Thursday, September 10, 2009

Not just Rubes from Poland

Why Are Jews Liberals?---A Symposium: Commentary magazine has an interesting round table on Norman Podhoretz's latest book. Many good answers are given to the question, though all deal with the relation of Jews either to Judaism or to the non-Jewish world; none deals with the difficult subject of Jew-on-Jew relations in the old Europe of limited Jewish opportunities, or in the New World; and part of the answer to (secular) Jewish liberalism surely lies there. Anyway, a couple of neat quotes, first from Jeff Jacoby:
...troubadour Shlomo Carlebach after a lifetime of visiting American campuses: “I ask students what they are. If someone gets up and says, I’m a Catholic, I know that’s a Catholic. If someone says, I’m a Protestant, I know that’s a Protestant. If someone gets up and says, I’m just a human being, I know that’s a Jew.”

“Just-a-human-being” liberalism, secular and universalist—there is the dead end into which the flight from Jewish separateness has led so many American Jews. To call it a dead end is not to deny its allure. Much of liberalism’s appeal lay in making Jews feel good about themselves, secure in the conviction that they were part of a broad and enlightened mainstream. Liberalism freed them from the charge of parochial self-interest that had so often been leveled against Jews. It replaced the ancient, sometimes difficult burden of chosenness—the Jewish mission to live by God’s law and bring the world to ethical monotheism—with a more palatable and popular commitment to equality, tolerance, and “social justice.”
And from David Gelernter:
The title of Norman Podhoretz’s book asks an important question, and the text answers it: Jews are religious by nature, and having mostly abandoned Judaism, they have taken up the “Torah of liberalism” instead—as an ex–wine connoisseur who has lost all sense of taste but is still thirsty might switch to cheap gin.

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