janeiro gas station is more farce than anything else.

By what is now his own admission, three-time Olympian Ryan Lochte, 32, who has won 12 medals in his career, lied about a late-night incident in which he and fellow U.S. swimmers Jack Conger, 21, Gunnar Bentz, 20, and James Feigen, 26 — after a night of partying — vandalized a gas station bathroom and were stopped from leaving by an armed guard.

Those facts, initially determined by investigation and the gas station’s security camera, were twisted in Lochte’s original version into an armed robbery attempt on the Americans in which Lochte and friends were the victims: “They pulled out their guns, they told the other swimmers to get down on the ground — they got down on the ground. I refused, I was like we didn’t do anything wrong, so — I’m not getting down on the ground,” Lochte first told NBC.

Lochte left Brazil before his story began to fall apart. Conger and Bentz were pulled off a U.S.-bound flight and detained pending an investigation, their passports seized by Brazilian authorities. They were eventually allowed to leave after Feigen reportedly agreed to donate about $11,000 to a Brazilian youth sports group in exchange for his freedom.

Sportswriters had a field day with the story: “It isn’t easy being this ridiculous, setting off an international incident and having police reportedly recommend charges in a city where so few laws are actually enforced,” Yahoo sports columnist Dan Wetzel wrote. Washington Post columnist Sally Jenkins also had choice words about the affair: “Is there anything worse, in any country, than a bunch of entitled young drunks who break the furniture and pee on a wall?” she wrote.

The U.S. Olympic Committee apologized to Brazil for the “distracting ordeal” and Lochte issued a “mistakes were made” apology. In a surprisingly successful  Olympics, where the backdrop of  Brazil’s crumbling economy and rampant crime problems seemed to have been overcome by the games, those apologies rang strangely hollow.

Maybe this incident will become part  of the lore of the 2016 Games. Or maybe it will be forgotten — overshadowed by  the impressive athleticism of so many of the Olympic athletes, including American swimmers Michael Phelps and Katie Ledecky, the “Final Five” U.S. women’s gymnastics team and  Jamaican sprinter Usain Bolt. But, for now, while we marvel at the impressive accomplishments of Team USA and its opponents, we can’t help but bow our heads in shame.

The Divine Commands of Creation Parshat Eikev

“V’haya im shamoa — If then, you listen, yes, you really heed My commandments that I enjoin upon you this day, loving the Eternal your God and serving [God] with all your heart and soul, I will grant the rain for your land in its season. … You shall gather in your new grain and wine and oil — I will also provide grass in the fields for your cattle — and thus you shall eat your fill. Take care not to be lured away to serve other gods and bow to them. For the Eternal’s anger will flare up against you, shutting up the skies so that there will be no rain and the ground will not yield its produce; and you will soon perish from the good land that the Eternal is assigning to you” (Deuteronomy 11:13-17, translation influenced by that of Everett Fox).

God is not nature, and nature is not God, but God created a world in which nature is the conduit for God’s bounty, the bounty of Creation.

 

This section of our Torah portion is known as V’haya im Shamoa, and is included in the daily and Shabbat morning service in traditional prayer books right after the Shema and V’ahavta prayers. Reform siddurim omit it, perhaps because it feels a bit simplistic. The message seems to contradict our understanding of  nature and weather: If you obey God’s commandments, nature will be good to you, but if you stray and serve other gods, the Eternal will punish you through acts of nature.

I would suggest a different understanding.

God is not nature, and nature is not God, but God created a world in which nature is the conduit for God’s bounty, the bounty of Creation. And nature is sustained by God’s commandments. Nature functions through the divine commands of Creation..

We humans also function through divine commands, through the divine commands of Creation. We live and love, eat, move, even think — according to natural laws of atomic activity and molecular movement. Our bodies all obey God’s laws in order to subsist, to survive — to live.

If we truly listen, yes, really heed God’s commandments to protect the earth through reasonable consumption, by being modest in our exploitation of nature. If we serve God with all our heart and soul by utilizing clean energy and preserving our precious natural resources, then we will be blessed with a world in which climate change will not shut up the skies or  release rain in torrents, both of which are increasing causes  of natural disaster throughout the world.

 

Rabbi Reuven Firestone is Regenstein Professor in Medieval Judaism and Islam at the Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion in Los
Angeles. A version of this article first appeared on reformjudaism.org.

Perfect Choice

Justin Levy (Photo by Daniel Nozick)

Justin Levy (Photo by Daniel Nozick)

In its Aug. 12 edition, the JT featured an article on Justin Levy as a person “You Should Know.” Subsequent to reading this commentary I knew that I had to write and compliment you on your selection.

Justin and I met a few years ago, and right from the beginning I knew that his firm handshake and look-you-in-the-eye greeting meant this was a man with good family values. I was not wrong. After having the privilege of meeting his parents, it was clear that he had had a solid foundation growing up.

Justin provided my two grandsons with a great role model, and I was proud to have him in their lives. Justin has put all of his “sweat equity” into his music studio, and he deserves to be successful.

Crown Heights, 25 Years Later

Twenty-five years ago, a car in the motorcade of the Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi  Menachem M. Schneerson, accidentally hit and killed 7-year-old Gavin Cato in the Crown Heights section of Brooklyn, N.Y. The incident set off three days of racially motivated protests and violence during which nearly 200 people were injured and Yankel Rosenbaum, an Australian yeshiva student, was stabbed and killed by a group of African-American rioters.

New York and the multicultural communities of Crown Heights are marking the anniversary of the event, which took place on Aug. 20, 1991. What some in the nonwhite majority call an uprising and the Chabad-Lubavitch Chasidic minority refer to as a pogrom was driven in large part by the hostility, cultural misunderstandings and poor communications that existed at the time between the two communities. On the one hand, the Chasidim felt threatened by hostility within the community, and their African-American neighbors felt that the Chasidim were getting preferential police protection while larger community needs were being ignored.

That was a quarter of a century ago. Today, by all accounts, significant elements of communal relations have changed. Most importantly, the various communities within Crown Heights are communicating with one another. And while some level of mistrust may linger, the contrast is significant: “In 1991, people didn’t even know who the leaders were to talk to each other,” Amy Ellenbogen, director of the Crown Heights Community Mediation Center,  recently told JTA. “Now they’re Facebook friends.”

Beyond that, Crown Heights itself is dramatically different. It is no longer just a neighborhood of low-income Jews and African-Americans. Now, higher-income New Yorkers — many of them Orthodox but not Lubavitch — are contributing to the gentrification of Crown Heights. And that has given rise to a new form of conflict, that of competing Jewish communities. Earlier this summer, a symptom of that conflict erupted over an eruv built around the neighborhood by a modern Orthodox synagogue. The eruv, largely criticized by the Lubavitch community,  citing the longstanding objection to an eruv by the late Rebbe, was violently opposed by some Chasidim, who tore parts of it down.

We cannot tolerate this new war, specifically the conduct of those who would seek to impose their religious beliefs on others. That behavior has to stop. But we also see the eruv controversy as an outgrowth of the neighborhood’s expanding gentrification, which threatens lower-income residents, whatever their ethnicity.

On Sunday, a street festival jointly planned by black and Jewish leaders took place in Crown Heights in an effort to bring the community together and mend the wounds since the riots. We embrace that effort, both as a way to address the sins of the past and as a path for everyone who calls Crown Heights home to discover ways to live in peace.

CJE: Beyond Birth

What a joy it was for me to read the JT’s “CJE Offering New Opportunities for Young Families’ (Aug. 12). As the founding and first director of the CJE Early Childhood Department and as the originator of the prepared childbirth program, then called “In the Beginning: A Jewish Lamaze Experience,” it was  always a goal to involve these families in Jewish community programs and projects beyond the birth year.

A program that I initiated while at the CJE was an exit survey sent to the families of the children who were completing the programs to find out the programs’ impact. As these survey forms started to come in, it was rewarding to see the impact of these programs not only on the child, but also on the entire family.

Wages Vs. Need

Editorial Director

Editorial Director

Two-and-a-half years ago, we published a cover story highlighting the effort across Maryland to raise the state minimum wage to $10.10 per hour. Two months later, activists claimed success when the General Assembly instituted the new law, phasing in annual minimum wage increases to achieve $10.10 by 2018.

Now, some lawmakers in Baltimore’s City Council want to raise the city’s minimum wage to $15 by 2022, an almost 50 percent increase over the earlier target, which then Gov. Martin O’Malley hailed as making “good business sense.”

Why the rush? As you’ll read in this week’s JT, Councilwoman Mary Pat Clarke (D-District 14) thinks that come December, she’ll have enough votes to pass the legislation, which would exempt businesses with fewer than 25 employees and those with less than $500,000 in gross annual income from the mandate. Others question the efficacy of instituting a city wage close to $5 higher than in the surrounding Baltimore and Anne Arundel counties, where the state wage prevails.

“I think it would put the city at a great competitive disadvantage,” says Daraius Irani, chief economist of the Regional Economic Studies Institute at Towson University. “What we’re already seeing is that many restaurants, like McDonald’s, are already replacing people with capital. At the end of the day, these kind of businesses will find a way to maximize their profits, and one way to do that may be to cut back on their number of employees.”

“It’s not good for Baltimore,” says Park Heights’ own Councilwoman Rochelle “Rikki” Spector (D-District 5), the outgoing so-called dean of the council. “The only way it would make sense is if the two surrounding jurisdictions passed it. Baltimore is the hole of the doughnut.”

Implicit in the arguments against raising the minimum wage, just as during the debates in 2014, is the negative impact on business such a law would have. But before we go marveling at the size of Clarke’s proposal, let’s keep in mind the concept of a living wage, that idealized wage high enough that would allow a person to maintain a normal standard of living.

According to the Living Wage Calculator, a project of the Mass-achusetts Institute of Technology, $15 per hour in Baltimore would guarantee a living wage to households comprising a single adult, two working adults or two working adults and a single child. Every other family combination would be living in poverty. Curious about the current standard of $10.10? According to the Calculator, such a wage isn’t enough for a single adult, which MIT calculates needs to make $12.33 per hour just to get by, let alone anyone with children.

I cite these figures not so much to endorse raising the minimum wage, but to conceptualize just how out of whack wages are in comparison to need. It’s no secret that so many in Baltimore — and in its Jewish community — live in poverty. If one City Council bill isn’t the answer to the problem, then we better figure out solutions that work.

jrunyan@midatlanticmedia.com

Why Tim Kaine Is Good for Israel, Jewish Values

ftv_Cardin,-BenAmerican Jewish voters have naturally voted for Democratic candidates because it has meant voting to support strong social justice and a strong U.S.-Israel relationship. Hillary Clinton and her vice presidential choice, Sen. Tim Kaine of Virginia, will continue Democratic action on economic and educational opportunities, retirement security and quality, affordable health care and especially Israel’s security and Middle East peace.

The Clinton-Kaine ticket promises to build upon a strong tradition of Democratic leadership, while the Republicans’ ticket of Donald Trump and Indiana Gov. Mike Pence offers a reckless and dangerous blend of empty rhetoric and inconsistent positions that should alarm all Americans, particularly American Jews.

Clinton has deep knowledge of the history of the Middle East and a proven record of engaging with the leaders and peoples of this complex region. She also has a record advocating for U.S.-Israel ties in the Senate and hands-on experience managing the relationship as secretary of state.

In contrast, Trump’s shocking inexperience and wild pronouncements, including suggestions that he would abandon commitments to key U.S. allies, has earned unprecedented repudiation by foreign policy experts across the political spectrum.

The distinction between the two parties’ vice presidential nominees is just as stark.

Take social justice issues. Pence’s long-held positions on issues such as reproductive freedom, fair and balanced immigration reform, environmental protection, civil rights and LGBT rights place him far to the right of the American Jewish mainstream — and to Kaine, a lifelong progressive who has fought for equality and justice throughout his career in public service.

On Israel, Pence is quick to profess his support for the Jewish state. But stated support alone is not sufficient.

What matters in these dangerous times is a mature, deep understanding of the challenges facing Israel as it seeks avenues for peace with security. And what matters are ongoing, real-world ties to the Jewish community in this country and the leadership in Jerusalem. Kaine, who proudly identifies as a “strongly pro-Israel Democrat,” has demonstrated both throughout his career.

Kaine serves on the Senate’s Foreign Relations Committee, its subcommittee on Near Eastern and South and Central Asian affairs and the Armed Services Committee, positions that give him a leadership role and a comprehensive understanding of fast-changing conditions across the region.

As the ranking member of the Foreign Relations Committee, I have a front-row seat to Kaine’s thoughtfulness, inquisitiveness and mastery of the complex issues facing the United States, Israel and our allies and partners.

He has had meetings with Prime Minister Benjamin Netan-yahu, traveled to Israel and visited an Iron Dome battery on the border with Gaza. He has stood up time and again for Israel in Congress, from emergency funding for its successful anti-rocket system to the U.S.-Israel Strategic Partnership Act of 2015.

Kaine was vocal in condemning the United Nations Human Rights Council for its decision to launch a one-sided investigation into Israel’s actions during the 2014 conflict in Gaza while ignoring the unprovoked rocket attacks against Israeli civilians by Palestinian terrorists that touched off the conflict.

Kaine knows that protecting Israel’s security also means ensuring that Israel has a healthy economy. As governor of Virginia, he worked closely with the Israeli ambassador to the United States at the time, Sallai Meridor, resulting in a 2008 agreement to strengthen bilateral cooperation between Virginia and Israel on private sector industrial research and development. For Israel, the agreement was only the second it had ever entered into with a state government, and both parties have seen tangible benefits.

A nuclear-armed Iran would represent an existential threat to Israel, and Kaine has been a key leader in bipartisan efforts to ensure that Iran never acquires a nuclear weapon. He negotiated the Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act that ensured Congress could review the nuclear accord and advocated for a resilient and fully resourced U.S. military so that “all options are on the table.”

Kaine knows that the threats emanating from Iran are about more than its nuclear program. Iran’s continued ballistic missile testing and state sponsorship of terrorism are equally troubling and threatening to  Israel. He worked on a bill with Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., to extend sanctions on Iran until President Barack Obama and the IAEA can guarantee that Iran’s nuclear material is for peaceful purposes.

Finally, Kaine understands that support for a safe, secure Jewish state goes far beyond easy slogans and reflexive criticism of its many foes. Farsighted U.S. diplomacy is critical in helping Israel reach its goal of a sustainable, secure peace. Like a strong majority of American Jews, Kaine remains committed to a two-state solution that has been the stated policy of Prime Minister Netanyahu and every recent Israeli government before his and which is the critical prerequisite to the kind of peace that Israel’s citizens deserve and want.

Kaine understands that tough talk about Israel’s security is just that — talk — if not built on a foundation of active support for U.S. peacemaking efforts in the troubled region.

Close to home, it was Kaine who held the first Passover seder in the Virginia governor’s mansion. He has a long record of working closely  with Virginia’s small but active Jewish community.

For the record, there are two synagogues in Pence’s former congressional district. Surely he would have benefited from knowing them better.

U.S. Sen. Ben Cardin, a Maryland  Democrat, is the ranking member on  the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.