Jewish Conservatism and Its Limits

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8 Responses

  1. Bob Miller says:

    Too many Jewish political conservatives in the public eye, including in the media, seem to value the US Constitution over our Torah. Both are necessary, and they are often remarkably consistent with one another, but our priorities have to be those of Torah. If we haven’t yet found a genuine Torah way to address all current public policy issues, we need to, quickly.

  2. DF says:

    Agreed with JR’s important point about “chosenness”, and would add this one observation: Great Britain was at the peak of its powers, when it too professed and believed in its own version of chosenness. Likewise, the USA rose to prominence on the back of its Manifest Destiny, another version of chosenness. The development of much of Africa and Asia only transpired because of colonialism – again, another form of choseness. Belief in it gave men the “shtoltz” and esprit d’corps to accomplish what they could never do without it. Decline only set in, in all these cases, when people began questioning the concept, and began asking if it was not really some form of racism. Few people had the courage to stand up and say that perhaps it was, and if so, what of it? Young people today have been trained to believe that “racism” is the world’s ugliest word. It’s as though merely by uttering the word one expects to win an argument [and for that reason, amusingly, in political theatre like the last Israeli election, both sides routinely accuse each other of it.]

    The necessary corollary to this article, accordingly, is a discussion on chosenness. To show that belief in it does not lead inexorably to Nazism. That one can appreciate and respect the contributions of other peoples, while still believing in our mission. It’s not that difficult to do, it just has to be done more often.

  3. Adam Block says:

    My compliments! Many sentiments I don’t agree with here, but your article is well-thought out, well-argued and much appreciated by this Obama-voting, Tikvah Fund-ambivalent Torah Jew.

  4. Steve Brizel says:

    I think that RJR is correct, but RYBS himself cautioned against pigeonholing Torah and Halacha into either a conservative or liberal POV-the same Torah and TSBP that promotes Piryah vRivya and a Mitzvas Onah also has Hilcos Nidah. Shemittah and Yovel are also two complementary sets of Halachos as is the Torah’s insistence on the primacy of property rights which is matched by a system of protecting the widow and orphan and the injured person.

    The issue of whether the Torah community is more comfortable either with the contemporary Democratic Party which supports far left views on many issues which pose a threat to the Torah observant community, as opposed to the Republican Party, which is far stronger on issues of national security, support of Israel and downsizing government and governmental regulations that threaten to strangle the American economy, warrants strong consideration as to the evolution of the Democratic Party from being anti Communist and liberal ( think of Truman, KFK, LBJ, HHH and Scoop Jackson) to a party dominated by Hollywood, labor and the Washington-NY-Boston axis of liberal PC ideas where support for Israel has become increasingly viewed as a liability.

  5. L. Oberstein says:

    Times are changing. The liberal side of American Jewry is less involved in Jewish life and the orthodox and those who are right wing and have money are more prominent .It is what it is. Right now, the real problem is not which party is in control as much as having a stable and effective governement and legislature. I don’t know what the republcians would REALLY DO if they controlled both houses of Congress, the Supeme Courst and the White House ,but it may happen. If so, will they really deal with Medicaid,Social Security, urban decay, etc. Will they really change things or is is mostly talk? i think it is the latter because the changes are so wrenching that politicians don’t want to do anything to lose the next election. There are real differences in outlook between those who are essentially in favor of government involvement in ameliarating society problems and those who believe that governement is the problem Reagan said it but did he do it, I don’t think so. Politicians talk a lot but are afraid to really upset things. And, we all know that the fat cats really are in charge and it is all a charade. That isn’t a conspiracy theory , it is the way it is.Those with the gold make the rules.

  6. mycroft says:

    “In a 1996 Commentary symposium on the state of Jewish belief, the heterodox clergy refused to unambiguously affirm the Jews as Hashem’s chosen people”

    If Quoting the 1966 Symposium- quote Milton Himmelfarb’s introduction where he maintains that if one read the articles without knowing who wrote them-one could easily distinguish between Orthodox and Non Orthodox. The list of Orthodox Rabbis included a few from the right but mainly Modern including some who many in CC refer to as OO. A reader according to Himmelfarb would distinguish Orthodox and Non Orthodox. see eg Himmelfarb from 1966 Introduction

    .” Reading the responses, one sees that the true division is between Orthodox and non-Orthodox. “

  7. mb says:

    Mycroft said
    ” The list of Orthodox Rabbis included a few from the right but mainly Modern including some who many in CC refer to as OO”
    It’s funny you should say that, but during his life, many ultra Orthodox Jews from the US assumed Chief Rabbi Lord Jakobovitz(he was also a contributor the Commentary symposium) was a Conservative Rabbi and labeled him as such. I think that only changed after his obit was published.

  8. tzippi says:

    This is a very important article. While it is important to treat everyone with respect, this is especially so for those with who we work politically or otherwise. When there is so much common ground, such respect is easier. But it is imperative to spell out that while we share some common bases for our values, there is much divergence. As just one example I cite a sound bite from Governor Jindal, who, in talking about his becoming fully Americanized rather than hyphenated, quoted his mother as having said (paraphrasing here), if you’re not going to become American we could have stayed in India. Some conservative rhetoric seems to have forgotten that a few centuries ago the Pilgrims came so as to NOT have to transform themselves. (I’ll refrain from mentioning Dennis Prager’s riff on the use of ethnic names for anything but religious purposes.)

    There is the danger of the feeling of “they like us, they really like us” leading to unacceptable compromise. While we are grateful for and respectful of the conservative voice, Torah must be the prism through which we see the world.

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