I attended my first tea party on tax day, April 15, outside the steps of the James A. Farley Post Office in Manhattan. There I was, on 8th Avenue and 31st Street, smack dab between the uber-liberal West Side to the north of me and Greenwich Village to the south. And I was surrounded by signs that read, "Free markets, not free loaders", "Redistribute my work ethic, not my savings," and "Government does not solve problems, it subsidizes them."
While The New York Times reported a disappointing show of only 700 people at the Manhattan tea party, organized by Tea Party 365 of New York, the New York Post reported that an estimated 2,000 people attended. When I asked a policeman at the rally to give me his estimate, he suggested 3,000. Many cars and trucks heading up 8th Avenue honked their horns in an enthusiastic show of support and camaraderie that belied the notion that notoriously liberal Manhattan could not sustain a conservative rally.
The rally-goers around me were polite and courteous. I saw no rage as we filled both sides of 8th Avenue, on the two blocks from 30th to 31st streets. What I did see was deep discontent with the policies of President Obama and the politicians who aid and abet him. There was an infectious enthusiasm that indicated these Americans know they're onto something big, and there was a palpable fervor uniting the rally-goers into a force the Democrats should fear this November.
Amid much applause and shouts of support, the rally's speakers spoke of our founding fathers and the Constitution. Radio host Andrew Wilkow denounced our broken economy and our culture in which "zero-liability voters" drain the economy with entitlements and put nothing back in return. "An economy driven by non-contributors is not an economy," Wilkow said.
K.T. McFarland, a Nixon, Ford, and Reagan administration official who ran for Senate in New York as a Republican in 2006, advised tea partiers to "throw the bums out" in November.
Tea party organizer and radio host David Webb countered the claim of those in the mainstream media who seek to discredit the growing tea party movement as racist and proudly declared, "There are Black Republicans, and I'm one of them." Lou Dobbs, former CNN anchorman and popular radio host, praised the middle class as the bedrock of America and pointed out that "tea parties are scaring people all over this country" because of their increasing popularity.
I saw no racist, loony or fringe elements. I felt I was among the three-quarters of Americans who, according to a new survey by the non-partisan Pew Research Center, are either "frustrated" or "angry" with the federal government and distrustful of Washington. Earnest and hard-working Americans who believe, as Tea Party 365 declares on its web page, in "liberty, limited government and free enterprise."
As a Jew, it seemed to me I was attending a kosher tea party. I had notified a friend of mine about the event and she responded that though she likes the tea party movement because it is anti-Obama, she is wary about grassroots masses ultimately being umfriendly to Jews. A valid concern, but not valid enough to prohibit Jewish participation in a cause that bases its values on Judeo-Christian principals and opposes the very people – leftists – from whom most of today's anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism originate.
Indeed, though there were only a handful of yarmulkes at this Manhattan tea party, there was an Israeli flag flying amidst the many American ones. The lady proudly holding that flag was a Christian, and from speaking to her and others there, it was clear they share the same concerns about Israel's security we Jews feel. And, ironically, they have the strong beliefs regarding the Jewish right to settle all areas of the Land of Israel that not enough Jews have.
Given Obama's frosty atttiude toward Israel, we must look for friends among conservatives who oppose Obama's foreign policies as much as they do his domestic policies. Obama's anti-Israel posture and his aggressive ramming of his "progressive" and socialist agenda on unwilling Americans should alarm American Jews who treasure both countries.
World Jewish Congress President Ronald Lauder's recent public distress over the Obama administration's antagonistic handling of diplomatic relations with Israel marks the first time the World Jewish Congress has publicly challenged American foreign policy. It's no coincidence that Lauder's open letter appeared in The New York Times the same day millions rallied at tea parties across America and just a few days before a McLaughlin poll found that only 42 percent of Jews who voted for Obama would vote for him again.
Though Lauder advised the Obama administration that "it is time to end our public feud with Israel," I would urge the opposite. If Obama persists in maintaining a feud, it should be done publicly. As evidence now shows, the more American Jews know about Obama, the more likely they are to oppose him. Who better to join forces with than the people of the tea party movement, which represents not only both the American and Jewish values of self-reliance and fiscal responsibility but stands on the right side of the battle for Jewish identity and the preservation of our homeland?
As a tea partier said to me after a discussion on the Middle East, "If you ever need soldiers in your battle for Israel, just call us and we'll be there."