Liberalism Replaces Judaism for Many in U.S., Panel Says: Jewish Conservatives Offer Explanation for Lean to Left

By Witham, Larry | The Washington Times (Washington, DC), October 31, 1996 | Go to article overview

Liberalism Replaces Judaism for Many in U.S., Panel Says: Jewish Conservatives Offer Explanation for Lean to Left


Witham, Larry, The Washington Times (Washington, DC)


American Jews like religion, but those who don't adopt the traditional form choose liberalism as their faith, making their Democratic vote predictable, a panel of conservative Jewish thinkers said.

But Jewish leaders in the Democratic Party see the lopsided Jewish vote as motivated by a "social conscience" and a desire to build an inclusive society that upholds civil rights.

"If it's not going to be Judaism, it's going to be another `ism,' " said Los Angeles radio host and author Dennis Prager. He said liberalism fills that need for those who don't know Judaism.

"For American Jews, liberalism is a substitute religion," said Don Feder, a syndicated columnist for the Boston Herald. He said the liberalism shows up especially in Jewish views on cultural issues.

The comments came from a five-member panel in a discussion held at the George Washington University Hillel center by the Jewish Policy Center.

"Nobody has a monopoly on what it means to be a good Jew," Stephen Silberfarb, deputy director of the National Jewish Democratic Council, said in a telephone interview.

He said all Jews adopt the ethic of "tikkun olam" - fixing the world - but "more Jews identify with the Democratic way of how."

Norman Podhoretz, former editor of Commentary magazine, said on the panel that he is "mystified" why Jews, with so much moral conservatism in their tradition, view it in such liberal ways.

The many Jews who adopt radical causes are "Jews who were in flight from either Judaism or Jewish peoplehood," he said. "The idea that the prophetic tradition preaches rebellion or liberalism is not easily sustained."

Now 2.3 percent of the U.S. population, 70 percent of eligible Jews vote, compared with 50 percent of the overall population. …

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