It was very moving to hear Congressman Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) before a full house this Shabbat at Ansche Chesed explaining his vote in favor of the Iran Deal, his thoughts about Israel and Palestine, and his support for Syrian refugees. Delivered from right under the bimah at the reader’s platform, his analysis regarding the Iran Deal and Israel was sober and sobering; his remarks about Syrian refugees were a more sentimental combination of ethnic memory and Jewish religion. Congressman Nadler began his remarks on the relation between moral principle and politics, which he defended as an art of compromise.
About Iran and Israel, Congressman Nadler spoke with cool logic to fundamental shifts in the status quo that were no longer sustainable, be they the sanction regime leveled at Iran, the occupation of the West Bank, and support for Israel now waning among a younger generation of liberal Democratic voters and future leaders. Only about Syrian refugees could you hear his voice crack. What he said came from the heart. Citing the scriptural injunction to protect the stranger, he complained about the history of national-security hysteria and compared the plight of Syrian refugees today to that of Jewish refugees refused entry into the country before World War II as the result of anti-immigration legislation passed in 1924 by what he called “a racist Congress.”
You could have heard a pin drop in the deep listening of the congregation between the pattering of younger children in the sanctuary. And then this moment, the concluding moment which might have been the most powerful of all, the response of the community to these words that were both thoughtful and moving at a time in our national life that is fraught with a heightened sense of fear and real anxiety. Congressman Nadler returned to his seat, the physical presence of his words met warmly with long, and then sustained and sustaining applause that was quiet, steady, and resonant. I have never seen anything like this, these words presented by a politician, bracing truths in a religious setting met with such relief and enthusiasm. I have never been as proud to be a liberal Jew in the synagogue.