The “Torah” of Liberalism. So is titled the final chapter of the book Why are Jews Liberals? by Norman Podhoretz, which I mentioned in my last post.
Throughout the book, he has laid out a brief history of the Jews in Europe and the US, detailing the terrible treatment they received at the hands of the conservative religious folks of their day, the absurd beliefs of the latter (eg, that Jews kidnapped and killed Christian children because they need their blood to celebrate their Passover; or that the Jews started the plague by poisoning local wells) and the nasty treatment these sorts of beliefs produced, examples of which I gave yesterday.
Then came the Enlightenment in France, when resident intellectuals challenged the religious status quo and began to talk about equality of men, whether they accepted Christian doctrine or did not. As science began to take over as the religion of choice among the intellectuals, the Jews gravitated to them, even though in many ways they required as much of a shift from Jewish beliefs as Christian conversion did. Though many of these atheistic intellectuals (like Voltaire) expressed anti-semitic sentiments from time to time, that was ignored (much as it is today) because of these peoples’ antipathy toward Christianity as well as their promotion of equality.
Thanks to the Enlightenment, the Jews were released from their ghettos and allowed to join society as regular people, though they really didn’t find true freedom and prosperity until they came to the United States where their lot improved fantastically, also as I mentioned yesterday. Podhoretz continues to follow their political journey through the last century, and specifically through the run of presidents since and including FDR, the latter seen as something of a Messiah figure to them.
Throughout this time they consistently allies with the Democrat Party, partly because of how it carried on Enlightenment ideas, partly because it was in opposition to conservative Christianity, which as I said, terrified them, and partly because many of them had emigrated from Eastern Europe as devotees of Marxism (Ironically, Karl Marx was a Jew, but both his parents converted to Lutheranism before he was six). There was also an involvement in labor unions, which Podhoretz traces, so the contributing factors are varied. In any case, they were so committed to the communist/socialist/liberal viewpoint that it was practically impossible to consider any other. One lifelong Democrat was quoted as saying he was sure his right arm would shrivel up and fall off if he ever dared pull the voting lever for a Republican.
Reagan made some inroads in this area after the disaster of the Carter administration, but the ground was lost by George H.W. Bush whose policies with regard to Israel were very negative… Even though more and incidents of antisemitism were erupting on the left and more and more support for Israel was blooming on the right, the Jews continued to be Liberal… and so we come to the final chapter which was the most surprising of all: “The Torah of Liberalism.”
Having exchanged a belief in the God of their Fathers for the supposedly nonsuperstitious and “scientific” Marxism, they were befuddled when that turned out not to work so well even as capitalism after WWII “began producing wealth on a previously unimaginable scale that surpassed even the rosiest utopian dreams of Marxist theory” (to say nothing of the complete collapse of the Soviet Union). Unable to go back to God, or to keep on with Marxism, they moved through a series of downgrades — first to social democracy, then to American liberalism. According to Podhoretz, “To most American Jews, liberalism is not…merely a necessary component of Jewishness; it is the very essence of being a Jew… a religion in its own right, complete with its own catechism and its own dogmas and, Tertullian-like, obdurately resistant to facts that undermine its claims and promises.”
In other words, in the face of facts to the contrary, some rely upon denial to maintain their belief system. That’s bad enough. Worse are the ones who defend their position by claiming that their liberal faith is ‘the new Torah’ — “and,” says Podhoretz, “in the most literal sense of pursuing tikkum olam, the ‘repair of the world,’ a concept that (with the scantiest of justifications from the sacred texts) they have singled out as the essence of Judaism.”
Podhoretz then quotes the publisher’s description of a recent collection of Jewish essays entitled Righteous Indignation:
“In this ground breaking volume, leading rabbis, intellectuals, and activists explore the relationship between Judaism and social justice, drawing on ancient and modern sources of wisdom. The contributors argue that American Jewry must… dedicate itself to systemic change in the United States, Israel and throughout the world.”
Specific “justice issues” addressed in the essays include “eradicating war, global warming, health care, gay rights and domestic violence,” and amazingly, in every case the “teachings of Judaism” turn out to be right in line with these issues and the systematic change liberals are devoted to making.
“Repair of the world?” This was the first I’d ever heard of such a thing. How weird that the Jews would throw off their old beliefs in the God of their fathers and the promises He made to Abraham, Moses, David… about the Millennial reign of their king, who will indeed repair the world… only to try to reproduce it on their own. In fact, in an earlier part of the book he mentions how they saw communism as the means of actually making a world where there is no Jew or Greek, no slave or free, no male or female, but everyone equal. That is, they see Liberalism as the means of bringing in the Millennium — without having to wait for their King.
And that just blew me away.