Op-Ed: Why Rick Perry Could Be Terrible For Orthodox Jews Especially In Lakewood

By Ari Fischer. Many of the current Republican presidential candidates have been criticized as being bad for Jews. Most of these criticisms have been vague, weak, untrue, theoretical, or speculative. For instance, some Utah Jews recently claimed in The Forward, that Mitt Romney would be bad for Jews because of his Mormon faith. Their fear is that if he were to become President that he would have to continue to answer first and foremost to a “higher authority,” the Mormon church. This position is ridiculous, hypocritical, and self destructive especially when it comes from Jews whose own values would seemingly invite similarly false criticism upon our own Jewish politicians. A similarly specious claim has been asserted that Michelle Bachmann or Rick Perry would be bad for Jews because they wear their religion on their sleeves and because they feel that they have a “Christian calling” to stand by Israel. We as Jews wear religion on our heads and sleeves both literally (Teffilin and Kippahs) and figuratively and we also feel that we have a “religious calling” to stand by Israel.

We need to focus instead on real substantive issues and concerns which directly affect our community. Rick Perry presents us with a very practical, real, and direct reason for opposing his presidency and why his election could cause Jews a tremendous amount of pain and trouble.

The primary reason to be concerned with Rick Perry is because of his policy on education and more specifically on Pell Grants. Rick Perry has called for zero federal involvement in education and would like to abolish the federal Pell Grant program if elected President. Furthermore, this was one of the first issues that Perry addressed upon becoming a candidate, while it took him more than two months to reveal just the first small part of his jobs proposal. Clearly, abolishing education programs is a major priority of his, apparently well before jobs and the economy.

Poor and underprivileged students across the country rely on federal assistance such as Pell Grants and our bochurim (students) in yeshivas (rabbinical schools) are no exception. Whether one thinks our schools should be relying on government assistance or not is immaterial because the fact is that many of them currently do and need to. Yes, one could argue that we should try to preempt such a seemingly inevitable cut and phase out our reliance on such aid but the point is that a sudden abolishment would be disastrous on so many levels. We as a community nowadays are not in an economically favorable position to replace such crucial government funding.

Some could argue Rick Perry has a rapidly declining chance of winning the Republican nomination and an even smaller shot of winning the general election. In addition, even in the unlikely event that he does win the Presidential election, he would still need congressional approval for such legislation, making the passage of such a bill less likely. However, the point stands that support for Rick Perry opens a Pandora’s box of dangerous circumstances for Jews. Each President is equipped with certain powers that he could utilize to achieve his goals outside of the legislative process. Perry, as Governor of Texas has already done this through his astronomical amount of executive orders and mandates. Also, we risk the very real possibility that this position, without opposition, will become a more mainstream view and other policy makers may come to adopt it as well. We need to voice tremendous opposition to this policy as quickly as possible.

This brings up another point regarding our general lobbying priorities and techniques as a community and how they are completely misaligned with our larger interests. Lobbying against policies such as abolishing Pell Grants should come well before our lobbying efforts for convicted criminals such as Rubashkin and Pollard. Staffers on Capitol Hill will tell you that Jewish groups who advocate for these issues are hurting themselves and the other issues that they need to care more about. Furthermore, many argue that Pollard would have been pardoned long ago if the lobbying was just done behind the scenes. The reason it has become such a big deal to pardon him might well be because Jews with our public outcries have turned it into such a big deal. Also, it’s noteworthy that many of the groups who heavily advocate for Pollard’s pardon are on the far right while it’s the liberals who are much more likely to actually pardon Pollard. Many of the conservative and Tea Party type activists, columnists, and bloggers have come out heavily against a Pollard pardon.

Assuming many Orthodox Jews are not even aware of Rick Perry’s views on Pell Grants or the disastrous ramifications that such an abolishment would bring, I don’t blame them for gravitating towards him as a candidate. Many were impressed with his seemingly very pro Israel press conference in New York City prior to the United Nations General Assembly convening. However, there are a number of reasons why he is not even necessarily the best candidate for Israel. Marc Tracy of Tablet magazine pointed out recently that Rick Perry’s pro Israel stances are not necessarily completely genuine, rather stating views on Israel and Iran presents the easiest foreign policy position for candidates who have zero foreign policy experience. In fact, during the last debate, Rick Perry called for all foreign aid to be reviewed. Israel’s aid is included in “all”, so we should be asking Perry what exactly about aid to Israel should be reviewed. At least, Romney (another foreign policy lightweight) called for aid to Israel to be increased. The point is that we already have a President now who is learning foreign policy on the job and we, as a country, and Israel, as a friend and ally, cannot afford another one in Perry or Romney. Such inexperience tends to result in a President having to rely too much on the State Department “Arabists” who notoriously criticize Israel over settlements at every opportunity they get. There is only one candidate in the Republican race who has actual foreign policy experience and that is a real shame because the country so desperately needs real leadership and experience on the world stage to deal with issues such as China, Iran, North Korea and others, over the next decade.

Regardless, Israel doesn’t need to be, nor should it be, our number one priority in this particular Republican nomination considering most the candidates are very pro Israel. All the Republican candidates (except for Ron Paul of course) would probably make for a better President in terms of Israel than our current one.

The bottom line is that we as Jews should participate in the political process, we should make our voices heard, and we should get our lobbying priorities and techniques in order. This is especially true when it comes to important and community-wide issues such as Pell Grants. Who knows, maybe opposition will persuade Perry to reconsider and change certain elements of his policies or to at least alter his views as he has done in the past (after all he used to be a Democrat and was a National Chairman for Al Gore’s presidential campaign). Particularly in the extremely important 2012 elections, we as Jews should focus on real and practical issues that effect our entire community and should vote and allocate out political donations accordingly, rather than paying attention to silly political side shows. [email protected]

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  1. Ari,

    Thanks for a well-thought out article. However, you are quite small-minded, to say the least.

    Are you saying that we should choose our next president based on one small program??? Your entire article is centered on one issue! Pell Grants!

    There is a much larger issue here, and it will affect every one of us over the next few years. Do you see what is going on in Europe? These countries have lived the socialist way of life for the past 60 years, and it is now coming back to haunt them. They are cutting programs left and right, and there is tremendous civil unrest because of this. They NEED to cut the programs, because they have no more money. But at the same time, the people who were brought up to rely on these programs are rioting in the streets.

    Mark my words. This is coming to America soon. Maybe not this year or in five years. But it will be in our lifetime. VERY SOON. Our country’s deficit has skyrocketed, the debt is out of control. Our country is broke, there is no more money. Raising taxes will just hurt the economy even more. The time will come, VERY SOON, when all these programs will need to be cut. And the more people the lower class of the country is addicted to these programs, the harsher the riots will be. AND IT WILL BE UNSAFE FOR ALL OF US.

    The other choice, of course, is to keep all these programs, and just tax the so-called “rich”. People like me and you who actually work. People like my boss who give me a job. People like our parents who support those of us in kollel. This will stunt job-growth (rich people will spend less and hire less), and will take away the incentive for people to work, which will put even more people onto the government dole.

    It will also create class warfare, which we are beginning to see rear its ugly head in the Occupy Wall St protests (and make no mistake, there is a huge ant-Semitic element in those protests, because when the class warfare begins, people inevitably asociate Jews with Wall St, banksters, greed, etc. because of all the anti-Semitic propaganda that has been around forever equating Jews with banks and the rich).

    Is this the America we grew up in? Is this the America we want for our children?

    The only way for America to retain the freedoms we all enjoyed here is for the government to stop the taxes and regulations, allow people to work without too much of their hard-earned money being taken from them in the form of taxes, and stop the programs (which encourage people to remain poor, while also bankrupting the government)

    This election will be very crucial. Our country is at a huge crossroads.
    The question we need to be asking is, WHO WILL SAVE OUR COUNTRY BEFORE IT GOES DOWN THE TUBES?

    When you look at the big picture, Pell Grants becomes a non issue.

  2. To #1 – You clearly have no concept of what is taking place in Europe. Stop repeating what Rush Limbaugh told you to think and start thinking for yourself.

  3. I agree with point 1 regarding his opening point- a President should be decided based on a pell grant. There are bigger and greater issues that a president decides. I believe he would still be better for ‘everyone’ than Barack Obama.

  4. I m borrowing allot of money to go to graduate school, i believe that if their wouldn’t be any financial aid colleges would be forced to lower their prices significantly subsequently making college allot more affordable for the average American.

  5. correction to 4.

    I agree with comment 1 regarding his opening point- a President should NOT be decided based on a pell grant. There are bigger and greater issues that a president decides. I believe he would still be better for ‘everyone’ than Barack Obama.

  6. If we are choosing candidates based on how beneficial their policies would be for the Orthodox Lakewood community, we would not be voting for ANY republican candidates. All of the so-called “entitlements” (HUD, food stamps, medicaid) which are critical to so many families are the product of democratic policies. Nevertheless, we don’t find many Obama supporters in our midst. To focus on the PELL grants as a pivotal issue is truly losing sight of the big picture.

  7. Ha! The frum community has become parrots for the Rush Lilmbaugh, Sean Hannity views. But then they see that all this Republican talk abuot getting the govt. off of our backs means that the programs so many rely on, will be cut or eliminated. So we start backing off. Well, you can’t straddle the fence. We must decide whether or not we really want govt. off of our backs because without the govt. on our backs, many of our friends will be in big financial trouble. This article is just one example of how we can’t decide which side we’re on!

  8. No person should be elected on one issue.

    Buddy, oh are you small minded.

    BTW, Pell grants are the reason education is so expensive. Just like HUD and Section 8 is the reason housing is so expensive. If the govmnt would stop HUD tomorrow, who would loose. Not the renters, bu the landlords whose homes have dropped tremendously in value, because very few in town can afford the downpayment plus full mortgage payments w/o govmt assistance.

    Same with education. Stop grants, tuitions drop, because noone can afford a $50,000 annual college education, so by the laws of supply and demand, tuition must drop drastically. Yes! STOP PELL GRANTS NOW! Make education affordable for EVERYONE!!

  9. To #1 YID says. You are right on target. The issue is to replace the current president before it is too late. One more term with him i office will surely strip this nation of it’s remaining wealth and greatness.

  10. Ari is right on…

    ‘Bigger and greater issues than Pell Grants’? Not many, (except Israel’s security). This is BH the ONLY broad-based voucher program that exists for Yeshivas. Its loss will take $3500- 5000 from the majority of all frum families having children in Yeshiva Gedolas/Seminaries, many who are already struggling with jobs, tuition, medical insurance and taxes.

    Will Yeshiva costs go down it this program disappears? Please. Yeshiva tuition is already at the very bottom level of the scale. Fundraising would have to go up tens of millions to cover the shortfall.

    So please lets use sechel here.

  11. #2, so can you please explain us what’s happening in Europe?
    I see facts, goverments are running out of monies, have to cut programs, and triggered riots. How do you explain that?

  12. Do you really think that Jonathan Pollard is sitting in jail becuase of the Lobbying on his behalf. Give me a break! There were YEARS after his arrest that his name was barely mentioned, and look where that got him.

  13. As long a president has morals and good religious values, he would be better than our current prez. Also all these gov’t. programs are coming out of taxpayers pockets. We’ve gotten so used to gov’t. hand outs that we think we entitled to them, but, it’s no good for the national debt awhich in the long run is no good for the country.

  14. Thank you Ari for pointing out this important information and for bringing it to our communities attention. I don’t think Perry will have the support that everyone thinks he has in our community once this information gets around.

  15. Pell grants ?!?!
    Of course a republican will get rid of pell grants its just an underclass entitlement program that people got used to taking. If you brought in a republican president with guts like perry he would be a strong voice for school vouchers that ALL that send there kids to school will enjoy and benefit from not just a select few that are eligible for the pell.

  16. So can we try to get an official response from Perry’s campaign. This may not be the most crucial issue in the race but it would be helpful if we could get him to take this position back and say that the pell grant program will remain or will not be “suddenly abolished.” I read that a few Frum Jews are very involved with Perry’s campaign so maybe they could do something about this because I agree that this issue could create strong animosity towards Perry amongst members of our community.

  17. It is probably correct that we should force colleges to drop their tuition rates but Yeshivas are already at the lowest tuition that they can be and getting rid of pell grants will only hurt more. All politics are local and for our community this is a deal breaker. Let the frum amongst us who have the ability to try to get the Perry campaign to revise this policy. It can have a disastrous impact on our community otherwise.

  18. i agree with number 1 with everything he says

    about “It will also create class warfare, which we are beginning to see rear its ugly head in the Occupy Wall St protests (and make no mistake, there is a huge ant-Semitic element in those protests, because when the class warfare begins, people inevitably asociate Jews with Wall St, banksters, greed, etc. because of all the anti-Semitic propaganda that has been around forever equating Jews with banks and the rich).

    i can say that the occupy wall street will continue to get worse, as this is Hashems way of bringing riots to america-first we had yemen, egypt & libya etc…-now Hashem is preparing the world for mashiach.

    Make aliya now to Israel & go with fortune, Wait & soon thousands will be going cause there will be no money left & the economy is better in Israel DON’T WAIT, GO NOW.

  19. All politics are local. Pell Grants are a big issue for our community and this is very bad for Perry if he wants continued support from our community. Dancing with Rabbis is one thing but this is a real substantive issue which deserves to get more attention than dancing rabbis.

  20. To #21: Perry will be a “strong voice for school vouchers” while eliminating the only existing significant voucher program for the frum community? Duh?

    ‘Pell for the select few’? Again, Duh? Virtually ALL low and lower-middle income families qualify for Pell.


  21. All federal social programs should be eliminated, and taxes lowered significantly. Instead of distribution of our $ to Pell grants, foodstamps etc. each person should be responsible for their families wellfare and believe it or not, alot of people would step up to the plate! So many people have told me they cannot get a good job because they will lose their programs. It is suffocating the entire community.

  22. Really in the know
    Get your hands out of my pockets. Why can’t you learn that taking from me will only help for a few. Get rid of all school programs and just go to a voucher system and everyone will be a winner. Or do you just like to sit back and take my hard earned money for yourself?

  23. Regardless of whether you think of Pell Grants. The fact is that our yeshivas need them. So why don’t we pressure the Perry campaign with the help of the Frum Jews who are connected to the campaign to get them to revise this policy.

  24. “Lobbying against policies such as abolishing Pell Grants should come well before our lobbying efforts for convicted criminals such as Rubashkin and Pollard”

    This statement rubbed me the wrong way. ARe you saying that freeing Rubashkin and pollard should come before pell grants?? What about Pidyon Shvuyim? I agree that pell grants are an important issue, but please do NOT minimize the situation of Rubashkin and Pollard who are langushing in Prison!!

  25. Ari, you must be pretty uninformed because there is a big picture here that you just don’t get. True republicans are against entitlements, and rightfully so I may add, but this is because they believe in small government. This concept also means more individual rights for citizens,which in turn means freedom of choice as to how to educate your children. One more step now, bear with me,which in turn means vouchers for private schools if one would choose to opt out of the public school system.

  26. Let’s talk tachlis. The bottom line is who you would vote for between the Republican candidate and Obama. (there’s a very slim chance Obama will not be the nominee, but I seriously doubt it).

    I am shocked once again at how many people think of nothing but gelt when it comes to politics. So we elect again and again the biggest sonei Hashem, the biggest sonei Yisroel, the most disgusting immoral people who bring in with them their whole erev rav of slimey cretins: the commie crowd, the toeiva crowd, the palestinian crowd, the whole pathological left. And when the next new law or policy is announced that toeiva marriage is fine, toeiva soldiers are fine, redistribution of wealth and runaway government is fine, massive unsustainable debt is fine, all of the sudden, everyone is shocked and dismayed.

    Remember the words of Rabbi Avigdor Miller, ZTV’L, that morality comes before all our other wants, needs and desires in politics. In the end, all the money we got for our communities will not be worth a thing if our communities are swallowed up in the devastation that Hashem promises in the Torah for the behavior that has become commonplace today. Maybe it won’t be gafris va’melach, but it might be the continued spiritual devastation that is r’l happening every day in our communities.

    Please don’t be so short-sighted. The money we grab today won’t help us tomorrow.

  27. “Select few who are eligible for Pell”? Um, try 90_% of every person you’ve ever met in your life. Look it up. The limits are tremendous. And I hate to burst the economists’ bubbles over here, but it’s not as simple as supply & demand. If it cost $50 in raw material to manufacture a widget, all the reduced demand in the world isn’t going to allow me to manufacture & sell it to you for $40. Higher education simply isn’t affordable without subsidy on some level. It’s also in everyone’s best interest that their neighbors are as educated (and by extension financially productive) as possible.

  28. I getting very tired of people who comment by saying stop listening to Rush & Sean etc. I NEVER listen to either of the two. Neither do almost everyone else I know.But yes I strongly agree that we should vote against entitlement programs.

  29. Can someone send this article to Jeff Ballabon who is very involved with the Perry campaign and maybe he could talk some sense into them. Universities may overcharge for tuition but our yeshivas certainly do not and they therefore very much do need pell grants to stay afloat. As Ari said lets do all we can to oppose this policy. Paging Jeff.

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