Why Are Jews Liberals? Part Two

As John shrewdly observed last night, President Obama’s reference to Harry Reid’s commitment to “social justice” as grounds for absolving Reid of a remark that many consider racist, shows how liberalism can trump race when it comes to racial politics. This observation put me in mind of Norman Podhoretz’s brilliant book, Why Are Jews Liberals?, which I previously discussed here.
Norman tackles the question of why Jews have persisted in their liberalism even as the left became overtly anti-Israel and hostile to the social, political, and moral system of this country, which has been such a blessing to Jews. He concludes that liberalism has replaced Judaism as the primary faith of American Jews, much as Marxism did for many Jewish intellectuals in the late 1800s and early 1900s.
Norman relies on data showing that only one-quarter of American Jews say that religion is very important in their lives. However, half of American Jews say that “being Jewish” is very important. Thus, for American Jews as a whole, “Jewishmess takes precedence over Judaism.”
But what does “Jewishness” mean to these Jews? Norman argues that it means being a liberal on political, economic, and social issues. As I’ll discuss in another post, this brings “Jewishness” into conflict with Judaism in a number of important respects.

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