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The End of the Jewish Left

Political theorist Michael Walzer and others argue about the death of the century-long Jewish-Leftist alliance

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Supporters of Republican presidential hopeful Newt Gingrich listen at a Republican Jewish Coalition rally Jan. 27, 2012, in Delray Beach, Fla. (Stan Honda/AFP/Getty Images)
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“Why so many alte kockers? Where is the rising generation?” The grumbler sitting behind me at the conference on “Jews and the Left,” sponsored by YIVO last week at the Center for Jewish History in New York, was not exactly being fair. Any academic conference will attract an older-skewing audience, and for all the gray hair in the seats and on the dais, the YIVO conference did have its share of eager young attendees.

Behind the complaint, however, it was possible to hear a larger, more painful question. For the first two-thirds of the 20th century, from the first immigrant generation through the baby boom, the radical and revolutionary left played a hugely important role in defining how the rest of America saw Jews and how Jews saw themselves. From Mike Gold’s proletarian novel Jews Without Money all the way down to Tony Kushner’s Angels in America, the literature and mythology of American Jewish radicalism has often appeared identical—to a certain audience—with Judaism itself. Even now there are people who revel in bygone lore about the Forverts and the Freiheit, Jay Lovestone and Max Shachtman. But living heirs to that tradition can be hard to find. Somewhat plaintively, my neighbor at the conference—like many of the participants—seemed to be asking, Is there still such a thing as a Jewish left? And if not, ought we to regret it?

The left that was at issue in the YIVO conference had little to do with what we now, in the shrunken spectrum of American political discourse, call the liberal wing of the Democratic Party. A 2005 Pew study found that Jews were the single most liberal religious group in America. Last month, a poll of American Jews showed that 62 percent planned to vote for Barack Obama in November—down from the 78 percent he got in 2008, but still more than twice as much as the 29 percent who said they would vote for Mitt Romney. Depending on your point of view, the still-durable association of Jews with liberalism and the Democratic Party is a source of either pride or bafflement (as in Norman Podhoretz’s plaintively titled Why Are Jews Liberals?).

Looked at another way, however, the softening mainstream liberalism of American Jews can be seen as the feeble remnant of what was once a fiery and uncompromising leftism. Indeed, as historian Tony Michels said at the YIVO conference, the history of American Communism “cannot be understood without Jews.” But the mood of the conference was best summed up in the title of the keynote address, by the political philosopher Michael Walzer: “The Strangeness of Jewish Leftism.” What was once a proud inheritance now seems like a problem in need of a solution. For many Jews, it remains axiomatic that Judaism is a religion of social justice and progress; the phrase “tikkun olam” has become a convenient shorthand for the idea that Judaism is best expressed in “repair of the world.”

In his speech, and in his new book In God’s Shadow: Politics and the Hebrew Bible, Walzer offers a contrary vision of traditional Judaism, which he argues “offers precious little support to left politics”—a truth that he recognized would surprise those who, like himself, “grew up believing that Judaism and socialism were pretty much the same thing.” If a leftist political message cannot readily be found in the traditions of Judaism, it follows that the explosion of Jewish leftism in the late 19th century was actually a rupture with Jewish history, and potentially a traumatic one.


Walzer’s reluctance to associate Judaism too simply with leftist politics, or indeed with any politics, represents a break from his earlier thinking. In his influential 1985 book Exodus and Revolution, for instance, Walzer argued that the Exodus narrative had provided a template for generations of revolutionaries and progressives in Western society, offering a model of how to escape an oppressive past and create a better future. The contrast with his new book could not be sharper. In this work, Walzer reads the Bible with an eye to its explicit and implicit teachings about politics and finds that its most eloquent message on the subject is silence. “The political activity of ordinary people is not a Biblical subject,” he writes, “nor is there any explicit recognition of political space, an agora or forum, where people congregate to argue about and decide on the policies of the community.”

Coming from Walzer, who co-edited a multivolume treatise on “The Jewish Political Tradition,” and who has been one of the leading theorists of mainstream left-liberalism for decades, this emphasis on the antipolitical nature of the Bible is striking. In his YIVO speech, he listed six central features of traditional Judaism that made it a conservative force, including the very idea of Jews as a chosen people—an idea that cannot easily be made to harmonize with universalism and egalitarianism.

Where the Greek tradition made room for public decision-making, Walzer argues, the same space in the Bible is filled entirely by God: All historical and legal initiatives must come from the deity, or appear to do so. In fact, the Pentateuch contains three separate legal codes, in Exodus, Leviticus, and Deuteronomy, which contradict one another in many details and clearly were written by different groups of Israelites at different times. But because of the pious fiction that all these laws came from the same God, it was impossible for the legal deliberations that created them to become public; the lawmakers hid themselves behind a divine facade. They were, Walzer writes, “the secret legislators of Israel,” and as long as legislation remains secret, it cannot be truly political.

The same principle holds true of the later history of the Israelite kingdom. Much of In God’s Shadow deals with the ambiguous status of the prophet in the polity of ancient Israel. When contemporary liberals and leftists want to anchor their beliefs in Jewish tradition, it is to the prophets that they most often turn: the scathing denunciations of Amos and Jeremiah, the messianic vision of Isaiah. “We have a picture in our mind of the people described by Amos,” Walzer writes. “They are, so to speak, the local bourgeoisie,” and Amos speaks for the Israelite proletariat.

But if you look at the actual content of the prophets’ message, Walzer points out, its political bearing is not so clear. “Theirs was … a fiercely antipolitical radicalism,” he writes, which had little to say about the power structures of Israelite society. Indeed, one of the themes of In God’s Shadow is that the writers of the Bible were so uninterested in politics that they included remarkably little information about how the Israelites were actually governed on a day-to-day basis—almost everything we can say about the functions of kings, judges, and royal officials is speculative. When the prophets called for justice, they didn’t mean a redistribution of power but a society-wide submission to God: “God’s message overrode the wisdom of men.”

The same thing was even more dramatically true when it came to international politics. Jeremiah, for instance, was active toward the end of the Kingdom of Judah, at a time when that small nation was caught between the empires of Egypt and Babylon. Much of the last part of Kings is made up of the attempts of successive Israelite monarchs to ally themselves with one of these imperial powers against the other. But, as Walzer emphasizes, the prophets simply refuse to accept that this geopolitical problem is a problem at all. If the Israelites trust in God and obey him, all will be well; if God is determined to punish them, nothing they do will avert his justice. “All that he and his fellow prophets have to say in the global arena is ‘the God of Israel, the God of Israel,’ ” Walzer writes, “implying that diplomacy and defense are unnecessary so long as faith remains firm.”

The long-term effect of this usurpation of the public sphere by God, Walzer concludes, was the growth of Jewish messianism. “The secret source of messianic politics is a deep pessimism about the self-government of the covenantal community. … Israel was more often the subject of absolute judgment than of conditional assessment and counsel.” And while Walzer does not say so explicitly, it is easy to imagine what his denigration of messianism means for the modern Jewish radical tradition, which has so often prided itself on holding out for a messianic transformation of human society. If the Messiah is what we demand when we can’t or won’t engage in politics, then the Revolution, too, must be seen as fundamentally antipolitical, a dangerous dream that rests on the abdication of human judgment. The rejection of Revolution as a concept is perhaps the dividing line between liberals and leftists, and Jews increasingly find themselves on the liberal side of that line.

The left’s rejection of Judaism, Walzer concluded in his speech at YIVO, was both “necessary and profoundly wrong.” Necessary, because traditional Judaism did not offer a basis for a social justice movement; but also wrong, because the severance with tradition rendered the Jewish left culturally disoriented and spiritually impoverished.

While a number of speakers at the YIVO conference invoked Isaac Deutscher’s concept of the “non-Jewish Jew”—figures like Trotsky or Rosa Luxemburg, who rejected on principle any definition of themselves or their goals in Jewish terms—both Walzer and Ezra Mendelsohn warned against the idea that identity could be so abstract and universalized. Walzer called instead for a renewed critical engagement with Jewish tradition, including a return to the Jewish calendar and Jewish lifecycle events.

If this represents a kind of retrenchment on the part of the left, it is partly because the Jewish left has lost any certainty that the future is on its side. In Israel, Benjamin Netanyahu is the strongest and most popular leader in decades; in both Israel and America, the fastest-growing section of the Jewish population is the Orthodox, a right-leaning group who 50 years ago, Mendelsohn recalled, seemed headed for extinction. Still, political fortunes can always change, and Mendelsohn concluded his speech, and the conference, with a wan prophecy that the Jewish left would return: “Maybe I won’t see it, but my grandchildren will.”

More difficult to accept is the idea that the past, too, no longer belongs to the Left—that its own history is no longer a source of pride but of doubt and even shame. Jonathan Brent, the head of YIVO, set the tone for the conference in his opening remarks, which began by recalling the fate of YIVO—Der Yiddisher Visenshaftlekher Institut (Jewish Scientific Institute)—in World War II Vilna. Zalman Rayzen was one of the original heads of YIVO, the author of a textbook of Yiddish literature. Like so many of his colleagues, he did not survive the war. Rayzen, however, was killed not by the Nazis but the by Soviets, after the Red Army invaded Lithuania in 1940.

Brent, a pioneering historian of the Soviet Union who was responsible for the opening of many Soviet archives after 1989, wanted to emphasize the fact that the Soviet Union—for generations a lodestar of Jewish leftists—was in fact a deadly enemy of Jewish culture. Stalin, whose Red Army defeated Hitler and thus saved the lives of millions of Jews, was also a paranoid anti-Semite, who when he died was preparing a mass purge and deportation of Soviet Jews, under the cover of the so-called “Doctors’ Plot.”

There remains to this day a tendency on the Jewish left to take pride in, or at least indulge, the history of Jewish admiration of Communism. Jewish Communists are more often defended as misguided idealists than condemned as accomplices of a murderous totalitarianism. At “Jews and the Left,” however, speaker after speaker agreed that the embrace of Communism by many Jews was a moral disaster. Mendelsohn spoke for many when he declared, “I am not feeling particularly forgiving of Jews who joined the Communist movement.”

If the historical Jewish association with the left has become a source of such profound doubt, it is possibly because the current relationship between Jews and the left is so troubled. One reason for that trouble, of course, is the State of Israel, which over the last 10 years has become the target of automatic condemnation and outright hostility on the left. Ronald Radosh, the author of a recent book about Harry Truman’s role in the creation of Israel, noted that this represents a historical irony, since “Israel couldn’t have been created without the support of the American left.” In particular, Radosh focused on the contributions of the radical journalist I.F. Stone and the Nation editor Freda Kirchwey to the postwar debate over the creation of the Jewish state, noting that by 1948 The Nation had become a “mouthpiece of Zionism.” As Israel has morphed in the leftist imagination from a brave socialist outpost to an imperialist colonizer—a view shared, in what was easily the conference’s most provocative talk, by the Israeli leftist Yoav Peled—this early history has been almost totally forgotten.

Mitchell Cohen, who as co-editor of Dissent has bravely held out against this trend, began the first day of the conference with a presentation on “Anti-Semitism and Anti-Zionism on the Left,” in which he toured a horizon all too familiar to most of the attendees. “Does the left have a Zionist problem? Yes,” Cohen declared, going on to quote anti-Zionist and quasi-anti-Semitic statements by luminaries such as the American Jewish literary theorist Judith Butler, who has spoken indulgently about Hamas and Hezbollah, and the leading French philosopher Alain Badiou, who as Cohen put it is “obsessed with Jews and Israel.”

Cohen deftly united the two themes of the conference by arguing that the part of the left that is currently anti-Zionist is the same part that “hasn’t learned from the twentieth century”: that is, the left that still indulges in nostalgic reveries about Communism and revolution. On this view, the struggle over left attitudes to Israel carries on an ancient struggle for the soul of the left, which has always vacillated between hostility to Jews, as symbols of the capitalist order, and defense of Jews, as victims of reactionary anti-Semitism. In his speech, the British Marx scholar Norman Geras traced this dualism back to Karl Marx—specifically to Marx’s notorious essay “On the Jewish Question,” which is full of the most vile anti-Semitism, calling Judaism a religion of money and bargaining, and calling for the emancipation of mankind from Judaism. Yet in the same essay, Marx also called for national liberation and self-determination, a call that historically attracted many Jews to the banner of the left.

The problem for the left today is that it has gone over largely—but not, Geras and others insisted, wholly—to the negative view of Judaism as an obstacle to human progress. Israel, Geras held, “has been an alibi for a new climate of anti-Semitism on the left,” a development whose full venomousness can only be seen in Europe. (“I don’t think people here realize,” he said mournfully, “what it’s like to be a Jewish leftist in Britain today,” comparing it to living in a sea of poison.) This is the atmosphere that the Anglo-Jewish novelist Howard Jacobson evoked so powerfully in his recent novel The Finkler Question: one in which hostility to Israel is a reflex and insinuations about Jewish power and the “Jewish lobby” go unchallenged.

If the left in Europe and, increasingly, the United States is so hospitable to anti-Zionist and anti-Semitic ideas, what does that mean for the future of “Jews and the Left”? Michael Walzer explained the historical Jewish affinity for the left as a straightforward matter: “We have supported the people who support us.” The historical insights of the “Jews and the Left” conference suggested that things were never so simple—or mutual. So, when that basic equation no longer holds—if the left are no longer “the people who support us”—will we continue to support them? The “rising generation” of the left will contain its share of Jews, maybe even more than its share; but whether it will be a Jewish left, as it was in the past, is very much in doubt.


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julis123 says:

Jews aren’t stupid, and have seen the left ally themselves with the Islamist groups that support  xenophobia, oppression of women, hatred of gays and religious dictatorships, while vilifying the only country (Israel) in the Middle east that is supports democracy and tolerance.

    rocky2345 says:

    Don’t you have most of your points backwards? Newt Gingrich opposes gay rights, freedom of choice for women and panders after the religious Jewish vote. So do the other Republican candidates for president.

    Chances are, the children of the woman in the picture don’t particularly care about religion and may well have married non-Jewish spouses, if they married at all.

    It will be interesting to see how the religious Jewish vote goes in 2012. In 2008, over 90% of the votes cast in Kiryas Joel and New Square went for John McCain. But Republicans are now talking about slashing welfare programs such as food stamps and Medicaid and these two villages rank among the poorest communities in the US, according to the US census.

    The traditional Jewish left is dying because their children increasingly do not care about religion. Well maybe some like Mark Zuckerberg care about Buddhism. The new face of Jewish America is becoming increasingly poor and poorly educated. Instead of producing doctors, lawyers, dentists and accountants, religious Jews are increasingly raising children who are functionally illiterate in three languages, English, Hebrew and Yiddish.  


      johnr22 says:

      First of all, Romney has the nomination so what Gingrich and the rest of the far Right candidates want is irrelevant…just as irrelevant as Dennis Kucinich’s desires are to the Dem Party at this point.

      The fact is that the GOP establishment is fiscally conservative and socially moderate. Their challenge is to appeal to that part of the base that is socially conservative during campaigns…and to keep them from revolting once the GOP establishment is in power. In short, they throw them a few bones and basically ignore them.

      So, the issue for jews…and for all voters is…do you want to vote for a GOP that is correct on the fiscal issues? Or do you want to vote for a Dem candidate that makes you feel good, but whose policies are ruinous? Btw, nobody is talking about “slashing” the entitlements; they’re talking about reforming them so that they’re sustainable into the future…for the millenials. It’s the Dems who refuse to accept the CBO projections and refuse to deal with the utterly unsustainable trajectory of entitlement stpending.

        rocky2345 says:

        When the Republicans are capable of running on a non-religious platform, I will consider voting for them. During the past decade, the Republicans certainly have not been correct on the fiscal issues. Their children and grandchildren will pay the price for all the tax cuts. The Republicans have in fact proposed slashing food stamps and Medicaid. It will be up to Hasidic Jews to decide whether they want to enter the 21st century or stay in the 18th century as far as family planning goes.   

          dan taylor says:

          taxes were too damn high and they still our…our children will not pay a price for cuts in taxes but astronomical rises in govt spending…..4 years of commie obumer has created more debt than any potus has in 4 years…..yes bush is close but obumer has him beat in only 4 years..
          stop the spending, cut entitlements, stop giving money away for lazy bastards to sit at home all day and go to a flat tax…we all benefit and i can give a rats ass if someone who is rich saves on taxes.  It is a liberal lie that the bush tax cuts only benefited the rich — everyone who actually works benefited.

      taek1 says:

      Is it fair to the yet unborn, for us to give food stamps and other entitlements to the living and condemn them to pay for it
      Is it fair that we let people go into housing they could not afford only to have the housing market collapse on the backs of the people who paid and worked for their houses. 
      Is it fair that some people work 2 jobs in order to have others stay at home collecting welfare checks
      Is it fair that we have an economy that provides unemployment but cannot provide jobs for people who want and deserve the dignity of having a paying job

      Instead of passing a better life and some small amount of money to our grandchildren we are now selfishly living of their future labors. We are also selfishly consuming cheap goods on the backs of Chinese and other nations who employ people without any entitlements whatsoever.

      No, none of it is fair.  But that’s life and who ever told us life was fair. 

        rocky2345 says:

        Well, you and I agree that life is not fair.

        barryclinton says:

        Ha ha, food stamps are way, way more likely to make a fat person fatter than they are to save someone from hunger (let alone starvation, which is virtually non-existent in the US).

      zackdoc says:

       Well Adolf, thanks for your ill-informed & pungently familiar misinformation.
       Fact is the Reform Movement which has long been an activist arm of the Liberals is losing their adherents to more religious Conservative & Orthodox streams. Their values are intrinsically more conservative and resonate more with GOP positions. As for your “functionally illiterate” remark, we still lead ALL the other Nations in the world in Nobel prizes for science & medicine, innovations in every area of endeavor- secular AND sacred. I’m an orthodox Jew, a practicing physician & a Vietnam veteran. So eat your heart out.

        rocky2345 says:

        The Nobel Prizes are not being won by Hasidic Jews. Chaim Levin left a Hasidic yeshiva at the age of 17 with the equivalent of a grade 3 secular education. You can read his posts at Huffington Post. The poverty numbers of Kiryas Joel and New Square speak for themselves.

          They aren’t won by Jews of Middle Eastern descent, either.  Any bragging about the disproportionate number of Jewish laureates is white supremacy, no more, no less.

          Jojo Lolo says:

          Well Ashkenazim are still 75-80% of all Jews. And there have been Sefaradic Nobel winners like Prof Cohen Tannoudji.

          Tannoudji and Baruj Benacerraf are the only laureates of Sephardic background.  And there are no winners from the Levant, period.  When contrasting Jews and Arabs’ worth to humanity based on Nobel prizes, do Mideastern Jews fall into the Jewish or Arab column?

          Jojo Lolo says:

          You forgot Elias Canetti, Emilio Segre and, I think, Franco Modigliani – all Sefaradi Jews.
          There are 300 millions Arabs and 3 millions Sefaradic and Oriental Jews, and there have been only 2 Arab Nobel laureates – one of them American – I am not including the Peace Prize of course.So that gives you an idea.

          Sorry, my point should be modified to read only two laureates of Sephardic background from North Africa.  My mistake.

          In any case, it’s obvious that Europeans and Americans have a disproportionate advantage over the rest of the world in winning Nobel Prizes.

      barryclinton says:

      Jews are supposed to like abortion, in which a little boy or girl is torn to shreds in his or her mother’s womb? And are we supposed to use euphemisms like “freedom of choice”? Sheesh, gimme a break.

        rocky2345 says:

         Well, when the Republicans cut government handouts (food stamps, Medicaid, Section 8 housing vouchers), religious Jews may want to re-think how many children they have.  Have you been following Congressman Ryan’s budget proposals in the House?

    Joseph Nerenberg says:

     Jews aren’t stupid, but Leftists sure are.

      corey949 says:

      People are stupid. People are brilliant. People are leftists or vegetarian or sports fans or murderers or saints. You pay your money and you pick your narrative.

         True in general, but the Left seems obsessed with fighting obsolete wars while ignoring history.

          corey949 says:

          While the right seems obsessed with destroying the social contract and any chance for peace in this world.

          a great example of the disingenuous left, instead of promoting what they do best, they make up and distort. 

          hypnosifl says:

          In case you didn’t notice, this was just a tit-for-tat response to Keith’s comment “the Left seems obsessed with fighting obsolete wars while ignoring history”. Was Keith promoting what the Right does best with this comment?

          Also, do you really think corey949 is being “disingenuous” in the sense that he doesn’t actually believe that’s true about the Right? Even if you don’t think this is what the right is doing, there’s no reason to think the comment is any more disingenuous than Keith’s equally stark view.

          hypno, you’re confused by rhetoric. The essence of conservatism is an organic evolution based on history and its lessons rather than always trying to reconstruct the wheel. As for fighting obsolete wars, I was specifically referring to the archaic Leftist stereotype of conservatives as warmongers and robber barons.

          Anthony O'Neal says:


           The Left created a social contract based on Marxism, the right never accepted it. This is how the Left is divisive: they demand change and then whine that the right is polarizing when they don’t comply.

          corey949 says:

          I believe the notion of the social contract pre-dates Marx by a few years. But perhaps you prefer a world where life is “nasty, brutish and short.”. (Hobbes)

          Corey, You offer a false choice.   There are more options than Hobbes-ian savagery or a society where charity is coerced through taxation and declared ‘social justice’.

          dan taylor says:

          it is called independence…if a person cannot get off their ass and take care of their family they deserve  a brutish nasty life….as stated above ..frickin retard marxist…move to north korea for your paradise

          Total crap alert! Total crap alert!  You ruined a perfectly good thread with your MSDNC claptrap.

          zackdoc says:


          dan taylor says:

          any chance for peace in the world??? are you serious?  where have you been for the last 40 years of islamic terrorism and out right hostile actions from iran???  

          so in your hopy changy word as long as america does not protect herself and takes the knocks there is peace..but if america re-acts then there is no chance for world peace?  frickin retard — peace is a two game.

          put the kool-aid down and read history…not history as obumer and soror’s espouse but actual history.  

          Please enlighten me: what wars exactly were started and are currently waged by the left?

          mreed12 says:

          How old are you – 12?  Some samples:  Korea – Left, We just gave up & have spent money & lives there ever since. Cuba – Left, We just gave up & embargoed. Viet Nam – Left, We just gave up, thank God.   Afghanistan – Left (bill clinton started that mess) and where are we now???   Funny you should even ask, considering our Great Killer In Chief Personally hunted down OBL and Kiiiilllled Hiiiim.  (Along with drone-murdering a few unconvicted US citizens on foreign soil.)  WarMongers!

    Eli Gottlieb says:

     Jews aren’t stupid, and have seen the Right ally themselves with Islamist groups and capitalists longing for the days of royal rule by Christian kings, while vilifying Israel as conspirators and Jews as Christ-fodder.

      Eli what are you talking about, the right allying with Muslims, please no one who can read will believe your schpeel, this is why the left has lost credibility. 

    dan taylor says:

    maybe not stupid but blind — the left has aligned with the enemies of freedom, ie radical islam, for many years yet still pander to and vote dimmicrats

    Potlemac says:

    Julis, Your comment “Islamist groups that support xenophobia, oppression of women, hatred of gays and religious dictatorships,” could very well describe orthodox Jews!
    True believers have historically been a hindrance to human progress.  It’s time to leave superstition and myths behind!

speak for yourself, mr walzer. the jewish left or leftist jews is alive and well everywhere that issues of social relevance exist.  the fight for justice, democracy, ethical behaviour goes on and there are jews involved in many of those fights. everywhere from argentina to france to russia to the usa and even, god forbid, israel. not every jew sees selfishness as a virtue.  not every jew thinks that the entire world, excluding some members of congress, bibi, and the evangelical christian movement, are jew haters. our struggle is bound up wit a world-wide struggle to end dictatorships and injustice , racism and religious and gender bias everywhere they exist; in syria, in iran, in the usa, and yes god forbid, even in israel. 

    surfer_dad says:


    BUT … I think this article hits at and misses a glaring point. WHY were Jews attracted to leftist ideals originally? Why ARE Jews feeling abandoned by those same ideals now?
    As a group, not individually of course.

    I tried reading Beinart’s book, and I think that is the sub-text of it is how do the values of the “left” (values I share of the most part) reflect realities on the ground? He skips over this much more rich and interesting topic and runs right at trying desperately to prove his pov with examples. Boring – I couldn’t finish it as hard as I tried, I knew what was coming next at every turn.

    It isn’t an absolutist argument. Just because the BDS movement ties every ill to Israel (and Jews) and neglects far worse atrocities in neighboring countries doesn’t make Israel’s wrongs ok. And visa versa of course.

    So the question remains, how does someone with general left views (unjustified inequalities exist which governments and other groups should try to “smooth out”) go from here? Jews (for the most part) are educated and worldy, we SEE the world and know BS from truth. Is there anyone out there on the far(ther) left who represents a pragmatic and generally fair view of the world?

    When there is, Jews will flock there again.

      adilkahir says:

      American Jews as a group have always been liberal on social issues, and they were once liberal on economic issues as well because the two are often presented together. This approach of lumping the two together just no longer makes sense for most Jews and so they can’t really participate in the ‘left’. The typical leftist economic argument that something structural prevents a group of poor people from achieving success just falls flat when looking at what the Jewish community in America has accomplished in the past 80 years. 

        johnr22 says:

        The argument also falls flat when you look at every single other immigrant community in the US. The fact is that the american Right is generally more correct on fiscal issues than the Left. The proof is in the history (american, european, asian).

        The exception to this case is black americans. Their lack of success is due to 250 years of slavery and jim crow. While I dislike affirmative action, I think it is necessary for american blacks and will continue to be necessary for some time yet. It depresses me to see voters swallow the Left’s marxism-lite economic theories because of the plight of blacks.

      Just because the BDS movement ties every ill to Israel (and Jews) and neglects far worse atrocities in neighboring countries doesn’t make Israel’s wrongs ok. 

      But it makes lying about Israel’s wrongs unethical and promoting the propaganda of Jew haters dangerous. 

        surfer_dad says:

        I don’t disagree. Even Norman Finkelstein(!!!) has realized that the BDS movement is really anti-Jewish and anti-Israel.

      The ‘Left’ was in part behind the so-called “Progressive” ideals of the enlightenement, which helped improve the life of the Jews in Europe during the 1800’s.  

      While Jews still faced persecution from those on the “Left” for many of the same reasons that they were persecuted by those on the “Right”, the left offered some hope for a supposed normal life beyond the Ghetto. 

      Couple that with the revolutionary movement of Communism that was attempting to fight the Czars in Russia, sent the Jews of Eastern Europe towards what they considered a safe haven. 

      But that same one-world idealism, still considered and considers, the desire and right of Jews to be their own people, an impediment to their own political utopian vision. 

    herbcaen says:

    If Ahmadinejad were the Democratic nominee for the presidency, and Joe Lieberman the Republican nomineee, Ahmadinejad would get between 50-60% of the Jewish vote. Ahmadinejad, when he visits New York, stays in hotels owned by the Pritzker family.

    adilkahir says:

    Richard, let’s be honest. The Left is alive everywhere issues of social relevance exist. Jews as individuals happen to be prominent in many of these causes. None of your causes – injustice, racism, religious or gender bias, are actually Jewish causes as you seem to imagine them. They are all just leftist causes that some Jews like.  Relax, there is nothing wrong with being involved in such causes as an individual, but try not to delude yourself that your sense of mission derives from some secret Jewish teaching known only to Jews on the left.

    REDDAVENYC says:

    Right on, bro!

conservprof says:

Thanks for the most brilliant and succinct essay written so far about what took place at the event. You rightfully zeroed in on the important questions raised by Michael Walzer, and I think reached the only possible conclusion- there can be no Jewish Left. Indeed, if you put this together with Walter Russell Mead’s essay at The American Interest on Occupy Wall Street, one has to conclude that the prospects for any Left in America are slim. 
Ron Radosh 

gwhepner says:



For liberal Jews tikkun olam

appears now to be

More insular than Abraham

in the Torah’s introduction,

Jews, turning into alte kockers,

with graying of their old ideals,

are largely turning into mockers

of former  tikkun olam deals,

messianism giving way

to pessimism, as they vote

Republican, and cast away

all semblances of Don Quixote.

They no longer, aging, tilt

at windmills with a leftist mind,

allowing their goodwill to wilt,

conservatively left behind

in their leftist past. The critics

regret the way they see them

and blame this on anti-Semitics

that causes them to give up

Who knows what’s right and what is
It’s hard to tell in this harsh world,

as Moses knew, put on the spot

when he two tablets harshly

“What was I thinking?” Moses

as he got rid of all the prin-

cipals he’d learnt while paying

to God, his focus turned to sin.

Gershon Hepner

dansblog says:

People take ideology way too seriously.  American Jews’ attraction to leftism during the first two-thirds of the twentieth century had nothing to do with “social justice”, let alone “revolution”–it was simply a convenient hook onto which secular-leaning, assimilationist Jews could hang their hopes for complete integration into their adopted homeland.  To a secular, Americanized Jew contemptuous of shtetl piety and quietism but nevertheless doomed to inescapable third-class minority status, the vision of fighting back alongside a universal brotherhood of areligious proletarian comrades was quite seductive.

Then, during the 1960s, the walls came tumbling down all over America, and Jews moved from pariah status into the mainstream–and even the pinnacles–of American society.  Any Jew was free to assimilate as little or as much as he or she pleased, with virtually no adverse consequences either way.  Plenty of secular Jews still crave complete assimilation, of course, and despise the particularism of religious Jews (and, now, Israel, which was once a symbol of Jewish secularism and normalization, and is now a symbol of preservation of Jewish identity and heritage).  But with the barriers to assimilation long gone, the old secular-leftist Jewish dream of assimilation through socialist revolution has become superfluous.     

    surfer_dad says:

    Wow, I couldn’t disagree with you more. 

    I don’t think it had to do with assimilation as much as a guilt complex associated with what it meant to be Jewish vs leftist ideals of pan-nationalism. 
    People came from impoverished backgrounds, saw themselves and other immigrants treated as garbage and fodder for economic interests, hung their hopes on a new and promising political philosophy. It isn’t that hard.

      adilkahir says:

      You are only partially disagreeing with him. Even if we accept your position, it really isn’t that hard to demonstrate that the economic motivations of Jews to participate in leftist political discourse are gone.

        surfer_dad says:

        I think you’re making the mistake of equating Euro-style far leftism with voting Democratic.

        I don’t disagree that there was a Jewish element that was attracted to far leftism BECAUSE (or at least partially because) of Rabbinical authority and Jewish exclusivism. I’ve certainly seen it.
        I think that is very different than assimilation.

        I also don’t buy that anyone makes short term choices solely on economic interests. 
        If Republicans will lower my taxes (we make more than $250k/year), what does that cost further down the road? What protections will I have to buy to protect the have from the have nots? 
        Maybe I’m willing to pay more taxes for universal healthcare, better infrastructure and better schools? Maybe I’ve made the calculation that in the long run, it’s in my $ interest to better society rather than pocket a few more thousand dollars?

        That’s MY motivation to vote Democratic. In US politics it’s mostly emphasis, very little is different when each party is in power. But MY emphasis is on more personal freedom (abortion & gay rights), less military spending, better infrastructure.
        You can disagree, but I don’t think these are “far left” ideals in ANY way.

          adilkahir says:

          surfer, I agree there is a difference between voting Democratic and aligning with the economic far Left. In practice there is a major difference between being socially liberal and economically socialist. In the past, for many Jews, the two were aligned, but that is no longer sustainable since for most Jews socialism as promoted by the socialist left is just nuts.

    johnr22 says:

    I agree with your post, but perhaps you underestimate the influence of jewish culture.

    IMO jewish culture does exist…it was formed over thousands of years in diaspora and I don’t believe american jewish immigrants…or anyone for that matter…can shrug off imbedded culture in a few generations.

    It seems logical that a community in diaspora would develop a complex culture, but one that had a strong strain of collectivism; watching out for each other in the face of anti-semitism and abuse. If this is the case, it makes sense that jews would be instinctively supportive of the Left which is based almost entirely on collectivism.

bertglass says:

Jews and everybody else may have left the revolutionary left.  78% of Jews voted for Barack Obama in 2008.  The liberal tradition is alive and well.

    surfer_dad says:

    Are we talking about two different things? Is embracing a far left ideal (BDS, Communism, Maoism, etc) the same as voting for Obama??

    I voted for Obama because I thought (and still think) the Republican message of business having our best interest at heart plus less regulation (and taxes) somehow levels the playing field for everyone while hypocritically calling for rules AGAINST people for lifestyle choices (being gay).

    It has nothing to do with some far fetched tie in to Socialism/Communism/whatever nut bag conspiracy theory is out there. I think the vast majority of Jews who voted for Obama feel the same way.

    btw, the % of Jews who voted for Obama mirrors almost exactly the % of college graduates who voted for Obama.

      hsaper says:

      Where did you ever get the absurd idea that Obama’s Jewish vote was the same as the college educated vote? Not even close.  Obama got 53% of the college educated vote and 47% of the white colllege educated vote, showing how out of tune Jewish voters were, how much further to the left. 78% of Jews voted for The One.  Obama got his largest percentage of the vote from those without a high school education, 67%.  He also got a large vote (and a lot of money) from the wealthy, Wall Street types.
      This article was excellent.  It is still an open question whether or not Jews will change their voting pattern.  It surely will take a while because too many secular and semi-secular Jews are addicted to liberalism as a substitute religion.  To paraphrase Marx, it is their opiate.  The 100 million plus people murdered by the left, unfortunately, means nothing when you become convinced that the left stands for justice, equality and all the good things and that anyone who opposes the left is equivalent to the Czar, a reactionary.  People can’t seem to understand that the left speaks in empty phrases that do not mean what the listener or reader thinks they mean.  Just say “equality” and jump to attention. This appendix has to be taken out. 
      The unquestioning faith in the government to fix everything that is wrong with the world is ironic, don’t you think, coming from a people who fled the Czars of Russia? Vote for Obama so he can appoint pint-sized czars.  Liberalism is the side that is reactionary. It is liberals who want to classify everyone by their group “identity”, and nothing is more backward looking that this.  The individual must be repressed for the sake of the abstract group.  Any black conservative is demonized while the Jacksons and the Sharptons are uplifted.  Israel is demonized, in part, because they are no longer a quasi-socialist state, and that is unforgivable for the left. 

        surfer_dad says:

        It doesn’t say anything about voting patterns because no mater how much the right tries to portray as some kind of left wing nut, he’s pretty centrist.

        You’re right about college graduates though, I think I’m remembering a smaller poll in my vicinity.
        Obama had the highest percentage at the lowest rung of education, but ALSO 58% of post-graduates …  something you forgot. ;)

        Oh, and 52% of those making over $200k/year. 

        Look at the NYTimes page. They have exit polls from 1980-2008
        By 4 years, Jewish voters voted for the Democratic Pres candidate 45%, 67%, 64%, 80%, 78%, 79%, 74%, and back to 78%

          hsaper says:

          Nothing there contradicts what I wrote. We agree that Obama got more money from the rich.  In fact, most of the Wall Streeters and bankers, some Jewish, some not, gave to Obama.  Darn near everyone from Goldman Sachs gave to Obama.  Jon Corzine was (and still is) a bundler for Obama.  They are liberal left, and they want to feel good about themselves, having made all those millions.  What better way for capitalists to get that self-satisfaction than do drop some pennies in the pockets of the liberal political party. Imagine making all that money and considering yourself to be on the side of the little guy.  Obama plays them like a violin, and only recently have some of them begun to have second thoughts.  They are now in a tough bind. Go with their material self-interest, or look good to others and feel good about themselves by coughing up more money for Obama.  My heart bleeds for those poor liberals fighting the good fight.
          It would be good for the souls of those Jews (and others, of course) caught in that bind to stop being hypocrits.  Maybe they can change jobs and become good teachers.  Lord knows, we need them.  And they would get the spiritual satisfaction of teaching their students about those 100 million people murdered by the left, about leftist anti-Semitism, and about the left’s alliance with radical Islam.

          surfer_dad says:

          “We agree that Obama got more money from the rich.”
          No we don’t necessarily. 
          52% of the “rich” VOTED for Obama. By your estimation anyone other than poor blacks who voted for Obama did it to “feel good about themselves?”

          You’re talking US politics (and using the language that turns off so many to the right). The article is about something much deeper than that, something beyond name calling and gross generalizations and much more interesting.

          hsaper says:

          Now you put words into my mouth.  I clearly was talking about the weathy finance guys who gave heavily to Obama.  Obama actually got more than 52% of the money given by those folks, far more.  Isn’t that of interest?  Is it so hard to interpret? Of course, what I said doesn’t apply to every left wing financial operator who gives to left wing causes, but to most.  If they truly believed the left wing view, they would not be in that business.  You don’t seem to get the irony of these multimillionaire capitalists giving big money to an anti-capitalist.  Liberals want to regulate the economy as much as they possibley can, and the ones who benefit from that are those who are big because they can afford it.  The little guy, including the customer, gets killed by all this regulation.  If that’s a horrible right wing thing to say, so be it.

          And yes, the article talks about other things as well.  As I said, a very good article.  And I added something very specific to it. I did no name calling. Please do not put words into my mouth.  We see too much of that on the internet.

          surfer_dad says:

          “You don’t seem to get the irony of these multimillionaire capitalists giving big money to an anti-capitalist.”
          No, I see the clear error in logic that Obama is some kind of “anti-capitalist.”

        Jacob Arnon says:

         ” It surely will take a while because too many secular and semi-secular Jews are addicted to liberalism as a substitute religion.  To paraphrase Marx, it is their opiate.” 

        Not my opiate, I don’t need opiates. I did not vote for Obama the first time, though I will do so now.  (I didn’t cast a vote for President.)

        Then he was an unknown quantity, now he has done some thinks that I approve of including health care and his going after Bin Laden and more importantly his support for Israel. 

        I don’t see Obama as a leftist. I liberal yes, a leftist no. He is no Chavez. To say so is either dishonest or just plain stupid. 

        hypnosifl says:

        There are some other interesting statistics here on the fraction of voters with different religious beliefs who voted for Obama. Overall Jews are actually not that far from the norm among non-Christians: 78% of Jews voted for Obama, which is only slightly higher than the 75% of Obama voters who said they had no religious affiliation, and the 73% who identified as “other” (not Christian or Jewish). If you look only at whites it’s a little less even, self-identified white Jews voted 83% for Obama while non-religious whites voted 71% for him and whites who chose “other” for their religion voted 67% for him. Still it’s clear that any way you slice it, non-Christians are very strongly Democratic.

          hsaper says:

          So who are the non-Christian and non-Jewish voters?  They have to be mostly Muslims.  So Jews voted like the atheists (75% for Obama) and Muslims.  Milton Himmelfarb once said that Jews earned like Episcopalians and voted like Hispanics.  Apparently they vote like Muslims and atheists, too.  Jews voted for Obama by 11 points more than even Hispanics.  It is all quite bizarre.  That is why I said that it was like an addiction, a hangover from the past. The world has changed, but too many people don’t notice.  The evolution of mankind has proceded in the direction of the development of the individual.  The collective is very old and anyone who looks back to that, as the left still does, is a reactionary and an oppressor.  They oppress the individual.

          hypnosifl says:

          “They have to be mostly Muslims.”

          Nope, according to this Pew survey, a larger percentage of the U.S. population is Buddhist (0.7%) than Muslim (0.6%), and Hindus account for 0.4% while 1.2% identify themselves as belonging to “other faiths” (including Unitarians who don’t consider themselves Christian, “New Age” religions, and Native American faiths).

          “That is why I said that it was like an addiction, a hangover from the past. The world has changed, but too many people don’t notice.  The evolution of mankind has proceded in the direction of the development of the individual.  The collective is very old and anyone who looks back to that, as the left still does, is a reactionary and an oppressor.  They oppress the individual.”

          One thing about conservatives is that they tend to see the world in very black-and-white, good vs. evil terms, much like your manichean view of those who believe “the collective” vs. those who believe in “the individual.” Isn’t this tendency towards simplistic “us vs. them” thinking itself more of a hangover from the tribalistic past? If one prefers to evaluate different political policies in a rational, nuanced way, seeing policies less in moralistic terms or in terms of what “side” they take in some imagined great struggle of the modern age, and instead evaluating them on a more case-by-case basis in terms of what their likely effects on society would be (and trying, in a roughly utilitarian way, to pick policies that will produce the best outcome for the most people instead of a more moralistic approach where the primary concern is to reward the “good” and punish the “bad”, regardless of what the practical effects of such policies will be), then in the modern U.S. one is almost certain to be a Democrat (which is not to say that most Democrats actually take this sort of Mr. Spock like approach to thinking about political issues, just that the Democratic party is a much better home for such thinkers). Why do you think atheists overwhelmingly side with Democrats, how is that supposed to make sense in terms of your theory that liberals are stuck in the tribalistic past? You think Christians in the U.S., the majority of whom don’t even believe in evolution, are the ones who are on the cutting edge of “the evolution of mankind” while rationalistic atheists and agnostics are the ones who are “a hangover from the past”?

          There’s an interesting political science thesis here that presents evidence that the classic left/right divide in politics actually has its root in differences in cognitive styles, with conservatives having more of a tendency to divide the world into rigid, absolute categories, and liberals tending to see things in more nuanced, “fuzzy” terms (see in particular the discussion starting on p. 11 of the thesis, or p. 16 of the pdf file). The account looks pretty plausible to me. As the author writes on p. 15 (p. 20 of the pdf):

          “The direct deliberational style of strong categorizers could, for example, produce the individualism and the tightly-woven reward-and-punishment concepts that characterize fiscal and tough-minded conservatism. Effort should bring equal reward, a mistake should bring commensurate punishment; and government intervention should not undo the logically, almost mathematically undeniable justice wrought by the natural connection between action and reaction, either by taxing away deserved winnings or by doling out undeserved assistance, by erecting pointless barriers to productivity in the form of regulations, or by attempting to “rehabilitate” criminals who’ve proven to anyone willing to look squarely at what they’ve done that they’re categorically wicked. Blatherings about social forces causing outcomes, children’s differential life chances, and even the common good sound suspiciously like attempts to bring irrelevant considerations to bear on problems that aren’t very difficult to analyze if we’re willing to “take our emotions out of the equation.” These liberal pleas are motivating excuses for an illogical and unfair, hidden, and liberal political agenda.

          Weak categorization should produce, relatively, a looser kind of logical operations: linear effort-and-reward analyses holding isolated transactions as the sole unit of analysis simply don’t look like comprehensive or even accurate descriptions of what happens when people engage in economic or any form of communal activity. Social and economic transactions do not even appear—not even at first glance—as occurring between two people; rather, they appear connected to the society as a whole—they may even “feel” to a thinker as though they’re connected to forces of which the thinker is not quite consciously aware. Problems cannot be analyzed mechanically, and reducing problems to desert-and reward-type considerations sounds less like getting down to what’s really and obviously important than like oversimplification in service to a hidden conservative agenda. And emotions may feel less like distractions from the logic that accurately describes the world and more like relevant information that is simply difficult to describe. We will see, as this story unfolds, that there is indeed evidence that such a variance in deliberative style is related to categorization and may help produce conservative and liberal opinion formation—especially of the secular varieties.”

          hsaper says:

          Ah, yes.  Nuanced.  Liberals think of themselves as “nuanced”, in contrast to those stupid conservatives who think only in black and white.  I have been around long enough to have subscribed for a period of years to The NY Times, Tne Nation, The New York Review of Books, The Washington Post, The New Republic, I F Stone’s Weekly, etc.  Note that the are all on the left.  I know liberal left views rather well. Been there.  Have you subscribed to the counterpart to The NY Review of Books, the Claremont Review?  If not, why not?  How about The New Criterion?  City Journal?  Have you even ever heard of these journals?  One problem liberals have is that they overwhelmingly live in their own bubble and spout what they read in their favored liberal media.  According to you, I must have been “nuanced”, but now I’m stupid.
          Even when you write about being utilitarian, you are off base. It is liberals who ignore the facts and do their expensive programs because they fit their ideology and make themselves feel superior.  For example, many studies have been about the trillion dollar Head Start program, and they show that the program is ineffective. So what do they want to do.  Make it bigger!  Always bigger. The answer is bigger and “better” government programs. Many of us now see the bankruptcy of the whole project.  If we voice that view, we are told we are cruel and mean, a way of avoiding the facts and the issues.
          Also, I didn’t say anything about and “us vs them”.  I was merely descriptive that there is one side that thinks collectively and another that is more individualistic.  There are areas where they blur and some people are a mix, probably most.  Those who think in terms of the group are mostly on the left.  You are black, white, male, female, gay male, lesbian, transgendered, Hispanic, and on and on.  Again, this is descriptive.  My opinion is that this is reactionary.  It is not a healthy way to look at people, and it is often done to gain more political power, making it even more unsavory.  If you disagree, fine. But don’t mischaracterize my view.  I agree with you that individuals should be judged on a case by case basis, but this is not what the left encourages. This should be obvious, but apparently isn’t.

          Andrea says:

          Liberals are unfamiliar with conservative views.  Their impugning conservatives as “ignorant”, in fact, demonstrates their own ignorance.  

          Instead of being enlightened and thoughtful, they appear ignorant and uninformed.  They just don’t realize it.

          Andrea says:

          Liberals are unfamiliar with conservative views.  Their impugning conservatives as “ignorant”, in fact, demonstrates their own ignorance.  

          Instead of being enlightened and thoughtful, they appear ignorant and uninformed.  They just don’t realize it.

      Eli Gottlieb says:

       BDS is a far-right ideal: Arabs, Arabs, uber alles.

abarafi says:

It is interesting that Jews descended from eastern European Jews were most prone to leftist ideology. Before they came to America’s shores, their German counterparts were already here and brought with them their reform and conservative Judaism and a desire to assimilate. Within a generation or two the children of these shtetl Jews became the intelligentsia of America, and for a while, they continued to flirt with leftist ideology. Some of the Jews of Russia saw in communism a liberation of sorts of the heavy discrimination imposed on them by the Czars. But the Jews who embraced communism, like Trotsky, saw their Jewishness as an impediment and disdained it. So in the run up to World War II, the White Russians blamed the Jews for communism; and the communists saw the Jews as an embarrassment. Jews couldn’t win for losing. In the U.S., Jews were discriminated against, too, but there was nothing institutional about it, no laws in the Constitution, just prejudice carried out in local fashion. So, it was natural for Jews in the early 20th century to feel some kinship with other downtrodden Americans – laborers, blacks, etc. Interestingly, as Jews became more affluent, they still retained their empathy for the downtrodden. But it was the left-wing embrace of the anti-Israel hordes that have pushed leftist Jews away. Those who remain are like the Jews under the Czars who sublimated their religious underpinnings and tried to replace them with universalist ideals. The problem was, and still remains, that giving up one’s Jewishness in the interest of universalist ideals does not innur one from those who see Jews as a race, not a religious group. Hitler and his Nazis didn’t care if you went to shul or a Lutheran church. The communists didn’t care either. Most Jews still have a soft spot in their hearts for those less fortunate but they are not so willing to buy into today’s leftist ideology that paints Israel – the only country in its region that tolerates homosexuality, is democratic, has a free press – as the bad guy in the region while supporting the likes of Hamas and Hezbollah. At face value, it makes no sense. It only begins to make sense when you factor “Jew” into the equation.

herbcaen says:

Leftism today is identical to mild cognitive impairment (an Alzheimers precursor). Just like people with Alzheimers might wander onto busy expressways, leftists seek shelter with regimes that kill gays (Iran), are theocrats (Hezbollah), and kill civilians yet are deemed reformers (Assad). It is like Stalins purges (If only Stalin knew what was really going on).

    hypnosifl says:

    Cognitive impairment would be the inability to comprehend the actual beliefs of people with different political positions than you and explain what you think is wrong with those beliefs, as opposed to just demonizing leftists and living in a delusional fantasy world where it is a “leftist” position to support Iran, Hezbollah, and Assad (hint: not thinking it’s the best strategic idea to start a war with some regime is not the same as supporting or “seeking shelter with” that regime). 

      johnr22 says:

      Well, he’s not completely wrong. There was an article out last month from a non-partisan think tank (or maybe it was a university study) that concluded that conservatives have a pretty clear idea of what the Left is about, but that Leftists cannot comprehend how conservatives think. This implies conservatives have a better grasp of reality than Leftists.
      That said, I reject anyone calling people brain-damaged (e.g. alzheimers) because they have different political view.

        hypnosifl says:

        Probably you’re thinking of the study discussed here–if so, you’re interpreting it far too broadly. The survey was done by a psychologist named Jonathan Haidt, and was based on his research into broad categories of moral thinking–basically, he had tested many people on an array of moral questions and used statistical techniques like factor analysis to predict moral opinions based on a small number of variables. He ended up settling on five main variables which predicted people’s moral opinions pretty well, and based on how these variables were associated with test responses, he gave them labels, which wikipedia summarizes as follows:

        1. Care for others, protecting them from harm. (He also referred to this dimension as Harm.)2. Fairness, Justice, treating others equally.3. Loyalty to your group, family, nation. (He also referred to this dimension as Ingroup.)4. Respect for tradition and legitimate authority. (He also referred to this dimension as Authority.)5. Purity or Sanctity, avoiding disgusting things, foods, actions

        (I would add that #5 also involves avoiding actions that are seen as sacriligious/blasphemous, like the Muslim belief that no one should ever draw a depiction of Muhammad, or the belief of many patriots that burning their country’s flag shouldn’t be allowed as free speech).

        He also found that when he looked at people’s score for each variable and compared with their political beliefs, a strong pattern emerged, as illustrated by the graph on this page: the more liberal you are, the more that your moral reasoning is exclusively based on categories 1 and 2, while the more conservative you are, the more you draw on categories 3,4,5. Note that 1 and 2 make more sense if you have more of a “universalist” approach to morality where you treat everyone as an individual, while 3,4,5 are good for enforcing the norms of a particular culture, tribe, religion etc…in fact Haidt refers to 1 and 2 as “individualizing” concerns while 3,4,5 are group “binding values”. So in the most recent study, he tested liberals and conservatives for their ability to imagine how others would think about moral questions, and found (not surprisingly) that conservatives were better at imagining what it would be like to think solely in terms of 1 and 2 (not surprising since they do draw on these moral categories) while liberals weren’t as good at imagining what it would be like to think in terms of 3, 4, and 5 (again not that surprising since they hardly use them normally).

        But none of this indicates anything about each group’s understanding of the other’s positions on more specific issues, as opposed to broad moral categories. For instance, perhaps herbcaen would understand that liberals worry about Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians because of the fact that the occupation creates so much suffering or because it seems unjust for such a huge group of people to permanently live under occupation without their own government, but if he actually believes this means liberals support Iran, Hezbollah and Assad, he is completely delusional.

    IAintNoPushOver says:

     I think it would be amazing if all leftists would go live in those countries they love so much.  The beauty of it is that they wouldn’t be returning, because they would be shot by the Islamists and the Assads.

I thought it was mostly Christians who confused Judaism with “the bible” but apparently there is no shortage of Jews busy making that same silly error.    “Judaism”, if such a thing can be said to have a coherent modern meaning, is Rabbinic Judaism (and its modern offshoots), and Rabbinic Judaism is Talmudic Judaism, which is a reframing of what it means to be a Jew in the late Second Temple and post Hurban HaBayit period and a way of reading the bible to support that reframing, which begins in the Mishnah.    The Mishna and Gemara are Judaism – Torah and the bible are its referents.   The soul weight and the intellectual weight of Jewishness in the modern sense begins there.

So is Rabbinic Judaism “leftist” in any meaningful sense?   There are arguments to be had in both directions.  But is even THAT the right question?  Because much of the common people of Eastern Europe had an ambivalent relationship to Rabbinic authority as it came down over centuries.   They practiced the traditional ways, were guided by local Rabbis and more distant authorities, but they also existed in tension with the Rabbinic establishment, AND in tension with the larger Christian world.   In short even identifying Rabbinic thought as the true core of Jewish experience misses the gap between the world of scholars and the world of life experienced by ordinary Jews of Eastern Europe.
Jewish leftism is a popular response to Goyish oppression in Russia, Poland and elsewhere.  It is also a response to Rabbinic oppression expressed through strictures that were partially embraced… but also rejected, ignored, and worn smooth by practice.  

Jewish leftism is based in the memory of the lived cultural experience of Jews in poverty and deprived civil rights for hundreds of years.  That’s what forms the soul of Jewish leftism.  Rabbis were sometimes part of the oppressive structures that Jews were trying to escape.   There is no appealing to them as the exclusive definition of what Jews ought to think to be authentic, although the case for appealing to them is considerably stronger than appeals to the prophets or the Torah.  It’s what they thought about the Tanaq that matters, not what Tanaq says.

So even Rabbinic thought which, unlike “the bible”, is the authentic philosophical expression of Judaism, is not necessarily the authentic expression of the cultural knowledge of the Jews as a people across historical time in recent centuries.  It is that cultural experience which makes Jewish leftism authentic, and in it even the Rabbis are sometimes the problem and the oppressors, not the voices of authentic Jewishness.   Arguably we can see that with blinding clarity in modern Israel.   

Jews know what it is like to be an excluded minority, or did until recently.  It was essential to the Jewish experience.    It kept us, some of us, alive to the pain of others.  Unfortunately modern Israel with its Jewish majority, and modern America with its open arms, are bringing us further and further from the soul memories of suffering and poverty.  And the ability of Rabbinic Judaism to keep us in touch with that reality (“behold, this is the bread of affliction… all who are hungry come and eat….”, “let each person see himself/herself as having come out of Mitzrayim” ) may be fading, while in Israel the ultraorthodox do their best to drive people away and demonstrate that Judaism is not a friend of the oppressed. (I reject their efforts, but most will accept them at face value.)     

The loss of connection with the oppression that enabled us to sympathize with the oppressed is the loss of our own historical authenticity.    Our cultural experience was our authenticity, not the writings and poskei din of Rabbis, which were sometimes with the common people, and sometimes against us.   

Just as Mitzrayim was the occasion of revelation, so also Eastern Europe as a cultural experience was the place of many centuries of authentic lived revelation.   To dismiss that experience which made so many Jews leftists and left leaning and to identify with the poor and oppressed is to miss … dare I say it?  God’s voice in history.

    gwhepner says:

    I love YoDoe’s comment. It’s certainly not about the Bible, stupid. It’s not even about the Talmud (not so stupid). It’s about European history, mainly East European but not exclusively.  I love the improbably but poetic conclusion that this is “God’s voice in history.”  Unfortunately, while YoDoe hears it, Walzer suffers from resounding deafness.

    Gershon Hepner

    mouskatel says:

    Thanks YoDoe. You can also sum it up with לא בשמים היא. Seriously? Even many Reform Jews know that line.  I’m not sure how a great thinker like Walzer can miss that one.

    adilkahir says:

    Yep, a typical response of people who think Judaism is some kind universal message of sympathy for various left-wing causes, rather than a religion of a nation striving to survive. Jewish leftism is dying because its adherents are more interested in being leftists, than being Jews. The missing piece in your logic is the belief that the Eastern European Jews that embraced leftism were doing it out of their Judaism. They weren’t. They were doing it out of a rejection of Judaism and a desire to partake in universalist crusades (communism, socialism) that they believed would let them permanently renounce their roots and assimilate into the new and better progressive world.

      Not exactly adilkahir.   I was attempting to distinguish between “Judaism” and the experience of the Jewish people in history.   The question raised by the article, to me, is whether leftist ways are somehow alien to Jewishness.   That is debatable, given the many communal values that are embodied in late Rabbinic Judaism, from sumptuary laws to communal governance to practices of tzadakah – from all of this you could make an argument for a more extended progressive social agenda – Rabbinic leftism.   

      But, admittedly, you could from other aspects of late Rabbinic thought construct an argument for a hyper-nationalist, capitalist world, although it is hard to see how you could not in the end conclude that unfettered capitalism, indifferent to communal values, is inimical to any reasonable interpretation of Rabbinic Judaism.   Still a case for capitalism, constrained by some community norms (aka, in a modern context, regulations) could certainly be made – call it regulated capitalism, if it pleases you.

      But all of that aside, I think you are wrong to locate Judaism, or perhaps we should say yiddishkiet, exclusively within the arba amot of Rabbinic thought and halacha.   My point is that the real lives of real Jews are authentic and holy.   The exodus isn’t just a text… it’s (we believe) something that happened to real people.   The Jewish people, qua ethnic group, qua living social reality, is real, and its experience there in the shtetle and in the last 300 years as the world moved into “modernity” can’t just be dismissed because most people didn’t live as religiously as they did at the Rabbi’s house.   Real Jewishness has always been much bigger than “Judaism” the texts, Judaism as law and oral tradition, or Judaism as shaila and tshuva.  It has been a communal reality.  And real Jews, living around the world, but perhaps particularly those in Eastern Europe, experienced holy Jewish history in a way that led them to develop a long lasting affinity with other oppressed peoples.  

      I don’t think we should be bothered much if common people developed a higher ethical intuition, a deeper and more universally focused political concern, than many Rabbis.  In fact, it might be something to be proud of.  It is most certainly an authentically Jewish, in a cultural sense, way of being, unless you choose to dismiss a few hundred years of Jewish experience as lived by ordinary Jews.   Beyond that sometimes the customs and beliefs of the people simply over-ride the fancy ideas of Rabbinic elites about the meaning of Torah and the will of the Creator… and deserve to do so.  Heck, sometimes a wise Rabbi will learn to discern in the text of Jewish history and experience, and in the ethical conscience of ordinary Jews, meanings and obligations that had not previously been seen in Torah.   We should be so lucky, and so blessed.

        Kathy Kattenburg says:

         YoDoe, I just want to thank you for your intelligence and thoughtfulness in this “discussion.” You said everything I wanted to say, but could not untangle and organize my thoughts enough to do as you did. Thank you.

        Kathy Kattenburg says:

         YoDoe, I just want to thank you for your intelligence and thoughtfulness in this “discussion.” You said everything I wanted to say, but could not untangle and organize my thoughts enough to do as you did. Thank you.

      johnr22 says:

      Yes, I’ve always found this interesting.

      Many jews in the early 20th century were ardent communists…in fact, many of the bolsheviks were jews. But…communism denies all religion, so how do jews square that circle? Seems like you can’t be a Leftist (or at least a hard Leftist) and still be a jew.

      IMO, jews…like so many…found the utopian message of communism so seductive that they were willing to sacrifice everything…literally everything…in a pathetic attempt to achieve the utopian dream.

        hypnosifl says:

        Judaism is an ethnicity and culture as well as a religion, there were and continue to be large numbers of non-communist Jews who don’t believe the religion (including, I think, the vast majority of Jews who made significant achievements in the sciences and the arts, like Einstein or Kafka), communism wasn’t responsible for causing them to “sacrifice” belief in a religion they didn’t take seriously to begin with. I think the Jewish respect for intellectualism and scholarship pretty much guarantees that large numbers of them will always be defecting from the religion, since it’s hard to accept traditional religious beliefs without rejecting large swathes of modern science and cultural trends.

          Daniel Ostroff says:

          You have not read or understood Kafka if you posit that he did not believe in Jewish religion. He struggled with it. One cannot grapple with something that is not relevant or real. (e.g. “Beyond the Law”)

          Granted, Einstein is a different story.

          hypnosifl says:

          One can struggle with the universal spiritual or mystical ideas one finds in a religious text without believing that this text is “divinely inspired” in a way that other texts (religious texts or otherwise) are not, which I would think is a precondition for being a “believer” in a particular religion. This article on Kafka and Judaism says:

          Kafka’s own beliefs are a matter of conjecture. When he was a boy one of his friends argued for the existence of God from design, that having a world without a God to create it was like a watch without a watchmaker. Kafka refuted this argument forcefully, and he seemed to be quite proud of this accomplishment. As a student, he went so far as to declare himself an atheist, and as an adult, he rarely went to temple and was definitely not a practicing Jew, even though elements of the culture interested him so strongly. On the other hand, as shown in the Blue Octavo Notebooks, he was quite interested by metaphysical questions of sin, Truth, and ultimate reality, writing intriguingly, “There is nothing besides a spiritual world; what we call the world of the senses is the Evil in the spiritual world, and what we call Evil is only the necessity of a moment in our eternal evolution.” Elaborating further, he went on, “The fact that there is nothing but a spiritual world deprives us of hope and gives us certainty.” Many commentators, most notably his best friend and biographer Max Brod, who was himself quite devout, see Kafka as a religious writer, holding, for example, that the object of K.’s quest, the Castle, is in fact God or divine love or eternal life. Whether this interpretation is justified or not has been fiercely debated, but it says a lot about Kafka’s sensibility that his works can be read in this way, even though they frequently seem completely bereft of hope of any kind, much less hope in a transcendent, religious sense.

        Anthony O'Neal says:

         “in fact, many of the bolsheviks were jews.”

        Nazi and fascist propaganda.

          5ftflirt says:

          No, they were. And I’m a Jewish conservative. But yeah, we were a large part of the left since day 1.

        RonL says:

         Many Jews did apostate themselves to the  atheist death cult, dedicated to the eradication of Judaism and Jewishness.

    This is a largely correct analysis especially in regard to the error of believing Judaism can be understood simply by reading the Bible. But I wonder if its final word is an accurate one. I don’t believe a major Jewish problem is lack of empathy with the suffering of others. In fact it may well be that part of our problem is exaggerated empathy with the suffering of others, to the point that we mistakenly and overgenerously interpret their good will and intentions. The example of course is clear the tremendous indulgence a great share of the Israeli public has shown in excusing violent actions and intentions on the part of those who would destroy Israel.
    I would also point out that Israel and the Jewish people today are far from being free of suffering. I do not know if that is the right word exactly to the feeling one has when one is repeatedly demonized, and one’s very existence is threatened. Israeli Jews anyway are not living in a world where all is sweetness and light, the fat of the land.  Israelis are too far more than any people of comparable size extremely generous in going out toward helping others in times of crisis and emergency.
    One more point. Much of what comes from the Left these days in regard to Israel is slander and defamation. Why would self- respecting Jews wish to ally with those who seek at every turn to undermine the Jewish people?
    Compassion and Kindness are not the unique preserve of the Left. Our Torah commanded us to practice these virtues long before we knew there was a ‘Left’ in the world.
    We can be true to our best Tradition and to ourselves by being neither Left nor Right politically but rather decent responsible Jews and human beings.

      I guess we’ll have to part company on the question of the state of Jewish empathy, particularly as it is expressed through political affiliations and beliefs.   Familiarity with the political preferences of Israelis for parties and approaches to the Palestinians leads me to conclude in no uncertain terms that majority status and political power have decimated the empathic capacity of many Israelis.   If you are in the national community you exist, but if you are outside of it?   Forget about it.   I’m speaking of Palestinians, but, by the way, the scorn for American Jews, although on a different level, is real too.   Israelis see the other when the other is themselves. It’s a national characteristic, and I think it reflects the arrogance of power and majority status.     American WASPs used to be in the same position.   

      Pluralism and power sharing are hard and require empathy for the other, manifested in attitudes and laws and political structures, but even so, compared to America, Israelis are not doing very well.    The fact that they are “oppressed” on the international stage explains, but does not excuse, their oppressive and dismissive approach to the internal other.   This, in my experience is just a simple truth.
      So when you refer to….. ”  exaggerated empathy with the suffering of others, to the point that we mistakenly and overgenerously interpret their good will and intentions. ”    I’d respond that to be fully human is to practice being fully empathetic, AND fully realistic.   But the idea that Israelis suffer from a surfeit of empathy.  Well, you must know a different country than I do.   They’ve got the realism down, but largely lost their humanity in regard to the Palestinians.  I’m not saying that it’s not easy to understand how this happened, but let’s be honest about it and about the policies of the parties they choose to support.
      So I emphatically reject the idea that we are, or that it is possible to be, too understanding or too forgiving, or that there is a single gage that must be set at a midpoint between “retribution” and “forgiveness.”   To be a Jewish leftist in Israel (or anywhere) should mean to fully engaged in an empathetic sense with the pain and needs of those that we are oppressing or who are oppressed by others, while fully willing to defend ourselves if necessary.   These aren’t things that we should have to choose between.   The job of leftists is to reject the false choice that you present, continuously, as we encounter it in the street and in our own hearts.

      In America, the continued support for the Democrats and Obama, the highest of any group except African Americans, suggests that within the limited palette of the American political spectrum Jews are continuing to make the choice that reflects greater concern for the poor and powerless.  Perhaps this is because we do remain a minority, albeit one that is rapidly marrying into and dissolving away in the larger population.   Why we are supporting the Democrats in spite of our socioeconomic status is an interesting question.  How long will it continue?  

      “Left” and “Right” are broad concepts, but they are not morally equivalent world views or extremes that we should, like some Washington insider talk show seek to balance ourselves between.   Left is communal, the right dismisses community.  Left is oriented toward creating greater equality, right is happy to let inequality exist and grow.  The list can go on.  These are moral choices, and the question as always, is “which side are you on?”The reason to work with nonJewish leftists is because they are right on some issues, even when they are wrong about others.   I find that very hard to do.  I don’t participate in the American left because of this.  But you have to compartmentalize, and focus on your goals.   If someone is right about Central America and Greece and Congo, but wrong about Palestine, you have to look at their argument and be able to explain the difference, or be willing to have your own views challenged.    It’s unpleasant, but it makes no sense to run from being a leftist just because “the Left” is full of antisemites and bigots.   News flash: the Right is full of those too.   We have to know what we believe and act on it.    

      In America, there is still an echo of the European experience, maybe reinforced a little by that once a year Passover experience that many still have, that still places us a little to the left, still reminds us of the oppressed, and tells us that we haven’t entirely forgotten what it means to be a Jew.

        Assaf78 says:

        Where you are going wrong I think, both in your comment above and in this comment as well, is your conflation of secularized and relatively assimilated Ashkenazim with that of Judaism and Jews overall, when in fact, that experience and culture is tied to a particular historical time and place which is quickly fading.

        I am not Ashkenazi, but I am Jewish with a large Israeli family. I don’t relate to pretty much any of your pronouncements about Judaism or Israel. I understand what you have written but it doesn’t relate in any way to my experience of my history or faith. I definitely support peace with the surrounding Arab peoples and have a broad affinity for many aspects of middle eastern culture, but that doesn’t translate to automatic empathy or an erasure of the difficult and often violent history that lies behind us Jews formerly of majority Arab nations.

        When the Ashkenazi left was defeated for the first time in Israel by Menachem Begin in 1977, a Labor party apparatchik made a famous comment that it was the voters that must be replaced, not the party. That is the comment of a man who has given up on trying to win future elections. The secular Ashkenazi left in Israel has been an ethnic and ideological minority for decades and attempting to appeal to the same waning cultural cues will no longer work. Why not actually try to find out what the thoughts and values are of the majority of Israeli voters and see how they might fit into a broader liberal view of the future, one not tied to a European leftism that seems more and more out of date and has no direct relevance to most voters or their history?

        I would say the same goes in the rapidly changing Jewish community in America. As assimilationists have been grandly successful, the organized American Jewish community has become more and more traditional (and often Orthodox) in their outlook  – and in the NY area, more heavily influenced by the Sephardic and Israeli communities as well.

        Speaking as a member of the Sephardic community, liberalism certainly thrives here, but European-inspired leftism generally doesn’t. We just don’t relate to it. But we do have a more immediate memory of oppression than most American Jews (albeit mostly Arab in nature), and a strong commitment to communal goals and social causes. I see similar attitudes in many traditional American youth as well. Now what are you going to do about it? Find ways to relate to our concerns and causes and liberalism is guaranteed a future in the Israeli and American Jewish communities. Ignore us and keep harping on the leftist cultural highs of generations long dead  and largely forgotten and you may not.

          surfer_dad says:

          REALLY interesting points Assaf.

          I think the differences between Judaism in different locales vs political labels is a vein worth exploring.

          I certainly think that Edot Hamizrach in Israel have a historical experience of oppression (1950s and 1960s Israel, and still today, and in the Arab countries before that).   So does the typical American Jew whose ancestors escaped Eastern Europe in the late 19th century, and whose parents endured social discrimination through the 1950s and 1960s, but for whom a new world dawned in the 1960s in America.   We may be a few decades more removed in American Jewish culture, broadly.

          In an experience of cultural oppression some grow to gain empathy for others, but others just emerge embittered and angry and looking for another group to damage in the way that they themselves were hurt.   There is always a spectrum of human response.

          You say “European inspired” as if the ideals of economic equality and political equality that emerged in that historic Eastern European context are somehow a merely local thing.  I disagree.  Even universal truths have their beginnings in particular places and peoples.

          I have no desire to sell you on anything and certainly not because of its European pedigree.   Leftists care about community, political rights, economic justice, and equality, within nations and among them, and if you care about those things you tell me how you are acting to support them from within your community.  

          I don’t care what cultural flavor your concern for the oppressed comes in.  I do care about whether it involves the rule of law and serious proposals to reign in otherwise unrestrained capital so that it serves the interests of democratically elected governments.   That’s not a European idea, that’s a universal “leftist” idea.    I do care about whether it involves not running a colonial system in which one people rules and another is ruled or has second class status.  That is also a “leftist” idea.   That’s not European, it’s universal.  You say members of your Sephardic community are liberal?  Great.  So what’s their approach to realizing those ideals in this world? The fact that Edot Hamizrach were insulted and abused by secular Ashkenazi leftists in the fifties and down to this day, doesn’t absolve anyone of responsibility to know, state, and act on their values.   Nobody wants you to care about “European inspired” leftism.  Don’t waste time reacting to someone else’s version of a leftist vision,  Invent your own leftism, but show me that it really is leftism, that it really does reflect universal values of equality, human rights and community.  Then let’s all work to create that world from the perspective of our own cultural positions in the world.

    RonL says:

    Jewish leftism is based in the memory of the lived cultural
    experience of Jews in poverty and deprived civil rights for hundreds of
    years.  That’s what forms the soul of Jewish leftism.  Rabbis were
    sometimes part of the oppressive structures that Jews were trying to
    escape.   There is no appealing to them as the exclusive definition of
    what Jews ought to think to be authentic, although the case for
    appealing to them is considerably stronger than appeals to the prophets
    or the Torah.  It’s what they thought about the Tanaq that matters, not
    what Tanaq says.”
    I other words, petulant and deracinated grievance politics.

    cliveramage says:

    I admire your eloquence and ability to cut through abstract intellectual argument
    and get to the essense of this issue. I have always thought of myself as a leftist
    but at the same time as an observant Jew. It has been a mystery to me as to why the left seems to have abandoned Israel and why observant Jews seem much less empathetic than they used to be. We seem no longer to be able to viscerally feel and comprehend the bread of affliction which we sublimated into empathy and action in the past. You have pointed out what should be obvious. The voice of Judaism is in its history of  experiencing  affliction and then acting on that experience with empathy. Thankyou for your comments. Yasher Koach.

“There remains to this day a tendency on the
Jewish left to take pride in, or at least indulge, the history of Jewish
admiration of Communism. Jewish Communists are more often defended as
misguided idealists than condemned as accomplices of a murderous

This doesn’t make sense, at least to me, when one considers the context.  Could anyone have predicted that Stalin would go totally bananas? Speaking to the present, one does not necessarily  laud the FSU when the celebrate victory day, because, ya know, they defeated THE NAZIS.

xmontrealer says:

“Brent, a pioneering historian of the Soviet Union who was responsible for the opening of many Soviet archives after 1989, wanted to emphasize the fact that the Soviet Union—for generations a lodestar of Jewish leftists—was in fact a deadly enemy of Jewish culture. Stalin, whose Red Army defeated Hitler and thus saved the lives of millions of Jews, was also a paranoid anti-Semite, who when he died was preparing a mass purge and deportation of Soviet Jews, under the cover of the so-called “Doctors’ Plot.””
I have to object to the terminology here, although Russian anti-semitism  is hardly soft peddled. To state that by fighting Germany millions of Jews were saved by Russia may be true by implication, but to make it sound as if this were an active goal of Russian military action is too much of a stretch. Russia was initially entirely happy to forge an alliance with Hitler, however uncomfortable as bedfellows they may have been, and only fought Germany after they themselves were attacked.

If  I throw, to put it delicately, bovine excrement at you, and it happens to help your grass grow green, it doesn’t make me a master gardener.

Had pre-Revolutionary Czarist Russia been better to its Jews,there likely wouldn’t have been the massive exodus to the States, and my comment may well have been in Cyrillic. Certainly, Zionism was born in the misery of the shtetl, not in the smoke of the Nazi ovens, and in fact, it was Russia’smilitary support for Israel in 1948, not so much for admiration of  Zionist ideals but to balance British military and political influence through Iraq and Jordan, Israel may well have not survived the war.

If Russia has ever been a “saviour” to Jews, it was only due to coincidence and self-interest, never due to an active desire on its part.

I’d like to know, has there been any examination of the difference between the foreign-affairs left, the economic left and the broad-spectrum left? One notable example of the difference is the late Scoop Jackson who was foreign-affairs right-of-center and economic left-of-center. The question is, to what extent does leftism one issue indicate broad spectrum leftism and to what extent are people in general, and Jews in particular, express leftism on one issue and rightism on another?

Kirsch covers foreign-policy leftism in this article. However, do Jews arrive at foreign-policy leftism directly or do they become leftists on some other issue, become broad-spectrum leftists from that and thus become foreign-policy leftists?

    Eli Gottlieb says:

     Most Jews I know are center-right on foreign policy, but radical left on economic policy.  Why should the two have to go together?  Can I not be a Zionist and an anti-capitalist?

      mouskatel says:

      How sad and ironic that being a Zionist means being center-right now. :( What exactly is “Right” about believing in the right of Jewish self-determination?

        There’s no reason Jews qua Jews need self-determination.  A Jewish state in 1939 would not have ipso facto saved the people from the death camps.  And the Zionist project in its early stages was not going to do anything substantial about the Jews afflicted by the pogroms.  Any given rationale for Zionism turns out to be thin air when subjected to close historical scrutiny.

        What Zionists really want is a state where Jews are the majority and they can exclude on the basis of not being Jewish.  Damn whatever happens to anyone who gets in the way.  Israel looks more like a reenactment of Tsarist Russia with attack aircraft, with Jews recast as the Cossacks.

          mouskatel says:

          Blah blah blah. Andrew r you’re so boring at this point. I think I’ll have another 3 imperialist Israeli Cossack kids (in addition to the 4 I have now) just to piss you off.  And when my husband’s startup becomes the first Israeli company in the last decade to hit a billion dollar valuation, I’ll be sure to save a special “fuck you” just for you.

           So your kids are just a device to piss someone off.  And you wonder why people get disgusted with Zionism.

      I tend to think of left-wing as exclusion based on how someone choose to think while right-wing is exclusion based on religious/ethnic identities.   Zionism is right-wing by that definition as it ideally (and in practice) excludes the Palestinians from their country and excludes Jewish people from their many countries.

I am a secular American Jewish young man, raised by liberal democratic parents in the east coast suburbs- and i forever believe in the revolutionary left, and ally myself with anti-imperialist, anti-capitalist struggle anywhere it occurs in america and around the world, be it in palestine or at the u.s. mexico border- and i draw my inspiration from the radical jewish communists, socialists and anarchists who came to this country on boats and brought their revolutionary ideas from eastern europe into the heart of empire- so yes, i look around and most of the american jewish community are either lame liberals or, god forbid, stupid republicans, but i put my faith, my trust and my hope in the legacy of the radical american jewish left- and i wish i had gone to this conference!

    mouskatel says:

    How ironic that you ally yourself with “anti-imperialist, anti-capitalist struggle” in Palestine when the original Jewish settlers were the quintessential Russian socialists who established the only successful physical embodiment of the socialist ideal- the Kibbutz. Please learn some history before you join the Palestinian’s bogus “anti-imperialist” struggle. 

      The Kibbutzim that excluded Arabs and Mizrachi Jews.  That’s a fairly warped notion of socialism.

    herbcaen says:

    you sound like just the kind of fool that Stalin would have sent to  the gulags for 20 years of hard labor. As you  know, Stalin planned to exterminate the rest of Soviet Jewry beginning with the Doctors plot of 1953. By living in the USA, and not capitalizing it in your comment, you are not a big fan of the USA. Please return to the Soviet Union, where  you can till the fertile soil of Chernobyl with your  fellow comrades

    johnr22 says:

    Well, by using terms like “stupid republicans”, and speaking fondly (if a bit misty eyed) about “radical jewish communists”, I would call you an ideologue. A person who uses his politics to achieve spiritual fullfillment (I’ve always said communism was basically a religion, without the old-timey god stuff).

    So, I’ll wish you luck as you goose-step around your govt subsidized apt while singing the internationale.

    RonL says:

     Ben, in what way are you a Jew, rather than a leftist who occasionally eats lox?

    Andrea says:

    Somewhere you made a wrong turn if you believe the republicans are “stupid”.  Try to retrace your steps and find where you veered off into ideology.

    It’s actually quite a lamebrain thing to believe.  

    Andrea says:

    Somewhere you made a wrong turn if you believe the republicans are “stupid”.  Try to retrace your steps and find where you veered off into ideology.

    It’s actually quite a lamebrain thing to believe.  

jcarpenter says:

Mom and Dad got along agreeably on most things, except politics.  Never any arguments or family campaigning—it was just understood that Mom voted life-long Republican and Dad voted life-long Democrat, whether local or national elections.  Dad succumbed to a quick- moving cancer in early 2008; Mom, in his honor and in her undying love, voted Democratic for the first time in her life, as far as we know; she even allowed a Democratic political sign in the yard (“it reminds me of your father” was her rationale) for the 2008 campaign, a brave thing to do in West Michigan.  I rather proudly say “My Mama Voted For Obama”—it even rhymes.

Jacob Arnon says:

So why are Jewish publications now aligning themselves with the antisemitic left and censoring criticism of its point of view on line?

Who is the target audience of this so called Yiddish paper? Old Stalinists?

PhillipNagle says:

The problem for the Jewish left is the failure of socialism.  Not only in Israel, but also in places like China, India and Russia.  These countries have abandoned socialism (which is wierd in China which still calls itself communist) and have seen major improvements in their economies.  The left, which cannot rationally argue against capitalism, has turned their interest elsewhere.  One of  the tenets of the new left is anti Zionism bordering on anti-Semitism.  This has put the Jewish left in a near impossible situation.

    hypnosifl says:

    You seem to conflate “socialism” with communism. Social democracy is alive and well in much of Western Europe, and seems to produce better living standards than countries with more of an “every man for himself, government off our backs” attitude (look at the charts towards the end of this article by Tony Judt for example).

      PhillipNagle says:

      Since two of the countries I mentioned, Israel and India, never were communist, but had socialist systems that were failures, your conflation criticism is invalid.  It is clear that in a modern industrial society only capitalism (the  economic system of western Europe) works.  As for the welfare state (I assume that’s what you mean by social democracy), it’s not looking too good western Europe as many of the countries seem to be on the brink of disaster and Greece already over.

        hypnosifl says:

        I don’t see that there’s any correlation in Europe between the size of the welfare state and which countries are doing well and which countries are “on the brink of disaster”–Germany is an economic powerhouse and it has quite a strong welfare state, for example.  And Sweden, with one of the largest welfare states in Europe, is also doing quite well, see here. Perhaps the huge amount of corruption in countries like Greece and Italy has more to do with their economic troubles than the social model they’ve adopted (although certainly Greece’s does have issues like a low official retirement age, this article notes that on average Greeks actually retire much later than this age, later than Germans in fact, and they also work more hours per week). Conservatives often like to use economic downturns as propagandistic excuses to suggest the welfare state is on its way out, but this seems to be based on wishful thinking rather than any sort of careful comparative look at how different countries are faring.

          IAintNoPushOver says:

           The only reason Sweden is doing well is because they cut taxes and scaled back government programs in the past 20 years.  They tried that in other countries and resulted in the austerity governments losing the elections, because the people don’t want to give up their social benefits.  Thus, they will face bankruptcy.

          surfer_dad says:

          Just because Sweden cut back some and lowered taxes some doesn’t mean that Sweden gave up on “socialism.” 

          It did what makes sense for them to tweak the system. Nothing wrong with that.

          Anthony O'Neal says:

           Sweden still has a far larger government than America, irrespective of any tiny scale backs you likely have little deep knowledge of.

      IAintNoPushOver says:

       Except that it isn’t sustainable, as we see with the way Europe is falling apart.  I have relatives in Europe and they tell me it is very hard for young people there to find jobs.  Greece, Italy, Spain, Portugal, and Ireland are literally collapsing before our eyes, and France and Britain look to be going the same way.

        surfer_dad says:

        Umm, have you been to the US? We have an epidemic of college graduates living at home and not finding jobs too.

        Anthony O'Neal says:

         Europe has been implementing harsh austerity programs that America has largely had the wisdom to forgo. Of course they are collapsing, the right-fascists in their respective countries are strangling their economic engines and sending them over the edge. Hopefully, America retains the wisdom to avoid making the mistake of europe in embracing the right-fascism that threatens our very existence.

          RonL says:

           What European country has introduced austerity, dramatically reducing the actual size of government programs, rather than freezing them?

    surfer_dad says:

    Sorry, but it’s not the absolutist argument you’re trying to make.

    Just because I think more $ should go to schools and infrastructure and keeping the basic social safety nets we already have doesn’t mean I wish it to end with Communism. Or even the extreme socialism of northern Europe.

    That seems to work for them, great. We have our own brand of American socialism that I think basically works well for our situation and I’m not against tweaking it when it makes sense. 
    It’s not all or nothing.

      PhillipNagle says:

      I’m not entirely sure what you mean by “American socialism”.  Those enterprises which are owned by the government (ie socialist) are very limited.  one of the most common government enterprises are schools,  which are failing in most major cities, partly because the government is more interested in pleasing the bureaucrats (ie teachers) than the consumers (ie students and parents).  A recipe for disaster in free enterprise.  Another government enterprise is Amtrak, a wasteful attempt to keep an outdated technology going.  I could go on but historically  long term enterprises run by the government will be a drain on the economy and taxpayers.

        surfer_dad says:

        And schools are also failing “partly” because they don’t get enough money! Government run schools seem to do pretty well in other countries  that also have “free enterprise,” why is that?

        FDA, FCC, NOAA, Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, food stamps etc.
        I don’t think we are a “socialist” country, but I do think that there are certain socialist elements in our system — hence the label “American socialism”

Hershl says:

The Jewish left is made up of a smattering of pathetic losers like “Rabbi” Michael Lerner, Amy Goodman, Peter Beinart, et al.

They get more press and media exposure than they will ever warrant.

When it comes to voting their supporters couldn’t fill a telephone booth which, by itself, is emblematic with how out of touch they are with the larger Jewish community.

They, J Street, and the other Israel haters  are on the wrong side of history.

brian2907 says:

The collapse of Communism in 1989 left those on the Hard Left naked, shameful and embarrassed. The god they had worshipped for so many years had taken his boots off and his feet of clay were there for all to see. They needed to find, and find quickly, a new cause. With the downfall of apartheid South Africa shortly afterwards, they turned on Israel with unprecedented loathing because they chose to see it as a colonialist, racist  state, denying all Jewish historical connection to the Land of Israel.

The far Left and far Right may clash on many issues but Jew-hatred is not one of them, it’s common ground. I see little future for European Jewry as the continent rapidly Islamises and Muslim anti-Semitism merges with the traditional, indigenous brand. Leftist, anti-Zionist Jews fondly believe, or delude themselves, that anti-Zionism isn’t anti-Semitism in thin disguise. We all know the Leninist phrase ‘useful idiots’, these people have turned it into an art form!

JamesPhiladelphia says:

Republicans are enemies of the middle class. Leftists are enemies of Israel. Take your pick. We are neither of the right nor of the left but all the contrary. Wise words of a not so an empty head.

IAintNoPushOver says:

Leftist ideals never work.  They didn’t work in the form of communism and they don’t work in the form of democratic socialism.  Witness the implosion of Greece, Spain, Portugal, Italy, Ireland, and France (Yes, France.  Now that an anti-austerity government has been elected, it will spend and spend more, and push France deeper and deeper into debt), as well as the ongoing economic crises in Britain.  One of the posters here consistently mentioned Sweden and Germany as success stories of democratic socialism, but this holds no water.  In the past 20 years, Sweden has progressively cut taxes and scaled back government spending.  As for Germany, it has received a continuous influx of immigrants from Second and Third World countries, who are eager to build new lives for themselves in Germany, with its much higher living standards.  These people are industrious and hard-working, and naturally will contribute to the economy’s growth, of course until their children grow up and settle into the sloth that socialism encourages.  Also, keep in mind that Germans are very involved in overseas trade, and bring home much of their wealth earned elsewhere, to Germany.

Podhoretz identifies liberalism as a substitute religion that endows secular Jewish identity with meaning.  But this grows increasingly difficult to sustain, owing to
liberalism’s solipsistic morality, which is the substance of liberalism as a religion.  Liberals love to certify victims and validate their liberal bona-fides by the moral censure of a designated oppressor.  For years liberal Jews were able to mount the moral high ground of their own victim status.  You couldn’t be an oppressor if your people were the victims of the Nazis.  But –as Podhoretz points out– nowadays Jews can share liberalism’s moral high ground only if they distance themselves from Israel.  Indeed, as Podhoretz adds, they seem to distinguish themselves as Jews chiefly in negative terms, by distancing themselves from what they are not –notably conservative– focusing selectively on incidents of right wing anti-Semitism, while still invoking the Holocaust when the Left permits them to do so.  But as the wider leftwing
community comes increasingly to embrace anti-Semitism and WWII fades into a
remote and abstract history, where does that leave Jewish liberals?  The need for validation by a secular left increasingly and irrationally hostile to Jews per se becomes problematic, even when that hostility is disguised as opposition to the Israeli government. The result is the familiar, strenuous effort to keep up the façade by denial, and the transferred anguish over conservative Christians who have the temerity to support the Jewish state.

    IAintNoPushOver says:

     The Left resents the Jews because we have forged ahead, become successful, and are no longer victims.  They reserve the same vitriol for blacks and Hispanics who dare leave the reservation or the barrio, and embrace opportunity.  The Left requires victimization if it wants to survive, because the only thing that keeps the Left going is conflict–be it class, race, gender, or sexual orientation conflict.  If there were no conflict there would be no Left.

jeffwarren2 says:

Hi, I’m a 38 year-old Jewish guy from the swing state of Michigan.   Nothing is more important to me than the ABSOLUTE ***ENTITLEMENT(FAVORITE WORD BY FAR)*** right of Americans to vote without being suppressed.  Voter suppression is now a part of the GOP platform.  I will never vote for that ever.  If somebody guaranteed me that Obama’s re-election would mean Israel’s certain destruction,  I wouldn’t care.

    IAintNoPushOver says:

     This makes no sense whatsoever.

     “If somebody guaranteed me that Obama’s re-election would mean Israel’s certain destruction,  I wouldn’t care. ”


    Treblinka……..Dachau……..Krystal Nachte.

    JeffWarren…….you’ve just PROVEN the premiss of the long post I have just placed here.

    misterA says:

    Unfortunately, you are not alone in your views, which I find sad and disturbing.  NO MATTER what Obama does or state, a third or more of the population would vote for him.
    By the way the GOP is no more in favor of suppressing voter rights than the Dems are in favor of voter fraud(vote and vote often)

     What? If you think voter ID is suppression, you really aren’t paying attention. Perhaps you assume that inviting voter fraud and rigging election results is less significant than an unproven claim of bias.

    To claim you’re an American Exceptionalist while ignoring the real problem of voter fraud suggests you’re just regurgitating your master’s propaganda.

    And no, I don’t believe you’re Jewish either.

    mbs80346 says:

    You are either an antisemite or a self hating Jew. Voter suppression is NOT part of the GOP national platform. Voting is a local affair and handled by the states through the secretary of states office.

    RonL says:

     If your vote is cancelled out by an illegal alien, legal alien, or proxy vote in the name of a dead person, an incompetent person, or a limousine leftist voting in his second and third homes, your vote has been supressed.
    Voter fraud is voter suppression. Ensuring that only those legally allowed to vote is the antithesis of voter suppression. It is ensuring a free and fair election.

    You claim to be an American exceptionalist. What is it that you love about America, that you cannot find elsewhere?

robert zafft says:

Marxism replaces G-d with history and the messiah with the dictatorship of the proletariat (now fashionably known as social democracy, progressivism, or “Hope and Change”).

It is an apostasy to which Jewish leftists have subscribed for 150+ years, causing massive suffering to the Jewish people and to the world.

    mbs80346 says:

    You are absolutely correct that hard core leftists of Jewish birth (note I did not call them Jews)  have substituted “history” for G-d. This began with Marx himself. Self proclaimed prophets like Marx then base their credentials on understanding “history” and predicting what’s next. This is of course complete rubbish. History only exists if man is there to record it. It is whatever man does. It does not create, it does not legislate and it does not promote moral standards.Yet you have leftist Democrats telling us that they are “on the right side of history.” Since Marx,  the Left has assumed that history marches with them. Marxists still fervently believe that history is predictable and unidirectional toward socialism. The complete collapse of the Soviet Union and the conversion of China and many other countries has no effect on their belief system.

misterA says:

I disagree with the broad premise. Though the Jewish left is not as dominant as it may have been in the past,left-wing Jews are alive and well in America.
Just look at the clowns who occupy some of the highest offices in the land–Boxer,Levin,Nadler,Frank,Wasserman,Weiner(formerly)etc.;:just look at the clowns who have a prominant role in persuasive Hollywood-a bastion of leftist thinking, Just look at the clowns who are prominant on the left side of the MSM. As a Jew statements from those described above often simply embarrass me-sometimes causing shame
Jews are overwhelmingly to the left,but I do agree finally that the pendulum is slightly moving to the right. In the upcoming election nearly a third of Jews are expected to vote for Romney compared to less than a quarter who voted for McCain.
What amazes me is that most Jews continue to view the right in this country as intolerant and anti-semetic and though Jews do not support the right in large numbers the right is welcoming and open to the Jews while the true intolerance to both Jews and Israel comes from the left. 
I hope one day the Jewish left will diminish and Jews will have an awakening and realize their true friends–not those who simply use them for political purposes-are on the right.

I am so glad to see this article, as I have been flumaxed as to why the Jewish community, with their high IQs, continue to support the democrat party, as it has become increasingly radical and ‘politically correct’, including a rabid, and DANGEROUS, bias against Israel.

I am a conservative, and it is obvious that the conservatives are now, always have been, and will surely continue to be, STEADFAST supporters of Israel.

Here is what I think has been the problem of the obviously intelligent Jewish community in recognizing the dangers the NEW DEMOCRAT party represents to Israel, and the broader issues of which party is better suited to guide the American nation forward for the good of all:

It ain’t your father’s democratic party. That party… the one with John F Kennedy…. died…. a long time ago.

That old, dead, party had a pretty good feeling for the specialness of the US of A, and for the nation pulling together for everyone’s benefit. They believed America was good…..and great. They worked to continue the nation’s tradition of being the land of opportunity, so their children and grandchildren would have passed on to them a beautiful country, where common sense and solid moral values formed the backbone of the citizenry, and the country was truly a place where you could pursue your happiness. And, it all worked….very well.

There are so many Americans today who consider themselves to be loyal to the democratic party, yet, who truly share VERY LITTLE in the way of values and hopes for the future of our nation with the current rulers, the movers and shakers, of the NEW DEMOCRAT party.

This, I think, is because it is hard, and emotional, to give up a long held, cherished identity of being a loyal democrat, a tradition which likely goes back to their grandparents.

The ideas of the NEW DEMOCRATS are no longer those of “the little guy”. Now, the NEW DEMOCRATS’ ideas are all mixed up with POLITICAL CORRECTNESS, such as ‘saving the planet’, homosexual groups’ wish lists, teaching the children what they SHOULD think (arithmetic can wait, it’s not as important as politically correct agendas), the politics of group and racial identification, etc, etc…..the list is very, very long.

The NEW DEMOCRATS have become the community organizers, the professional agitators, the dividers of people into groups and the deciders of who gets what boondoggles, and who else is going to pay for it. They are the new apparatchiks, THE NEW BOSSES, running pretty much everything.

The NEW DEMOCRAT party has changed so RADICALLY over the past 50 years, that now it seems clear that the republican party is the one that stands for the ordinary people, the people who think America is, or was, the greatest country on earth, and who want to see the country pull together to do what needs to be done, to do the right thing, so that their children and grandchildren inherit a country as good as the one they were handed.

It is quite clear that it is the republican party which has remained steadfast to the traditional American values and beliefs, the belief in the goodness of America, and in America as a land of opportunity. And, it has been the NEW DEMOCRAT party which has been aggressively and relentlessly promoting the so called ‘POLITICALLY CORRECT’ AGENDA, where the belief is that America is a dark place, full of unfairness and inequity, which must be addressed by stringent laws and preferences, as a POLITICAL ELITE regulates peoples lives and lavishes money the government can NO LONGER AFFORD on targeted groups and out-of-control spending programs.

The NEW DEMOCRATS, the so called ‘progressives’ (sounds so much better than the tarnished term ‘liberal’), don’t believe America was ever the greatest country on earth. Rather, they believe that America did well through UNFAIRNESS, and all this unfairness has to be redressed (and the list is very, very long). Greedy capitalism (their language) is the main source of unfairness which needs to be redressed, rigorously and endlessly, by VERY BIG government. Free enterprise and the ability to pursue, freely and reasonably unfettered, one’s happiness, is NOT a part of their agenda. Government and the agenda of the left is, and always will be, preeminent.

And, this is what Obama means when he talks about “TRANSFORMING” America.

The problem is that the NEW DEMOCRATS have already TRANSFORMED America quite dramatically for the past 50 years.

We’re already a long way down the road to transformation, and it just ain’t working out very well. Government has control of much of the economy, and the NEW DEMOCRATS are chomping at the bit to control much, much more of it.

They just took over health care. The oil industry is in their cross hairs. They don’t want oil. They don’t want coal. They don’t want nuclear energy. They want wind and solar and conservation……and its all based on science and common sense……. Not.

They openly boast that they will shut down coal generated electric plants and shutter the coal industry, while they nix the Keystone pipeline which would bring politically safe energy from our wonderful Canadian cousins, while providing 100,000 jobs, many of which would pay around $100,000 annually. Those are jobs you can raise a family on.

The NEW DEMOCRATS have become the party of leftist, elitist, know-it-all, propagandist, apparatchik rulers and TRANSFORMERS of America. They never really liked America, so they’re TRANSFORMING it. Because that is what THEY want.

They’ve been transforming it ever so long already, but, there’s just always more and more things to transform…..and, they are always so very busy doing it……. Transform one thing, then its on to the next thing to transform. “Oh (waving his hands), I’m just sooo busy …..when will I EVER get to rest!”, (he says facetiously, because its so much fun being in control, transforming things, deciding things).

If you want to see how well this TRANSFORMATION is working……just look at what is happening in Europe. This is all coming to America, very, very soon.

It must be a shock to people who have grown up in traditional, old time, democratic families, when they finally realize just how foreign the NEW DEMOCRAT party is to their long-held beliefs and traditions …….but it’s obvious, I think.

More and more, It seems it’s the republicans who have become the party of the little guy.

It’s hard to abandon a lifelong identification with the democratic party, an identity which you trace all the way back to your grandparents. It has been something very dear to so many people.

But, remember, YOU didn’t abandon those cherished ideals your parents and grandparents believed in……The NEW DEMOCRATS did…….and the old, traditional democratic party…… just doesn’t exist anymore.

America is truly facing the worst crisis of our history, due to the wholesale abandonment of common sense fiscal responsibility, and the PILING UP of MASSIVE DEBTS, combined with moral degradation across ALL fronts over many, many years, due to the constant assault on the traditions of America by the agenda loosely labeled as ‘POLITICAL CORRECTNESS’.

The only hope to save the nation, it seems obvious, is for the American citizens to join and pull together, NOW, as there just is no more time to waste. My hope is for a growing number of TRADITIONAL DEMOCRATS to realize the dire nature of the situation OUR AMERICAN NATION faces, and to discard their old, now meaningless, loyalties to the NEW DEMOCRAT party, where the leftist party BOSSES, frankly, just want you to vote democrat……and then, shut up.

Remember, with the NEW DEMOCRATS, the leftist apparatchiks are in charge. And they aren’t particularly interested in your…..ummm……’out of date’ viewpoints. So, please, go vote democrat, and then take your seat in the corner…..OK?……Good.

The time is now, to be bold, and step across the line, and help begin to forge the NEW REPUBLICAN party which is forming, and gathering strength. You WILL be welcome…… welcomed to join the CRUSADE (for that is what it will take) to bring America back, to restore the great nation, to give to our children and grandchildren the ongoing gift, which has been handed down from generation to generation, of a good and decent country, run with honesty and intelligence, a land of opportunity where dreams can be pursued, and built.

    misterA says:

    I am in full agreement. We for now are the minority but things are changing. We do have an uphill battle as the indoctrination continues through the education system in the country.In any case,  I am happy to report that more and more Jews are seeing things as you and I do.

    vladdrakul says:

     Wow that was the longest list of reality defining rubbish I have ever read. So long, repetitive and yet so empty at the same time. So much ‘inconveniant  truth’ ignored and so much self awareness missing. I felt like this was a FOX commentator except it was much longer than usual.
     ‘Appatchicks…..Crusade…blah blah .. as well as lots of CAPITALS to scream at you. It fits with another equally perposterous as another commentators claim that  ‘Today’s Republican is more “leftist” than JFK’
       Really, LOL! AS though we haven’t had a world moving to the right forthe last 30 years since Reagan and Thatcher. One would have thought taxes on the rich was 90% today and 40 % back when but then when so many today get their information from hacks, tabloids and Corporate think tanks is it so surprising that I had to write another comment earlier explaining that Hitler was NOT  leftist but that he actually HATED them along with the Jews and other ‘Untermensch’.
      In this material selfish world we live in today the opposite is true. SO why is this so? In ffact 40 years ago the world was MUCH more leftist (eg David Horowitz; Norman Podheretz etc have all doen the Left to Right trend; Hippie to Yuppie thing. WE used to have moral leaders like MLK  (supported by rightous Jews) now we get neo imperialism and racism (Islamophobia; here and in Europe/USA; indeed Anti -semitism too.
       It’s unhistorical, immoral and unhuman but as the wealthy get wealthier and the poor poorer human nature reverts to tribalism. Yes there has been a growth in ‘identity politics’ and PC but to me tose are the Lefts self inflicted wounds of idiot thinking.
       THe rei sno good race or bad one and Jews who get excited about ‘Crusades’ are being guilty of the very worst ‘self hatred’. The bitter irony in all this is beyond description.
      I fear for the world that only gets dummer the older I get (50). It started this process in the 1970’s and just has continued. Now we have a left of ‘gay marraige’ and a right for ‘no goverment’, tribalism and fear. THe cold wars ending was supposed to provide a window for peace but it was the start of the global race war just as the ‘War to end all Wars’ became the start up to Hitler 3rd Reich.
       Ignorance is not bliss though it might seem to be to those who cannot bear the complex truths of life. It is the path top Hell.

rtcdmc says:

There seems to be a lot of seeking after authority (divine and political) and identification of “enemies” in this space.  All of which amounts to little more than a desire to control others.  A lot of opinionating and navel gazing, and striking out.  Disappointing.

I don’t see an end to the Jewish Left at all. I know Lubavitchers who are identify more as Liberals than as Jews. Yet, it makes more sense for Jews to be conservatives in the US today. Today’s Republican is more “leftist” than JFK, the right has shifted so far the the left on social issues  that only the abiding hatred of conservatives keeps more Jews from coming to their senses.

joedoakes202 says:

You just lost in 2012 . . .

September 14, 2011

Dear President Obama,

I’m jewish by faith, but I am an American.  I am intensely proud of that.  I try very hard to communicate that in all of these letters.  I love the Americans who strive to live good lives no matter their pigmentation or political affiliation.  I’m often amazed at the little moments that most seem to let pass with out a second glance.  The amount of people of my faith that have done so much to help this nation advance from Uriah P. Levy contribution to a very young United States Navy to Hyman Rickover and his dogged desire to put a safe and reliable miniaturized nuclear reactor into a United States Navy submarine, to my own Grandfather who served with distinction in a B-24 bomber as part of the 15th Air force, 461st bomb group in World War 2, and my father who did his part.  I also remember some of those who share my faith that I’m ashamed of like Julius and Ethyl Rosenberg and their traitorous acts that wounded this nation and imperiled the world, and the likes of Bernie Madoff and his violent and fraudulent attack on the wealth of others.

“Act as if the whole effort rests on your shoulders alone” . . . I remember that being in a speech the President Reagan said.  I’ve tried to do this.  Word after word.  Letter after letter.  Can’t say that a few nights at a few bars I was perfect, but who can?  I wouldn’t trust anyone that was perfect.  Anthony Weiner tried to live a perfect life.  He went into politics, sought the praise of those in power then when they thought he was ready to prove himself they set him loose to run for office.  Which Weiner won handily all the while advocating for the opposite of what his constituents held most dear, the safety and security of Israel, and a strong and vibrant economy.  It’s tough being two faced.  It’s tough trying to get a few drinks in and acting normal too.  But I’m not a representative of the people.  I’m just “Joe Doakes” if I foul up I only hurt a handful of people, when Mr. Weiner fouled up he hurt many scores more.

So he resigned and an election was held to replace him.  I witnessed many people with the label Democrat step forward and defend the Republican, in broad daylight on video no less, and in the newspapers that circulate in New York city.  Then I realized that that connection between what it is to be an American who is jewish was on the mend once again.  This makes me happy.  This makes me realize that though times are tough and the threats  Israel faces such that it has not born in 40 years, that America, a beacon and guardian for liberty and religious freedom will be ready to stand for it once again.  God forbid.  In that readiness, in that willingness to fight for what we believe in, we will once again find a moment that we can look at ourselves not as Jew and Gentile, and one day when Muslims make that real public turn for peace and assimilation into Western culture . . . we will all see ourselves as Americans.  We took a step towards that today.

We will take the final step on November 6, 2012.


Joe Doakes

balliolensis says:

How remarkable, how ironic, and – yes! – how gratifying that the intellectual vanguard of the old Jew-lib left, the folks from the New Republic and even Commentary, the quondam Ivy-League professors of political theory, are now espousing the view – for which they castigated and spurned some of us a half-century ago – that “a fiercely antipolitical radicalism” has characterized Jewish thought and practice for much of our history  (e.g., ISam.8:7).  I fear however that in the hands of these people the “antipolitical” ethic of Judaism will soon start to be honed as a new weapon against Zionism and Israel…

zackdoc says:

As a modern orthodox Jew the author lost me with the heretical statement that parts of the Old Testament, the Torah were written by men- G-d Forbid. This is yet another case where our holy tradition, dating back to Mt. Sinai has been “analyzed” by Jewish academics who are totally unschooled in traditional Jewish learning. I cannot speak for whatever translations or 3rd party interpretations of translations the author uses to present his unfortunate ideas, but he’s stuck in a construct that will not allow him to see the truth.

I think Churchill summed it up best: To be young and Conservative is to be without a heart, To be an adult and a Liberal is to be without a brain.

Naw.  Most American Jews are radical leftists first and Jewish second.  And they seem proud of it.  God knows why.

Mike Lumish says:

It is long past time for Jewish people to recognize that they have been betrayed by the left, due to the left’s embrace of anti-Semitic anti-Zionists as part of the larger coalition.

You are betrayed.  Nevertheless,

Israel Thrives 

corey949 says:

Sorry, Adam and sorry, Tablet, but I’m afraid that the level of discourse (if you can call it that) has reached a new low. Does anyone from Tablet read these “comments” any more? The virtual atmosphere has become so vituperative and homogeneously belligerent, that I going to join the moderate, civil and more-or-less adult readers who seem to have given up trying to converse over the contentious din. Disagreement, even when passionate, need not automatically degenerate to disrespect, insult and verbal abuse. If I’ve fallen prey to any such lapses myself, I apologize.

RonL says:

 Many Jews did apostate themselves to the  atheist death cult, dedicated to the eradication of Judaism and Jewishness. (Go read Marx’s “On the Jewish Question” if you don’t understand this).
Say what you will about men like Chaim Rumkowski, but at least he tried to save Jews. The leftists who seek to destroy Judaism or define it out of existence, demand to be celebrated as Jews. That’s isn’t chutzpah. It’s pissing on the graves of tens of thousands of Jews killed in the pursuit of an atheist heaven, and calling it “watering the plants”.


JehudahBenIsrael says:

Has the “left” betrayed the liberal democratic nation-state of the Jewish people, Israel? 

Sadly, in reviewing events worldwide, for the past at least 12 years, one encounters a new phenomenon rising in western and central Europe, but also in north America: THE UNHOLY TRINITY. 

This new phenomenon is an unofficial amalgamation of: 

1. Classic anti-Semites 
2. “Progressive” anti-Jewish racists 
3. 7th century-based Islamists 

The epicenter of THE UNHOLY TRINITY is the United Kingdom, and in particularly London, where its nature is best expressed in publications such as the Guardian, the Independent, the New Statesman, the BBC and even the London Review of Books, to say nothing of the various Christian and Muslim religious publications in both English and Arabic: A total denial of the existence of a Jewish people; a total denial of the Jewish people’s historic right to Eretz Israel (Land of Israel) and a total denial of the Jewish people’s right to that which is the universally accepted right of all peoples, of national self-determination and independence. Hence, deeply rooted hostility to Jews, Judaism (the civilization of the Jewish people), the Jewish people’s national liberation movement of Zionism, and of course, a through-and-through resentment of the state of Israel, its leaders, its institutions, and indeed, the very people whose nation-state Israel is: the Jewish people. 

Has the American “left” been as deeply affected by the UNHOLY TRINITY…?? 

Have “progressive” Jews been enlisted, knowingly or unknowingly, into this ugly phenomenon that can only be characterized as an orgy of hate of the Jewish people and its heritage…??

P.S. Take the “progressive” publication, The Forward that has chosen chosen to totally ignore mentioning in its site the most important positive event of the Jewish people during the 20th century, the re-institution of Jewish sovereignty in the Jewish people’s homeland and the establishment of the state of Israel; but, instead, has attempted and continues to this day to eliminate and/or change important symbols of the Jewish people and its nation-state, e.g. hatiqvah, while enlisting to the assistance the “moral weight” of Mr. Muhammad Barakah (or shall we call him Comrade Barakah?), the Muslim-Arab chairman of the anti-Zionist/anti-Israel Israel Communist Party, is a symptom that must alert us all…!! And, to add to that, the very same publication has also totally ignored the some 23,000 Jews who have fallen in Israel’s defense, along with the thousands who have been murdered by Muslim-Arab terrorists in the streets, coffee shops, universities, buses, etc. of Israel: men, women, children, the elderly. Yet, not a word here…!!The fact that the same “leftist” publication has, for weeks, attempted to elevate the public image of Hamas among its readers by interviewing one of its principal leaders and then, through an editorial and a discourse at its site pushing for the advancement of relationships with this organization that set out to bring about Israel’s demise and the extinction of any trace of Jewish life in the Jewish people’s homeland of 4,000 years says it all about the present state of the Jewish “progressive” “left”, or what is left of it…!!

It’s normal that a group that sits atop the social order will be right leaning to maintain the status quo, to argue for divine right and hereditary privilege, and maintenance of the prevailing order. 
When that same group is at the bottom, it will be on the left, agitating for the dispersal of political power and a larger share of the fruits of labor. 
It’s all politics: justifying rule, use of fear to cause group cohesion, using God as a beard for legitimacy using the so called word of god for authority, and further, if they lay claim to  a direct channel to God and hold the keys to “proper” translation. It’s not necessary to go all the way back to old testament to see tradition. Jews were a big part of the enlightenment and it benefitted them as a whole, but there has been struggle for dominance within Judaism too, so there are essentially two tracks of political history. Internal and external. I don’t think that it’s correct to make the assumption that Republicans are the right, and Democrats are the left like some commenters here believe. It’s more complicated than a bipolar division. The voters are disparate groups and sometimes have no natural affinity to each other, like libertarians and conservatives. I believe political partis are just two teams playing the same game against each other, trying to win the right to rule, and at the same time cooperate with each other to shut out upstarts. Jews are on top right now.  As far as the jewish left goes, those that still agitate for humanity’s sake are the real leftists, the rest have been exposed as mere tribal opportunists.

ketoret says:

a late comment, but I am surprised that no one critiqued Walzer’s characterization of the Biblical tradition of social justice. His theory of “divine” legislation developed by a secret cabal of back-room social manipulators is simply modern pseudo-academic claptrap – he might have well have said that the Torah was transported to Mt. Sinai by transporter from the Enterprise.  But even a cursory Wikipedia search would have shown him that social justice is a main theme of Israel’s prophets, along with strenuous protests against religious hypocrisy.    Never do the prophets advocate a passive and exclusively faith-based approach to either local or international political problems, but rather insist time and again that Israel’s troubles are rooted in a decadent society which ignores tzedaka and mishpat. 

For all the political sophistication and intellectual analysis presented the 150 comments above, I’m somewhat shocked that so few actually related to content of his article or caught the fairly obvious error in his assumptions.

sanderfredman says:

 Occam might say the key word in extreme left and extreme right is extreme. It’s not a line but a circle or better a helix. Depending on you’re starting point is how you view the other extreme as either superior or inferior.


Come to the heart of modern American leftism, the Occupy Movement and, especially, Occupy Wall Street, and ou will find loads of leftist Jews like myself. The 32% of Jews who are planning to vote for Mitt Romney better start studying history. 

Dick Stanley says:

The influx of Russian Jews, certainly to Israel, and possibly to the U.S., as well, should help put paid to the old romance with communism.

carlos lascoutx says:

…the right despairs, a sin to be sure, because they think eventually if they deny others
they’ll get what they want. the left is hopeful, because they don’t want for themselves,
but know others will get theirs.

When you’re an oppressed underprivileged minority, you oppose the oppressors. When you become part of the oppressing majority, you do your best to hang on to your privilege. What’s so hard to understand about that?

tomvasseur says:

I would like to say that this very interesting article has come in time, but obviously it’s subject makes clear that it has come too late. Still this many of the speakers touch upon many important problems that the left faces. However, the speakers sadly display some of those problems themselves.
Sadly antisemitism has indeed risen on the European left. This has resulted into pandering of Islamists, espousal of antisemitic rhetoric and even denial of the existence antisemitism is even denied. Luckily I can proudly say that me and most of my leftist friends have gone against that trend.
However, there is also a part of the left, which I think is much smaller than the former, which de facto does not allow for any criticism of Israel, or Zionism. This is not to say that I do not recognize that antisemitism and anti-Zionism do often cluster or that excessive criticism of Israel takes place. But this does not entail that Israel should be criticized when deserved (and this in return does not exclude supporting Israel). Neither does it imply that the anti-nationalist left is absolutely in their right to be against Zionism. These are legitimate positions. Regrettably Mitchell Cohen holds the opinion that these are not.

Eric Frith says:

Shamefully clumsy.  Walzer is fast becoming the Jewish Samuel Huntington–the fearful musings of his dotage more popular than the insightful work of his youth.

jonmonroe says:

Yippeee! Another whimsical attempt to nakedly twist logic, history and ideas to the service of an agenda. I won’t stop laughing for days.

    They have an agenda.  The anti-zionist jews have a liberal agenda that has nothing to do with being Jewish.  “Progressive” first “Jewish” last. Somehow PC and acceptance trumps all.  There is just something wrong with that in my opinion.

 G-D it’s about time  they  wake up.there or so many anti-Semites on the left and in the Democratic Party

runpacer says:

I am Jewish. I am secular. I am respectful of the observant and feel at home in the local Chabad as well as the nearby Conservative Temple and the Secular Jewish School my son attends. We visit different Jewish communities and always feel welcomed. I am respectful of all people. I am progressive and left-leaning. Jews can be anywhere along the ideological spectrum. Most of us remain on the left and will continue for years to come.

There are bigots throughout the ideological spectrum, the left and the right. Republican, Democrat, Socialist, Conservative, Communist and any ideological identifying group I may have left out. A person, for the most part, should not give up their ideology if it speaks to their sense of ethics and social organization. Most Jews in the United States identify with the history of our forefathers  and mothers who told us about how we were once strangers in a strange land and how Moses led the first labor revolt.

leonardo777 says:

Racism was invented by the Jewish Priest Ezra! 

You don’t believe me? 

Mein Kampf is the German version of the Book of Ezra. 

In his Edict to the returned Jews from Babylon he stated:Not only did Ezra demand that the foreign wives of Jewish men
be cast off, he demanded that all the children of such marriages be sent away.
His edict was multi-generational. Children, grandchildren and great
grandchildren were to be cast off, never again to see their families. And
wives, who had been with their husbands only a few years, as well as those who
had spent a lifetime with their mates, must also be sent away. No one whose
blood was contaminated with non-Jewish blood could stay.The policy instituted by Ezra was more severe
and contradicted the Deuteronomic Law which said: “You shall not detest an
Edomite… you shall not detest an Egyptian…The sons of the third generation who
are born to them enter the assembly of the Lord.”  Deuteronomy. 23:8 Stupid ignorant Jews & Christians refuse to see the NEW BABYLONIAN TALMUDIC RELIGION introduced by Ezra. “it was against the will of the Eternal
Creator. . .Nations that make mongrels of their people or allow their people to
be turned into mongrels sin against the Will of Eternal Providence.”  Mein Kampf, 
p. 186 . . . p.162

    Sami Bitoon says:

    Posts such as Leonardo’s comparing Judaism to Nazism fall under the EUMC definition of anti-Semitism, and should be deleted.

      Oh, I don’t know. That bit about exterminating the Amalekites could be brought up as well, and is probably closer. Of course, even then you didn’t see the Israelites invading every country around to find Amalekites and people with one-quarter Amalekite blood to kill. Also death tolls were lower back then given populations…if it’s even true. It was a long time ago.

leonardo777 says:

Shalom Sami Bitoon,
When you stop running off with your mouth, why don’t you read Ezra’s Mein          

Better still read Joshua’s Mein Kampf.

The Torah & Tanach is a Slaughterhouse Manual for Jews.

The word Antisemitism is oxymoron and YOU are a MORON. 

BonnaDevoraHaberman says:

Let us be aware that “Judaism” is not equivalent to biblical. Such claims based upon reading the tanakh as, “traditional Judaism did not offer a basis for a social justice movement” misrepresent thousands of years of Jewish text, tradition, and experience. In our rich and robust rabbinic literatures, we find tremendous support for social justice movements. Most importantly, we find support for the ongoing process of critical interpretation of society that empowers liberation. Please read more about these topics in my forthcoming book (due out this summer), Israeli Feminism Liberating Judaism: Blood and Ink.

BonnaDevoraHaberman says:

Let us be aware that “Judaism” is not equivalent to biblical. Such claims based upon reading the tanakh as, “traditional Judaism did not offer a basis for a social justice movement” misrepresent thousands of years of Jewish text, tradition, and experience. In our rich and robust rabbinic literatures, we find tremendous support for social justice movements. Most importantly, we find support for the ongoing process of critical interpretation of society that empowers liberation. Please read more about these topics in my forthcoming book (due out this summer), Israeli Feminism Liberating Judaism: Blood and Ink.

Is Badiou Jewish? No so not sure why he is mentioned. Writing about radical jews without mentioning Chomsky, Goodman or Finkelstein today is like talking about ameircan conservatism without talking about for instance Regan or Buchanan for instance.

Daniel Ostroff says:

What happened to transform Israel from a socialist ideal to a pariah occupying nation? Look at two phenomenon: the “left” (even “liberal”) view of Israel and Zionism as oppressor, and the privatization of the kibbutzim. In both cases, the ideal is in conflict with the real. Certain elements of the left (look at college campuses today) turns any underdog into a hero. It does not matter if Arab society is as anti-liberal as on can find, as long as they are perceived as the oppressed, they are in the right.

The second, the transformation of kibbutz lifestyle into the more traditional family structure, has shown that human nature bests ideology. Equal sharing of labor and its rewards, Children’s housing, communal dining, shared property has given way to varying pay scales for different jobs, children staying with their parents, family meals in the home and private property. This can be seen on secular and religious kibbutzim.

The left has lost is mooring – particularly its Jewish connection. And what are the cables and robes to which it needs anchoring? Tradition based on Torah. Agree with the contents or not, one cannot deny that those who remained bound to tradition did not lose their Jewish identity or values.

Not PC to admit it, but the long association of Jews with the left was one of the reasons the right invested such energy in attacking us. Without so many Jewish Communists, would Hitler and his cronies have had quite so much ammunition for their hatred?

Edward Puentez says:

Jews embraced leftism when it served Jewish interests and rejected it when it worked against Jewish interests. It is that simple.

Jewish tribal loyalties are more important than social justice.

Jews understand the medicine of the New Left, dealt prescribed copiously to oppressive White America, to be poison, and refuse to follow the axiom “physician heal thyself”.

The irony, wanting to share an alternative Jewish Press to a friend who only gets her information from JewsNews and believes everything she reads, I open my favorite publication and what do I get? Ha, ha. I know she’ll only read the headline, perhaps the first paragraph and make up her mind, oh, no, doesn’t even have to change her mind.
Interesting isn’t it, everybody can get anything from any writing, but all s/he gets is what s/he’s already decided to be the truth.


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The End of the Jewish Left

Political theorist Michael Walzer and others argue about the death of the century-long Jewish-Leftist alliance