Sometimes we Jews don’t know who our friends are. For example, the Supreme Court’s June 27 decision in the Janus case outlawing mandatory union dues to public employee unions will provide a great boost to the future of American Jewry, as it will greatly weaken the political force that has been blocking tuition vouchers. Most American Jews probably don’t realize that such a boost to our future can be traced to the efforts of political forces allied with the Republican Party, or that those forces can help us resist the greatest threat to American Jewry today — rampart assimilation and intermarriage.
It is widely appreciated that our best shield against the tide is Jewish day school education, but attendance at our day schools is crippled by the inability of parents to pay twice for education — once in taxes to support the public schools and again in private school tuition. One solution is equal-share vouchers, the constitutionality of which has been upheld by the Supreme Court against a church-state challenge. The greatest obstacle to equal-share vouchers, however, is presented by the public school teachers unions, the National Educational Association and the American Federation of Teachers, which have amassed enormous political power to preserve the public school monopoly.
In 1977, the Supreme Court in its Abood decision gave a tremendous financial boost to public employee unions: It permitted them to involuntarily extract union dues from public employees for representational activities. With that financial power came great political power: Public school teachers came to dominate the Democratic Party.
In 2004, one third of the delegates of the Democratic National Convention were members of public school employee unions. About 95 percent of their unions’ political contributions — which are about 30 percent higher than that of any other contributor — have gone to Democrats. The political power they accumulated permitted them to in turn extract advantageous tax-supported contracts from the politicians and school bureaucrats with whom they negotiate — supposedly at arm’s length, but which they, as a practical matter, politically control.
This latest decision from the Supreme Court, however, promises to weaken those unions, and quite possibly enough to get relief on tuition from the state legislatures. Those legislatures are likely to hear support for vouchers from President Donald Trump’s secretary of education, who openly supports them. All this is good news for American Jews.
This victory would not have been possible, however, without a Republican president in the White House. It was he who nominated — and a Republican Senate that confirmed — Justice Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court. The Janus decision was decided 5-4, and it was Gorsuch who provided the crucial vote. None of this would ever have come from the Democratic Party. American Jews owe a “hakarat hatov,” an acknowledgement of gratitude, to Trump and his party.
Although it is too early to tell with confidence, Israeli Jewry may owe the Trump administration a similar debt, for it now appears to be giving Israel a much-needed boost to its physical security.
The greatest enemy of Israel today is Iran, which is trying to create a military-aid corridor through Iraq and Syria to Lebanon, which it already controls, and from there to destroy the Jewish state. Israel has been trying to stop this.
Although it has been little publicized, the United States has quietly been helping; it has interrupted Iran’s corridor by occupying swaths of Syria bordering Iraq. This would never have been possible under a Democratic administration, as Democrats have been reluctant to assert U.S. military power against Iran.
Trump has come down firmly on the side of Israel’s security in other ways. He cancelled President Barack Obama’s nuclear deal with Iran largely because it would, after a 15-year delay, permit Iran to build nuclear weapons. The Trump administration’s openly pro-Israel secretary of state, Mike Pompeo, is exerting great economic and other pressure on Iran to get its nuclear weapons program stopped permanently. And it was Trump’s ambassador to the United Nations who has steadfastly defended Israel’s right to protect its border with Gaza against an invasion orchestrated by Hamas.
For all this and more, Israeli Jews owe our Republican administration gratitude.
American Jews also need to be clear-eyed about what the future holds for the Democratic and Republican parties. A new Pew Research Center survey shows that the divide between Democrats and Republicans regarding their support for Israel is growing larger. While 79 percent of Republicans sympathize more with Israel over the Palestinian Arabs, only 27 percent of Democrats do. In 1978, the divide between the two parties was just 5 points.
The poll also shows that since 2001 pro-Israel sympathy among Republicans grew by 29 points, while support for Israel by Democrats declined over that period by about 11 points. And who can forget the chorus of boos at the 2012 Democratic National Convention when a resolution identifying Jerusalem as Israel’s capital was brought to a vote. We all know Trump’s stance on that.
There is an apocryphal story about the day in 1951 when Bobby Thompson of the New York Giants hit a pennant-
winning home run off a Brooklyn Dodgers pitcher. All of Manhattan exploded in joy. On the Lower East Side, an Eastern European-born bubbe was mystified and worried by all the commotion in the street. When her grandson ran into their apartment, volubly babbling about the home run and how the Giants had won the pennant, the only thing that the much-startled lady could think to say was, “Nu, is this good for the Jews or bad for the Jews?”
That is the question to ask here too. It is time for Jews to see with open eyes which party is good for the Jews.
Arthur G. Sapper is a lawyer in Washington, D.C. He lives in Silver Spring.