Wednesday, November 26, 2014


My parents were the proudest of Jews, proud Jewish Americans, proud and liberal Jews. I have inherited my own liberalism from them and from my many aunts and uncles. No one would ever have questioned my parents', my aunts' or uncles', or my own embrace and support of Israel -- from pre-state through today. But, today, the general characterization by way too many, among them close friends, equating "liberal Jews" with anti-Israel attitudes and positions has become an intolerable and thoughtless canard. Being a "liberal" or "progressive" Jew today is to be cast aside by normally thoughtful people as being on the "same side" as J-Street, the NIF or whatever other organization is being castigated on the right and by the right as "anti-Israel."

Seemingly, it has become so simple for too many commentators to point a constant finger at "liberal Jews" for all of the ills that impact our Peoplehood. Thus, an otherwise incisive columnist, Jonathan Tobin, writing in Commentary concluded in a column on the idiocy of a Jewish Federation opposing students erecting a Sukkah at their public school:
"The problem here is that liberal Jews fear conservative Christians far more than they do ISIS, Hamas, Hezbollah, or the Taliban (as Tablet points out, it is unlikely that the federation would have opposed accommodations of Muslim practices). And they are so paranoid about it that they are ready to restrict examples of Jewish faith in the public square in order to forestall any manifestation of Christian faith there."
Yep, it's those damn "liberal Jews" -- to Tobin and his ilk, it's my and your parents and aunts and uncles...and, me. To others it's anyone who voted for Obama -- "liberal Jews" all. Norman Podhoretz, writing in the Wall Street Journal asked "Why Are Jews Liberal?" And, on and on. The deconstruction of Jewish unity -- "Jewish liberals." The support of J-Street -- "Jewish liberals." All of the Jewish People's woes the fault of "Jewish liberals." As one of my mentors, a relatively newly-minted conservative, admitted to me: "we need every liberal pro-Israel voice we can find" to offset the wave of left-wing anti-Israel ones. 

We have a tendency today to sloganeer, to paint all with an ugly brush -- facts don't get in the way. I and many of you continue to thrive in an environment that embraces all Jews -- liberal, conservative, even neoconservative. But let those who believe that they can condemn all those whose views they oppose -- the Tobins and Podhoretzes and too many others -- remember, in doing so you are attacking my parents and yours. Shame on them.



paul jeser said...

Do you know any 'Conservative' (not denomination, but political)Jews who are members of JStreet? Do you know any 'Conservative' Jews who support BDS? Do you know any 'Conservative' Jews who still think Obama is pro-Israel? I think not.

Today's 'Liberal' Jews are not my parents 'Liberal' Jews.

Today's 'Liberal' Jews - for the most part - are a problem and should be criticized.

Chag Turkey Samayach from a former 'Liberal' Jew.

RWEX said...

So, Paul, there you go -- underscoring my point. Many thanks.

Anonymous said...

Paul with all due respect, let's not get unglued. Although you should be thanked as Mr. Wexler has, for providing a direct demonstration of the original blogpost's lament.

Stop with the labels. It just shows age and cluelessness. These labels just don't apply as they used to. Fitting our people into convenient boxes that reinforce your views doesn't move the debate forward.

Fact. American Jews vote overwhelmingly Democratic. Fact. For most American Jews, Israel is rarely a swing voting factor. Fact. The days of a (largely) singular Jewish perspective and interest are over.

I get that this new world is vastly different than the old one. I get that when a dominant viewpoint loses market share it can be frustrating. But instead of diminishing and labeling other viewpoints, why not get in there and make your case?

Anonymous said...

Thank you Richard for your comment. Ever since the rabbis of France burned the books of Maimonides centuries ago we have become very good at ideological schisms and purges. Statements in defense of tolerance and diversity are appreciated. Israeli society is also diverse and fractured on a host of political and social issues. And Paul, those Israelis who fit your maligning definition of "liberal" are also most similar to the plurality of American Jews in lifestyle and political sensibility.

paul jeser said...

Not being shy...

People tend not to like labels when the label describes those people in negative terms. People love labels when they describe those people in positive terms..

I was responding to Richard's unhappiness with people using - or misusing - the 'Liberal' label.

Some sage said - if the shoe fits wear it. My point is that while all 'Liberals' are not anti-Israel or pro-BDS or members of JStreet, I'd bet a case of Slivovitz that all (or the vast majority of)members of JStreet, pro-BDSers, etc., are 'Liberals.'

It'd be nice to know who is saying what to whom - why are y'all afrsid to use your names?

RWEX said...

A dear friend whom I truly respect wrote me:

The word "Liberal" no longer means what you fondly remember. "Liberal" has been hijacked for the far left to hide behind in the exact same was as Jew Hatred hides behind Israel Hatred. The Democratic Party, where "Blue Dogs" where welcome, no longer exists. Jew's past prejudices, words like Liberal vs. Conservative blind us to what's actually good for us and what we actually believe.
CAIR says they are Liberals. Black Panthers and Al Sharpton, are proud Libs. SJP fomented violence on the streets of Ferguson as Palestinians united to free the oppressed. The Left today is a group that wants to destroy capitalist, Israel loving America. Democrat is not the party of Henry Jackson, JFK and your parents, all would be proud Rs today. Liberal now means "Far Left". No matter how badly you'd like the term back. Obama is the leader of those who boo Israel and G-d at their convention. Not "Liberals" who cry every time we hear Hatikvah."

Sad commentary that merely proves my point.