November 16, 2004

PAGING MOSES:

Dems' Talk Of 'Values' Seen as Risk With Jews (E.J. KESSLER, November 12, 2004, Forward)

As Democratic leaders scramble to come up with ways to connect to so-called "moral values" voters, they risk alienating one of the fundamental pillars of the party's base: American Jews, 75% of whom backed Democratic candidate John Kerry.

If politics in America have become a culture war, there's no question which side most Jews are on. Polls have repeatedly found that on a host of social issues, including abortion and gay marriage, American Jews fall decidedly to the left of the overall population.

Fighting to feel comfortable in a predominantly Christian society, Jews for two generations have often expressed concern about the infusion of religious rhetoric into the national political discourse and have been at the forefront of Democratic efforts to enforce a strict separation of church and state. As social activists and party cadre, many Jews have agitated for the most liberal of political positions — and generally looked to the Democratic Party as the secular embodiment of their religious liberalism. Yet, with even Jewish lawmakers taking the lead in calling for a new, more values-based Democratic approach to winning centrist and conservative voters, the majority of Jewish voters and many Jewish campaign donors — historically a key source of funding for the Democrats — could find themselves alienated from the party that has been their home since before FDR.

"Most Jews are much more liberal than the rest of the population. On abortion, on homosexual marriage, on premarital sex, Jews are fundamentally different than everyone else except the most secular," said Marc Stern, assistant executive director of the American Jewish Congress. "There's nothing the Democrats can do to appeal to people who are religious without alienating that part of their base."


Exodus 32:
And when the people saw that Moses delayed to come down out of the mount, the people gathered themselves together unto Aaron, and said unto him, Up, make us gods, which shall go before us; for as for this Moses, the man that brought us up out of the land of Egypt, we wot not what is become of him.

And Aaron said unto them, Break off the golden earrings, which are in the ears of your wives, of your sons, and of your daughters, and bring them unto me.

And all the people brake off the golden earrings which were in their ears, and brought them unto Aaron.

And he received them at their hand, and fashioned it with a graving tool, after he had made it a molten calf: and they said, These be thy gods, O Israel, which brought thee up out of the land of Egypt.

And when Aaron saw it, he built an altar before it; and Aaron made proclamation, and said, Tomorrow is a feast to the LORD.

And they rose up early on the morrow, and offered burnt offerings, and brought peace offerings; and the people sat down to eat and to drink, and rose up to play.

And the LORD said unto Moses, Go, get thee down; for thy people, which thou broughtest out of the land of Egypt, have corrupted themselves: they have turned aside quickly out of the way which I commanded them: they have made them a molten calf, and have worshipped it, and have sacrificed thereunto, and said, These be thy gods, O Israel, which have brought thee up out of the land of Egypt.

Posted by Orrin Judd at November 16, 2004 10:43 PM
Comments

No, its the Philip Roth book. They all think that the religious right is the nazis and that Bush (Lindberg in the book) really is Hitler and he really is going to persecute them, and that only Kerry (Roosevelt in the Book or maybe Bill Clinton) will save them.

It is hard to explain to the goyim how seriously traumatized the Jewish communitity really is. I am thinking sanity is three generations in the future. My grandchildren's grandchildren.

Posted by: Robert Schwartz at November 17, 2004 1:58 AM

Robert:

Amen. Three close Jewish friends (none of whom knew each other) wrote me to advise that, much as they liked Bush, they couldn't bring themselves to pull the lever for him. Two of the three wrote me that that Kerry was the only Democrat they voted for. All three described Bush as, to use the words of one, 'granite' when it came to Israel.

The fact that they would write me, a Norweigian gentile squarehead, to explain their vote, I take as progress. Though I think it confirms your generational analysis.

Posted by: Fred Jacobsen (San Fran) at November 17, 2004 3:38 AM

That you have been offended by the anti-Semitism of some Orthodox bigots explains, but does not excuse, your support of Lenin.

Her follows a story from the past. Back around 1971, a law school buddy started wearing a button that said, "Free Soviet Jewry." I told him that I would definitely wear one if he could provide me with two, which he did. After a few strokes with a marker, I sported two buttons, one the original, and one urging, "Free Soviet Russians." There was a certain irony, I thought, in this untimely recognition of the drawbacks inherent in the paradise of workers and peasants.

Now to the present. We may hope that, as Christians consciously turn away from ignorant, xenophobic anti-Semitism, Jews will appreciate their connection to their younger brothers, the sect of the Nazarenes.

Posted by: Lou Gots at November 17, 2004 5:43 AM

Robert,

I think you have it correct but things are changing faster than you indicate.

First of all, Bush got a much larger percentage of Jews under 40 than of Jews over 40, as we become more comfortable in America. As we disperse from the gilded ghetto that is much of the NYC Metro Area, we see that evangelical and conservative Christians are not the Klansmen and Nazis the glitterati would have us believe.

Second, there is an increasing Orthodoxy in our community. For generations, people fled Orthodoxy for Conservative or Reform as part of their assimilation process, to advance economically in America you had to give up some of your more peculiar habits. That is no longer the case. The attitudes of Orthodoxy, opposition to abortion, support for religion in the public square are more and more becoming the Jewish mainstream. I see this in my own family where people have moved to greater rather than less rigor in their Judaism. Even I, in my gloriously secular manner, am more observant and knowledgeable about our faith than my parents.

Third, institutions that Jews depended on for advancement are failing miserably. I refer in this case to the schools and universities. More and more Jews are opting for private Jewish education, particularly as upscale American private schools succumb to the same PC nonsense that has ruined most public education. Traditional Jewish values get imparted in this manner to kids who would never have seen them before.

Lou,

Before you say something so utterly stupid as 'you all supported Lenin', you should be advised that Tsar Nicholas II's stated policy towards Jews was 'One third convert, one third emigrate and one third starve to death.' As his own Finance Minister Count Witte said about him,'He shares the ignorance and the prejudice of the lowest Russian peasant.'

Posted by: Bart at November 17, 2004 6:33 AM

Robert, how many believing Jews are there in the US?

Here in B.C. (in my limited circles), the only believing Jews I know are Christians, and none of them are left-wingers. I know a few rabidly socialist unbelieving Jews, however.

And what exactly is uncomfortable for a believing Jew in a predominantly Christian society like the U.S.?

And why would secular Jews feel persecuted? Seems rather bizarre to me.

Posted by: Randall Voth at November 17, 2004 6:47 AM

Bart mostly has it.

I would just add that there really isn't much of a "Jewish" vote any more. There is an Orthodox vote, which Bush probably won. Most secular Jews vote exactly like their neighbors, who tend to be secular, upper-middle class northeasterners and west-coasters. To the extent they would feel uncomfortable in the rural South and the upper mid-west, so would their neighbors.

Nonetheless, there does seem to be some indication from the actual voting returns that Jews voted for Bush in greater numbers than they would admit to the exit pollsters.

Posted by: David Cohen at November 17, 2004 7:56 AM

Two comments that give me hope that my benighted brethren may finally see the light:

The numbers that I have seen suggest that the Orthodox community voted for GWB 70%-30%.

A Jewish lawyer I know, not particularly observant, a Gore voter in 2000, a member of the Trial Lawyers Ass'n and upset that Mr. Daschle was defeated, cast his vote with the 95,000 of us Manhattanites who voted for the President.

Posted by: Morrie at November 17, 2004 9:16 AM

It is revealing that the events of Exodus 32 occurred about a month after the crossing of the Red Sea.

The point is that no matter what external (transcendent) influence, we always fall back into the tyranny of the right now (i.e., the secular).

And for every Moses who responds as a prophet, there is an Aaron who tries to smooth things over with a secular patina.

With one, you get something eternal; with the other, you get a lumpy golden bull and an orgy.

Posted by: jim hamlen at November 17, 2004 9:39 AM

Bart makes it too easy. Passing over his gross distortion of my comment by adding the word, "all," what he does is just what the ignorant defendants I once prosecuted for crimes of violence used to do. They often could be easily led on cross to regale the jury with testimony about an a**h*** the victim was, and how much he deserved beating/stabbing/shooting.

It turns out that, according to Bart, Russian Jews did not really support the Bolsheviks, but, but the way, the Czar was an ignorant anti-Semite who had it coming anyway.

My point remains that anti-anti-Semitism can warp someone's judgement to the extent of giving aid and comfort to the very enemies of Judeo-Christian civilization.

Posted by: Lou Gots at November 17, 2004 11:33 AM

Lou,

Semantically, your use of 'your' in the phrase 'your support of Lenin' in response to Robert could only be interpreted as I did, since I will assume that Robert is less than a century old and thus could have played no serious role in the Bolshevik Revolution. Your reference must have been to Jews as a class.

If the Jewish community did support Lenin in Russia, and I know of two famous ones who did not, Ayn Rand and Vladimir Horowitz, the reason was that they saw the Tsar who had murdered thousands of them as a more serious enemy. The Communists advocated religious tolerance as a platform and there was no reason for Jews to imagine that they would be worse than the Tsar. There was no prior experience in world history with Communist hegemony, the closest was the Paris Commune which was short-lived and not especially brutal to anyone. To expect the Jewish communities trapped in Russia's shtetls and ghettos to be able to predict the horrors of Stalin is to expect them to possess a clairvoyance unknown in human affairs. The Tsar presented them with no reason to support him, as was the case for most Russians by 1917.

The White Armies, particularly the Don River Cossacks, were notorious for spending their time and ordnance on Jew-killing rather than on fighting the Bolsheviks, just another example of how the Jews were, if anything, chased into the arms of Bolsheviks. An acquaintance with the writings of Isaac Babel might be worthwhile.

The Romanovs got what was coming to them and not a moment too soon.

Posted by: Bart at November 17, 2004 12:14 PM

Bart:

If Jews cared about the development of the society generally, why was Bolshevism preferable to even an anti-Semitic tsarism?

Posted by: oj at November 17, 2004 1:02 PM

Because the Communists made no threat against their community and their lives, while the Tsar was killing them. They were reacting to a 1917 reality not to what we can now see with the benefit of hindsight. They had no clue about what Communism would turn out to be. What they did know was that the Tsar was evil.

Outside of Kerensky, who stupidly insisted on continuing Russia's illegal war against Germany and Austria thereby alienating the Russian working class, the choice was the Tsar or the Communists and many Jews, as did most Russians, selected the devil they didn't know.

Posted by: Bart at November 17, 2004 2:01 PM

They threatened to destroy their community, just on general principle instead of specifically because they were Jewish.

Posted by: oj at November 17, 2004 2:09 PM

There was no threat on the part of the Bolsheviks to destroy anyone's community. We really don't have much of a clue as to what Lenin would have really done, although I think it is fair to state that it would have been pretty incompetent. There was no reason for anyone in 1917 to imagine the Stalinist terror.

It is clear from history that most Russians of all faiths supported the Bolsheviks against the Tsar, or else how did they beat the Whites and their foreign allies?

Posted by: Bart at November 17, 2004 2:21 PM

Bart:

That's complete nonsense. No one on the Right was confused about what Marxism meant.

Posted by: oj at November 17, 2004 2:27 PM

oj,

Right and left have no meaning in semi-feudal societies like Russia in 1917. All the people in Russia knew was that the people in power hated Communism. The people in power in Russia were hated by their subjects, so their subjects turned to Communism.

There probably weren't ten copies of Das Kapital in all of Russia in 1917.

Posted by: Bart at November 17, 2004 2:57 PM

Bart:

Everybody on the Right on planet Earth new. How didn't Jews?

Posted by: oj at November 17, 2004 4:26 PM

Nothing like a spirited debate! Now back to one of the original ideas: the irrationality of anti-anti-Semitism in the last election.

Was Hanoi John good for the Jews? Not if the security of Israel were important. I can't recall Kerry ever having uttered the "I" word, but he said a lot about reconnectring with "allies" and with the United Nations, and something about a "global test." We know a great deal about how the U.N. and the axis of weasels feel about Israel.

Part of the cause of the Jewish bloc joining Negroes, homosexuals and schoolteachers in going for Kerry was tradition, but I'm afraid part of it was bigotry against W for having dared to publically confess the Name above all names.

Posted by: Lou Gots at November 17, 2004 4:40 PM

jim hamlen:

Very true.
Few people manage to live lives with long-term horizons; the present and the terrestrial make quite a clangor.

Posted by: Michael Herdegen at November 17, 2004 8:02 PM

The Romanovs got what was coming to them and not a moment too soon.

I'm not sure what the tsar's family did to deserve their grisly fate at Yekaterinburg.

Posted by: Matt Murphy at November 18, 2004 1:31 AM

First. Lou. I don't know why you brought up Lenin. I didn't. A lot of Jews brought socialism with them from the old country to the US. The same was true for Germans and Scandinavians in the upper Midwest.

My mother came from Soviet Union in 1936. She was 12. Her parents were not communists and she and they raised me to distrust the Russians and Communism. But, there were a lot of party members in her extended family. She and her family were able to emigrate because, the party members said to Uncle Harry who put up the money, "You must take Abe and Leah, Abe is a capitalist and he is going to get into trouble."

After 1990, my mother brought all of her surviving family members (save a couple who declined) to the US or Israel. About 45 in all.

Bart has it about right. Russia 1917-1921 was not a place where Jews or anybody else made philisophical choices. They were very poor, very oppressed people trying to stay alive from day to day. They may have joined the reds because they belived the propaganda or simply because they were afraid of the whites. But until you understand the poverty, oppresion and fear that had dominated their lives for so many years before that time, you are not in a position to understand their choice.

You should also remember that the serfdoom had been abolished a meer 50 years before. Russia was really only begining to emerge from the middle ages.

Second. Randal asks:

"how many believing Jews are there in the US?"

I don't know. The only thing you have to believe to be a Jew is that you are Jewish by birth or have been duly converted. There is no creed. My guess is that of the 5 or 6 million self identified ethnic Jews about 3 million belong to Jewish religious instituions and participate in religious rituals on a regular (which may only be a few times a year) basis.

the only believing Jews I know are Christians, and none of them are left-wingers.

If they are Christians, they are not Jews anymore and so the Israeli Supreme court has held. However, their children may reclaim their heratige.

I know a few rabidly socialist unbelieving Jews, however.

Noam Chomsky. George Soros.

And what exactly is uncomfortable for a believing Jew in a predominantly Christian society like the U.S.? And why would secular Jews feel persecuted? Seems rather bizarre to me.

I think persecuted is the wrong word. I think its purely existential. Why did Roth write that book?

Another personal story. My wife's parent's were secular Jews from Vienna. Her Father left in 1939. Her mother had been born here, but was a distant cousin to her father. She grew up on Long Island in the 1950's. Her parents decided to raise her as a Prebyterian. It took a long time to get that straightened out.

Maybe the concept of survivors guilt should be applied. Why the 6 million, why not me? Why did my wife's parents do what they did? Why do all these Jews vote for a fake Boston Brahmin who himself is the grandson of an east european Jew who converted to Catholicism, moved to the US and blew his brains out in a hotel restroom when he couldn't stand the strain anymore?

You want answers and all I have are questions. Its very Jewish. The only thing I can tell you is that there is a lot of psychological damage yet to be healed, and it is going to take a very long time.

Posted by: Robert Schwartz at November 18, 2004 4:35 AM
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