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WSJ: Chosen People, Choosing Left


From the Wall Street Journal

It will be dangerous to the Jewish future, Mr. Podhoretz says, for Jews to continue down the path of reflexively supporting not just Democrats but also the party’s liberal wing. Unlike every other ethnic or religious group, he notes, Jews do not become more conservative as their income and wealth rise. The reason for such steady liberalism, it is often claimed, is that Jews care about those who are marginalized in America, as Jews themselves were once marginalized both here and in other countries.

But Mr. Podhoretz maintains that Jews are voting against their own interests. Jews advanced in America in the mid-20th century when the meritocracy took hold, individual effort and achievement were rewarded, and group quotas, which limited Jewish educational opportunity and economic advancement, were eliminated. How odd, then, to see Jews aligned with the party that embraces identity politics, affirmative action and quota-driven policies. Democrats also favor higher taxes and more government regulation, neither of which tends to produce the sort of economic expansion that benefits everyone, including the marginalized.

Another danger to the Jewish future, Mr. Podhoretz says, is the commitment of Jews to secularism and social liberalism. Jews are the least religious group in America—just 16% of Jews attend services at least monthly, and 42% of Jews attend not at all. Even those Jews who do go to synagogue often find a way to remain comfortable in their political beliefs: Mr. Podhoretz describes how liberal Jews—rabbis and worshipers alike—routinely cherry-pick passages from the Torah to buttress favored social policies. The Hebrew word for charity, tzedakah, he says, has been seized on by liberal Jews over the years to promote FDR’s New Deal, Lyndon Johnson’s Great Society and “social justice.” Mr. Podhoretz quotes a professor of modern Jewish history who said the Torah’s instruction made voting for John McCain last year impossible because he had opposed raising the minimum wage.

As Jews have traded Judaism for secularism, their birth rate has fallen well below the replacement level. As Mr. Podhoretz observes, this is only part of the new demographic reality. Fully half of Jews who marry these days choose a non-Jewish spouse, and a majority of the children in these marriages are not reared as Jewish. Not surprisingly, the Jewish population in America has begun to decline. Over the past 60 years, while the U.S. population doubled, the number of Jews has at best remained steady at about six million. Orthodox Jews, whose politics tend toward the conservative, have accepted the biblical directive to be fruitful and multiply. Their share of the American Jewish population is rising, and now stands at about 10%. But the demographic time bomb among non-Orthodox Jews, Mr. Podhoretz says, may be unstoppable.