The election, the Congress and the Jews

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The 2006 midterm election is over and the American people have spoken. Or, more accurately, shouted.

It’s hard to interpret the Nov. 7 vote as anything other than a loud demand for a change in direction from the president and Congress.

We congratulate the winners, and we especially congratulate Nancy Pelosi, the San Francisco congresswoman who will almost certainly become the next speaker of the House. It’s nice to have a local leader elevated to a position of such prominence.

Oceans of ink will be spent interpreting the meaning of this election. We would narrow the focus to consider its impact on issues of concern to the Jewish community. Overall, we feel the vote sent a mostly positive message in that regard.

For starters, the House of Representatives will now have 30 Jewish members, up from 26. The Senate’s Jewish membership increases from 11 to 13.

One of those returning senators is Joe Lieberman, handily re-elected to a fourth term this week. Like him or not, we believe he has been a good friend to Israel over the years. It must come as a measure of comfort to disconsolate Jewish Republicans that Lieberman will serve another six years.

As for fears that Pelosi will oversee a shift away from staunch support of Israel, our story this week on Pelosi’s history with the local Jewish community suggests otherwise.

Even before elected to Congress in 1987, Pelosi worked with Jewish groups and has demonstrated her commitment to Israel. No fewer than three past and present local leaders of AIPAC, the powerful American lobby for Israel, voiced their friendship and support.

In fact, we think Democratic gains this week — and the resulting divided government — may well lead to increased bipartisan cooperation on some key issues. We may now finally see real action on the minimum wage, the environment, global warming, Darfur and of course Iraq.

As for Israel, Congress must always offer its input, but the president remains in the driver’s seat in terms of setting Middle East policy. And Mr. Bush has shown himself all along as a friend of Israel. We predict Congress will remain so as well, no matter which party holds the gavel.

But Jews are not single-issue voters. Like all Americans, we have wide and diverging interests. We’re all over the map politically. Some of us cheered this week’s results, some of us jeered.

One thing is certain: The Jewish community will always be front and center in American political life. Whether red, blue or purple, our voices will be heard.