Michigan state legislator Lisa Brown hit a triple header, embarrassing me as an American, as a woman and as a Jew. Fortunately, I’m not a Democrat or she would have hit a home run. I am not linking to her words and actions because if you missed them, count yourself blessed. Suffice it to say, in a legislative discussion about abortion she made a crude, non-sequitur attack on fellow legislators and when sanctioned, acted as if she was Joan of Arc leading a crusade for free speech.
Her antics shamed me as an American, because despite constant contradictory proof, I still keep hoping that elected officials will be worthy of this country and that Americans will stay focused on real, rather than manufactured, issues.
As a woman, I was shamed because her behavior bolstered the argument that women are illogical and hysterical. Her rude comment, along with her follow-up actions, was totally unrelated to the issue at hand as well as being belligerent and childish. Sadly, the redeeming feature for womanhood is that many male politicians are no better.
As a Jew who keeps the Biblical dietary laws known as keeping kosher, I felt further need to distance myself from Ms. Brown. I am glad that she keeps kosher though I wish she had kept that fact out of the debate. I think that God does care how Jews eat. However, keeping kosher doesn’t turn vulgarity into acceptable Jewish conduct. It certainly doesn’t correspond to support for America’s current approach to abortion. There’s no free pass for doing or upholding something wrong just because you do something else right. By linking kashrut to a lack of refinement, Ms. Brown demeaned the very God she obeys when it comes to food.
While Representative Brown correctly stated that Jewish law mandates an abortion if the only possible choice is between losing the mother’s life or the baby’s, that was unrelated to the bill under discussion. Furthermore, anyone who thinks that debates about abortion in America revolve around the rare times when a baby’s existence threatens its mother’s life, should probably recuse themselves from participating in American political life until they get more in touch with reality. If indeed, Ms. Brown only wants to fine-tune a stance that cherishes life from its inception, she should consider changing political parties. Unlike Ms. Brown, the overwhelming majority of Jews who keep kosher are conservative and pro-life.
Keeping kosher, like other commandments, is important because God said to do it. This means that observant Jews follow the rules whether or not they understand them. However, we can certainly look for and note the benefits that come from following God’s directives. One bonus of keeping kosher can be an added awareness of the oral aperture. Both what go in and what come out of one’s mouth matter. We are supposed to refine our words constantly to represent awareness of the unique gift of human speech. Ms. Brown’s words were unbecoming to her as a public servant and as a woman, but even more so as a Jew.