The Jewish Vote

There was an extraordinary reaction to my previous piece on the election portents for the American empire. Tens of thousands of people responded, most positively. Apparently, it struck a chord with many who fear for the future of the United States which has been the major force for good in the world for much more than a century.

One discordant note was sounded by someone, unfamiliar to me, who calls himself the “failed Moshiach,” or something like that. He demanded my immediate firing, a classic reaction on the political left to anyone who publicly deviates from their world view. His demand is not only risible, but also counterproductive, as my dismissal would only add to Obama’s sorry record on unemployment. In any event, I would be more concerned if the real Moshiach was displeased with my writings than a self-styled “failed” one.

That does beg the question: why is it that Jews overwhelmingly support the Democratic candidate? This is not something new, but has been the pattern for almost 80 years. (Late 19th century Jews voted primarily for the Republican, being especially fond of the Republican President Abraham Lincoln.) It was the late sociologist Milton Himmelfarb who decades ago noted that “Jews earn like Episcopalians and vote like Puerto Ricans,” i.e., the richest vote like the poorest. What fascinates is that, like the lure of Pennsylvania to Republican presidential candidates (it seems like it should vote for the Republican but never does), the Jewish vote tantalizes Republicans but never seems to materialize. Based on our race, status, education, employment, etc., Jews should be voting for Republicans but rarely do in significant numbers. The Jewish vote remains the chimera of the political conservative. For more than eighty years, the Jewish vote has averaged 75% for the Democrat, rarely deviating more than 5% above or below that figure. Until Hoover’s election, the Jewish vote fluctuated and was relatively balanced. The focus is not on those who can choose a candidate in either party (as I have done on occasion), but those Jews who can never vote for a Republican and always will vote for the Democrat. It cannot be that the Democrat is always the superior candidate to the Republican.

Once again in this election, almost 70% of Jews voted for President Obama, slightly down from the last election (78%), but very much in line with other immigrant communities like Hispanics (71%) or Asians (73%). But Jews are no longer a predominantly immigrant community, so why do the voting patterns of newcomers, or outsiders to the political system, persist among the Jews who are in the mainstream of the establishment? And why are the Orthodox Jewish voting patterns almost the mirror opposite of the non-Orthodox, with more Orthodox Jews voting for Mitt Romney and, give or take a particular race, for Republicans generally?

Firstly, Democrats are widely perceived as the party of the poor, the downtrodden and the societal outcast, and Jews – persecuted for most of our existence – have a natural sympathy for the underdog. As charity is a great virtue (and a fundamental commandment) in Jewish life, Jews especially are drawn to a system that appears charitable on the surface – the redistribution of income from the wealthy to the poor – and government is seen as the vehicle of that charitable distribution.

The weakness in that argument, of course, is that Jews believe in charity, but primarily as a private endeavor. The tithing obligation, or the dispensing of gifts to the poor in Biblical times (maasrot, leket, shikcha, pe’ah – known collectively as matnot aniyim, gifts to the poor), are all private ventures, and are not publicly coerced. Notwithstanding that at different times in history the Jewish community itself intervened and assessed wealthy members a sum of money to care for society’s poor, that was always considered a last resort and not particularly efficient. The king never levied taxes to care for the poor, although the religious establishment might. Charity as a private act lends moral perfection to the donor; the same cannot be said for a coercive taxation system that distributes only a small sum of the monies collected to the poor.

Of course, it would unacceptable in a Jewish context to have a permanent impoverished class – multi-generational families of welfare recipients – as it should be in an American context. The trillions of dollars spent since the Great Society initiated the War on Poverty has in fact exacerbated poverty, not alleviated it, with more poor in both real and proportionate terms today than when the programs started. It should not be difficult to ascertain why. Handouts degrade the recipient and create a dependency – call it now an entitlement – that is not easy to terminate. We know as well that the greatest form of charity under Jewish law is finding a job for someone unemployed, or lending him money so he can start his own business. For the recipient, that is both dignified and effective in the long-term, but for some reason, Jews feel better giving someone a fish than teaching him how to fish; perhaps the latter would cut into the market share of the Jewish-owned fish companies, if there were Jewish-owned fish companies. But current policies are demeaning and debilitating to the recipient, even if they satisfy the compassionate emotions of their advocates.

Secondly, Jews have been enamored with the Democratic Party since the days of FDR, who nurtured the identity politics that Barack Obama has perfected – appealing to a variety of different groups rather than to Americans as a whole. FDR won a landslide second-term victory in 1936 even though the economy worsened on his watch (higher unemployment, steep drop in earnings) because he blamed Herbert Hoover for everything (familiar ring, that) and patched together a coalition of interest groups – farmers, labor unions, Jews and women – that would be sufficient for victory.

But it is not just that FDR created the modern welfare state but that he also cultivated Jewish support. For the first time in US history, an American president surrounded himself with Jews – Frankfurter, Rosenman, Baruch, et al. An unprecedented 15% of Roosevelt’s executive appointments were Jews. That shattered the brick wall that the WASP establishment had erected around the levers of power, and forever endeared him to Jews. Of course, none of that symbolism mattered when the Holocaust came, and FDR did little to help the Jews of Europe and much to thwart immigration, rescue and relief efforts. Indeed, FDR remained a hero to most Jews notwithstanding his pathetic record on Jewish issues – even famously refusing to meet a delegation of Rabbis who came to plead for assistance to the beleaguered European Jews being systematically exterminated by the Nazis.

That disconnect – between rhetoric and reality – has persisted until today. Truman was rightly lauded for recognizing the nascent State of Israel in 1948 – after much hesitation – but Thomas E. Dewey was on record even before as supportive of Jewish national rights. JFK openly threatened Israel over its Dimona reactor, LBJ pressured Israel not to open fire in 1967 despite the Arab provocations that led to the Six-Day War, and it is now crystal clear how Jimmy Carter felt about the Jews and about Israel. (Others too. Former Israeli diplomat Naphtali Lavie wrote in his memoirs of the stridency and harshness with which then-VP Walter Mondale – so-called “friend of Israel” – dealt with Israel before and during the Camp David summit, leading Israel’s FM Moshe Dayan to comment: “Isn’t he supposed to be a friend of Israel? With friends like him, who needs enemies.” Similar backstage accounts elsewhere expose the current VP Joe Biden as antagonistic to Israel during negotiations as well while he was a Senator.)

Conversely, presidents as diverse as Nixon, Reagan and Bush II were immensely supportive of Israel, and at critical times. That their records were not “perfect” – whose is, and how would we even define perfect? – and that we can quibble about a policy decision here and there is a cogent reminder to the American-Jewish community that these men were, after all, presidents of the United States, not prime ministers of Israel. At times, the interests of America and Israel will diverge; that is natural and understandable, and America will also produce presidents like Eisenhower or Bush I, or Obama, for that matter, who were less sympathetic to Israel, and a Clinton who tended to be more sympathetic despite some ugly moments. But Nixon made historically important decisions (e.g., the re-supply of Israel’s armaments during the worst period of the Yom Kippur War, and over Kissinger’s strong objections) and Reagan and Bush II were preternaturally well-disposed to Jews and Israel.

Nevertheless, the curious love affair between Jews and Democrats that began with FDR has not ended. Today, it is trapped in a time warp. Jews contort themselves like pretzels to try to pretend that today’s Democrat party is the same as the party of yesteryear. But today’s Democrats head governments in which funds are handed down not to assist people short-term but to sew up their votes long-term, in which the inclusion in the party platform of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and G-d Himself was roundly booed, and about which polls widely show that support for Israel among Democrats is well below 50% and among Republicans well over 70%. Facts are stubborn things.

That engenders the third reason why Jews remain tenacious Democratic voters. The dark secret is that few Jewish Democrats vote with Israel as their main concern, or even as a major interest. As long as the rhetoric is innocuous enough, the real policies do not matter. There is also a segment of the Jewish community that, by reasonable standards, can be construed as anti-Israel. They make common cause with Israel’s enemies, support boycott of and divestment from Israel, oppose Jewish settlement in the heartland of Israel and favor the establishment of another Palestinian state, and/or are openly hostile to Israel exercising its right of self-defense – ever, under any circumstances. Some Jews even oppose the Jewish national idea, and think Israel itself is illegitimate. The one common denominator is that all those Jews vote for the Democratic Party. They are not the only Jews who vote for the Democrat, but all those Jews do vote for the Democrat.

Thus, the fourth reason why most Jews are Democrats – since Israel’s fate is of tangential interest to many – is that they are more aroused by the social agenda than by any other concern, including Israel. Many Jews are obsessed with abortion rights, and see it as a sacrament. They are fanatics about individual rights and freedoms, and loathe any constraints on personal behavior (even the Torah’s!) Jews, in fact, seem uniquely intimidated by the contrived threats to these newfound freedoms.  And they are in the forefront of transforming traditional society – supporting same-sex marriage, alternative lifestyles, and the abolition of any notion of objective morality. Strange, one might think, because Jews introduced to the world the concept of objective moral norms transmitted to us by the Creator of the universe.

But most Jews are widely estranged from their faith – fifth reason – and do not perceive their Judaism as shaping or influencing their world view, except insofar as they distort the Torah’s values and ideas and assume they correspond to the NY Times editorial page. Most can speak of Jewish values only in the most amorphous terms – and perceive as uniquely Jewish the platitudes (“be a good person!”) that are common to every religion. Most have limited exposure to Torah. That is why the Orthodox voting patterns are almost the complete opposite of the non-Orthodox. The closer one is to tradition, the more one will gravitate to conservative ideals. That there are exceptions, of course, only proves the rule.

A sixth reason bores into the credibility of the statistics, and raises the great enigma of Jewish life today: how many Jews actually live in the United States? The survey questions are asked with trepidation, because a large percentage of American “Jews” are not Jews according to Jewish law. As we know, a Jew is defined according to tradition as a person born of a Jewish mother or converted according to halacha, Jewish law. (The definition remains the definition despite its unpopularity, indeed, its rejection, in the non-Orthodox world. It goes without saying – but I must – that “non-Orthodox Jews” who satisfy the two criteria are as Jewish as is any Jew.)

With intermarriage in the non-Orthodox world hovering around 70%, how many of the “Jews” counted in these surveys are in fact Jews? For example, the children of non-Jewish mothers are not Jews according to Jewish law, even if they feel Jewish and were bar-mitzvahed. Likewise, the children of Jewish mothers who intermarry are Jews – but are they really representative of Jews in terms of ascertaining a “Jewish” vote – especially since most intermarried children by far are not raised as Jews, or educated as Jews? It might very well be that if we exclude hundreds of thousands of halachic non-Jews from our count as Jews, then the differences in voting patterns between Jews and other mainstream groups as revealed by the polls might not be as dramatic. Since it is difficult to count Jews in America – many pollsters rely on a self-definition which could as ethnic as it is religious – the surveys themselves are suspect. It would explain, though, why support for Israel has dwindled as a major issue for Jewish Democrats.

Finally, and sad to say, most Jews today are committed secularists who are uncomfortable with any expression of faith in the public domain. The Democratic Party is therefore their natural home, even if American history and politics have been informed by faith from the very founding of the country. The Democrats have moved on from that premise, and in their desire to transform the United States, have disconnected it from those roots.

But those roots should be attracting Jews, if they truly understood their faith. The growing trend of Jews moving to conservative ideas is reflective both of the attractions of tradition and the ongoing disappearance of the secular Jew. As yet, it is not enough to counter the allure of nostalgia for an idyllic liberal past that really never was, and will not be seen again.

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35 responses to “The Jewish Vote

  1. Thanks. A clear and accurate analysis of the election and where America is unfortunately headed.

  2. Both this posting as well as yesterday’s were thoughtful, well-written and extremely accurate. One of the “failings” I see is that most Rabbis don’t or won’t talk about these issues in public. Many in the Orthodox world don’t vote or worse, vote for those whose values and beliefs are completely antithetical to what Torah true Jews should believe and encourage of our society. I have heard that Rav Miller said that “Liberal Jews are very destructive” and if you look and see, as Rav Pruzansky pointed out, that at the forefront of the DNC and the Presidential campaign were and are Jews, what an embarrassment. As with divorce and many other areas of society, we as Jews unfortunately begin to fall prey to the general society around us. My wife has asked why it is that when she goes food shopping in certain neighborhoods, the person in front of her is paying with food stamps and then goes upstairs to buy expensive clothes with cash; I think we know the answer. To believe that there aren’t those in our community who voted for continued “free stuff” would be naive, it hurts that they need to throw us under the bus and force us (as opposed to giving voluntarily) to give what we have worked hard for to an immoral, corrupt group of criminals (a.k.a politicians). Cleaning up our own house should be the first order of business where we refuse to remain silent in the face of increased governmental invasion of our privacy and every aspect of our life in addition to the decadence with which society sinks deeper into. It is quite refreshing to see how Rabbi Pruzansky is able to present his arguments without name-calling, without shouting, just with clearness, conciseness and passion.

  3. Perhaps some Jews are afraid of what happens when you infuse idealism and religion into politics, which too much of the Republican party is wont to do. And American history and politics may have been informed by faith throughout history, but “faith” is very different from “religion.” Many of our founders (Washington, Hamilton, John Adams, Jefferson, Madison, etc.) were inactive in their religious lives (i.e., seldom attended church) and would certainly have opposed allowing religious doctrine to shape secular law.

  4. Rabbi, PLEASE run for office!

    • Mr. Cohen: Indeed, Yes – in fact ‘IT IS OF DESIGN.’ As an American Jewish
      Woman, I Stand with Israel and will fight for Israel – not only with Financial Resources, but with: Passion, Loyalty & Empowerment. Jewish People as the Rabbi states: have always been Democratic – FDR LEAD THE WAY! OBAMA IS FOLLOWING HISTORY – FDR! WE MUST IMPEACH OBAMA – FOCUS: BENGHAZI AND ONCE AND FOR ALL IGNITE ALL AMERICANS WITH THE TRUTH: OBAMA IS A TRUE MUSLIM – RECENTLY IN ONE OF HIS SPEECHES, HE REFERRED TO THE ‘FOLKS’ WHO FROM THE BEGINNING LED THE PATH FOR AMERICA: MUSLIMS WERE FIRST OUT OF HIS MOUTH! WHY IS IT THAT SO MANY AMERICANS ARE NOT KNOWLEDGE ABOUT THE MUSLIM KORAN – JEWISH PEOPLE INCLUDED? Thank you for your insightful and intelligent comments. Rhoda Gelman

  5. Deleted upon request.

    • Sorry, sorry, sorry! My math was way off in the first paragraph. Was looking at the Romney vote in proportion to the Obama vote, not as a percentage of the whole. I retract comment entirely, except first line.

  6. “Kirays Yoel alone has over 20,000 chassidim, ”

    And we know exactly how they voted. 42% for Obama.

  7. “more Orthodox Jews voting for Mitt Romney ”

    Actually the Republican Jewish Coalition conducted an exit poll that showed Orthodox Jews voting for Obama over Romney by 48% to 44% nationwide.

    “FDR won a landslide second-term victory in 1936 even though the economy worsened on his watch”

    This is a false statement. Unemployment dropped from 24.9% in 1933 to 16.9% in 1936. And the economy grew steadily during that time — Gross Domestic Product was 63% higher in 1936 than in 1933.

    “FDR did little to help the Jews of Europe and much to thwart immigration, rescue and relief efforts”

    The hundreds of thousands of Jews from Hungary who were saved by the War Refugee Board might disagree. While one can seriously argue that that institution should have been set up in early 1942 rather than early 1944, FDR had no authority to admit even a single extra refugee prior to the outbreak of the war and it was only the war’s state of emergency powers that allowed him to admit refugees during the war. Those immigration restrictions had been enacted by the nativist Republicans during the 1920s with express purpose of keeping Jews and undesirables out of America.

    “Truman was rightly lauded for recognizing the nascent State of Israel in 1948 – after much hesitation – but Thomas E. Dewey was on record even before as supportive of Jewish national rights. JFK openly threatened Israel over its Dimona reactor, LBJ pressured Israel not to open fire in 1967 despite the Arab provocations that led to the Six-Day War, and it is now crystal clear how Jimmy Carter felt about the Jews and about Israel.”

    While Dewey was indeed a supporter of Israel, the left wing third party candidate Henry Wallace was even more so! Meanwhile you conveniently forget that Eisenhower openly threatened to have the US go to war against Israel during the Suez Crisis, and that Ford pressured Israel far more than did Carter or any other President other than the first Bush.

    • You got the RJC poll wrong, and much else as well, especially your Carter comment, which any Camp David insider will tell you is completely false.
      -RSP

  8. I agree whole-heartedly with your assesment of the election and your analysis of the Jewish liberal vote, but am writing to note one line I may disagree with, and to sound a perhaps unwarranted optimistic note. In your original post, you write that Ronald Reagan himself couldn’t have won in the current environment. Actually, I think he — or someone with his strong political acumen – most definitely could have and would have won. Although I agree that objective thinking people should not have bought Obama’s rhetoric and demogoguery, the fact remains that throughout human history such demogoguery usually works, and Romney really made no effort to rebut it. The fact remains that incumbents have a huge edge as evidenced by George W. Bush winning reelection despite half the country despising him (unjusifiably so). The fact is that even with the media and the entire entertainment industry serving as a propaganda tool to boost Obama and bash Republicans, with stories and op-ed pieces run by the New York Times every day that were “better” than anything the Obama campaign team could conspire, despite the 47% who were predisposed to vote for him, and the absurd percentages he received from Blacks, Hispanics, Asians, Jews and unmarried women, Obama still lost the “white” vote by a huge 60% to 38% margin. About 350,000 total more votes for Romney in Florida, Ohio, Virginia and New Hampshire would have given Romney the victory. Yes, it’s all “wouda, shoulda, coulda…” but there were easily 5 or 6 things that Romney could have done better, or where another candidate could have been stronger. While I agree that American supremacy is not guaranteed nor a “G-d-given” right if its people make the wrong decisions, sometimes things are at their bleakest before most people get their heads on straight and make the right decisions again. ” You can’t fool all of the people all of the time…” It’s hard to think that the U.S. is so much worse now than in the 1970′s when it had terrible inflation, unemployment and was being embarassed by Iran and the Soviet Union. What happened then to change the decline was a strong leader able to convince Americans to return to traditional values and common sense. Margaret Thatcher did much the same for a U.K. in even more dire straits. Like sports and the economy, politics is often a pendulum, in which one side or team wins for awhile and then it goes back to the other side. Maybe it’s just wishful thinking, but about 48% of the country still seems to get it correctly, so perhaps, if we can survive 4 years, the country is not yet headed into the abyss … And Israeli voters dont seem any smarter than Americans given their historical record…

  9. A recent article by Claudine Zap explained that President Obama was re-elected by voters under age 30, while older voters were more likely to vote for Romney.

  10. Thank you for your brilliant and lucid analysis, Rabbi Pruzanksy. I would humbly offer a seventh reason for the heavily Democratic “Jewish” vote: the high prevalence of college and post-graduate/professional education in the American Jewish community. We cannot underestimate the noxious brainwashing that occurs in the academic environment; particularly in the more “prestigious” Ivy League and highly ranked liberal arts colleges. Our young, highly educated Jewish men and women leave the universities deeply indoctrinated in the leftist, secularist ideologies of academe.

    DANIEL WOHLGELERNTER

  11. This blog may well be the best source of information and analysis. Thank you, Rabbi Pruzansky. Stay strong!

  12. R’Pruzansky, I am an Orthodox Jew, as you well know (:=), and I always vote D, but not for the reasons you put out. My main reasons are:

    1) D’s are better for business and the economy.
    2) D’s tend to be more fiscally responsible.
    3) D’s don’t start wars for no reason, and then lose them.
    4) D’s don’t hold by the silly, disproven supply side economics.
    5) D’s are net net better for Israel (with the exception of Nixon).
    6) D’s have a more realistic view of the role of government.

    • “D’s don’t start wars for no reason, and then lose them.” Huh ? did you ever hear about Vietnam; started by JFK and intensified by LBJ- both full-blooded D’s ? BTW, Richard Nixon, an R, ended the war.

      • Stephen Hirsch

        I apologize if this is a repeat.

        I’m sorry, I had meant to write the following:

        3) D’s don’t start wars for no reason (since Vietnam), and then lose them.

        BTW, Nixon and Kissinger got the same terms that were offered in 1968, except that 25K Americans and hundreds of thousands of Vietnamese died in the meantime.

    • My dear Stephen (what kind of spelling is that anyway?):
      One point suffices: (3) are you aware of the Korean and Vietnam Wars, both started by Ds, and neither coming to any permanent resolution?
      -RSP

  13. Rabbi,
    Thank you for your honest and insightful comments. Although some may not share your beliefs, you should know that an overwhelming majority agree with you. Please keep it up!

  14. Of course, if not starting wars is a measure of greatness and political acumen, then Pierce and Buchanan were great presidents and Lincoln a failure. Consider also that since Republicans ended the Cold War – adopting policies that the Democrats fiercely opposed – the main source of aggression was limited. Of course, Clinton basically ignored islamic terror until it came to our shores after his term, and Obama has resurrected the Russians as an enemy with his forthcoming “flexibility.” (“I vill tell Vladimir!”)
    -RSP

    • America did not end the Cold War. Gorbachev did. Reagan made a speech. Big deal.

      In the meantime, he supported some really awful people in Central America who did some really awful things, all in the name of fighting an imaginary threat.

  15. For the first time in my life I have a had a rabbi with such strong beliefs. I consider myself blessed and honored. Thank you rabbi for always honestly speaking your mind and being a spiritual and guiding light for me and my family.

  16. Bravo! Well said, Rabbi. I have been disappointed in the direction the Jews have been moving in for some time. You have made it exceptionally clear. I applaud you. It is sad that a People seems to have placed Torah on the back shelf. It seems some of Jews of Convenience.

  17. Hi Rabbi,
    What do you think of this crisis in Israel right now? It’s disgusting, and I feel horrible for Netanyahu. 500 rockets in the past 2 days into Israel from the Gaza Strip.

    I encourage you to read my view about Obama and Israel, http://externalpolitics.wordpress.com/2012/11/16/obama-and-israeli-crisis/

    Ryan

  18. Most of the comments on your previous post were favorable? Who are you kidding? On the Cross Currents site (which is hardly a forum for left-leaning types) the negative comments outweigh the positive ones by 4 to 1. And if your “proof” is the comments section of this blog, well that’s distorted evidence. First, everyone knows that you simply refuse to post most comments that are critical (as you’ll prove once again when you don’t post this one), and second, many of us assume that a significant number of the laudatory comments on your blog are simply you using various aliases to congratulate yourself.

    What’s even more incredible is that you assume that the negative backlash to your article was simply Democrats unhappy that you had negative things to say about their party. Guess what? Plenty of Rabbis have written articles siding with one political party over another, and those articles don’t get the kind of overwhelming negative backlash that yours triggered. You may want to consider that people were reacting more to your offensive tone and your asinine statement that anyone who voted for Obama must be unintelligent.

    If you didn’t like the Failed Messiah blog, check out the Dov Bear blog, which goes through each of your points in a logical and intelligent fashion showing how you’re wrong on every significant point. And if you disagree with him, feel free to write a comment disagreeing with him. Guess what? He’ll even post it. #Intellectual Honesty

    • Shame on you, Jason, for your offensive, disrespectful comments and your outrageous accusations. Please learn how to offer a dissenting opinion in a civilized and mature manner.

  19. I’m confused by this assertion:

    “It might very well be that if we exclude hundreds of thousands of halachic non-Jews from our count as Jews, then the differences in voting patterns between Jews and other mainstream groups as revealed by the polls might not be as dramatic.”

    I would think precisely the opposite. Non-Jews as a whole are not married to any one party as American Jews and the introduction of halachic non-Jews would bring more voting diversity, not less.

  20. This is from Shmuel Rosner —
    It suggests that many, in fact even a majority of Orthodox, voted for the President.
    2. This isn’t the case in Beachwood, but you can see that in some Orthodox precincts the Republican candidate is doing better than the Democratic president. Having said that, one should be careful not to jump to hasty conclusions about the Orthodox vote and its role in the overall Jewish vote. In my 9 comments on the Jewish vote, yesterday, I referred to the Orthodox vote in point number 8: “Interestingly, the RJC poll doesn’t prove the common theory that Republican Jews are mostly Orthodox Jews. The percentage of Orthodox among the group of Republican Jews is definitely higher in proportion, but it is hardly large enough to explain the increase in the Republican Jewish vote”. And it is not just the RJC poll. Look at the crosstabs from the J Street poll: almost 60% of the Orthodox still voted for Obama.

    • I have my doubts about the JStreet poll, and other surveys indicate that Orthodox Jews favored Romney by a slight margin. But bear in mind that a segment of the Orthodox Jewish population also likes free stuff, and are therefore natural Obama voters, nor do they vote with Israel in mind.
      -RSP

  21. A quick comment on the secular Jewish-American expression of “tikun olam” – perfecting the world. Non-Orthodox, and some Orthodox, Jews are fond of trotting out this phrase as the sum total of what Judaism is all about. The problem with that is that it is a fragment of a principle in Judaism. The full phrase is, IIRC, “tikun olam b’malchut Shaddai”, perfecting the world in the Kingdom of the Almighty. In other words, assimilated American Jews are conveniently dropping the God element from the mission of the Jewish people. Keep that in mind the next time someone speaks of tikun olam.

    There is one more element to add to Rabbi Pruzansky’s excellent analysis of Jewish Americans who do not support Israeli nationalism. This is difficult to write about, and let me begin by saying I mean no offence to anyone, least of all to any holocaust survivors. That said, I think the State of Israel’s birth in 1948 was a problem for Jews who grew up in the diaspora, with a diaspora mentality. For 2000 years, the Jews were subject to the whims of their host countries. In some rare cases, like the USA, the host was benelovent, but in most, Jews were subject to horrific conditions, discrimination, property confiscation, and even physical attacks, all either ignored or supported by the host nation’s government. That built up a very strong victim mentality for the Jews of the diaspora. I think this reached a zenith later in WWII and prior to the creation of the State of Israel. The whole world, even parts of it that were traditionally very anti-Semitic, were crying over the fate of the poor, defenseless Jews. While it may be a subconscious reality, I think many Jews of prior generations, and some in modern times, feel that this victim status is desireable. After all, how can the Jews be the evil actors described in the Protocols of Elders of Zion if they are constantly being attacked, killed and discriminated against? So the the modern Jewish state, complete with its own justice system, military and police force, flies right in the face of the whole victim status that had been the norm for so many centuries. Now, the Jews are not defenseless, they can fight back, and throw off the victim status altogether. So, to support a strong, independent Jewish state that does not see itself as the 51st American state, means relinquishing the victim status, and with it, the sympathy of the gentile world. I have met many older Jews, some of them holocaust survivors, who strongly support leftist policies in Israel, including the appeasement of Israel’s enemies. The Federation’s policies are an example of this. As a people, we had a long history as a proud, independent people who relied only on God for support, but this was lost in 2000 years of exile. It’s time we go back to our roots both physically and mentally. I am happy to say that, indeed, the Jews have been returning to their ancestral homeland, and, if trends in Israel are any indication, to their ancestral mentality as well.

    • TO: PHIL SLEPIAN: Beautifully and Insightful – Thank You! As a Jewish & American Senior, I not only agree, but feel a ‘Revival Sense of Emotion & Passion.’ The State of Being a Victim goes along with Liberalism and that is NEVER a Healthy or Empowered Frame of Mind or Emotion. We Must as Jewish People Return to Our Roots. Rhoda Gelman

  22. TO: RABBI PRUZANSKY: Your article is based on ‘Truth & Realism’ and so many times, difficult to digest and face – especially your comments on Why Jewish People have been Democrats for a life-time: example: give a neighbor a fish, instead of teaching how to fish: Brilliant – I have always followed the latter. I have also voted for the ‘Individual’ and NOT THE PARTY. Also, have difficulties and frustrated with the word; ‘Liberal’ but I have to add, I dislike cliches! I agree with you: Not only will America Survive Obama – We will Revive Ourselves and America – But – We as Americans and We The People Must Take Action: OBAMA MUST BE IMPEACHED NOW AND WE MUST SPEAK UP FOR ISRAEL AND THE LIES ABOUT BENGHAZI! URGENT QUESTION: Why is it that Rabbis do not speak out in Public? SO IMPORTANT AND EMPOWERING FOR JEWS AND AMERICANS! Rhoda Gelman

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