While we might agree that ‘everything is politics’, at least at some level, it can be hard at times to believe that ‘politics is not everything’, especially coming up to an election. Europe is readying itself for community-wide elections, and here in Belgium the politicians are trying to persuade us to put a virtual ‘x’ next to their name, to make them the most popular, to elect them into government.
While traditional centrist parties struggle to distinguish themselves from one another and seem to be losing their attraction, many countries in Europe have been experiencing the emergence and rise of the kind of politics many, if not most of us, thought was dead and buried - the politics of hatred and stigmatization. New, populist, right-wing parties have been making gains, and reading every vote as support for their agenda of exclusion. Under the guise of ‘we come first’, they want us to believe that all our hard-earned resources are being poured down the drain of ‘politically correct’ concern for the welfare of refugees and migrants ‘flooding’ across our borders. ‘We’ come first, but ‘they’ don’t come even remotely second.
Jews know what it means to be excluded from the ‘we’, to be strangers in the land, to be migrants in search of a better life, following our ‘inspired’ insights, from our earliest history to the present day. But even if we have a sense of our own exclusion, we don’t have the right to exclude. The Torah insists time and again that we treat the strangers among us as if they were family, vulnerable family; that we provide for them, that we protect them from harm, that we love them as we would love ourselves.
The Torah also tells us why, if there was any need for a reason. Our first creation narrative states and repeats that God made humans in God’s image and likeness. So, in the search for God we don’t have to go too far. God is in every face, especially the face of the stranger. And in every face, we have the answer to the ‘why’ question: because you are just like me.
IJC Rabbinical Intern