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Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Why Are Jews Liberal?

I have just finished reading, on my Kindle, Norman Podhoretz's excellent book "Why Are Jews Liberals?"

Podhoretz's Wall Street Journal article, bearing the same title, does a good job summarizing the book, but to form your own opinion, do read the longer essay.

One of the best passages in the book is reproduced almost verbatim in the article:


Of course in speaking of the difference between left and right, or between liberals and conservatives, I have in mind a divide wider than the conflict between Democrats and Republicans and deeper than electoral politics. The great issue between the two political communities is how they feel about the nature of American society. With all exceptions duly noted, I think it fair to say that what liberals mainly see when they look at this country is injustice and oppression of every kind—economic, social and political. By sharp contrast, conservatives see a nation shaped by a complex of traditions, principles and institutions that has afforded more freedom and, even factoring in periodic economic downturns, more prosperity to more of its citizens than in any society in human history. It follows that what liberals believe needs to be changed or discarded—and apologized for to other nations—is precisely what conservatives are dedicated to preserving, reinvigorating and proudly defending against attack.

In this realm, too, American Jewry surely belongs with the conservatives rather than the liberals. For the social, political and moral system that liberals wish to transform is the very system in and through which Jews found a home such as they had never discovered in all their forced wanderings throughout the centuries over the face of the earth.


I couldn't agree more.

The reasons behind the historical liberalism of American Jews, as laid down in the book, are almost undisputable. Podhoretz's conclusion as to why Jews remain liberal now is more controversial:


Which is to say that for them, liberalism has become more than a political outlook. It has for all practical purposes superseded Judaism and become a religion in its own right. And to the dogmas and commandments of this religion they give the kind of steadfast devotion their forefathers gave to the religion of the Hebrew Bible. For many, moving to the right is invested with much the same horror their forefathers felt about conversion to Christianity.


Podhoretz convinced me. Read the book and tell me if he convinced you too.

2 Comments:

Blogger J.D. said...

Haven't read the book yet, but I'd always assumed that Jews lean left because of our tendency to question & discuss absolutely everything.

10:47 AM  
Blogger Daniel Dreymann said...

J.D., this Jewish tendency to question everything is discussed in the book too, but countered with the argument that nowadays there is a lot of conformity and little debate going on in liberal "churches" (universities, media, etc.).

You will absolutely enjoy the edifying first two thirds of the book (though my daughter was appalled to learn Voltaire was an anti-Semite). You might grind your teeth reading the last chapters...

10:57 AM  

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