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Are Politically Conservative Jews "Turned Off" by the Jewish Establishment?:

Ha'aretz publishes an example of a very typical article in Jewish publications these days, accusing the American Jewish establishment of being too conservative, and too supportive of Israel, and therefore turning off young (which is for some reason used as a synonym for leftist) Jews.

I want to raise the opposite issue, which I've never seen addressed in print before: whether what is actually, judged by the "mainstream" American political spectrum, the pervasive liberalism of the American Jewish establishment and laity, including the (non-Orthodox) religious establishment, "turns off" right-leaning American Jews. I can't imagine I'm the only one who has some ideological religious sympathy with Reform Judaism, but can't stand the prospect of going to a synagogue and hearing, e.g., an incredibly ignorant and religiously irrelevant op-ed-masquerading-as-a-sermon on gun control from the rabbi (which, I should note, actually happened to me in a synagogue in the D.C. area).

Moreover, you can't be a "proud conservative" Jew in many congregations without attracting at best pointed questions, and at worst blatant insults, from your fellow congregants. Long-time readers may recall that I have previously posted some anecdotes along the latter lines, though I can't find the links now. Not to mention putting up with the left-wing sermons, left-wing religious action committees that claim to speak in your name, people who won't date you if they find out you're a Republican(!), et al.

Given that conversion to Christianity by American Jews outside of marriage is relatively rare, it strikes me as remarkable that I can name off the top of my head at least three prominent American Jewish conservatives (a small breed to begin with) who converted to Christianity in their later years, and I know of several others who are rumored to have converted, or at least flirted with it. And several major leaders of American conservative evangelical Christianity were born Jews. I'm not questioning the sincerity of any of these individuals' conversions, just wondering whether a (if not necessarily THE) factor that led them to seek another religious community is discomfort with the way individuals of their political ilk are received in the Jewish community.

So, I'm really just wondering: has anyone ever studied, journalistically or academically, "alienation" from the Jewish community among political conservatives, the way folks are constantly ringing their hands about alienation among leftists? If not, it would make a great sociology or religious studies thesis.

Related Posts (on one page):

  1. Russian Jews and the Liberal Jewish Establishment:
  2. Are Politically Conservative Jews "Turned Off" by the Jewish Establishment?:
Tracy Johnson (www):
Getting turned off by one's own current religious community does not necessarily have to be the primary motive. Perhaps Christian doctrine regarding the hereafter could be motivation enough. The phrase "later years" is duly noted, as one probably thinks about such things more often later in life.
9.8.2006 4:14pm
Helen (mail):
This isn't exactly on point, but those of us whose background is what used to be called "mainstream Protestantism" are in very much the same boat. Many political conservatives embrace fundamentalist Protestantism, which is theologically unacceptable to me, nor can I embrace Catholicism on theological grounds. But it's close to impossible to find a spiritual community that doesn't bombard me with completely unacceptable political views. Separation of church and state should work both ways.

I also think an awful lot of (Protestant) congregation-based charity is wasteful and naive (distributing sandwiches to "homeless" persons living in alleys or under bridges, for example.) Philanthropy is certainly an area where the Catholics are professionals: Catholic schools and Catholic charities are effective organizations. Jewish-based philanthropies are also effective and professionally-run.

But I can't find a spiritual home where I'm comfortable with both the theology and the rest of the political and philanthropic "package."
9.8.2006 4:19pm
The NJ Annuitant (mail):
David -- I am entirely with you on this one. The people who agree with us politically ,tend to be Orthodox. So , currently I consider myself secular, because the Reform Reconstructionist, and even Conservative rabinate and congregants tend to be poorly informed left liberals. It really is too bad.
9.8.2006 4:28pm
Yankev (mail):
Dennis Prager has written extensively on the anomaly of American Jews' political behavior, the historic fears and alliances behind it, and the lack of logic in continuing political behavior that -- in his opinion and that of many of us -- is no longer productive.

That said, I'd like to expand on the preceding post. As you've noted, the Orthodox community is less wedded to the Democratic party, and certainly to the left wing of that party. It is also Orthodox Judaism that has the strongest and most consistent moral compass. Halacha does not depend on what is socially or politically fashionable. Reform and its progeny (including Conservative judaism, which split from Reform, and Reconstructionism, which split from Conservative) alas cannot make that claim. In the Christian world, we see defections from denominations that have replaced the gospel with the social gospel. At the time of the conversions that you describe, Orthodox Judaism was little known and was not on the radar screen of most US Jews. (Today it is growing at a pace undreamed of 40 or even 20 years ago.) Could it be that the conversions were inspired by a desire for clearly stated unambiguous moral and religious standards, unclouded by moral relativism?
9.8.2006 4:31pm
CJColucci:
And I thought only American Catholics expected to be able to lunch at the "cafeteria."
9.8.2006 4:32pm
ctb (mail):
I've never really looked in to the the fact that Jews tend to be liberal or democrats, and I don't know why that is, if it is the case. But I ran into an interesting poll yesterday at galluppoll.com (it was free content yesterday, but appears to require some registration or subscription today).

The results of the poll were that republicans have a much higher favorable view of Jews than do democrats as well as a lower unfavorable view.

My question: Given these results why would Jews tend to be democrats when republicans seem to like them better?

(My real dissappointment was that my own religion--Mormon--was veiwed so unfavorably. We didn't poll any better than the muslims.)
9.8.2006 4:33pm
Yankev (mail):
I took a bit too long to type my post. By "preceding post" I meant Tracy Johnson's, though I see that Helen anticipated me.
9.8.2006 4:33pm
larry rothenberg:
Tracy Johnson--the common belief that Judaism does not believe in the afterlife is plain wrong. It may be true that Reform, and to a lesser extent, Conservative, do not believe in them, but traditional Judaism--as reflected in the Torah, the Talmud, other rabbinc literature, and the liturgy--is repelete with references to Gehinnom as punishment for sinners and the olam ha-bah/World to Come or Gan Eden/Garden of Eden for the righteous.
9.8.2006 4:38pm
Christopher M (mail):
Why the exclamation point after the reference to people who won't date Republicans? People draw their moral boundaries in different places, but I certainly couldn't date anyone who voted for Bush in 2004. And I think that's reasonable: to do so, you'd have to be either (1) totally politically disengaged (except for voting) or misinformed; or (2) committed to some significant subset of a set of policies that I (like many people) consider deeply immoral. Why on earth should politics -- that is, basic questions of how we should live &relate to one another -- not be important in finding someone one is compatible with?
9.8.2006 4:41pm
Gabriel Rossman (www):
I agree with David that the article has it backwards. Young Jews aren't to the Jewish establishment's left, young Jews are to its _right_. I first heard this observation in a Bill Kristol lecture at Princeton University circa 2003. I just checked it and he's right.

I extracted Jews from the GSS for the years 1996-2004 and ran party preference by age. I excluded those with a third-party preference. On a scale of 0-6, where 0 is a strong Democrat, 3 is an independent, and 6 is a strong Republican, here's how Jews rank by age:
age 18-35 average 2.6
age 36-60 average 1.7
age 61 and up average 1.6

So gen-X and gen-Y Jews are independents with slight Democrat tendencies, which puts them a solid notch to the right of their elders.

This took me about 5 minutes. If anyone cares to check my work or try different versions, you can go to http://sda.berkeley.edu/archive.htm
choose GSS and run a table with these parameters:
row: age
column: partyid
selection filters: relig(3) year(1996-2004)

While my evidence here is only intuitive and anecdotal, I also agree with David that some politically conservative Jews may "exit" to Christianity, particularly if the ritual aspects of Orthodix Judaism do not appeal to them. It's curious how attitudes about time often drive attitudes about eternity when ex ante, you'd expect it to be the other way around.
9.8.2006 4:43pm
DavidBernstein (mail):
Gabriel,

Can you sort the data by sex? My very strong impression is that young Jewish men are MUCH more likely to be conservative than are young Jewish women, and young Jewish women are MUCH more likely to be extremely hostile to anyone they perceive as "conservative" leading Jewish men with strong conservative views to having a big disadvantage in the Jewish dating market, and thus being more likely to date and ultimately marry non-Jews. Now THAT would be a great economics paper.
9.8.2006 4:53pm
Greedy Clerk (mail):
Dennis Prager has written extensively on the anomaly of American Jews' political behavior, the historic fears and alliances behind it, and the lack of logic in continuing political behavior that -- in his opinion and that of many of us -- is no longer productive.

Comrade Prager is correct. Jews are political behavior has a "lack of logic"; I mean it is obvious that Jews should align themselves with a party whose current leader, President Bush, said that all Jews are going to hell when he was Governor of Texas. We Jews are such idiots not to align ourselves with the party that wants to criminalize private sexual conduct, nationalize 50 percent of the country's reproductive organs and whose respected pundits support mass imprisonment of people based on ethnicity alone (see, e.g., Michelle Malkin, respected conservative thinker). I mean these traditions are just exactly what Judaism is all about!
9.8.2006 4:55pm
Gabriel Rossman (www):
David,

I just checked and surprisingly, the Jewish gender gap is smallest for the young. In fact, given the relatively small N (57 young Jews) it's probably not statistically significant. So while your idea on political roots of out-marriage may occur at the margin, it probably doesn't explain much of the variance.

Here are the details:
Men
18-35 2.8
36-59 2.2
60 and up 1.9

Women
18-35 2.5
36-59 1.3
60 and up 1.3
9.8.2006 5:14pm
Ubertrout (mail) (www):
David, modify Mr. Rossman's (excellent) advice as such:

Replace "age" with "sex" as the row value
Change the selection filters to "relig(3) year(1996-2004) age(18-35)"
9.8.2006 5:14pm
DavidBernstein (mail):
Thanks. But just to clarify, I wouldn't call what I said "the political roots of outmarriage", given that I'm only talking about a rather small percentage of young Jews who are both politically active and care enough about it to have it as a factor in choosing their mate. In D.C., it's fairly common, but then again, it's D.C., so that's what you'd expect.
9.8.2006 5:19pm
DavidBernstein (mail):
Oh, and as a 39 year old, I probably have a skewed vision of what is "young," since I'm most knowledgeable about my own age cohort.
9.8.2006 5:21pm
Gabriel Rossman (www):
Sorry about that, maybe I should have chosen 40 as a cutpoint.
9.8.2006 5:28pm
DavidBernstein (mail):
Christopher, to assume that someone who is a Republican, or someone who voted for Bush, has any SPECIFIC political principles is simply unreasonable. The idea that being a Bush voter, or a Republican, as such, without knowing anything else about the person's ideological or social views, forgetting even other qualities, just smacks of ignorance, as there is an incredibly wide range of people who may fall into either category for various reasons. Heck, I dated someone who voted for Ralph Nader in 1996, but it turned out that her views weren't exactly Naderite.
9.8.2006 5:32pm
Carl Carlson (mail):
I can't even count all the strawmen in GC's post, but as a 37-year old Jewish male who was brought up Reform, I can say that the liberal preaching has turned me toward Conservative Judaism. My parents have also joined a Republican Jewish group of some sorts. Anecdotal, but from what I see amongst my MOT friends, I am not alone.
9.8.2006 5:38pm
Christopher M (mail):
David--

I agree to a certain extent; stereotypes are bad, and I certainly wouldn't rule someone out just because their voter-registration card listed a certain party. But when you get to the level of "voted for Bush in '04," well, I don't know, it's hard for me to imagine a scenario in which someone could do that who (1) largely shares my basic values, and (2) is informed and at least somewhat politically engaged (not necessarily activist, but interested). But maybe shared political/social views are more important to me than to most other people, I don't know.
9.8.2006 5:57pm
SKlein:
I attended the Union of Reform Judaism (the national Reform group) biennial convention last November, which adopted a resolution on Iraq that generated a great deal of controversy at the time. There were roughly 4,000 delegates, and not one spoke in opposition to the resolution. I am very active in the Reform movement, I do not consider myself a conservative, I have never voted for a Republican for a significant office in my life, and yet I feel alienated by the predominant political agenda.
9.8.2006 6:05pm
stevesturm:
I once read/was told that 90% of reform jews are political liberals... if anything, that seems low, as there are times when I'm totally alone. With numbers like this, I don't get bent out of shape when the rabbi starts 'preaching to the choir'... I just tune the sermon out and start thinking about my plans for the weekend. As for being a 'proud conservative', nothing requires one to take on the fight that can't be won. Like good liberals everywhere, jewish liberals are immune to logic, to reason and to the possibility that they're wrong.

Another point: being liberal and jewish aren't one and the same thing. jewish is what you are - by heritage. liberal is merely a fad... albeit one that is taking far too long to end up in the historical dustbin of discredited ideas. And even though I don't go for much of the religious rituals, there's no way I'd ever let some idiot (syn. for liberal) push me to convert.
9.8.2006 6:13pm
Marc W:
A few points regarding Greedy Clerk's post:

1) I don't care if Bush thinks that all Jews will go to hell, since his belief does not make it any more likely. As a Zionist and as a Jew, I care much more about what he does than why he does it. If someone supports Israel, I am happy for that support (even if it's because that person believes that Israel's success is a necessary step toward the rapture), and prefer that over someone who wants Israel dismantled because of some great-sounding ideals.

2) Before beginning this point, I should note that I want same-sex marriage to be legal. I don't think it's fair to characterize the Republicans' opposition to same-sex marriage as wanting to criminalize private sexual conduct. Are you referring to something more? That's the drawback to your glib and sarcastic approach -- it's hard for others to know exactly what you are referring to. Certainly there are those in the Republican party who want to criminalize provate sexual activity (hell, there are those in the Democratic party as well). But I don't think that is enough to support your characterization. If it's part of the party platform (to my knowledge, it isn't, but I don't have the platform memorized), then your characterization is supported. But in that case, I would consider what exactly that means, and what the ramifications are for policy -- what will get done. Since the trend is toward more acceptance of sexual differences, I am not terribly concerned. Now, as far as your characterization goes, both parties can be said to want to keep private sexual conduct criminal, because the majority of people in both parties want prostitution to be kept illegal.

3) I believe abortion should be legal, but I don't think it's fair to characterize people who believe that a fetus' right to life supercedes its mother's right to control her uterus as wanting to "nationalize 50 percent of the country's reproductive organs."

4) I'm not going to address the merits of Michelle Malkin's positions or your characterization of them. But your argument on that score smacks of guilt by association. (i.e., (A) Malkin supports the Republicans; (B) Malkin is wrong about certain issues; Therefore, (C) Supporting the Republicans is wrong). There are plenty of respected liberal commentators with whom I disagree vehemently, and whom I can't stand. By your logic, that means I shouldn't vote for Democrats.
9.8.2006 6:14pm
Yankev (mail):
Greedy Clerk:
a party whose current leader, President Bush, said that all Jews are going to hell when he was Governor of Texas

Did he? He certain feels no compunction about including us in his administration, or granting that the one Jewish state has the same right to self defense as any other nation. He may or may not think we are going to hell, but even if he does, he can't affect what happens to us in the afterlife. But the countless maintstream liberal churches, various Democratic office holders and pundits who think the Jewish state should not defend itself, and who spread classic canards about undue Jewish influence, dual loyalty and blood libel, CAN cause the deaths of numerous Jews in the here and now.

We Jews are such idiots not to align ourselves with the party that wants to criminalize private sexual conduct,

Oh, you mean like the Log Cabin Republicans, a gay republican group? Or like GW Bush, who as a candidate made it clear that he was not going to demonize or marginalize gay Americans? You are exaggerating GWB's opposition to judicial impostion of same sex "marriage". And perhaps you are unaware that Jewish law in fact does criminalize certain private behavior.

nationalize 50 percent of the country's reproductive organs
And do what with them? Redistribute them? Preserve them in brine? Will he compensate those from whom he has confiscated them? And is this worse than nationalizing people's income to support not only the unfortunate and helpless but also the drug addicted, the criminal and the irresponsible? If you are merely engaging in hyperbole about abortion, are you aware of what Jewish law has to say about abortion for reasons other than saving the life of the mother?

and whose respected pundits support mass imprisonment of people based on ethnicity alone (see, e.g., Michelle Malkin, respected conservative thinker).

My, my, you do like to mischaracterize and exaggerate the opinions of others, don't you? Besides, Malkin hardly commands respect in the White House or the Congress; witness her futile attempts to get the party in power to enforce the immigration laws. Has any Republican office holder suggested mass imprisonment based on ethnicity? As I recall, the only time that was done in this country, it was at the hands of the liberal Democrat FDR.
9.8.2006 6:20pm
GMUSL Rising 3L (mail):
I want to echo some of the other points. I was raised Reform, in a synogogue serving a fairly affluent suburban NJ community, which probably muted a lot of the shrillness, but there was still a notable far leftward trend.

Some alienating events I recall include:
(1) Our confirmation class trip to DC, where we were subject to lots of brainwashing for the RAC (Reform Action Committee, the Reform movement's lobby) in preparation for lobbying our congressmen. While these included liberal standbys such as opposition to the death penalty and increased social spending, there were some surprises. My favorite ironic moment was being told that, AS JEWS, we should lobby in favor of homosexual marriage, without even an attempt to deal with the "ABOMINATION" language. Not that I'm against gay marriage per se (I support civil unions), but they didn't even make any attempt to bridge that huge gulf between the text and the movement's politics.

(2) In "Hebrew High School" post-confirmation class, we were discussing conflicting accounts of the Creation in Genesis. One source was the Torah (in English, from the Tanakh translation), and the other was some 1970's feminist poet who had some rambling, incoherent piece about how cruel Adam was to Lilith. One of the girls in my class remarked, "I just can't believe how cruel Adam was to Lilith, and nobody talks about it!" My response, of course, was to point out that the quality and reliability of the sources were not the same.


But overall, I agree with the points. I'm not particularly religious -- in part because Reform did an absolutely wretched job of teaching me Hebrew -- but my lack of Hebrew skills make me feel very uncomfortable and out of place in Orthodox services. On the other hand, the relentless left-wing preaching, misguided peace nowism, and stupid, clunky, gender-neutral prayers really keep me out of shul other than the High Holy Days and Yartzeits.

Oh, what I wouldn't give for a libertarian Judaism...
9.8.2006 6:20pm
xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx:
You are right David. But Reform and Conservative Judiaism are dying. Orthodox is growing and non-alined Jews are growing. We are seeing the religious Jews become GOP and secular going to the Dems, similar to most other Americans.
9.8.2006 6:20pm
Caliban Darklock:
As a conservative Republican and a Conservative Jew, I can't seem to find a synagogue that isn't infested with liberals to the point that I simply can't stomach it.

This may be easier in places other than the Pacific Northwest, where the Jewish population is one of the smallest in the nation.
9.8.2006 6:24pm
Classmate-Wearing-Yarmulka (www):
Orthodox Jews have been voting Republican for only a short time. Voting for Democrats was always the default. Why do you think that pretty much all New York Orthodox Jewish politicians are Democrats?

Back in '96, a friend of my father stated that he was voting for Dole. My father (about 40 at the time) was amazed that a Jew would vote for a Republican. It simply wasn't done.

Now of course, it's just the opposite.
9.8.2006 6:32pm
PaulV (mail):
Please explain to a gentile how a conservative or reform Jew who does not believe in Heaven can be upset when someone says he is not going to heaven. I know that logical consistency is not always a virtue.
9.8.2006 6:45pm
Liz O (mail):
Just a point of information -- While the Conservative movement is certainly declining, the Reform movement is definitely not. It is the fastest growing -- and largest of the movements of American Jewry. Modern Orthodoxy is also growing at this time but at a slower rate than Reform.
9.8.2006 6:53pm
Roscoe (mail) (www):
Marc W:

Can I please comment on your implication that fundamentalist Christian support for Israel is based on some notion that it will help bring the rapture around? In seven years in the Marines, I met lots of fundamentalist Christians. They generally support Israel because (1) Israel is our only real ally in the region, (2) it is the only democracy in the region, and (3) it is the only country in the region that even remotely shares our values. I have never heard anyone except liberal Jews expouse this rapture theory.
9.8.2006 6:55pm
David Yashar (mail):
My daughter attends an educators' program in a prominent Jerusalem institute. The teacher in one of her classes gave out a copy of an article discussing a new Friday night prayer service at Bnai Jeshurun (on Manhattan's Upper West Side). The point the article and teacher was trying to make was how inclusive this new program was. An Israeli in the class thought the program sounded touchy-feely, but if it was inclusive of all Jews, he supposed it was all right. I told him that he didn't understand the Bnai Jeshurun Upper West Side. Had any of the young Jews at this prayer service stated that he or she was a Republican, he would have been ostracized immediately, if not physically assaulted. The Israeli laughed. He said, You mean it's inclusive as long as you think like everyone else?
9.8.2006 6:59pm
DavidBernstein (mail):
Roscoe, there is some small segment of fundamentalist Christians who believe in this, small enough that they are not really relevant. But most liberal Jews can't believe that conservative Christians would sincerely support Israel, so they tend to be susceptible to the rapture theory. And those who know better, the liberal Jewish political elite, intentionally propagate the rapture theory to scare Jews away from the Republicans.
9.8.2006 7:01pm
Greedy Clerk (mail):
Matt W. -- I enjoy your strawman style of arguing, I stopped reading when I saw this absurd line: "I am happy for that support (even if it's because that person believes that Israel's success is a necessary step toward the rapture), and prefer that over someone who wants Israel dismantled because of some great-sounding ideals." . . . . Because the choice is between Bush and people who want "Israel dismantled." Go ask the average Israeli who they thought was better for Israel, Clinton or Bush. They will most likely say Clinton -- Israelis quickly recognize fools, and they figured out W a long time ago, and are slowly but surely realizing that Bush's idiotic campaign in Iraq has been a disaster for Israel.
9.8.2006 7:08pm
Marc W:
Roscoe,

That was sloppy on my part. I didn't mean to imply that Christians support Israel because of a rapture theory, though my comment can easily be read that way. I was trying to give an example of someone supportying (what I believe to be) the right cause for (what I believe to be) the wrong reason.

Sorry if I wasn't clear about that.
9.8.2006 7:11pm
Greedy Clerk (mail):
But the countless maintstream liberal churches, various Democratic office holders and pundits who think the Jewish state should not defend itself. . . .

Name one. And random comments from Daily Kos and Democratic Underground do not count. Please, let's see "countless liberal churches" and "various Democratic office holders" who think Israel "should not defend itself." Give me a break. The last Democratic administration was quite supportive of Israel's right to defend itself.
9.8.2006 7:13pm
logicnazi (mail) (www):
Have you considered the opposite explanation. Namely that american conservatism's involvement with christianity is what is turning otherwise conservatively minded jews off. Thus those jews sympathetic to christian norms/values/religion are disproportionatly more likely to identify as conservative?

After all I think a HUGE reason that conservatism is so unpopular in many academic and intellectual circles which are often composed of people with fairly libertarian sentiments (witness acceptance of drug use or just general oddity) is the association with christianity and puritanical moral enforcement. I know that even if I was extremely opposed to welfare and taxation I wouldn't identify as a conservative for fear of lending support to this awful inclination to legally enforce a puritanical morality.
9.8.2006 7:28pm
Greedy Clerk (mail):
Matt W states in response to my characterization of Michelle Malkin's views as "support[ing] mass imprisonment of people based on ethnicity alone" that "My, my, you do like to mischaracterize and exaggerate the opinions of others, don't you?"

As I recall, Ms. Malkin wrote a book dedicated to defending, and supporting, the mass imprisonment of people based on ethnicity alone. Her book was specifically aimed at revisiting the widely held belief by both those on the right (e.g., Ronald Reagan, Richard Nixon, etc.) and those on the left that the internment of Japanese-Americans during WWII was one of the great injustices of American history. Malkin did not write that it was a mistake that perhaps was understanble under the circumstances; she out and out defended it and implied quite strongly that we should be thinking seriously about whether to treat Arab-Americans the same way. Please explain to me where I am "exageratting or mischaracterizing" Malkin's views.

Furthermore, this is how Malkin made a name for herself, and much to this website's credit, her blog was created as a reaction to very pointed scholarly criticism of the purported "facts" upon which she based her revisionist history of internment from Eric Muller while guest-blogging here. Nevertheless, Malkin is a hero amongst the right-wing bloggers (again this website excluded) and she is almost linked to daily by Instahack. And on a dead serious note, I would say that the present right-wing's willingness to accept such views into their mainstream is one reason why many Jews in America today are uncomfortable with the modern right wing. Malkin, supported by the modern right, has mainstreamed the idea that we should have a serious debate over whether the mass deprivation of the most fundamental right in the Anglo-American justice system -- i.e., the right to be free from imprisonment except by due process of law -- based on ethnicity alone. Many Jews, with another such mass imprisonment that went a step farther, still fresh on their minds might be a tad uncomfortable with this. You might even call those Jews' views "logical."
9.8.2006 7:35pm
Ted Frank (www):
I don't see the problem: I count three libertarian Northern Virginia Jews in this thread alone, which should be enough for at least four different congregations.
9.8.2006 7:36pm
Marc W:
Greedy,

Gee, it's interesting being accused of setting up a strawman argument by someone who said the Republicans want to "nationalize 50 percent of the country's reproductive organs."

My argument wasn't a strawman. You implied that I shouldn't support the Republican Party because Bush "said that all Jews are going to hell." I explained why I could still vote for Bush.

That said, I'll acknowledge that my point does bear some more clarification. Given a choice between:

A) someone who would, for the wrong reason, pursue policies that would be good for Israel; and

B) someone who is well-intentioned but would pursue policies that are bad for Israel,

I'll take choice A.

Is that clearer?

Now, this is not to imply that I accept the notion that Bush's policies re Israel are for the wrong reason or that all those whose policies I believe would be bad for Israel are well-intentioned. But I'm making the point that actions are more important than motivation.

Re your assertion that most Israelis prefer Clinton over Bush. That may or may not be correct. I tend to doubt it, but have no numbers at my fingertips. But it's unimportant. I don't have to agree with the majority of Israelis.

But then, are you even reading this far? It is, afterall, easier to say you stopped reading at the first point than to address the substance of an argument. My guess is that that's what you did after my first post.
9.8.2006 7:36pm
A. Zarkov (mail):
David

You bring up an interesting and important question; one I have thought about off and on for years, but never did any formal research. It is hard to understand why Jews are so politically liberal when it today's world it might be counterproductive to their very survival. To help understand what's going on I'm go to quote from the book "Before the Deluge: a Portrait of Berlin in the 1920s" by Otto Friedrich. This book is supposed to be one if the best studies of Weimer Germany, so says Lotte Lenya wife of Kurt Weil of Three Penny Opera fame. Here are some excerpts from pages 109-111. It's best to read the whole thing, or better yet the whole book if you can get a copy.

"As Jews began to emerge in business and professions there came outbreaks of anti-Semitic in the 1880s …"

"When the Kaiser's court chaplin … founded the Christian Socialist Party and demanded forced conversion of the Jews more liberal Christians founded a Union to Combat Anti-Semitism."

Sound a little familiar?

"When World War I began the Jews expressed their sense of German nationalism by swarming into the army …"

"Some one hundred thousand Jews [1 out of every 6 Jews] … entered the German army"

"Of these 80,000 served in front-line trenches, 35,000 were decorated for bravery and 12,000 were killed."

"The Jews were pathologically patriotic says Rabbi Prinz"

"To many Gentiles however, even those who vehemently deny the accusation of anti-Semitism this flowering of Jewish life represented the triumph of an alien an vaguely threatening force."

Now we come to what I personally regard as the key sentence:

"Whatever hopes for Jewish assimilation might be—and they were considerable ('Jews are political idiots, says Rabbi Prinz.' They are too optimistic too hopeful. They do not understand an enemy.')…"

So we can see the pattern. Again and again the Jews fail to understand both their friends and their enemies. Many Jews I know are more concerned about American Christian Fundamentalists than radical Islam. Yet these Christians support Israel, and Jews in general while the Muslims threaten them with annihilation. It's absolutely astonishing. How can you call this anything other than political idiocy?
9.8.2006 7:52pm
anonassociate:
Greedy Clerk, just google Israel and PCUSA for a sampling.

Regards.
9.8.2006 8:15pm
Christopher M (mail):
Many Jews I know are more concerned about American Christian Fundamentalists than radical Islam. Yet these Christians support Israel, and Jews in general while the Muslims threaten them with annihilation. It's absolutely astonishing. How can you call this anything other than political idiocy?

Because, for one thing, the overwhelming majority of liberals believe their favored policies would make Israel safer and more secure, not less so.
9.8.2006 8:24pm
A. Zarkov (mail):
Christopher M

"Because, for one thing, the overwhelming majority of liberals believe their favored policies would make Israel safer and more secure, not less so."

Your response does not address the rhetorical question I posed. I didn't even use the word "liberal." Do you think being liberal means favoring radical Islam over Christian Fundamentalists? Or do you think favoring radical Islam would help not hurt Israel?

You do realize that radical Islam, and even the more secular Arab terrorist organizations like the PLO have targeted and killed Americans (not just Jews) for over 30 years? Do you think the Israelis are the ones killing and abducting Americans? Just how do you determine whose side you are on?
9.8.2006 8:45pm
Orwell's Ghost (mail):
"a party whose current leader, President Bush, said that all Jews are going to hell when he was Governor of Texas"

As a Jew, why the hell should I care whether someone thinks I'm going to hell? My feelings are hurt? My personal beliefs can't handle it? I don't give a damn.

I don't care if someone thinks I'm going to hell - I care if they try to send me there prematurely. And in that respect, it is President Bush who is most active in preventing those most likely to do so from getting the chance.
9.8.2006 8:57pm
Orwell's Ghost (mail):
"a party whose current leader, President Bush, said that all Jews are going to hell when he was Governor of Texas"

As a Jew, why should I care whether someone thinks I'm going to hell? My feelings are hurt? My personal beliefs can't handle it? I don't give a damn.

I don't care if someone thinks I'm going to hell - I care if they try to send me there prematurely. And in that respect, it is President Bush who is most active in preventing those most likely to do so from getting the chance.
9.8.2006 8:57pm
Orwell's Ghost (mail):
sorry for double
9.8.2006 8:57pm
Carolina:
As a gentile, the position I find most astonishing about mainstream (left-wing) Jewish politics is the support for civilian gun control. Given the history of the 20th century, I have a tough time understanding understanding Jews who believe only governments should have weapons. Can anyone enlighten me?
9.8.2006 10:00pm
Justin (mail):
David Bernstein writes "Roscoe, there is some small segment of fundamentalist Christians who believe in this, small enough that they are not really relevant."

However, David Bernstein is clearly in error, if polling or any informal period of time spent in the Bible Belt middle class communities would indicate.
9.8.2006 10:00pm
DavidBernstein (mail):
OK Justin, point us to a poll that shows in any way, shape, or form, that any significant number of Americans support Israel because they believe that this will lead to the gathering of all Jews there, to be destroyed in the batlle of Gog and Magog, after which the rapture will come; because that's what I've heard over and over again from liberal sources, yet every person I've ever spoken to or corresponded with who is actually a fundamentalist Christian or from a family of fundamentalist Christians said that they have never heard anyone they know tie their support of Israel to this.
9.8.2006 10:07pm
The NJ Annuitant (mail):
Carolina -- You make a great point, and the only enlightenment I can offer is that of history: they cannot envision themselves defending themselves with firearms, but they can envision themselves as being terrorized with firearms.

Crazy , isn't it?
9.8.2006 10:25pm
r4d20 (mail):

As a Zionist and as a Jew, I care much more about what he does than why he does it.


Just you wait. When the time comes they will turn on you and make Hezbollah look like jokers.
9.8.2006 10:30pm
Justin (mail):
Wow, that almost took me 4 seconds of googling

Maybe if you did research instead of relying on your own preconceptions so haughtily, you might come across as less foolish.

Here's another piece of advice. When the evangelical community talks about creationism, they mean it. When they talk about armageddon, they mean it. When they talk about reading the bible literally, once again, THEY MEAN IT.

Now, they're clueless and going to fail, and indeed Israel will not be struck down at the beginning of armageddon for rejecting Jesus Christ. But that's the goal of these people - it has nothing to do with secular democracy, a concept that they DO NOT believe in.
9.8.2006 10:50pm
Ken Arromdee:
Please explain to a gentile how a conservative or reform Jew who does not believe in Heaven can be upset when someone says he is not going to heaven.

Because people aren't random piles of disconnected beliefs and the belief that Jews aren't going to go to heaven is associated with negative beliefs about Jews and Jewish practices in the living world.
9.8.2006 10:56pm
DWPittelli (mail):
GC:

I doubt Malkin is linked even weekly by Instapundit. She isn't up there currently (4 days of links). At any rate, she is certainly an order of magnitude or two less significant (viewers, appearances) to the Republicans than DailyKos is to the Democrats. I also don't recall her sitting next to any ex-Presidents at the RNC. Further, there are any number of anti-semites (and "anti-Zionists" who judge Israel by standards they apply to no one else) welcome in the Democratic party, provided they are black and/or sufficiently far to the left.

I don't agree with Malkin on Arab Americans or Japanese Americans, but her position on Arabs recently was explicitly of the tentative it-might-have-to-be-considered variety. Most of her work on WWII internment, that FDR had reasons other than bigotry to do it, is clearly correct, although that does not mean you have to agree with her or FDR on the resulting policy.

All that aside, since it was FDR who actually did the internment, why didn't that drive Jews away from the Democrats, given your reasonable assumption that Jews are or should be particularly sensitive to such moves?
9.8.2006 10:57pm
byomtov (mail):


Probably not.
9.8.2006 10:58pm
Foucault (mail):
Most of my friends are Jewish, and a decent majority have conservative political views, or at the very least support Israel very strongly. One thing no one has mentioned about younger Jewish folk these says is that so many of us (I'm 29, most of my friends are mid-late 20's) did high school in Israel programs for a semester, or took advantage of Birthright Israel, or had our Bar-Mitzvah's over there. We travelled all over the tiny country in buses, and most of us came back feeling like we had a second homeland. That sort of influence is tough to get away from, and may help explain why so many younger Jews are leaning right.
9.8.2006 11:02pm
DavidBernstein (mail):
From article linked to by Justin: "Even more significant for this study, over one-third of those Americans who support Israel report that they do so because they believe the Bible teaches that the Jews must possess their own country in the Holy Land before Jesus can return."

I'm very skeptical when I see a poll paraphrased without the actual question posed cited, nor any link to the poll itself, nor any definition of what is meant by "israel's supporters" but even taking this citation literally, this is still a far cry from the allegation that evangelicals support Israel because they want Israel to gather all the Jews, who will then all be massacred, and I can think of much more innocuous interpretations than that, including many that are positively philo-Semitic (i.e., Jesus has delayed his arrival because Christians have so mistreated Jews, so we need to support Israel to make up for all the bad things Christians have done; I've seen preachers say this on t.v.).
9.8.2006 11:09pm
Ken Arromdee:
Furthermore, this is how Malkin made a name for herself

Wikipedia claims that Malkin's previous book (two years earlier) was a bestseller, and that she became a nationally syndicated columnist five years earlier.

I'd also wonder how much of that book was influenced by Filipinos not liking the Japanese much because of what happened during World War II. ~~~~
9.8.2006 11:13pm
Dave Gudeman (mail) (www):
Greedy Gerk, you said,
As I recall, Ms. Malkin wrote a book dedicated to defending, and supporting, the mass imprisonment of people based on ethnicity alone.
Your recollection is in error. One of the points in her book was that the Japanese were not interned for their ethnicity. Only Japanese were interred, not Chinese or Koreans or Southeast Asians, although to Americans these people were all the same ethnicity. The Japanese were interred because of fear that they would be more loyal to Japan than to America. They were interred for their political ties, not their ethnicity.
Malkin did not write that it was a mistake that perhaps was understanble under the circumstances; she out and out defended it and implied quite strongly that we should be thinking seriously about whether to treat Arab-Americans the same way.
You didn't read the book, did you?
Please explain to me where I am "exageratting or mischaracterizing" Malkin's views.
Well, for one thing, Malkin never implied even remotely that we should be interning Arabs. She did say that we should use ethnic profiling to try to prevent people from killing us.
her blog was created as a reaction to very pointed scholarly criticism of the purported "facts" upon which she based her revisionist history of internment from Eric Muller while guest-blogging here.
Muller's criticisms were not very scholarly; they were more like political propoganda than scholariship.

On another point: I was raised among conservative Christians who mostly supported Israel, and never once heard anyone connect his support of Israel with the Rapture. It would be rather odd for a Christian to try to help God out with grand historical events; we pretty much think God can handle it, being omnipotent and all. The idea that the believers have a hand in the unfolding plan of history is much more Marxist than Christian. For Christians, our job is just to do what is right, and that means supporting a group of people who just want to live in peace but are in constant fear of murder by their neighbors.
9.8.2006 11:16pm
jimbino (mail):
It gets tiresome to have to keep explaining to y'all that "God has no grandsons." What this means, to those Muslims, Jews and Catholics out there, is that being born to a "believer" does not make you a believer. Hence, there is normally no such thing as "conversion" to Christianity, especially in the case of Jews, since a child is NEVER born with a faith to convert from!

While it might be said that Saul of Tarsus "converted" in some sense, since as an adult he went from being merely a persecutor to the Founder of Christianity, that cannot be said of Simon and his brother Andrew, James and John, Philip, Nathaniel, Matthew, Thomas, and James son of Alpheus, Simon the Zealot, Judas, and Judas Iscariot and on and on. Don't forget: Jesus did not come to overturn the laws of the Jews, but to fulfill them! Being a Jew and a Christian at the same time is the most natural thing in the world, and normally does not involve a "conversion."
9.8.2006 11:17pm
Ivan (mail) (www):
David started by pointing out how grating it is to have people tell us, from the left, how we need to think in order to be good Jews. It seems ironic how swiftly that was followed up by people from the right telling us we need to think like them in order to be good Jews.

How can Jews vote Republican? How can Jews support gun control? How can Jews favor gay marriage? How can Jews work together with fundamentalist Christians? How can Jews support Palestinian causes? How can Jews oppose Iraq intervention? How can Jews support abortion rights?

Easy. The same way everyone else does--by following our consciences. Now stop pigeonholing me just because I'm Jewish.
9.8.2006 11:22pm
Orwell's Ghost (mail):
"Here's another piece of advice. When the evangelicalist Muslim community talks about creationism jihad, they mean it. When they talk about armageddon dhimmitude, they mean it. When they talk about reading the bible Koran literally, once again, THEY MEAN IT.

Now, they're clueless and going to fail, and indeed Israel America will not be struck down at the beginning of armageddon for rejecting Jesus Christ. But that's the goal of these people - it has nothing to do with secular democracy, a concept that they DO NOT believe in."


Of course, the difference with fundamentalist evangelicals is that when Israel isn't struck down, there is no evidence that they will strike it down themselves. Whereas, fundamentalist muslims show every indication of speeding up their own goals.

The Koran prescribes Jews as monkeys and apes. Would that bother me anymore than Christian theology, if that was all that came of it? No. So once again, I ask - why should I care at all about the personal beliefs of someone who is aiding me, so long as they do not act in a way hostile to me?
9.8.2006 11:55pm
Orwell's Ghost (mail):
bah. Should be:

"Now, they're clueless and going to fail, and indeed Israel America will not be struck down at the beginning of armageddon for rejecting Jesus Christ Allah. But that's the goal of these people - it has nothing to do with secular democracy, a concept that they DO NOT believe in.
9.8.2006 11:56pm
FedkaTheConvict (mail):
Justin, believing in the Second Coming of Jesus Christ as most Christians do; is not the same thing as believing in the Rapture.

Most fundamentalist Christians share an eschatological viewpoint but at the same time most Christians do not believe in the Rapture - which is a specific confluence of events and circumstances.

Most Christian denominations teach that "every eye shall see Him" when He returns whereas the Rapture specifies that a "chosen elect" will be "caught up" and mysteriously disappear.
9.8.2006 11:57pm
DavidBernstein (mail):
Oh, and Ted, very funny!
9.9.2006 12:03am
DavidBernstein (mail):
Oh, and Ted, very funny!
9.9.2006 12:03am
rds (mail):
It is true that there is a biblical reason why support for Israel is so broad, deep, and passionate among regular a-political American evangelicals. But it isn't the book of Revelation or ideas about the rapture (about which there is not all that much agreement among evangelicals) -- it is Genesis and Isaiah. In particular, Genesis 12:3, "I will bless those who bless you, and I will curse him who curses you. All of the families of the earth will be blessed in you." This is taken extremely seriously by your average evangelical, and it is something Jews can take to the bank about a key constituency in their closest and most powerful ally. This should be considered a big luck break -- or is it . . .

Also, Isaiah, as drilled into everyone by Handel (in a nice, catchy sort of way), "Comfort ye, comfort ye My people, saith your God. Speak ye comfort to Jerusalem, and cry unto her, that her warfare is accomplished, that her
iniquity is pardoned."

It is no joke how seriously these admonitions are taken, and there is no bad side of it for MOTs or Israel.
9.9.2006 12:04am
hey (mail):
I don't see it as saying you're a bad jew for having certain policy beliefs, but rather that it is counter-intuitive to believe certain combinations of things or to profess a concern about certain combinations of things.

David: As to you main point, look at the changes that are happening in Canada. The Democrat's equivalent has recently espoused very ambivalent (to be charitable) positions on Israel. This has translated into significant and VERY public changes in political identification, with one of the largest Liberal Party donor and fundraiser families loudly procaliming their change of allegiance to the Conservative Party (Gerry Schwartz and Heather Reisman, the latter of whom has up until now promoted conventionally liberal positions through her bookstore, the largest in Canada and equivalent to at least Borders and Barnes &Noble combined). Further switches happened during the last election, including a major newpaper proprietor (David Asper, equivalent to a Sulzberger combined with a Ridder and a Chandler) and the clergy of many temples are becoming very vocally conservative. This process is of course helped by very vocal and influential voices of aggressive islamist organizations that have been heeded by the other Canadian political parties.

So just wait, and you'll see movement as it becomes ever more clear that the Democrats are backing the Islamists.
9.9.2006 1:34am
Mfisch86 (mail):
I just wanted to reinforce previous comments re: evangelical/fundamentalist Christians support for Israel not being tied to the "rapture".
My wife and I are Christians and attend an evangelical church as well as goto weekly Bible studies. My parents are fundamentalist Christians as well. We are all strong supporters of Israel's right to exist and defend herself.
Never (and I literally mean never) have I heard anyone in my church, Bible studies, or family or friends ever mention "rapture" as a reason for support of Israel. In fact, it's never mentioned as even being a part of a reason.
I think what drives many people to believe otherwise (such as Justin) are preconceived notions re: evangelical Christians which are then supported by readings of various sources which, no pun intended, preach to the choir.

Thanks for letting me put my 2 cents in. May God bless you all (hope noone takes offense at that).

Matt
9.9.2006 3:34am
NYU 2L:

My very strong impression is that young Jewish men are MUCH more likely to be conservative than are young Jewish women, and young Jewish women are MUCH more likely to be extremely hostile to anyone they perceive as "conservative" leading Jewish men with strong conservative views to having a big disadvantage in the Jewish dating market, and thus being more likely to date and ultimately marry non-Jews. Now THAT would be a great economics paper.


This got lost in the shuffle, so I felt like requoting it--David, you're exactly right here. Another half of it is that to a right-winger who had seriously studied Jewish religion as a youngster, Jewish liberalism from the pulpit comes across not just as stupidity, but as corruption.

I believe, for secular reasons, that abortion is immoral, and that Jewish values should also condemn the practice. That a large swath of the Jewish public votes for the most pro-choice candidate available really call into question for me the morality of the American Jewish community. So, despite the barrage of comments that'll likely come from my grandparents, I'm probably not going to end up marrying a Jewish girl. (Of course, in New York, it's hard enough to find anyone for whom being pro-life isn't an automatic disqualifier. Isn't America great?)
9.9.2006 5:26am
David M. Nieporent (www):
Name one.
Jimmy Carter and the Presbytarian Church. that's one of each.


Maybe if you did research instead of relying on your own preconceptions so haughtily, you might come across as less foolish.
Indeed. Now if only you knew how to take your own advice. David asks for evidence of what fundamentalist Christians believe, and you cite statements on the *ATHEIST* website as your "evidence"? Pretty hard to look more foolish than that.
9.9.2006 5:54am
FedkaTheConvict (mail):
I would go even further and posit that anyone who used the pharse "disproportionate response" in regards to Israel does not support its right to exist.

What exactly is a "disproportionate response" to an attack on a sovereign state? Was the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan a "disproportionate response" given that Afghanistan itself did not attack the U.S?
9.9.2006 7:53am
Walk It:

" What exactly is a "disproportionate response" to an attack on a sovereign state? "

Well, some even in Israel are currently defining "disproportionate" as the killing of hundreds of civilians, and the destruction of millions of dollars of property in an failed effort to return a handful of kidnapped soldiers as disproportionate.

Not to mention the need, once again, for the international community to have to step in and protect Israel by monitoring the borders of neighboring states from the consequences of Israel's disproportionate and ineffection response.

(Can we at least stop calling Israel "independent" until they are capable of surviving without outside protection? I know it makes some feel more mighty, but it's really a contradiction in terms until they are capabable or actually acting independently militarily.)
9.9.2006 9:30am
Eric Muller (www):
Dave Gudeman,

Consider this "scholariship" on Michelle Malkin's book, and on why Japanese Americans were "interred":
http://www.reason.com/0412/cr.em.indefensible.shtml

More political propaganda? Yet another instance of moonbat leftism in the pages of Reason magazine?
9.9.2006 9:56am
David Chesler (mail) (www):
(Can we at least stop calling Israel "independent" until they are capable of surviving without outside protection? I know it makes some feel more mighty, but it's really a contradiction in terms until they are capabable or actually acting independently militarily.)

Yeah, and France too.
9.9.2006 9:58am
Richard Riley (mail):
Back to David's original question on what can conservatives do in a liberal religious institution/organization: I face the same issue as a relatively conservative New Dem type in a liberal campus-oriented Presbyterian church. Admittedly my dilemma is less sharp than David's, since I'm not actually a Republican. Still, liberal activism is pretty hegemonic at my church, at least among the formal organized parts of it (the pastor and assistant pastor, the "Peace and Justice Committee," etc.).

My strategy is "entryism," as the Trotskyists used to say. I try to get involved in church activities and then move the discussion, programs, etc. in a less thoughtlessly liberal direction. Sometimes you can get people to focus on private charity - which churches should be involved in anyway - and at least turn the discussion a few degrees away from silly lefty "activism." Not easy, and not quick, but it may be a way to start turning Reform Judaism away from the unchallenged liberalism David discusses.
9.9.2006 10:17am
Marc W:
Greedy wrote:

Matt W states in response to my characterization of Michelle Malkin's views as "support[ing] mass imprisonment of people based on ethnicity alone" that "My, my, you do like to mischaracterize and exaggerate the opinions of others, don't you?"

Actually, I didn't. That was someone else. And, by the way, It's Marc W -- not Matt. That's the second time you did that, so now I assume it's not a simple typo.
9.9.2006 10:24am
Marc W:
Greedy,

In two posts responding to what I wrote (in one of which you attributed to me comments made by others), you have yet to address the substance of any of my points.
9.9.2006 10:29am
Justin (mail):
As entertaining as the moving-the-goalposts and the "I'm not going to be convinced till I see a poll done yesterday with the exact phrasology that would embarrass people to support the idea I want to believe they don't support, an essentially push poll supporting my position" argument is, it is neither defensible nor worthy of a response.
9.9.2006 11:33am
Justin (mail):
As entertaining as the moving-the-goalposts and the "I'm not going to be convinced till I see a poll done yesterday with the exact phrasology that would embarrass people to support the idea I want to believe they don't support, an essentially push poll supporting my position" argument is, it is neither defensible nor worthy of a response.
9.9.2006 11:33am
R. Hillel (mail):
Why do politically conservative Jews convert to Christianity?

In two words: goyische kopf.
9.9.2006 11:40am
byomtov (mail):
Please explain to a gentile how a conservative or reform Jew who does not believe in Heaven can be upset when someone says he is not going to heaven.

The problem is that this particular belief - that Jews are automatically damned - has been, through the centuries, one justification for the persecution of Jews ranging from social and economic pressures to physical violence to the kidnapping and baptism of Jewish children. The argument has been that, since Jews are in danger of losing their souls if they do not convert, any action that induces conversion is justified.

I'm not claiming that Bush wants to make Jews convert at gunpoint, but the idea he expresses has had, and likely will have in the future, very nasty consequences for Jews (and other non-Christians as well).

In addition, this belief is, or should be, utterly insulting to religious Jews, since it essentially claims that Judaism is a false religion, that its followers, no matter how virtuous their lives, are condemned by God.

Now do you understand?
9.9.2006 11:47am
Justin (mail):
I'm not sure some of you understand how a debate works. I was asked to find some evidence of my position, and I did. If you guys want to put forth an implausible sounding alternative explanation of my evidence, that's fine. But what you really need is evidence that your implausible sounding alternative explanation is, you know, true.
9.9.2006 11:57am
DavidBernstein (mail):
Justin, the original question was whether there is any evidence that right-wing Christian support for Israel is substantially due to a belief that it's necessary for the Rapture to arrive, not that they believe that it's necessary for Jesus to return. You haven't provided any rapture-related evidence, and I'll reiterate that all the evidence I've seen suggests only a small fraction of Christians tie support to Israel to anything having to do with "Rapture". The reason the Rapture theory is significant is that it ultimately involves the annihilation of the Jews living in Israel, and one would be quite right to be skeptical of support given in anticipation of such an event.
9.9.2006 12:25pm
FedkaTheConvict (mail):
Justin, this was your initial comment:

"However, David Bernstein is clearly in error, if polling or any informal period of time spent in the Bible Belt middle class communities would indicate."

So have you actually spent time in the Bible Belt or polled its inhabitants as to what they actually believe?

Evangelical Christians who believe in the Rapture are known as Dispensationalists. If you actually did poll the Bible Belt you would have discovered that Dispensationalists do not have the numbers or influence as you initially suggested; books by Tim LaHaye and others not withstanding.

But its also clear that you have a more fundamental problem in recognizing the differences between the Second Advent and what is called the "rapture."
9.9.2006 12:25pm
David M. Nieporent (www):
In addition, this belief is, or should be, utterly insulting to religious Jews, since it essentially claims that Judaism is a false religion, that its followers, no matter how virtuous their lives, are condemned by God.

Now do you understand?
Not really. If Christians believed that Jews (non-Christians) couldn't lead virtuous lives, that would be troublesome. But merely believing that leading a virtuous life is insufficient? That is their belief. (Well, I'm not a Christian, so I may get terminology wrong here, but I don't think they'd describe Judaism as "false" (unlike, say, Buddhism or Hinduism); rather, they'd call it "incomplete." They believe Judaism to be true; they just believe, bizarrely, that Christianity is compatible with it, and "fulfills" it.) You're either offended by the existence of Christianity, or you're offended by the fact that Christians openly say what they think rather than concealing it. Neither makes any sense to me.
9.9.2006 2:58pm
David M. Nieporent (www):
As entertaining as the moving-the-goalposts and the "I'm not going to be convinced till I see a poll done yesterday with the exact phrasology that would embarrass people to support the idea I want to believe they don't support, an essentially push poll supporting my position" argument is, it is neither defensible nor worthy of a response.
And yet, you felt the need to respond. Funny, that.

It's not moving the goalposts; it's clarifying them, because you just don't understand what you're talking about. I have heard scores of left wingers tell me that the religious right's support for Israel should be rejected because it's based on the idea that all the Jews need to die in Israel during the rapture; I've never heard a Christian suggest that.

Rather than admitting you were just repeating left wing talking points, you tried to change the subject.
9.9.2006 3:01pm
byomtov (mail):
If Christians believed that Jews (non-Christians) couldn't lead virtuous lives, that would be troublesome.

In effect, that is what the belief amounts to. In addition, the belief stated by Bush is not, in fact, part of all Christians' beliefs.

I don't think they'd describe Judaism as "false" (unlike, say, Buddhism or Hinduism); rather, they'd call it "incomplete." They believe Judaism to be true; they just believe, bizarrely, that Christianity is compatible with it, and "fulfills" it.)

I think your own word, "bizarre," best describes this rationalization.

You're either offended by the existence of Christianity, or you're offended by the fact that Christians openly say what they think rather than concealing it.

No. I am offended by one particular aspect of the beliefs of some Christians.

And, I should add, I personally am mostly offended by this belief because of its historical consequences, an issue your comment ignores.
9.9.2006 3:09pm
Seerak (mail):
Regarding the original post, I would expect that the return of anti-Semitism and racism in general to the Left will swamp out all these other trends, pushing all Jews out of there completely. The "Jewish Establishment" is not going to survive this contradiction for long; contrary to Greedy Clerk's assertion, Kos, DU and Moveon.org are very much indicative of the core Left's beliefs.

But I won't go so far as to say they will end up "on the Right", as those two choices are not exhaustive; the Right is composed of two contradictory elements ("small government" conservatives who tend to be secular and capitalistic, and the theocratic conservatives, whose view of government and society is akin to the Left's).
9.9.2006 3:37pm
Seerak (mail):
... previous post continued (too quick on the trigger)

... and it's anybody's guess how the Right will resolve that split, or when. I'm pretty sure that the former liberal Jews will gravitate to the libertarian-ish wing, seeing as that's where most liberals disillusioned with the rise of the socialist Left end up.
9.9.2006 3:40pm
Heather (mail):
NYU 2L

Are you doing anything next Saturday night? ;).

(I hear ya.)
9.9.2006 4:12pm
Yehudit-NYC (mail) (www):
"Go ask the average Israeli who they thought was better for Israel, Clinton or Bush. They will most likely say Clinton -- Israelis quickly recognize fools, and they figured out W a long time ago, and are slowly but surely realizing that Bush's idiotic campaign in Iraq has been a disaster for Israel."

Israeli straw polls during the 2004 election season showed that a majorty of Israelis would vote for Bush if they were in the US.

"An Israeli in the class thought the program sounded touchy-feely, but if it was inclusive of all Jews, he supposed it was all right. I told him that he didn't understand the Bnai Jeshurun Upper West Side."

I live on the UWS - I know several ex-members of BJ who left because of the politics. He is right, if you are conservative or a hawk you are shunned.

"Why on earth should politics -- that is, basic questions of how we should live &relate to one another -- not be important in finding someone one is compatible with?"

Depends on what you want in a relationship, someone to rubberstamp everything you believe in, or someone different from you to bring in fresh viewpoints? I wouldn't mind dating a liberal democrat, we could have fun arguments! As for the Conservative Jewish man who can't find women to date .... Hi! I'm in NYC, how about you? I can't find Conservative Jewish men to date. All the single ones in my boomer cohort are secular lefties who don't even want to date Jewish women anyway. if you are too young for me or not in NYC area, do you have friends?
9.9.2006 6:10pm
Yehudit-NYC (mail) (www):
"I'm not questioning the sincerity of any of these individuals' conversions, just wondering whether a (if not necessarily THE) factor that led them to seek another religious community is discomfort with the way individuals of their political ilk are received in the Jewish community."

It's possible, but I think a greater factor would either be lack of Jewish education, so they don't know how beautiful and fulfilling Judaism is, combined with antisemitism so they feel being Jewish is a net loss ..... or the opposite, a very unpleasant Orthodox upbringing with emphasis on restrictions and claustrophobic insular community, rather than uplifting enjoyable Jewish life.

But I could be wrong.
9.9.2006 6:13pm
Yehudit-NYC (mail) (www):
"(Can we at least stop calling Israel "independent" until they are capable of surviving without outside protection? I know it makes some feel more mighty, but it's really a contradiction in terms until they are capabable or actually acting independently militarily.)"

You would have to tame the entire Arab bloc for that to happen. Tiny European countries - for example - don't need protecting because they are not surrounded by larger countries trying to destroy them.
9.9.2006 6:16pm
Yehudit-NYC (mail) (www):
Sorry for so many posts but this topic is one of my pet issues. I love Judaism and Jewish ritual and prayer, I was raised with it and it suits me down to the ground, and I can engage in this and have friends in synagogue while ignoring the politics. I would never leave Judaism over something like this. I have never heard of anyone else leaving Judaism if they love their Jewish life in general.

Someone who is very secular or alienated from Judaism in general might feel differently, but I can't imagine politics being a major factor in conversion without some other issues being involved also.

No one has mentioned the religion of the spouse. That is a common spur to conversion..
9.9.2006 6:20pm
Justin (mail):
David, your too cute by half and not making much sense. I've shown evidence that Christians believe that for Jesus's second coming to begin, greater Israel must be in the hands of Jews. The ONLY reason one would believe this, the only "story" out there upon which this is a prerequisite for the second coming of Jesus, is Rapture.

So, I'll repeat myself, really slowly. I've persented EVIDENCE of my argument, and you've rebutted with a (nonsensical) POSSIBLE alternative explanation. If you want me to treat your position as even remotely honest, you're going to have to do something other than move the goalposts. You're going to have to show some actual evidence for your counterrargument.

And I want to point out that what I said is so obvious, that my respnding with evidence was to this haughty and foolish post of yours:

"OK Justin, point us to a poll that shows in any way, shape, or form, that any significant number of Americans support Israel because they believe that this will lead to the gathering of all Jews there, to be destroyed in the batlle of Gog and Magog, after which the rapture will come"

To say that the two polls I presented do not "show[] in any way. shape or form, that any signficant number of Americans suppot Israel because they believe . . . rapture will come" is silly. Of the ONE THIRD of supporters of Israel (a solid majority in this country) who support Israel because they think it will bring back Jesus, you argue that the numbers of those do so because of the one story that would explain that prerequisite is "insiginficant"?

Really?

No, seriously - is that what you are absurdly arguing? Because if you so, you really need to show some evidence yoursellf.

For instance, I could easily google rapture and polls and get responses like this:

Fully 59% say they believe the events in Revelation are going to come true, and nearly one-quarter think the Bible predicted the Sept. 11 attack.

or this

According to another poll, 44% of Americans- mind you, this poll includes all Americans, not just Christians- believe the Rapture will happen in their lifetime.

Now, I don't have the time, effort, or money to do specific polling on the connection, as obvious as they seem, between the strong belief in rapture and the strong belief in the second coming of jesus requiring jews to occupy Israel, but to see this as "not evidence" seems to me to show a complete lack of judgment - one which would scare the hell out of me had I taken your class and had the nerve to disagree with your viewpoint, no matter how strong a position I made.
9.9.2006 6:27pm
G.dc LeatherRoom:
Tiny European countries - for example - don't need protecting because they are not surrounded by larger countries trying to destroy them.

Well nobody forced the Jews to take that piece of land when it was offered up, eh? It's that independence thang again...

It's been more than a few years though, since they settled in but from what I see, what with the disproportionate responses and backhanded ways of securing nuclear weapons, there's been no real progress by Israel in gaining long-term security for herself. Actions have consequences -- that's one thing I suspect other independent countries have learned in earning their security and taking care of themselves.
9.9.2006 7:04pm
Ken Arromdee:
Fully 59% say they believe the events in Revelation are going to come true, and nearly one-quarter think the Bible predicted the Sept. 11 attack.

That is in the same article as a poll which states that "36% of Americans believe that the Bible is the word of God and is to be taken literally".

Which means we are expected to believe that at least 23% of Americans don't think the Bible should be interpreted literally, yet believe that Revelation is going to come true. I don't think so.
9.9.2006 8:14pm
NYU 2L:
Sorry, Yehudit, I'm pretty sure I am too young for you (23) :) Though it seems that the Jewish community is the one place where the idea that "Anyone over 30 who's still a liberal has no brain" never took hold. Oh well.
9.9.2006 9:03pm
Yankev (mail):
Israel has not aksed the "international community" to help defend it. Nor did Israel invade Lebanon to retrieve captured soldiers. Israel defended itself against repeated deliberate attacks launched into its teriroty in violation of its sovereignty carried out by the second largest political party in Lebanon with the connivance of the Lebanese government. The "international community" demanded that Israel cease its efforts at uprooting a terrorist army that had been allowed for 6 years to operate and arm itself in Lebanon and that was given free reign by the Lebanese government. Israel would much have preferred to finish the job itself, but the "international community" promised to stop future attacks if Israel acceded to UN demands to withdraw.

By the way, during the entire second world war, the Germans landed fewer V-1s and V-2s on London that the Lebanese launced in ONE MONTH into Israel. Israeli Arabas as well as Israeli Jews were killed by these rockets. Compared to the deaths of civilians at the hands of the UK, the US and most other nations in time of war, Israel's record is one of the most humane, not one of the most bloodthirsty.
9.10.2006 12:35am
Dave Gudeman (mail) (www):
OK, Justin, I read your links. The first one was a waste of time. It didn't even contain the words "Jew" or "Israel", so I don't know what you thought it was proving. The second one, the essay posted at the atheist site, was a load of crap. The part you quoted
even more significant for this study, over one-third of those Americans who support Israel report that they do so because they believe the Bible teaches that the Jews must possess their own country in the Holy Land before Jesus can return.
had no actual support in the essay itself. They claimed that a poll showed this, but since they gave no details about the poll not even the wording of the question, I'd have to trust their honesty and intelligence in order to believe this. The rest of the essay gives me little reason to trust their honesty or their intelligence.

They use the word "dispensationalist" as though it represents a group. This lets them put together an apparent conspiracy based on the actions of lots of unrelated dispensationalists. You could probably do something similar with people who think O. J. Simpson is innocent: In May of 2002, a Simpsonist did this ... in June of 1999 there was a group of Simpsonists who ... there are two Simpsonists on the Denver city council ... you can see how all this adds up to a conspiricy of Simpsonists.

In other words, that essay was nothing but a ridiculous conspiracy theory. You should be embarrassed to link to it.
9.10.2006 6:56am
jgshapiro (mail):
I don't know whether Greedy Clerk qualifies as a "troll," but as a longtime reader of this blog, I find it easier to simply ignore his comments than to constantly try to disabuse him of his ignorance and/or his thread-hijacking tactics. For example, spending 20 comments trying to convince GC that because various Christians believe in the rapture does not mean they support Israel because of this belief seems rather pointless to me; he would never concede the point, and everyone else gets it. As the saying goes, you can't teach a pig to sing. (I would say the same for Justin's comments.)

Getting back to the post, I would agree with David's observations on dating. As a right-of-center Jew who is registered as a Republican but sometimes votes for Democrats, I find myself in the minority when I am among groups of Jews, almost all of whom are to the left of me (and I am to the left of David). However, for the last 10 years, I have lived in Boston and San Francisco, two very liberal cities, so I always chalked this up to the demographics of where I lived and assumed that had I lived in Atlanta or Charleston, or even Denver, I would find a lot more like-minded people in reform and conservative temples. I could be wrong. Does anyone have any data by region or metro area?

David's post also reminded me of a conversation I had with a Jewish friend of mine a few years ago on this very topic, who insisted that the reason so many Jews voted Democratic was that the Democratic party (and liberal values) were much more in line with Jewish values. Having taken a seminar on Jewish law in law school, I know that he was not referring to Jewish values as articulated in the Torah, Talmud, etc., though perhaps he did not. But as a matter of Jewish values in the sense of the values that most Jews actually hold (regardless of what Jewish religious sources say they should hold), he may be right. Jewish values as a practical matter don't seem to have a lot of connection to Jewish religious sources, which may be why reform judiasm (which de-emphasizes religious sources, except for ritual purposes, in favor of the broad concepts assumed to motivate them) has grown in popularity as Jews have become more 'religious'.
9.10.2006 8:03am
BT:
jgshapiro. I am not Jewish but have had a number of jewish friends and have even dated a few Jewish women down thru the years. I live in Chicago. My experience is similar to yours politically. I am far to the right of most Jews I have known (and their siblings, parents)so if that is any indication, Chicago is probably in line with the areas your have lived in with regards to your question.
9.10.2006 1:03pm
Married to Reform Judaism:
I can't imagine I'm the only one who has some ideological religious sympathy with Reform Judaism, but can't stand the prospect of going to a synagogue and hearing, e.g., an incredibly ignorant and religiously irrelevant op-ed-masquerading-as-a-sermon on gun control from the rabbi (which, I should note, actually happened to me in a synagogue in the D.C. area).

Heaven forbid that you are exposed to ideas you disagree with!!! Oh, the humanity!!!

If this happened week-after-week, I could see the complaint. But saying it happened to you once does not sound like a horror story to me.

Stephen Carter lamented that when he arrived in a town (I think it was New Haven), he was told which church was for the politically conservatives and which was for the politically liberal.

I haven't seen Reform Jews kicking anyone out for failing to be liberal enough. I have seen a lot of politically conservative Christians try to kick out anyone with liberal views (think Episcopal and Southern Baptists).
9.10.2006 1:51pm
FedkaTheConvict (mail):
I haven't seen Reform Jews kicking anyone out for failing to be liberal enough. I have seen a lot of politically conservative Christians try to kick out anyone with liberal views (think Episcopal and Southern Baptists).


Are you referring to the same Episcopalian Church that appointed a openly gay Bishop? That doesn't sound very "politically conservative" to me.
9.10.2006 6:06pm
Married to Reform Judaism:
Are you referring to the same Episcopalian Church that appointed a openly gay Bishop? That doesn't sound very "politically conservative" to me.

Conservative Episcopals (along with anti-gay bigots from Africa) are trying to kick the liberal Episcopals out of the Anglican Communion. And when I say "anti-gay bigots," I mean the head Bishop in Nigeria not only wants to kick the Episcopalians out of the Communion, he thinks the governments should put people in jail merely for demonstrating for gay rights.

In the US, it's less severe (but that hasn't stopped American Episcopalians from creating an alliance with the bigots across the sea).

As to tolerance of people with differing views, how many Orthodox synagogues would tolerate, say, an openly pro-gay rabbi?
9.10.2006 6:18pm
FedkaTheConvict (mail):
I couldn't answer your question Orthodox synagogues since I am not Jewish.

However, from my reading of the issue of the gay Episcopalean bishop it seems to me that its the other way around and its the liberal Episcopalians who are, at the minimum, trying to force the conservatives out. After all its the liberals who hold the majority of votes; so much so that they elected a gay bishop. Obviously if the conservatives were in the ascendancy that wouldn't have occurred.

BTW, the "anti-gay bigots from Africa" are not Episcopalians - the Episcopal Church is very much only an American church.

Many of the comments in this thread - like yours and Justin's - have made me wonder how many commenters are actually Christians or even have more that a passing familiarity with Christianity.
9.10.2006 6:28pm
DG:
I've found that younger (<40) Jewish men tend to more more right-leaning (albeit libertarianish) than Jewish women. That wasnt a dealbreaker with my wife who leans to the left (although also libertarianish) - I suspect she finds it somewhat endearing.

The guys I'm talking about are pro-choice, pro-gay marriage, pro-gun, strong on defense, pro-israel, and generally for the government staying out of our business, bedrooms, and pocketbooks. This is a real generational change. The republican/democrat thing doesnt come into it too much - these guys tend to cross party lines a fair bit - and are willing to hold their noses and vote for a pro-life or anti-gun politician, if, on the whole, they seem to have otherwise good views. See: South Park republican.
9.10.2006 8:37pm
David M. Nieporent (www):
As to tolerance of people with differing views, how many Orthodox synagogues would tolerate, say, an openly pro-gay rabbi?
Presumably about the same number that would tolerate, say, an openly pro-bacon-eating rabbi.

The problem with your argument is that you refer to these as "views," rather than religious tenets. For Reform Jews, those may be the same thing. But there's no way to be Orthodox and be "pro-gay" (if by "pro-gay" you mean feeling that there's nothing wrong with being gay.) On the other hand, gun control (unlike homosexuality) is not a matter of religious doctrine (for Jews; I suppose it might be for Quakers or something), even if some Reform Jews act as if it is.
9.10.2006 10:47pm
Married to Reform Judaism:
On the other hand, gun control (unlike homosexuality) is not a matter of religious doctrine (for Jews; I suppose it might be for Quakers or something), even if some Reform Jews act as if it is.

Because the Orthodox view of what constitutes Jewish religious doctrine is right, and everyone else's view is wrong?

In one recent case, the Orthodox Union pushed a case all the way to the US Supreme Court (which denied cert). their goal? To use the power of the State to prohibit anyone but Orthodox Rabbis to use their view of Judaism to certify food as Kosher (Here's an early motion they filed).

Reform Jews tend to use the power of persuasion to try to get people to accept what they believe is a religious tenet. Orthodox Jews, by contrast, are far less tolerant. As the Kosher case shows, they are even willing to use the power of the secular state to try to settle intrafaith debates.

In fact, they made the same argument in the Kosher case that you are making--Orthodox beliefs are settled and correct religious doctrine, everyone else is just wrong. What's amazing is that they could find high-powered lawyers to sign their names to such an arrogant, delusional, and probably frivolous argument.

Further, Professor Bernstein pointed to a grand total of one time when he had to hear a Reform rabbi speak about a political matter that Professor Bernstein did not agree with. As traumatic as that might have been for him, it's not that big of a deal.

And while Orthodox rabbis should stop trying to use the power of the State to prohibit other Jews from practicing their faith, I would hope that Orthodox rabbis also talk about how to apply their religious faith to matters of public policy.
9.11.2006 6:25am
T-Bone (mail):
Just a clarification: The churches mentioned aren't trying to kick people out for being politically liberal; they're trying to do so for their espousing what they see as unBiblical practice and theology. A totally different animal, and a valid move for a belief-based organization. That certain practices and theologies are linked to some political views is incidental,
9.11.2006 6:53am
T-Bone (mail):
Oops -- sorry, I hit "send" too soon -- to finish... "and not the reason for attempts at church discipline."
9.11.2006 6:54am
Married to Reform Judaism:
That certain practices and theologies are linked to some political views is incidental, and not the reason for attempts at church discipline.

Yes, because "church discipline" is soooooooo threatened when you worship in the same room with someone who has a different view of what the Bible says about gay marriage.

You do help prove my point. When there is a theological difference between liberals and conservatives, the liberals generally say: "We disagree, but we are all imperfect human beings trying to figure out the perfect will of God. Maybe we can learn something from arguing."

The conservatives generally say: "We disagree, but we conservatives have a unique connection to God (or G-d) that makes us certain that we are right and you are wrong. We cannot tolerate praying in the same room with you. Go away." (Unspoken: "Our faith and our ideas are so weak that our people might change their mind if they listened to you.")
9.11.2006 8:36am
DavidBernstein (mail):
Married, I didn't object being exposed to views I disagree with. I object to attending a religious service and having to sit through a political rant that was both ill-informed and, more to the point, regarding which the speaker didn't even try to tie to anything having to do with Judaism. Instead, there seemed to be an implicit assumption that all good Jews are liberals, so giving a sermon supporting a liberal cause was somehow "Jewish." I suspect the rabbi got this particular sermon from one of the "I'm too lazy to write my own sermons" books/guides, and decided to insult the congregation's intelligence by failing to (a) do any additional research to ensure he knew what he was talking about or (b) find some way of tying the debate to Jewish theology.
9.11.2006 8:48am
DavidBernstein (mail):
P.S. I've only attended Reform services a handful of times in my life,and I'd say 40% or so of those times featured a liberal political sermon. Maybe this is atypical, but, going back to the point of my post, it would be more than enough to "turn off" a political conservative looking for a religious home.
9.11.2006 8:50am
Yankev (mail):
Married, thank you for remimnding us of the Reform version of religious tolerance: i.e. that Orthodox Judaism is intolerant by virtue of its adherents believing it to be true rather than throwing itself open to be whatever a sufficient number of its congregants want to be.

It makes no sense for non-Orthodox rabbis to certify food as kosher. Reform and its progeny have changes the definition of Kosher beyond all meaning, ignoring in some cases standards that have been agreed upon for millennia. Until a few decades ago, Reform taught that keeping kosher was actually immoral. (I did not grow up Orthodox. My grandparents were very active in their Reform temple.) In the 1980s or 90s, Reform instead decided that kashrus was an option, and might even be encouraged, but was by no means mandatory.

Conservative supposedly requires kashrus but has rewritten the standards for its own convenience. Even so, the overwhelming majority of Conservative Jews make no pretense of keeping even those watered down standards.

Finally, your caricature of the attitude of religious conservatives is just that. We too realize that we are imperfect and have an imperfect understanding of what G-d wants of us. We also believe, however, that He HAS revealed certain truths to us -- not directly to us or because of any merit of our own, but to Moses our teacher out of love for us and for our ancestors, and that our teachers over the generations have accurately transmitted those truths to us. So that if someone says, e.g., that it us compatible with [Orthodox] Judaism to worship idols, or to worship a man of flesh and blood, or to murder for profit and convenience, or to eat (other than for purposes of saving a life) shrimp, or to "marry" one man to another, we say "we believe that you are wrong, but whether you are wrong or not, what you are proposing is contrary to the teachings at the very heart of our religion, and if you plan to teach such things, you cannot do so in the name of our religion."
9.11.2006 11:33am
David M. Nieporent (www):
Married: you make my point perfectly.

Because the Orthodox view of what constitutes Jewish religious doctrine is right, and everyone else's view is wrong?
Yes. And I say this as an essentially non-religious Reform Jew, not an Orthodox one. If Reform Jews want to eat bacon, that's up to them. (I choose not to, but I don't even pretend to follow many of the laws of kashrut.) The Orthodox are hardly strangers to religious debate -- but there's no legitimate debate as to whether bacon is kosher. (As a legal matter, I agree with the Second Circuit that it's an impermissible entanglement of religion and state for the court to define religious doctrine, no matter how black letter that doctrine is. But since I'm not a judge, I don't have to act agnostic (pun intended) on the substance of Halacha.)
9.11.2006 2:32pm
Yankev (mail):
David, in a sense Married is adopting the same view -- that Reform's view of what consitutes Jewish law is right and everyone else's is wrong. In essence Married (and many like Married with whom I've served on various boards and committees) wants Orthodoxy to accept that Jewish law is of human and not Divine authorship, can be changed at by human beings, can be different things to different Jews, and must change 180 degrees if necessary to accomodate the spirit of the times.

Not long ago the head of the Reform movement declared that there is nothing wrong with sex between men and that the only sin is in thinking that such conduct IS wrong. One can argue the first proposition either way, but it is in clear conflict with the written Torah and with the teachings of the Sages over several millennia. Does it not take as much faith that Rabbi Yoffie is right as to believe that the Torah and the Sages are right? The question is faith in what. Orthodox Judasim will never apologize for refusing to replace faith in the Torah and its sages (ancient and modern) with faith in R. Yoffie. We believe that G-d told us to have faith in G-d and tomanifest that faith by obeying the Torah as explained by the Sages. I am aware of no Divine injunction to follow the opinions of someone who rejects those commands.
9.11.2006 4:01pm
Caliban Darklock:
Yankev, I have one major question that I rarely see answered with anything other than a clearly knee-jerked "party line" response. Perhaps you will do me the honor of actually considering it.

All halachah is over five hundred years old, and has been written merely by men. It is not the word of HaShem, or of a prophet, but merely of a learned and respected scholar.

Is it not natural and normal that the learned and respected scholars of the fifteenth century might believe things that we now understand to be false? After all, it was not until well into the sixteenth that we first encountered the Copernican theory. It seems ridiculous to propose that we should live our lives bound by a set of laws over half a millennium old without a detailed rational re-examination of those laws.

I think it's a little extreme to throw everything out and start over, as the Reconstructionist and many Reform Jews do. But why is it unacceptable to propose that maybe five hundred years ago, we weren't as smart as we are today?
9.11.2006 4:14pm
Marc W:
Caliban,

I think you're missing something here. You started with the assertion: "All halachah is over five hundred years old, and has been written merely by men. It is not the word of HaShem, or of a prophet, but merely of a learned and respected scholar." Your question follows from the axiomatic assumption that the assertion is correct.

I would bet that Yankev doesn't believe the assertion is correct. In fact, I am guessing that he accepts as axiomatic that the Torah (and therefore much of halacha) is the word of Hashem. That being the case, your question doesn't follow.

Yankev will, I assume, correct me if I am wrong.
9.11.2006 6:24pm
Caliban Darklock:
Marc, I was imprecise. It would have been more correct to specify that I was referring explicitly to *talmudic* halachah.

The question remains, once properly limited in scope.
9.11.2006 8:10pm
Joseph Hertzlinger (mail) (www):
There is some evidence for the speculation. According to the American Jewish Identity Survey 2001, 13% of Jewish Jews were registered Republicans but 40% of Jews who had converted to another religion were. If all of them returned at once...
9.12.2006 1:28am
Yankev (mail):
Caliban, yours is a thoughtful question that deserves an answer. First, of course, as Marc W. points out, I (along with every Orthodox Jew) believe that Halacha is indeed the word of G-d, but not in the sense that many non-Jews or non-Orthodox Jews would assume.

Halacha has several sources. We believe that the written Torah (which make up the fisrt 5 books of the Hebrew bible) is only part of G-d's word, and was accompanied by a much vaster Oral Torah. Both were given to Moses at Sinai directly by G-d. The oral Torah not only amplifies the written Torah (e.g. the correct explanation of "an eye for an eye" as meaning monetary compensation rather than dismemberment; the required method of slaughtering animals for food; the proper way of making tefillin) but also the manner of determining the law in cases not explicitly addressed by the written law (e.g. automobile travel on the Sabbath). The written Torah includes the express command to be guided by the sages of your own generation as to the application of the written and oral Torah. Thus even the Talmud -- closer to 1500 than 500 years old, by the way -- is applied to present day situations by present day rabbis.

Rabbi Shamshom Raphael Hirsch -- a giant intellect who lived in late 19th century Franfort - analogized the written Torah to the lecture notes of a 40 year-long college course. To someone who attened the the lectures, a word or even an exclamation point will recall volumes of information. To someone who did not, the notes may be meaningless or even convey the opposite of the correct meaning.

That's why yeshivas focus on studying the oral law -- part of which was reduced to writing as the Talmud. Oral law consists of laws transmitted to Moses at Sinai, derivation of laws by the sages via logic and via transmission of the tradition, and rabbinic legislation (d'Rabbanan) intended to prevent inadvertent violation of laws of Sinaitic laws (D'Oraisa).

The Talmud iitself is less like a statute book and more like your law school case book, where you are forced to figure out the law yourself by inductive logic. Inductive logic has not changed in the last 500 years.

Surprisingly, very little of halacha depends on science or scientific method; much more of it is concerned with interpersonal ethics. At the end of the day, advances in science impact the application of halacha but not the halachic principles themselves. Nearly 1,000 years ago, Rambam (whom the gentiles call Maimonides) wrote that the Talmud's discussions of medical cures are NOT halacha and that one should follow the advice of contemporary physicians. Rambam's opinion does NOT change basic halachic principles, such as the law that Sabbath restrictions are suspended in cases of danger to life. Treatment of minor ailments is prohibited but treatment of life threatening (or potentially life threatening) conditions is not only permitted but required.

Rest assured the halacha responsa of the 20th and 21st century take into account the latest medical and scientific advances. In fact, Rabbi J. David Bleich, among others, is in great demand even in the non-Jewish medical world as writer and speaker on the topic of medical ethics, which demands vast current medical knowledge.

I hope this helps, and clarifies what Mark pointed out. See for instance the first mishnah in a part of the Talmud called Avos (which means not only "fathers" but also "Basic Prinicples"): Moses received the (oral and written) Law at Sinai and conveyed it to Joshua; Joshua to the Elders; the Elders to the Prophets; and the Prophets to the men of the Great Assembly." There follows a 5 chapters of principles laid transmitted by the sages of the Great Assembly and their successors -- the people that the written Law instructs us to rely upon to know what the Law is.
9.12.2006 1:34pm
Caliban Darklock:
> Inductive logic has not changed in the last 500 years.

This is simply not true. While Aristotle first elucidated basic argumentation theory in the fourth century BCE, it was Francis Bacon in the 17th century and John Stuart Mill in the 19th who turned deductive reasoning into the formalised systems we have today. Inductive reasoning in particular was heavily discussed by David Hume in the 18th century. Our understanding of logic is very, very different today than it was five centuries ago.

Take for example the 39 melakhot, work we are forbidden to do on Shabbat. We are forbidden to do this work under the following logic:

We are forbidden to do work on the temple.
If we could do any of these things,
It would be possible to do work on the temple.
Therefore, we cannot do any of these things.

This is clearly wrong. It's a post hoc ergo propter hoc argument; some might even call it petitio principii. Even once that is recognised, it is generally proposed that we maintain them as traditional; this, of course, is argumentum ad antiquitatem and every bit as fallacious.

However, when it was originally constructed, this argument seemed perfectly reasonable even when examined by the greatest Jewish minds of the time. It is still entirely possible that the flawed logic of many halachic subjects can be corrected without altering the conclusion, because it's frequently the case that someone will know a conclusion follows from specified premises, yet not know how to demonstrate it logically.

If a halachic pronouncement is in fact correct, then it is correct, and no amount of examination will make it incorrect. But *incorrectness* should simply not be allowed. There is no failure in being wrong; the failure is only in refusing to correct what we know to be wrong.
9.12.2006 3:33pm
Yankev (mail):
Take for example the 39 melakhot, work we are forbidden to do on Shabbat. We are forbidden to do this work under the following logic:

We are forbidden to do work on the temple.
If we could do any of these things,
It would be possible to do work on the temple.
Therefore, we cannot do any of these things.


Not exactly, Caliban. The prohibition against melakha (whicg you seem to agree is a more accurate term than the often-misleading mistranslation "work") is general and is given on several occassions before the command to build the Tabernacle (i.e, mishkan, which you seem to be confusing with the Bes HaMikdash, or Temple). A better paraprhasing of Rashi, quoting the Sages, might be:

1. The commandment against melakha on Shabbos has already been stated.
2. [Not stated explicitly by Rashi here, but a well known general principle:] G-d did not get paid by the word. If something is repeated, there must be a reason.
3. The repetetion of the commandment to refrain from melakah on Shabbos specifically says there are no exceptions for urgent tasks, and is sandwhiched between (a)the commandment to build the mishkan, which will bring G-d's presence into the Camp of Israel and is therefore of paramount importance, and (b) the details of how to build it.
4. The commandment about Shabbos was repeated here to teach us that even the building of the mishkan does not override Shabbos.
5. [Not expressly stated, but underlying the further argument:] The building of the mishkan is a one-time event, yet the text goes into great detail as to how it must be done.
6. [Not expressly stated, but underlying the further argument:] Nowhere is melakha (as you seem to note, a much more precise term than the vague and misleading term "work") defined.
7. Therefore, we learn that melakha can be broken into priniciple categories corresponding to the principle categories of activity needed to build the mishkan.

Bolstering this conclusion are later incidents (e.g. the man gathering sticks) that appear consistent with the conclusion.

The flaw is not in the reasoning; the flaw is in your assumption of what premises underly the reasoning.

Is there at heart an appeal to authority? Of course. At least two. First, the very idea of Divine Law from an omniscient Divine presupposes purposeful and intelligent communication by the Divine. Second, the principle of emunas chachamim (faith in the Sages) -- the belief that the Sages of the Talmud were Divinely aided in their discussions of the law, and that they got it right. Any system of "Judaism" that jettisons either principle is at direct odds with Torah Judaism. This is not so much argumentum ad antiquitatem as a simple recognition of what the basic beliefs of [Orthodox] Judaism are.
9.12.2006 4:30pm
married to reform judaism:
"Married, thank you for remimnding us of the Reform version of religious tolerance: i.e. that Orthodox Judaism is intolerant by virtue of its adherents believing it to be true rather than throwing itself open to be whatever a sufficient number of its congregants want to be."

That's not what I said (or at least not what I meant to say). The Orthodox are not intolerant when they refuse to admit the possibility that they are wrong, they are arrogant when refuse to admit the possibility that they are wrong.

"I think it's a little extreme to throw everything out and start over, as the Reconstructionist and many Reform Jews do."

"Orthodox Judasim will never apologize for refusing to replace faith in the Torah and its sages (ancient and modern) with faith in R. Yoffie."


Good thing that's not what the Reform Movement is doing (although some of its members may be guilty). That's more of an ignorant Orthodox stereotype.

"Not long ago the head of the Reform movement declared that there is nothing wrong with sex between men and that the only sin is in thinking that such conduct IS wrong. "

Then it's a good thing that his opinions (like those of other rabbis) aren't binding law.

"The Orthodox are hardly strangers to religious debate -- but there's no legitimate debate as to whether bacon is kosher."

That's not what the Second Circuit case was about. It was about details of cleaning and labeling that were not Torah-based. Based on the articles I read, the case was really about a store owner and rabbis who couldn't get along.

But what was truly offensive about the case was that the Orthodox Union took the official position that the State should punish shop owners who decided to get certified by a Conservative rabbi.

What would happen if the owner refused to pay fines or obey court orders to change? He could have ended up in jail for contempt. So the Orthodox Union wanted to follow a path that would lead the State to put religious dissenters in jail. That's intolerance.

Has the Orthodox Union ever admitted how terribly wrong it was for pursuing the case? Or does it still maintain that the State should punish Conservative Jews for practicing Conservative Judaism?

The case is reminiscent of the Nigerian Anglican archbishop's support for throwing people who demonstrate for gay rights in prison. Normally, that wouldn't be a big deal to Americans, but many politically conservative Americans are looking to that archbishop for leadership in their effort to kick politically liberal Episcopals out of the Anglican Communion.

And DavidBernstein,

I more or less agree with your most recent posts. I would be interested in what an Orthodox rabbi had to say about abortion, but I would expect him to discuss it in a religious context. Did you attempt to talk to the rabbi who made what you thought were stupid remarks about gun control? If not, why not?

If the rabbi were interesting in learning and debating, then the (factually wrong) sermon would then at least serve the purpose of educating him. Of course, if the rabbi was not interested in hearing thoughtful arguments about why he is wrong, then he deserves your disdain.
9.12.2006 8:11pm
married to reform judaism:
I should explain my sample bias. When my Jewish then-fiancee and I were looking to get married, we spoke with all of the Reform Synagogues in town. We picked the one that put the toughest requirements on us (in terms of Judaism classes and two-on-one meetings with the rabbi). I wanted to go someplace where the rabbi took his faith (and our marriage) seriously.
9.12.2006 8:15pm
David M. Nieporent (www):
That's not what the Second Circuit case was about. It was about details of cleaning and labeling that were not Torah-based. Based on the articles I read, the case was really about a store owner and rabbis who couldn't get along.
I didn't mean to imply that the case was about this; that comment was just about the larger dispute over whether the Orthodox or Reform are "right." The case was, at least technically, about false advertising (and more specifically, whether the state can enter into a dispute over whether it's "False" or not to call a particular product kosher.)

(But regardless of the specifics of this case, the ultimate result is that one can sell bacon and call it "kosher," and the state can't prosecute, because that would necessarily require that the government determine whether the statement is true or not.)

(The underlying joke, of course, is that the most ultra-Orthodox out there wouldn't rely on the mere word "kosher," anyway. They'd demand far more than that.)
9.12.2006 9:52pm
DavidBernstein (mail):
Yankev, if you are still reading, can you give me a coherent explanation as to why God would give two separate but complementary bodies of law at the same time, one written one oral? One not all written? That way we wouldn't have had to have all the later debates as folks "misremembered" the oral law? Or all oral? What possible motivation would God have had to have one written law, but another equally important oral law? And why, at the end of Deutoronomy, would God explicitly say this is the whole law, and you're forbidden to add anything to it, if the oral law existed at the same time? I went to yeshiva for many years, and never heard anything remotely resembling a coherent answer to these questions.
9.12.2006 10:31pm
Yankev (mail):
David,
why God would give two separate but complementary bodies of law at the same time, one written one oral? One not all written? That way we wouldn't have had to have all the later debates as folks "misremembered" the oral law? Or all oral? What possible motivation would God have had to have one written law, but another equally important oral law? And why, at the end of Deutoronomy, would God explicitly say this is the whole law, and you're forbidden to add anything to it, if the oral law existed at the same time? I went to yeshiva for many years, and never heard anything remotely resembling a coherent answer to these questions.

I hesitate to answer for any number of reasons. For one, having been raised in a secular though nominally Conservative home (and I mean nominally), I never had the privilege of learning in Yeshiva. (Based on how I wasted my time in public school and as an undergrad, it may be just as well.) By the time I became interested in Yiddishkeit, I was just out of law school, married, and felt that I could not take the time or money to go.

So it may be that your question has been addressed by any number of sources that I have never learned. Query whether the Kuzari, or the Rambam, or the Maharal, among others, discuss this question?

Even more important, no one can possibly say why G-d does what He does, except to the extent that G-d has made His reasons known. So all I can do is speculate.

That said, someone once said that the lecture system is the most efficient method ever devised for getting information from the teacher's notes into the student's notes and back to the teacher via exam answers, without it ever having to go through anyone's mind. That's one reason so many law schools use Socratic method instead.

Socratic method is kid stuff, as you know, compared to Gemara. It is impossible to learn Gemara without a qualified rebbe, a good chavrusa, and plenty of time and effort. Medrash and aggadta are even more obscure and demanding. What better way to assure the continued intimate involvement of b'nai Yisroel with Torah over the generations?

As for the statement at the end of Deuteronomy, "this is the whole law" — keep in mind S.R. Hirsh's analogy to the written Torah being the lecture notes to the oral Torah. Wouldn't the antecedent of "this" be the entire Torah as taught by Moshe Rabbeinu, both oral and written? SRH points out any number of references to the oral law in the written law itself. I do not have his chumash with me at work (and also need to finish up lunch hour and bill some hours) but I seem to remember they include the details of the first Pesach sacrifice (taught first by Moses and Aaron to the elders and by the elders to the people) and the details of shechitah/kosher slaughter (slaughter the animal "as I have shown you"). Aish haTorah lecturers also point out that without oral law we would not know that "frontlets" (totafos)are head tefillin, nor what verses should be in the tefillin nor what tefillin should look like or how or where they should be attached. (Indeed, the heretics disputed the Sages on some of these issues, as brought down in Megillah.)

It might be worth repeating your question at I'm sure someone there can give you a better answer.

May you be written and sealed for a good year.
Yankev
9.13.2006 2:58pm