Is American Jewish Liberalism Dying?

June 30 2022

In the 1930s, a Republican Jewish judge, observing his coreligionists’ commitment to the Democratic party, quipped, in Yiddish, that Jews have three velt (worlds): di velt (this world), yene velt (the next world), and Roosevelt. Since then, Jewish devotion has attenuated somewhat, although Jews still overwhelmingly lean Democratic. Most American Jews, however, are unfamiliar with the terms “this world” or “the next world” in any language. Carefully examining a wealth of statistical data, Samuel J. Abrams and Jack Wertheimer argue that the sort of robust Jewish liberalism that characterized U.S. Jewry a few decades ago is in steep decline. Jews, they explain, are undergoing their own version of what political scientists call the “great sort,” whereby politics, religion, and place of residence increasingly align:

Jewish political liberals and conservatives have moved into two camps with distinct and exclusive ideas, behaviors, and packages of attitudes and practices, resembling and reflecting the same sociopolitical phenomena in the larger society, a development with serious ramifications for American Jewish life.

[Most importantly], the conservative/liberal gap widened, not because conservatives became more Jewishly engaged—they held steady—but because liberals experienced notable drops in Jewish engagement over the years.

We do not know if liberals became more distant from Judaism and the Jewish people, or whether those who are Jewishly distant migrated to the liberal camp. But we do know that liberals identify less with Jewish religious and communal life than conservatives today—and that this process has been underway for over 30 years. The widening of the gap is not due to recent events, such as the Trump presidency or Israel’s decreasing popularity with Democrats and liberals. Rather, other factors have been at work, undoubtedly resembling similar patterns in American society at large.

Here, then, is the broader context in which politically liberal American Jews find themselves, an ideological environment not warmly disposed to religion, to put it mildly, and one that regards particularistic allegiances to white ethnic groups as anachronistic, if not a form of white supremacy. Little wonder that many Jewish liberals are distancing themselves from Jewish religiosity and communal needs.

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Read more at Tablet

More about: American Jewish History, American Jewry, Liberalism, U.S. Politics

 

Salman Rushdie and the Western Apologists for Those Who Wish Him Dead

Aug. 17 2022

Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, the founder and supreme leader of the Islamic Republic of Iran, issued a fatwa (religious ruling) in 1989 calling for believers to murder the novelist Salman Rushdie due to the content of his novel, The Satanic Verses. Over the years, two of the book’s translators have been stabbed—one fatally—and numerous others have been injured or killed in attempts to follow the ayatollah’s writ. Last week, an American Shiite Muslim came closer than his many predecessors to killing Rushdie, stabbing him multiple times and leaving him in critical condition. Graeme Wood comments on those intellectuals in the West who have exuded sympathy for the stabbers:

In 1989, the reaction to the fatwa was split three ways: some supported it; some opposed it; and some opposed it, to be sure, but still wanted everyone to know how bad Rushdie and his novel were. This last faction, Team To Be Sure, took the West to task for elevating this troublesome man and his insulting book, whose devilry could have been averted had others been more attuned to the sensibilities of the offended.

The fumes are still rising off of this last group. The former president Jimmy Carter was, at the time of the original fatwa, the most prominent American to suggest that the crime of murder should be balanced against Rushdie’s crime of blasphemy. The ayatollah’s death sentence “caused writers and public officials in Western nations to become almost exclusively preoccupied with the author’s rights,” Carter wrote in an op-ed for the New York Times. Well, yes. Carter did not only say that many Muslims were offended and wished violence on Rushdie; that was simply a matter of fact, reported frequently in the news pages. He took to the op-ed page to add his view that these fanatics had a point. “While Rushdie’s First Amendment freedoms are important,” he wrote, “we have tended to promote him and his book with little acknowledgment that it is a direct insult to those millions of Moslems whose sacred beliefs have been violated.” Never mind that millions of Muslims take no offense at all, and are insulted by the implication that they should.

Over the past two decades, our culture has been Carterized. We have conceded moral authority to howling mobs, and the louder the howls, the more we have agreed that the howls were worth heeding. The novelist Hanif Kureishi has said that “nobody would have the [courage]” to write The Satanic Verses today. More precisely, nobody would publish it, because sensitivity readers would notice the theological delicacy of the book’s title and plot. The ayatollahs have trained them well, and social-media disasters of recent years have reinforced the lesson: don’t publish books that get you criticized, either by semiliterate fanatics on the other side of the world or by semiliterate fanatics on this one.

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Read more at Atlantic

More about: Ayatollah Khomeini, Freedom of Speech, Iran, Islamism, Jimmy Carter