How Being A Jewish Mother Informs My Politics
My political views are shaped by three important facets of my life – I’m Jewish, I’m a woman, and I have kids.
For starters, I grew up Jewish in Orange County, CA, where there were even fewer Jews than Democrats. I never felt intentionally discriminated against, but it was hard not to feel ‘other’ when I was regularly called on as the token Jew to correct misconceptions about Chanukah (including one classmate who thought the holiday revolved around potato chips). And I’ve endured years of comments like, “Oh, just get a tree and call it a Chanukah bush” or claims that the politically correct ‘Happy Holidays’ was part of a larger war on Christmas.
So I’m understandably a little sensitive when political candidates insist that government should be run according to the Bible – even the Old Testament has plenty of questionable dictates (like people who mix their crops should be stoned to death, or something like that), and I’ve yet to hear of any Bible-thumping politicians who don’t also claim a direct line to what Jesus wants Congress to do.
As a woman, let’s just say I am the proud owner of a uterus, of which I’d like to remain in charge. Period. (And yes, I intended that really bad pun.) I am personally offended by all the male politicians parsing words about ‘legitimate’ vs. ‘forcible’, or insisting that because they’d allow an abortion exception for a 13-year-old rape victim, they’re actually moderate. Plus most anti-abortion folks also oppose open access to birth control – does that mean we’re only supposed to have sex when we intend to get pregnant? (And as the mother of teenagers, I’ve overheard enough conversations to know that’s just a tad unrealistic.)
Which brings me to the third influence, being a mother. I have two sons (ages 16 and 19) who joke that they’ve both had to announce, “Mom, I’m sorry to disappoint you, but I’m straight.” (It makes sense for a Jewish mother to want a gay son, who’d never replace her with another woman – plus it would be nice to have a shopping buddy!) I’ve always been an advocate of marriage equality and gay rights, and even if my sons didn’t want to marry nice Jewish boys, I’d feel the same way on behalf of any mother who has a gay child.
And yes, some of my best friends . . . actually, my dearest friend from college and his husband are one of the most committed, caring couples I know. Andy and I actually talked about getting married before either of us met our husbands, since we had so much in common (including difficulty meeting a good man). I mentioned this to my mother, who cautioned me, “You know there’s a problem – he’s not Jewish!” I told her I thought sexual orientation might be a bigger issue, but her naïve comment was, “Oh, can’t they fix that?” (She knows better now, by the way, which she insists I mention any time I tell this story.)
I’ve always had friends from both parties (including Republicans who define themselves as ‘socially liberal but fiscally conservative’, which reminds me of guys I dated who slept around but were cheap – however, I know what my friends mean). So I’m hoping those friendships can survive what has been a pretty intense, partisan election cycle. Some of us will be happy with today’s results, some will be disappointed, but we can all still get along, can’t we? We might disagree about how to solve the nation’s problems, but we all want to solve them, so let’s sit down together to work things out – and I’ll bring the noodle kugel.