American attitudes to Jews

It is somehow reported as big news that President Trump denounced anti-Semitism yesterday. Was his attitude seriously in doubt? He is a proud supporter of Israel and vocal friend of Benjamin Netanyahu. His appointed ambassador to the United Nations is Nikki Haley, who is trying to right wrongs against Israel committed by the United Nations and, ahem, the Obama administration. His daughter converted to Judaism. He has Jewish grandchildren. In the Clintonian world of as-if, he may be the first Jewish President. To those who found President Obama’s support of the Muslim Brotherhood and the Iranian regime indicative of nothing important, I can only put it this way for public consumption: Give me a break.

Incidentally, the Jewish Community Center to which I belong in St. Paul was one of the 11 subjected to bomb threats on Monday. Even if those threats were empty, the vandalism perpetrated at the Jewish cemetery in University City, Missouri is real. And there seems to be something going on at main campus of the University of Minnesota as well.

The synagogue to which I belong in St. Paul has found it necessary to retain officers from the St. Paul Police Department to hold down a spot at the entrance during our Saturday morning services. The security has an incidental benefit. It has allowed me to expand my circle of friends to include the two officers who regularly serve us. They are a blessed presence all by themselves.

These incidents, however, are unrepresentative of the feelings of American citizens. As one can learn from the adjacent post on President Washington and the first Jewish congregation in the United States, America’s friendship to the Jewish people goes back a long way. It has deep historical roots. We are grateful. Norman Podhoretz speaks for me in his book My Love Affair with America.

My point, however, and I do have one, is the recent Pew Research Poll asking more than 4,000 American respondents to rate religious groups on a “feeling thermometer.” Mark Oppenheimer reports that Jews elicit the “warmest” feelings of any religious group.

Oppenheimer looks on the funny side as he examines the trends in the poll results. Examined by age cohorts, the trend is slightly unfavorable:

Love for us Jews decreases with age. Oldsters, in the 65+ age group, really dig us, with 74 percent feeling the warmth, a number that declines among 50 to 64-year-olds (69 percent warming up to us Jews), then again among 30 to 49-year-olds (Jews still are tops, but with only 64 percent), and then bottoming out among those damned millennials (18-29), with only 62 percent of whom feel warmly toward us—putting us behind Hindus and Catholics (tied at 64 percent) and their favorite group, Buddhists, totally overheating them at a hot 66 percent. (The survey did not ask how many of the respondents actually knew anything about Buddhism, or could tell it apart from “like, you know, yoga.”)

Oppenheimer reminds me of Mose Allison’s song “Benediction (Thank God For Self-Love)” when he considers Jewish attitudes to Jews:

Perhaps the most cheering results in the survey? First, we Jews not only have the love of others but overwhelming self-love, too. Most people felt warmly toward their own religious group, but Jews felt warmest of all: A full 91 percent of Jews felt warmly toward Jews. Which is kind of a surprising result, at least to any Jew who has ever served on a synagogue board or had a relative.

I particularly enjoyed this:

Also, knowing a Jew correlates with liking a Jew: Of those who know a Jew, 72 percent feel warmly toward Judaism—a number that lags behind only Buddhists, who earn warmies from three-quarters of all those who know a Buddhist. Tomato, to-mah-to—let’s call the whole thing Namaste.

That’s funny, but there is seriously good news here.


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