Over at Jeffrey Goldberg’s blog we find a brief interview with Congressman Henry Waxman about how his Jewish faith informs his political views:

Tali Yahalom: You are quoted as saying that many of your American values are “synonymous” with your Jewish values. Can you talk about that?

Henry Waxman: Jewish values place a great emphasis on compassion and trying to help other people, and the doctrine of tikkun olam, trying to repair the world — this of course is a requirement on individuals but also on the community. One way for people to act in a communal sense and to respond to the needs of the less fortunate is through government.

TY: Do you believe that you are doing tikkun olam through a career in government?

HW: I do believe that I am very close to the ideals of the Jewish religion as well as American values — to try to use my position in public office to better the lives of millions of Americans.

TY: How do you apply your Jewish values to your current legislative initiatives, namely health care?

HW: I take seriously what the objectives are in the legislation and try to keep a clear and disciplined focus on trying to move in the direction of the necessary accomplishments. I think it’s easy for people to get sidetracked and to think that compromise may not be worthy, even though it could produce a move in the direction of helping people.

Apparently Waxman has not heard that the role of religion in politics is supposed to revolve around demonizing homosexuals and single mothers, blocking promising medical research, and supporting economic policies that benefit the rich over the poor.


  1. #1 Eric B
    August 25, 2009

    I sure wish all politicians took the American Values and applied them to all the decisions they make through their legislation. Unfortunately, it seems that they care more about getting re-elected than about doing the RIGHT thing for ALL Americans. It is a good thing I do not run my school like they run the government….doing everything for MY BENEFIT, rather than the benefit of the students.

  2. #2 Tim
    August 25, 2009

    Unfortunately, our congressmen seem to enrich themselves both financially and power wise while serving extraordinarily long careers in congress in a very nonpartisan way. I wish the system was set up where they felt compelled to serve the nations best interests instead of voting for what ever will get them elected again extending their careers.

  3. #3 Wes
    August 25, 2009

    Apparently Waxman has not heard that the role of religion in politics is supposed to revolve around demonizing homosexuals and single mothers, blocking promising medical research, and supporting economic policies that benefit the rich over the poor.

    This made me laugh. 😀

  4. #4 NewEnglandBob
    August 25, 2009

    Too many politicians define “American Values” as hate for those who are different and that others MUST conform to their own beliefs.

    Another “American Value” for many Republicans and right wing nuts is to tell any lie to get their way.

  5. #5 Omer
    August 26, 2009

    I must confess I don’t see what’s so great about Waxman’s comments. Translated, it means roughly “From Judaism, I cherry pick vaguely liberal sounding phrases seemingly fitting with my political positions, and ignore or disregard everything else.”

  6. #6 NoFear
    August 26, 2009

    I agree. Waxman was very evasive. He said his policies would help millions of americans but he never said which millions …. the wealthy or the middle and lower income brackets. There are about 50 million people without health insurance. We need to help more than mere millions of people … by my numbering system that would be 10’s of millions. he also never specifies what the necessary accomplishments are. Is there a context we are missing? Somehow I don’t think so. That was just pure political evasion … how to say the least with the most possible words.

  7. #7 Sigmund
    August 26, 2009

    I agree with Omer here. You could easily get a Christian or Muslim saying substantially the same things (minus the bit about tikkun olam.
    By the way when I tried to check what ‘tikkun olam meant I found the following on wikipedia describing its origin as a means of avoiding societal chaos:

    “The rabbis made this rule because they were concerned that a woman might receive a get (divorce document) and think she was divorced when in fact she was not. She might then remarry in good faith not knowing that she was not yet a free woman. In Jewish tradition there are severe consequences if a married woman engages in sexual relations outside of her marriage. She may not marry the man with whom she had sex and her children are ineligible to marry most other Jews because they acquire the technical status of mamzerim”

    On a note related to Jasons original joke in this post I remember a time when the term ‘Christian’ was meant as a way of describing a charitable act (“thats very christian of you” etc) – now it just reminds me of that line about Marge Flanders going to ‘Christian Camp’ “to learn how to be more judgmental”.

  8. #8 Paul Murray
    August 26, 2009

    “tikkun olam, trying to repair the world”

    Now, THERE’S a phrase that means different things to different people. Depends very much on what you think the rightful state of thins should be.

  9. #9 old fuzz
    August 26, 2009

    Whenever someone refers to their (Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Buddhist, Confucian, Hindu, et. al. ) values I wonder whether they see themselves labeling universal values from their religious perspective or see their group having cornered the values market.

    In my personal–limited–every Jew I know is among the former and my Christian acquaintances cover the spectrum. My basic problem is that I can’t find a definition for Christian values; therefore, I conclude it must be the former. For me, values are values. They are within every moral code I know especially humanism, Platonism and Confucianism.

  10. #10 Michael Kingsford Gray
    September 10, 2009

    The Jewish religion MANDATES infant genital mutilation.
    “…many of your American values are “synonymous” with your Jewish values”

    Some nasty values, eh?
    FSM only knows how these hypocritical lying bastards are allowed to get away with this verbal criminal fraud.

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