Home Christian News Votes on War Force Washington Democrats To Reckon With Faith, Conscience and...

Votes on War Force Washington Democrats To Reckon With Faith, Conscience and Politics

U.S. Rep. Jamaal Bowman, who represents a swath of the New York City suburbs, told the gathering of a letter signed by more than two dozen rabbis urging a local Democrat, George Latimer, to run against him.

“In my district, 26 rabbis wrote a letter against me calling for a cease-fire,” Bowman told a news conference in mid-November. “I haven’t been able to stand with them or visit any synagogues in my district.”  

Later in the month, Latimer visited Israel. On Monday evening, he filed to run against Bowman.

Once broadly supportive of Democrats, as a strong majority of Jewish voters are, AIPAC has increasingly become a scourge for liberals as Republicans, especially evangelicals such as Johnson, have rallied to Israel’s side. When Sen. Bernie Sanders, an independent who caucuses with the Democrats, ran for president in 2016, he declined to speak at AIPAC’s conference, traditionally a stop for White House hopefuls of either party.

But the group, which first began direct fundraising for candidates in 2021, was one of the top 20 spenders in the 2022 election cycle. Slate reported last month that AIPAC is expected to spend at least $100 million in Democratic primaries, particularly in efforts to unseat liberal lawmakers such as Tlaib and others who have called for a cease-fire in Gaza. AIPAC-funded attack ads have already begun running in Bowman’s district.

Even so, Bowman has stood by his positions last month, explaining that his support for a cease-fire in Gaza was “about humanity, period.” Bowman said that while he doesn’t know the Bible “that well,” at least one verse continues to guide him: “Three words from the Messiah himself: ‘Love thy neighbor,’” he said.

AIPAC has yet to endorse either Landsman or his Republican challenger, who announced his candidacy in July.

Rep.-elect Greg Landsman, D-Ohio, arrives for new member orientation check-in and program registration at the Hyatt Regency, in Washington, Nov. 13, 2022. (AP Photo/Amanda Andrade-Rhoades)

Meanwhile, Landsman has felt blowback in his district for his votes. In early December, protesters attempted to deface Landsman’s district office with a Barbie-themed poster that accused him of supporting “genocide” and “ethnic cleansing” in Gaza. They mistakenly posted it on the wrong building, but on social media Landsman condemned the placard as a “dangerous” effort that used “insidious language that makes us all less safe.”

Landsman also canceled a town hall a month earlier after the House sergeant-at-arms warned of “very serious national threats against Jews,” though activists claimed the cancellation was due to a planned cease-fire protest.

It’s a delicate dance in Landsman’s district, where even younger Jews show higher-than-average support for Israel — a rarity for a subgroup that has otherwise been disproportionately ambivalent about the country compared with older Jews. A 2019 study by Brandeis University found that 42% of Jewish young adults in Cincinnati aged 22 to 34 “feel more strongly connected to Israel than their corresponding age group on the national level,” compared with 23% nationally.

Landsman said that even if religion is being used to cleave Americans one from another now, he remains hopeful that faith communities can offer a productive way forward.

“Right now, people are hurting. They can offer some relief to that,” he said. “If people are confused, they can offer some clarity. People are longing for community. They can offer that.“

They can even offer forms of “productive advocacy,” he said, a seeming reference to religious groups that have staged demonstrations both supporting and decrying Israel’s actions. He may include the votes of lawmakers of faith like him.

“That is certainly better than a Twitter page,” he said.

This article originally appeared here.