Politics, Religion

First Orthodox Jew Elected to New Hampshire Legislature

While unfortunately Republican (of course I’m going to say that), a refreshing new, bearded face is present in the New Hampshire state legislature.
Representative Jason Bedrick (R-Windham) was elected to the New Hampshire state legislature by a margin of only six votes in this past election. As The Union Leader reports:

Windham – A young man who does not shake hands with women was recently elected to the state Legislature, and the support of several members of the Salem Women’s Club was instrumental in his victory at the polls.
“My faith out of respect for women does not allow contact between unrelated men and women,” said Rep. Jason Bedrick, 23, R-Windham. He said he explains this on a daily basis to female colleagues who reach out their hands to him.
Usually, that’s the end of the conversation, he says, but sometimes, when he senses the woman isn’t convinced, he adds: “If every man in the world were to keep his hands to himself, would it be a better world for women or a worse world for women?”
Bedrick is the first Orthodox Jew to be elected in New Hampshire, a state that is home to fewer than 10 Orthodox Jewish families and where Jewish people account for 1 percent of the population.

Please understand the gravity of this statement. An Orthodox Jewish candidate won his elected position due to support from a women’s organization who lauded him because of his observance of Jewish Law.
And at 23, he is surely one of the youngest members of the legislature.

Black-bearded, Bedrick never takes off his yarmulke and usually politely declines whenever a fellow legislator asks him whether he’d like to grab a bite to eat, since most New Hampshire restaurants do not carry kosher food.
Taking oaths is also forbidden. As a result, during Wednesday’s swearing-in ceremony in Concord, Bedrick will substitute the words “I affirm” for “I swear.”

And stick THAT in Dennis Prager’s pipe and let him smoke it. Mr. Bedrick, Reb Jason, isn’t even going to take an oath.
With Orthodox Jews comprising such a small minority of the New Hampshire population, one can not chalk this up to “Jewish support” as with a Lieberman or Florida’s Ros-Lehtinen. 4,500 residents voted for Mr. Bedrick even though he “missed several campaign events because they took place during the Sabbath”. Perhaps they admired Mr. Bedrick’s integrity. Many members of the Women’s Club said that they would be “proud to have Bedrick as a son”.
And, let’s allay all fears of any manipulation of the legislature for Jewish issues. As MSNBC reported, Bedrick “does not plan to focus on any specifically Jewish issues at the state level because his constituency is not Jewish.” Simple enough. They’re not Jews, so don’t make Jewish issues a priority. Makes sense.
Ken yirbu.
(crossposted to This Is Babylon.)

30 thoughts on “First Orthodox Jew Elected to New Hampshire Legislature

  1. Hmmmmm, Jason is definitely Jewish and is going to make a great representative. (I’m female)
    He was elected to a body of lawmakers for his district in the state of NH, not a religious panel…so why would ‘Jewish’ issues even enter into the conversation?
    I am sure Jason will promote things that are good for PEOPLE, all of us, which is why he got elected.

  2. Ok not every Jew is a deomocrat. Why do you even have to post that in your article. In fact MOST Russians Jews are conservative. Maybe we know something you don’t. I am so sick of the liberal Jew stereotype, its time to move on from that.

  3. Ok not every Jew is a deomocrat. Why do you even have to post that in your article.
    Why WOULDN’T Y-Love post that in his article? The man’s a politician elected in a two-party system, and he’s a member of one of the parties. Frankly, this is a pretty glowing piece, and its author (Y-Love) is not a Republican. He didn’t raise any of the very legitimate questions he could have about Bedrick’s Republicanism and where he stands on issues like the role of of the Christian Right. If you get uncomfortable with Y-Love’s article, how comfortable are you with the Jewish conservatism that you appeaer to be defending?

  4. I am so sick of the liberal Jew stereotype, its time to move on from that.
    Sterotypical? That sounds like a rather preposterous description, given that almost 90% of the Jews in the United States voted for the Democratic Party in the last election — as, indeed, they pretty much always do. The liberal Jew is reality, not stereotype, and not one from which we’ll be “moving on” anytime in the near future.

  5. I particularly liked the rebbe’s remark about more women being better off were more men to keep their hands to themselves.
    Microbiologically speaking, I would also like to see handshaking be completely ended; it’s actually quite dirty, and may have its cultural roots going back to people proving to each other that they weren’t carrying weapons…

  6. Is it out of respect for women that he won’t shake hands with them or is it out of a fear of being contaminated by them (i.e., because they might be menstruating)?

  7. “Contamination” by menstruants is not the reason some Jewish Men don’t come into contact with them. That’s why they *do* touch their mothers and daughters. The touch issue is due to forbidden sexual contact.
    Non-Jewish women, however, are never “menstruants”, and sexual contact with them is of questionable status. The Rep. is just being makpid.

  8. i know this yid from the chabad in wellesley ma.
    he’s a real mentch and i wish him all the best in his new position.
    i heard that the Rebbe, when asked why he won’t shake women’s hands, he replied “my mother taught me not to touch what dosnt belong to me”.
    i also i heard a cute line from a Rabbi who was asked the same question, he said “the last woman i touched, had 11 children with me”.

  9. The “what doesn’t belong to me” line is cute, though it does suggest that women, but not men, could be considered property. Yes, I get that he’s saying the women DON’T belong to him, but still – property that’s not yours is still property. The men don’t belong to him either.

  10. “Jason?” An alleged Orthodox Jew, one who is a nudnick about the laws of n’giah, and his name is “Jason?”
    “Jason” was the name of the corrupt Hellenizing high priest who bribed Antiochus to depose Onias, the rightful High Priest and give the Job to Jason. Jason was then deposed by the even more corrupt Menaleaus, who bribed Antiochus even more. WHich is the whole origin of the Maccabean revolt (more of a Jewish civil war) and the holiday of Hanukah.
    OK, so maybe it’s OK for Jewish boys to be named “Alexander,” after all, he was good to the Jews, but “Jason?” No erlicher frum Jew should go by such a name!

  11. Jast as an aside on Rep, Bedrick’s rather slef righteous insistence on unecessary “sh’mirat negiah:”
    My Mom (z”l) told me a story of when she went with her uncle to some super ultrafrum bar mitzva back int he 1940’s, her uncle made some entirely appropriate public display of affection, and all the black-hatters started to go ballistic. Well, the uncle (a great-uncle of mine, who unfortunately passed away before I could get to know him) was Orthodox himself, and quite a good Talmud scholar. He went off quoting chapter and verse that such touching was perfectly proper and OK, and actually mollified the guys, as he wasn’t lynched, no was my Mom harmed in any way, which i why I’m sitting here writing this…
    According to my Mom, afterwards he told her, “They’re mshuganners, it shouldn’t even be an issue.”
    Frankly, I have no respect for Orthos who use sh’mirat negiah as an excuse to be self-righteous and show how their lifestyle is so superior to that of the rest of us. Who gets sexual kicks from shaking someone’s hand? This is nothing more than using the Torah as an excuse to be rude, and I consider it a great chillul Hashem.

  12. To the last poster,
    Your story is indeed heart-warming and shows that your late Uncle was a true mensch.
    I really feel like its wrong to judge someone who is obviously so respectful in other ways regarding touch. Why is it SO offensive? Perhaps there is some truth to the fact that men might better show Women dignity and respect by refraining from touching them socially. If a jew genuinely, upon close examination of the Halachic sources, comes to a personal conclusion, why should that be second guessed?

  13. Sorry C.A., but if the Orthodox do it, then that’s the way it’s always been done and is precisely the way God Almighty specifically instructed that it had to be done at Mt. Sinai. Just ask them.
    Oh, yes, and as to the correction of my earlier observation, i..e, that more recent analysis of the data indicates that about 20 to 25 of Jews vote republican, where exactly did that analysis appear? I haven’t seen anything to that effect, and am quite curious.

  14. c.a.:
    if i’m not mistaken shmirat negiah is not a halacha, but it does go into the category of “asu syag l’torah” create a fence around the torah.
    its an extra caution to prevent more severe things, and hence shouldnt be looked down upon.
    now although many opinions say you may show affection to immediate relatives through physical contact, there are dissenting opinions like Ramba”m who say you should refrain from such things.
    of course i’m not saying that you shouldnt touch relatives in public, i myself do, but you should just know that there is a concept of creating a fence around the torah.
    so if there may be a problem in touching relatives, one should definitly refrain from touching non relatives.
    and most definitly shouldnt be frowned upon.
    also according to strict halacha he may shake hands with women in public in a professional manner, but you can see the kiddush Hashem he caused through not doing so.

  15. I think some of you have been unfair to Reb Bedrick. First, So what if his name is Jason? I’ve met plenty of Jewish Jasons. Granted, I’ve never met an Orthodox Jason but he’s a baal teshuva.
    Also, how do we know that he’s a right-wing fundamentalist? The only position he has that was reported was that he’s for school choice.
    Finally, who says that he’s self-righteous? The article made it seem like he had a sense of humor about it and if the Women’s Club (who, by the way, are usually liberal) supported him then I’m just guessing that he’s not self-righteous about it. He’s just trying to what he thinks is the right thing. Everyone should read the Rav Soloveitchik quote at the bottom of this message box.

  16. By the way, I see that this site is praising Sen. Paul Wellstone — need I remind you that “Paul” was the antisemite who turned the early Christians against the Jews and whose hatred for Jews was basis for the Crusades and Inquisition? I don’t see anyone holding that against Paul Wellstone, nor should anyone hold Jason’s name against him.
    Also, I see that the self-proclaimed apikoros is salivating over the prospect of frum Jews frying out on his site — Jason is evidence of the growing baal teshuva movement while the Conservative movement is quickly fading away. People have been predicting the demise of the Orthodox Jews for thousands of years (even before they were called “Orthodox”) but I have a feeling that they’ll be around long after Reform/Conservative are only studied in history books.

  17. Shea,
    Where is there a single word in the comments of C.A. indicating that he is in any conceivable way “salivating over the prospect of frum Jews frying out on his site?” Do you read minds, or did I simply misread what he wrote?

  18. The first time I met a Lubavitcher woman, she immediately put out her hand to shake mine. Apparently, it isn’t universal.
    Shea – Orthodoxy and Reform (and later Conservative) have each been predicting the demise of the other for over two centuries. Everyone is still here.

  19. The intensity of the thread about this frum Jew is amazing. May I remind you about the laws of loshen horah?
    None of us know this man, he wants to do a good job and he has a legitimate political point of view. No one is required to agree with it, but until he has voted on something and been asked why he supports or does not support something, give this fellow yid the benefit of the doubt.
    And just for the record, for every “Jewish fundamentalist”, there are 5 “Jewish secular left-wingers” who are no less “radical”. Let’s all choose the Middle Way ala Rambam. Secular thoughts that push teachers to kidnap under age children across state lines to ensure they get an abortion, teaching anti-Israel views in public schools and colleges, and de-stigmatizing/encouraging a 35% out of wedlock US birthrate are no less radical than frum objections to exposing their kids to TV, drugs and media-hyped sexuality.
    Why not live and let live? Since when is anyone in this country worried about a Frum takeover? Or do you simply want the freedom to express Jewish self-hatred and marginalize one of your own, just because he chose another, more religious path and that makes you vaguely uncomfortable?
    If that is secular tolerance, if that is enlightened thinking, if that is what left win liberalism is, stuff it. Its hypocritical. Its mean and its unproductive. If the Catholic Church can dialogue with Jews (of all stripes) maybe we Jews can learn to do that.

  20. You guys make me laugh. Right wing fundamentalist he is not! Conservative – fiscally maybe, and with regard to being against big government and for second amendment rights which are important to us here in NH.
    As far as the handshaking, I find it interesting that you supposed ‘liberals’ are so intolerant of his harmless custom when you are supposed to be the tolerant ones and we ‘conservatives’ are supposed to be the intolerant ones.
    If that is what he chooses to do, as a woman I am not insulted by it WHATSOEVER.

  21. First I have to agree that the animosity against somebody who keeps the rules of shomer negiah is just bizarre. “Self righteous”? Huh? Why is it “self righteous” to follow your religious beliefs and Jewish law? Was it “self righteous” for him to avoid campaigning on Shabbat? Please…
    For the record theres a great deal of halachic back and forth on this issue. Many rabbis would hold that avoiding handshakes is a stricture, not a requirement, of halacha in Bedrick’s position and context. OK so hes following a stricture or simply a different view. So what? The hostility here is very hard to understand but I’m starting to think its based in a rage fueled by self-doubt. I’m serious. What else can explain the animosity against a practice of simple self-control? Bedrick’s obviously not exploiting this issue for popularity and its not like his campaign posters read “Vote for Bedrick: he’ll NEVER touch your daughter–guaranteed.”
    As for the swipe at Prager….another “huh?” is in order. All Prager said about the “swear” vs. “affrim” issue is that it doesn’t matter at all to him. Officials swap one of the words for the other all the time for whatever reason. It’s irrelevant to the substance of whats taking place. In common parlance the ceremony is universally referred to as the “swearing-in” or the “oath taking”.

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