Integrity, kindness and intellect are qualities most people look for in their elected officials. Virginia Sen. Tim Kaine has embodied those qualities in the U.S. Senate and will certainly carry them into the White House if Hillary Clinton wins the presidency in November.
When Secretary Clinton announced Kaine as her running mate, I knew that she was making the perfect choice. In my numerous interactions with him as an advocate for the Jewish community, I have been impressed with his compassion, his concern for his constituents, his honor, and his deep knowledge and concern for issues unique to our community.
As mayor of Richmond, governor of the Commonwealth of Virginia, and now as senator, Kaine has fostered meaningful relationships with his constituents. I experienced this for myself at a breakfast meeting years ago. With a yarmulke on my head, I introduced myself and shared with him my support for urgent, meaningful and humane immigration reform. Though there was a line of people behind me, I appreciated that Kaine took the time to listen to what I had to share. He spoke to me about the numerous Jewish clergy he worked with around the commonwealth. It was clear that he not only had a sincere interest in working with constituents of all faiths, but that he had strong and deep relationships throughout Virginia’s Jewish community.
Kaine has remained committed to openness throughout his tenure in the Senate. He listened intently to everyone in the room, without his eye on the clock, during a discussion of major issues of concern to the Jewish community, including the Iran deal and our strong support for the State of Israel in its quest for peace.
He fostered an open exchange of ideas that inspired our delegation to ask questions, offer words of encouragement and find out how we as constituents could be of help. When he spoke, he didn’t just express what he believed, but he spelled out his thought process as well. He demonstrated clear knowledge of the concerns and aspirations of the Jewish people across the political spectrum.
Last year, I took a group of 15-year-old Jewish students to meet with Kaine’s staff, where they advocated on issues of their choosing. They spoke about topics like gun control, reproductive health and LGBT rights, to name just a few. It was clear that Senator Kaine had impressed upon his staff how much he values the opinions of his constituents — they listened to each of my students, jotted down copious notes, asked probing questions and thanked the students for their advocacy.
My students left with not just pride in their work, but with an urgent sense of wanting to engage in the work of social justice, tikkun olam, repairing the world.
Having met Kaine and seen firsthand how he approaches his work as a public servant, I am inspired by his integrity, deep knowledge of the Jewish people and strong commitment to the State of Israel.
As others get to know Kaine as well, I am certain they will discover what a mensch he is.
Jason Kaufman, a Washington resident, serves as a cantor in Northern Virginia. His views are his own.