Orthodoxy, Political Conservatism, and the Changing Demographics of American Jewry

Aug. 28 2015

From its 2013 survey of American Jewry, the Pew Foundation has released newly analyzed data pertaining specifically to the Orthodox population. Pew notes the rapid growth of Orthodox Jewry relative to the overall American Jewish population, and the rapid growth of the ultra-Orthodox relative to the overall Orthodox population. It also finds that American Orthodox Jews are increasingly leaning to the political right. David Bernstein comments on what this means about the way Jews relate to both Israel and America:

[A]mong the non-Orthodox Jewish population, the percentage who don’t practice the religion and don’t meaningfully affiliate with the community is growing. The population of active Reform, Conservative, and Reconstructionist Jews is shrinking, especially among the young. It is . . . among the former unaffiliated group that lack of interest or hostility to Israel is concentrated. When you hear . . . that young Jews are increasingly disaffected from Israel, it’s not only inaccurate, but refers mainly to [these] secular individuals with overwhelmingly left-wing politics, not raised in the Jewish religion, who still consider themselves at least partially Jewish.

Given the likely demographic future of this group—bluntly, it’s destined to have few Jewish descendants—relative to the broader Jewish community, the upshot is that the American Jewish population, with the exception of the large anti-Zionist Satmar ḥasidic sect, over time will grow increasingly close to, not distant from, Israel. Contrary to conventional wisdom, this is happening already. . . .

[Furthermore], theological, social, and even economic conservatism is going to become an increasingly important element of American Jewish life. . . . For what it’s worth, I almost never saw a kippah at conservative or libertarian political or intellectual events twenty years ago, but I see them all the time today, for example, at Federalist Society events. So not only are Orthodox Jews a growing right-leaning demographic, they appear to be getting more involved in general American political culture.

Read more at Washington Post

More about: American Jewry, Israel and the Diaspora, Jewish conservatism, Orthodoxy, Pew Survey, Religion & Holidays


Why President Biden Needs Prime Minister Netanyahu as Much as Netanyahu Needs Biden

Sept. 28 2023

Last Wednesday, Joe Biden and Benjamin Netanyahu met for the first time since the former’s inauguration. Since then, Haim Katz, Israel’s tourism minister, became the first Israeli cabinet member to visit Saudi Arabia publicly, and Washington announced that it will include the Jewish state in its visa-waiver program. Richard Kemp, writing shortly after last week’s meeting, comments:

Finally, a full nine months into Benjamin Netanyahu’s latest government, President Joe Biden deigned to allow him into his presence. Historically, American presidents have invited newly installed Israeli prime ministers to the White House shortly after taking office. Even this meeting on Wednesday, however, was not in Washington but in New York, on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly.

Such pointed lack of respect is not the way to treat one of America’s most valuable allies, and perhaps the staunchest of them all. It is all about petty political point-scoring and interfering in Israel’s internal democratic processes. But despite his short-sighted rebuke to the state of Israel and its prime minister, Biden actually needs at least as much from Netanyahu as Netanyahu needs from him. With the 2024 election looming, Biden is desperate for a foreign-policy success among a sea of abject failures.

In his meeting with Netanyahu, Biden no doubt played the Palestinian issue up as some kind of Saudi red line and the White House has probably been pushing [Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman] in that direction. But while the Saudis would no doubt want some kind of pro-forma undertaking by Israel for the sake of appearances, [a nuclear program and military support] are what they really want. The Saudis’ under-the-table backing for the original Abraham Accords in the face of stiff Palestinian rejection shows us where its priorities lie.

Israel remains alone in countering Iran’s nuclear threat, albeit with Saudi and other Arab countries cheering behind the scenes. This meeting won’t have changed that. We must hope, however, that Netanyahu has been able to persuade Biden of the electoral benefit to him of settling for a historic peace between Israel and Saudi Arabia rather than holding out for the unobtainable jackpot of a two-state solution.

Read more at Ynet

More about: Benjamin Netanyahu, Joseph Biden, Saudi Arabia, U.S.-Israel relationship