I’m late to the party when it comes to Norman Podhoretz’s masterful book Why Are Jews Liberals? Literally. I couldn’t make it to New York for the party when the book came out. In fact, I didn’t read Why Are Jews LIberals? until last month, when my daughter gave it to me as a gift. By a happy coincidence, I was able to hear Norman speak about the book at an Orthodox synagogue near my neighborhood earlier this week.
I strongly recommend this book to anyone who has ever asked the question posed by the title. I suspect that this includes everyone who will read this post. Indeed, Norman says that it is by far the most common question he is asked.
In the first half of the book, Norman surveys the centuries of experience that pushed the Jews of Europe to the left. He then shows how these experiences carried over to America, where they were confirmed and reinforced by the political landscape here. He concludes that up until the Six Day War in 1967, it was more than reasonable for American Jews to be liberals.
Norman then chronicles the period since 1967 through the lens of the political battles he has played such a prominent (and in my opinion, heroic) part in. It is this period, of course, that raises so acutely 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, “through which the Jews found a home such as they never discovered in all their forced wanderings throughout the centuries over the face of the earth.”
In an upcoming post, I’ll have something to say about how Norman answers this question.
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