Democratic Values

Alex S. Ozar Tradition Online | July 3, 2023

Are Jews called toward exemplary liberal-democratic citizenship? Beyond pursuing our own interests, and beyond even pursuing just societal outcomes, what is the halakhic obligation for our community to take responsibility for strengthening the bonds of democratic community as such?

In a recent article, grounded on an analysis of halakhic texts, Alex S. Ozar argues:

To the extent that we engage in political activity in places like the United States or Israel, we are as Jews called not only to do so in pursuit of just outcomes, but to do so in such a way as to strengthen the interpersonal bonds which make effective liberal-democratic governance – governance by and for the people – possible. What this requires is the manifest, willing acceptance of some measure of cost, risk, or sacrifice with respect to our own parochial Jewish interests for the sake of the common democratic good. It requires hearing and honoring those voices we are inclined to ignore, renouncing strategic manipulation in favor of honest, good-faith dialogue, and proactively cultivating a culture in which such dialogue is possible, even when doing so makes us less likely to obtain everything we want. We strengthen the bonds of democratic community by exhibiting our depth of commitment to it, and we exhibit our depth of commitment through the medium of enacted vulnerability.

For American Independence Day read “Towards a Jewish Theology of Democratic Citizenship” from TRADITION 55:1 (Winter 2023) – now open access.

Alex S. Ozar serves as a rabbi with OU-JLIC and the Slifka Center for Jewish Life at Yale University, where he also recently completed a Ph.D. in philosophy and religious studies.

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