Op-Ed: Obama speaks to our best traditions

WASHINGTON (JTA) — “To be good Americans, we must be better Jews.” When Justice Louis Brandeis spoke these words, he sought to inspire our nation’s Jewish community to live by our ideals and our principles, to serve as active citizens in a thriving democracy founded on the right to speak freely and to practice our faith without fear of persecution.

In the decades since, American Jews have responded, assuming positions of leadership throughout our national life, in public service, academia, medicine, law, business and the arts. And every four years we get to answer Brandeis’s call once more: by voting for the leaders we trust, the individuals we believe will uphold our values and advance the promise of our country.

In this election, that same opportunity again presents itself. True to our best traditions, committed to justice, equality and a more perfect union, the vast majority of Jews will vote to re-elect a man of vision, character and integrity: President Barack Obama.

We have a choice in this campaign between two vastly different paths for our country. There’s the path of President Obama, moving America forward with jobs, fairness for the middle class and a strong, steady foreign policy. Or there’s the path of Governor Romney, pledging to take us back to the irresponsible policies of the Bush era, one that tells 47 percent of Americans that they’re on their own.

For American Jews, there will be little doubt: The president is the candidate of our values and our priorities. Our community will agree, like many others, that we need him as our commander in chief for four more years.

The best way to judge the president — and the best reason to support him — is to look at what he’s already done. His historic record of achievement is nearly unmatched in our lifetimes, within our borders, in the Middle East and beyond our shores.

This is the president who brought us back from the brink of depression with good-paying American jobs, delivered tax relief to the middle class and small businesses and saved the auto industry. He knows the true meaning of tzedakah and tikkun olam — to pursue justice and repair the world by extending opportunity to all.

This is the president who gave us the Affordable Care Act, succeeding where a century’s worth of his predecessors failed and securing the promise of quality, affordable health care for all Americans. He understands the rabbinic teaching that “if you save one life, it is as if you save the world.”

This is the president who protected the right to choose and stood firm to preserve women’s health choices and access to care. The president who ended “don’t ask, don’t tell,” so soldiers can serve the country they love regardless of who they love, and publicly endorsed marriage equality for LGBT Americans. The president who backed better schools and teachers for our children, recognizing the Talmudic charge that “students increase peace in the world.”

This is the president who has Israel’s back, with more security aid to Israel than ever before and with the Iron Dome system to defend Israelis from rocket attacks. The president who intervened personally to save Israeli lives threatened by a mob in Cairo and who ordered our armed forces to engage in the largest-ever joint military exercise between our two nations.

This is the president who has taken no options off the table to counter the Iranian nuclear threat. The president who built an unprecedented international coalition to impose crippling sanctions on Iran and to isolate the Iranian regime. The president who does not bluff.

All the while, Governor Romney says he wants to “do the opposite” of the president on Israel and issues across the board? No wonder the Republican ticket is lagging so far behind among Jewish voters.

With four more years, President Obama will build on his legacy by creating jobs and rebuilding our infrastructure; protecting our environment and making us energy independent; educating our youth, hiring teachers and training our workers; reducing the deficit in a balanced way; and always standing with Israel and our allies around the world.

“To be good Americans, we must be better Jews.” The statement rings as true today as it did in the days of Brandeis. Now we have the opportunity again to answer the call. At our polling places, on our absentee ballots, in the voting booth, the choice of our community will be clear on Election Day: For the vast majority of American Jews, there’s no better representative of our values or champion of our priorities than President Barack Obama.

David A. Harris is the president and CEO of the National Jewish Democratic Council.