Have you ever thanked somebody for hurting you, but not quite hurting you as much as they could have?
Now imagine that somebody came over to you and slapped you across the face, and when you protest, they say, “Well, I could have slapped you a lot harder.”
Would it make you feel any better?
Probably not, right? And yet, that is exactly what I see going on all around us.
We all have a major decision to make on November 2nd. On that day, New Jersey will decide whether to elect Republican Jack Ciattarelli as the new Governor of New Jersey or give another term to incumbent Democrat Phil Murphy.
While in Lakewood the question over who to support has been hotly debated, to me the answer seems so obvious that I do not understand the other side’s argument. I have many times now heard an argument for why Governor Phil Murphy should be reelected. So far, only one reason has been given to me for why he deserves the frum community’s vote for a second term in office: “Hakaras Hatov”. Supporters of Governor Murphy, as well as those who do not consider themselves supporters of him per se but will be casting their ballot in favor of the sitting governor, argue that the frum community has a debt of Hakaros Hatov to the Governor because during the height of Covid-19, he didn’t shut down shuls and schools like some Democratic governors in other states. Thus, they argue we owe it to him to help him get reelected.
The argument is utterly baffling to me. Have we forgotten how terribly frum life suffered in the early weeks and months of Covid-19? Have we forgotten about the dozens of frum businesses that became insolvent because of the governor’s needless policies? Are we forgetful of the untold number of children, as well as adults, who have suffered severe psychological damage – depression, anxiety, social skills harm, etc. – because Governor Murphy forced them to remain at home, hidden away from society?
Saying that he was good to us during Covid-19 is no different than arguing that we should thank somebody who slapped us for no reason across the face because they could have slapped us harder.
For those saying, like Murphy said during his visit to Lakewood this week, that “there was no playbook for Covid-19,” and thus the Governor could not have done any better, I ask: Have you seen Republican-led states like Florida? In the Sunshine State, Jewish life for the most part continued unabated throughout Covid-19. Florida Governor Ron DeSantis did not either have a “playbook” for dealing with Covid-19. But here is what DeSantis did have: Care and sensitivity for religious life, and an understanding of what is truly important. And as such, Mr. DeSantis made every effort to ensure that shuls and schools remained open. The same can hardly be said about Governor Murphy.
In fact, it is quite widely accepted that Governor Murphy did not target shuls and other religious institutions as hard as he did other places because he would have faced crushing defeat in court. The Governor did not have any constitutional authority to shut down shuls; when disgraced former New York Governor Andrew Cuomo tried it, he was slapped down by the US Supreme Court, who made a mockery of him. Murphy knew that would happen and he didn’t want to look silly. But he still made life as a frum Jew quite difficult. So why would we thank him for leaving us bruised and battered, just not dead? Where is the logic in that?
Furthermore, while much has been made of Governor Murphy’s visit to Lakewood this week, let’s remember why it was such a big deal: Because he never comes. Murphy has visited Lakewood to meet with the public twice – four years ago when he was running for election and this week as he is running for reelection. Those were the only two times he came to Lakewood and met with regular residents. Does that strike you as an individual who really cares about the community and wants to work with them, or as someone who is pandering to a community so that they vote for him?
The evidence is in the pudding. Governor Murphy has pushed anti-Torah values for his entire term. Furthermore, his involvement in the case of Rabbi Osher Eisemann has been very troubling.
In that case, Rabbi Eisemann went through a lengthy and costly court battle. After hearing all the evidence, the judge issued a ruling. Apparently, the punishment was not stringent enough for the Murphy administration. Rather than accept a respected judge’s ruling, the State, under the Governor’s watch, took an almost unprecedented step of appealing to overturn the verdict. They went so far as to ask for an additional 10-12 years (!) to be added to the sentence. Rather than simply accepting the justice system’s process and ruling, he punched back at a respected member of our community who had already suffered greatly even harder than before.
Where has Governor Murphy, who claims to be a deeply religious man, been on issues like alternative lifestyles, abortions, and assisted suicide? Not on the side of the Torah and the frum community, that’s for sure.
So, I ask you again: why would you vote for someone who has hurt you and does not share your values? Why would you cast your ballot in favor of someone who has not advanced your causes, not supported your interests, and refused to take action for what is right? Why would you vote for someone who has essentially bashed you in the face and apologized by saying ‘Well, it could have been worse’?
Do yourself a favor. On November 2nd, vote for Jack Ciattarelli. Jack has shown himself to be a friend of frum Yidden. Jack has shown a willingness – even an eagerness – to make sure that as governor he would be a staunch supporter of New Jersey’s frum Jewish community. Stand up and use your vote and your voice to make sure that Jack Ciattarelli has the opportunity to do right by our way of life. When you enter that voting booth, remember: there is only one major candidate for Governor on the ballot that has not hurt you. There is only one major candidate for governor that wants to stand up for you. And that man is Jack Ciattarelli.
– A Lakewood Resident
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