The Jewish and Post-Jewish Vote


Last Shabbat I sat at a table in my local synagogue while a group of men argued over the election. They weren’t arguing over who they should vote for, they were arguing over just how bad Obama was, their voices rising and falling as they named one detail after another. They weren’t necessarily Republicans, but they were politically conservative, as my community and as almost all of the traditional Jewish communities in America are.

This is how I grew up, and while for many, the Liberal Jew is the norm, for me he remains a strange creature, a shipwrecked sailor marooned on a liberal desert island for a century who no longer knows who he is anymore.

There is a great deal of talk about the Jewish vote in this and every election. Probably more talk than it merits. But let us clarify what we are talking about when we talk about the Jewish vote. As with the Catholic vote and the vote of every religious group, there are the votes of those who believe in the religion and the votes of those who do not. With the Jews, who are not only a religion, but a race and an ethnicity, there is the Jewish vote and the post-Jewish vote.

Or to put it another way; there are Jews and there are shipwrecked Jews.

American Jews can be broken down roughly into the products of three periods of immigration. The first began with Columbus’ Jewish crew members and continued down to the mid 19th Century bringing primarily Spanish Jews and then German Jews to the American Colonies and later the United States.

This is the immigration that produced famous American Jews like Asser Levy, the first Jew to win the right to bear arms in defense of the place that would later become New York, Uriah P. Levy, a Navy Commodore who helped preserve Monticello,Judah P. Benjamin, the Secretary of State for the Confederacy and Emma Lazarus, whose famous poem has become synonymous with the Statue of Liberty.

This group was roughly split between Republicans and Democrats; though at the time those party identifiers didn’t have the same conservative and liberal signifiers that they do today.

The next wave of immigration was primarily made up of Jewish refugees from Russia and Eastern Europe escaping the meltdown of Czarism. They arrived mostly after the Civil War, in time for the Unionist experiment that created centralized educational systems and the “melting pot” that was meant to efficiently transform the United States of America into a modern republic.

This second wave turned rigidly Democratic under the rough tutelage of the urban political machine and the gentler tutelage of an educational system meant to turn Jewish, Irish and Italian immigrants into proper Americans– and to the people running the melting pot machine, Americanism meant Liberalism. They didn’t always succeed, but they succeeded well enough to build an immigrant electorate for the Democratic Party.

The Liberal Jew was a product of that melting pot which stripped him of his cultural identity and his religion, leaving behind a hole that he filled with the messianism of liberal politics. The graduates of the melting pot were economically successful and well educated, but they had lost their sense of self. Looking for that sense of self, they became devout attendees of progressive politics, filling the hole with bitter greenie humor that poked fun at everything, especially themselves.

American Jewish identity became liberal identity, and the massive cultural hole was filled with humor which has found its natural end in the degraded vaudeville of Woody Allen and Larry David or the bitter frustrations of a Philip Roth. The trinity of FDR, JFK and Obama became their faith and their identity became a series of in-jokes about eating Chinese food on Christmas. Like the Spanish Jewish Conversos, they had a secret identity but they no longer knew what the secret was.

This second wave of immigration would define American Jewish identity. It is the invariable focus of American Jewish literature and the PBS specials on the American Jewish journey that run before major Jewish holidays. It is also on the way out for the simple reason that such an identity is in no shape to be passed on to the next generation. The copying errors of cultural DNA in such bad shape mean that each generation ends up knowing less about who it is than the last one. And that means each generation is also less likely to be Jewish and more likely to be liberal.

The second wave’s DNA copying errors has produced a lot of abortion and gay rights activists, it hasn’t produced a lot of children. Like all cultural mistakes, Liberal Judaism is wiping itself out. It leaves behind a lot of jokes, some inventive pop products that defined 20th Century Americana and some Unitarians with Jewish roots who fast for Gaza and denounce Israel.

Second wave liberal Jews had become Post-Jews within a Post-American ideology. And though they still identify as Jewish, what they mostly are is an echo, a faint snatch of song now rendered illegible, a lost people slipping away into the shadows.

The third wave of Jewish immigration began shortly before World War II and continues into the present day. It consists of the Jewish communities of Europe who fled Nazi persecution, Russian Jews who fled Communist persecution and Jews from the Middle East who fled Muslim persecution.

This third wave is largely conservative, and while the same could have been said of the second wave  arriving in 1882 or 1914, the third wave came as communities, and have largely been able to transplant their culture and religion to the United States.

In 1892, Jews came to the United States as cheap labor. In 1946 they came with the remnants of communities that they were determined to rebuild. While the second wave fled to the suburbs, they stuck it out in the cities building up integrated communities that remained true to their culture and their religion. These communities were primarily concerned with the education of their children.

This is not true of the entire third wave, just as not everything that I have said is true of the entire second wave. But largely the second wave operated on a progressive impulse, while the third wave operated on a traditionalist impulse. The second wave was concerned with leaving behind the old ways, while the third wave tried to preserve them, reconstructing the ashes of the thriving Jewish communities of Russia, Poland, Syria, Egypt and Iran in the United States.

The second wave adapted, and lost their identity. The third wave adapted and kept their identity. The second wave had few children and even fewer Jewish children. The third wave had a great many children and viewed having children as a cultural and religious duty. And through the force of simple demographics, theirs is the future. 74 percent of Jewish children in New York are Orthodox. Ten years from now, the New York Jewish vote will be as reliably Republican as it was once Democrat.

The third wave is innately conservative. Orthodox Jews from Eastern Europe and Syria are as reliably conservative, as second wave Jewish college educated suburbanites were liberal, and Russian refugees from Communism are as conservative as Cubans refugees from Communism. All three groups have an instinctive distaste and distrust for the rhetoric of progressivism. They have lost too much not to be traditionalists. Their identity is all that they have.

Second wave liberal Jews is what most people think of when they think of American Jews, but the relevance and demographic sway of that group is dimming. The new American Jew can be found in the working class sections of New York and he is an Orthodox small businessman poring over boxes of t-shirts or toasters in a hole in the wall in Brooklyn, he is a Syrian Jew clearing land on a new lot and an Israeli getting another moving company off the ground and a Russian immigrant driving a cab.

This is the new face of the American Jew and it will be the definitive one for some time to come. The Post-Jewish vote of the Liberal Post-American Post-Jew is on the way out and the Jewish vote is already coming into play in Brooklyn where Republicans are beginning to win Jewish districts.

The new American Jew is not overly committed to political parties, but to values. He believes that small business should be able to operate without government interference, he believes that families raise children, not governments, and he distrusts government in general. The messianic impulse of progressivism holds little appeal for him. He does not feel guilt over race relations and is not moved by appeals to abortion. He has no use for gay marriage and while, like a lot of working class people, he feels some sympathy for unions, he does not like public sector unions who seem to have it made.

Unlike his liberal second wave predecessors, he believes in G-d, not as some abstract inspiration, but as an actual reality. Values to him are objective, right and wrong is black and white, and family is all that matters. Government to him exists to crack down on criminals and on foreign invaders, he does believe that the country can kill its way to a solution and dismisses politicians who think it can’t.

He is a man or woman of common sense and what his common sense tells him is to distrust glibness and to trust results. He doesn’t want to lower the oceans or worship at the feet of a political messiah. He isn’t looking for a religion to replace his religion, he doesn’t want a savior, he wants a future for his family. He is the new American Jew and his vote, the vote of the third wave is the vote of the Jewish future.

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  • http://www.adinakutnicki.com adinakutnicki

    As to Jewish leftists, this much is tragically true – http://adinakutnicki.com/2012/08/23/when-does-del

    Regarding Jewish non-fantasists, this is true too <a href="http://-http://adinakutnicki.com/2012/11/07/the-day-liberty-died-the-west-truly-hangs-in-the-balance-commentary-by-adina-kutnicki/,” target=”_blank”>-http://adinakutnicki.com/2012/11/07/the-day-liberty-died-the-west-truly-hangs-in-the-balance-commentary-by-adina-kutnicki/, and The Times Of Israel supports the thesis, separating leftist Jews from their counterparts.

    Adina Kutnicki, Israel <a href="http:// -www.adinakutnicki.com” target=”_blank”> <a href="http://-www.adinakutnicki.com” target=”_blank”>-www.adinakutnicki.com

  • Mary Sue

    Thanks for breaking this down so well, proving there's hope somewhere in there. I'd kinda wondered whether the universal liberal tendency to have fewer kids would catch up with everybody that practiced it sooner or later.

    Ever noticed that extreme leftism tends to be a communally self-destructive thing? Whatever the excuse is ("Who would want to bring a child into the world in the state it's in now?" or "The earth has too many people already"), it's basically genetic and ideological surrender!

    So much for "making the world a better place" if the world is left to people that will NOT make it a better place due to voluntary extinction.

    Now all we have to do is prevent or undo leftist brainwashing so that the kids don't fall prey to the very thing that doomed the leftists.

  • The Truth

    This was a great synopsis, but also a horrible plea for separatism. It does not really address how the “New American Jew” will be a good American citizen because it does not address the anti-assimilationism, the dual-loyality, and the seconding of Israeli national security to American national security. What could be an easily accepted community that simply dresses funny and votes Republican reads here as a cash obsessed community that will express a naked hatred of modernity and a disdain for Americans similar to the Lubavitcher sect.

    • Stern

      As expected – and in dramatic contrast to the moniker you have chosen for yourself – you are completely blind to the real truth. These communities are highly successful and pay their fair share of taxes, which is a heck of a lot more than can be said for 47% of the rest of the US population. In fact, by insisting on educating their children in their own traditions, they save the American taxpayer huge costs.

      What's more, Mr. Greenfield has made it clear that "Government to him exists to crack down on criminals and on foreign invaders, he does believe that the country can kill its way to a solution and dismisses politicians who think it can’t."

      In other words, these people are more like the original dreamers who concocted the US constitution than any of the modern Americans you lionize.

      Unless I'm mistaken, you are fairly new to this site (or a schlomo or other troll who now has a new name). You have a lot to learn.

      • SCREW SOCIALISM

        She's actually "The BS".

        • Mary Sue

          The Truth is a secondary Identity?

      • The Truth

        And does your country have a Constitution?

    • PaulRevereNow

      The "separatism" that you refer to is the result of the constant pounding that progressive thought has delivered to American ideals and institutions. The Progressives, sometimes in conjunction with events, have steadily eroded American principles, ideas, and institutions; to the point where we now have a traitor of a President, and an Attorney General who makes war on the states, and on U.S. border patrol agents. While the Progressive impulse has occasionally resulted in good–such as the Emancipation of the slaves, in 1865; more often than not, it has resulted in immense harm; such as the growth of modern welfare-state America, that has acted to cause sick dependency on government. You might want to read, "A Traitor to his Class," by H.W. Brands; or "FDR's Folly," by Jim Powell.

      • The Truth

        All thought is progressive. It is based on Markov chains sustained in Hebbian reinforcement pathways. It is rather silly to confuse stored data with thought as if thought is a static event. You also pitted “progressive thought” against “American ideal.” That is, you tried to make experience and belief modified by evidence look inferior to Ideal. I think you have made a philosophical blunder.

        • Stern

          And now we're supposed to think you're clever? All you've done is prove that anti-Semitism trumps even a modicum of intelligence. No matter what you say, however you say it, you will be always to plain stupid to get beyond your own Jew hatred.

          • The Truth

            Your rash and hostile mischaracterization presumes that I am not Jewish, not married to a Jew, or that I view all Jews the same way. Your presumption is infantile. Throwing the word “modicum” around makes it comical on top of that.

          • Stern

            If you are Jewish and married to a Jew, it clearly makes no difference to you. Your rants are horrifyingly anti-Semitic. So why do you think it should make any difference to me?

          • The Truth

            I don't. I just wanted you to proclaim as much. It helps people see your nature.

          • SCREW SOCIALISM

            The BS,

            Happy Eternal Nakba!

        • bkopicz

          That's my Shlomotion doing his Prof. Irwin Corey shtick

        • SCREW SOCIALISM

          The BS, Jabberwocky.

    • Charles Roberts

      The Torah says that Jews must follow the civil laws of the 'host' country…when not in Jerusalem (Israel). I don't feel that there is any danger of conservative Jews failing to support the American Constitution. There is hope that they will not support laws and legislation that goes against the Constitution!

      • intrcptr2

        As has forever been the case, Jews make excellent citizens wherever they live; Torah is a light to their eyes and a guide to their feet. It is only the sons of Pharaoh and Haman who are capable of thinking the Jew a traitor or separatist.
        And as Stern alludes, Jews (And Gentiles, actually) raised behind the Iron Curtain understand true tyranny far too much to ruin this land; they are more like the Founders than many of our modern "leaders".

        We Christians would do much better the sooner we all realized this.

        • The Truth

          Your statement is far too religiously fundamentalist to debate seriously.

          • Mary Sue

            You wouldn't know fundamentalism if it bit you on the behind.

          • SCREW SOCIALISM

            Tell it to the imam/sheik/ayatollah/caliph.

      • amused

        You mean seeing things your way dontcha Charles ? So all you Jews out there , in order to be percieved by the Goyim as a "good Jew " and thus not a leftist traitor to America and Israel , walk and talk like the Conservatives , they know best , especially in matters of how you should think and act ,concerning what they consider to be " true Judaism .
        Riiiight ? When did we hear that before ????

    • Ghostwriter

      And you're so fulled with Jew hatred,you can't think straight. But anti-semites never really have thought straight,have they?

  • PaulRevereNow

    Mr. Greenfield: Excellent article; however, you forgot to mention Rabbi Issac Meyer Wise, who introduced Reform Judaism to America, back in the mid-19th Century.

    • Daniel Greenfield

      Yes, but I wasn't directly tackling theology here, rather political orientation and cultural heritage.

  • Western Spirit

    From Daniel's mouth to God's ear, a welcome recital of what's to come from the Jewish community at a time when things look pretty dismal for the country.

  • kay

    Let us not forget voter fraud! As josef Stalin stated:"It's not who votes that counts, but who counts the votes"!

  • Asher

    The Jewish vote in Florida could have made the difference, along with Marco Rubio as Vice President, but it was not to be.

    • SCREW SOCIALISM

      Voter ID would have made a bigger difference.

  • PJ

    I will let all of you fight about the nuances of the "Jewish Vote" and just say "I am done with the Jews." I am from Brooklyn where there are many good Jewish people. I live among them as a conservative Irish-Catholic, and by the way "I am done with the Catholics, too." Two religious groups that vote liberal in the face of their beliefs and what is best for their group. Why am I more upset about the treatment of Isreal with this administation than most of my Jewish friends? Why am I more upset with this (to quote Madonna) "black Muslin in the Whitehouse" than they are? To the Catholics, why am I more upset that Obama voted numerous times to allow live birth abortions with no restrictions? While we are at it, with 94% of the black vote tell me how has the black community improved over the last 4 years? I have been a supporter of impoving the standard of living for all minority groups all my life. No more. If you won't help yourself then I can't do it for you. I'm done.

    • amused

      P.S. PJ Obama doesn't "allow " live birth abortions [ think about what you just said man ] ….you need to educate yourself on the subject . The reason you are more upset with the treatment by "this administration " of Israel than most of your jewish freinds , is because they know better than you , and haven't allen victim to the typical Republican propaganda you have swallowed . Until you're reay to get up off your butt and get the true facts , I suggest you buy a good 4 year supply of pepto-bismal for your upset stomach .

  • amused

    70% of the Jewish vote went to the Democrat .Thank you for the totally subjective breakdwn of the "jewish history in America , and why the "shipwrecked jews " vote the way they do .
    Daniel , Myself being a jew , I submit to you , that YOU are in fact not a shipwrecked jew , but a hijacked one . Since the diaspora the common thread that ties jews to one another has been tolerance and charity .
    Charity in th jewish sense is concern and love for fellow human beings . That to this day has made the jew , what he is , not any adherence to a political ideology . This is why Israel as a nation is magnanimous to all in need even the palestinians who enter their hospitals . And that charity transcends Orthodox through conservative to liberal jew . Jews have an enhanced sense of when intolerance starts going south , 70% of the Jewish vite , took note .

    • http://www.themadjewess.wordpress.com MAD JEWESS

      You cannot be a Jew and a Communist
      -Rabbi Marv Antleman

      Charity begins in the heart, not the govt. It didn't work in Russia and it wont work here. In the end, the non Jew WILL turn on you.
      Deal with it, you helped create it.

    • DebbieOhio912

      Amused,
      You mention tolerance and charity. Tolerance for what, exactly? Your condescending attitude certainly does not portray this “quality.” Can you please be more specific and point out how the rest of us are intolerant.
      As far as charity, are you saying that liberal Jews hold the prize for this? The difference between us, is that you’re all for your “charity” being dispersed through government entitlements.
      I also see you hold proudly to the concept of “love for human beings” but absolutely no mention of your love for God and HIS laws. Just wondering how you reconcile this…

  • amused

    And Asher , the jewish vote in Florida would have been no different whether Rubio was on the ticket or not , in fact Rubio would not have even made a difference to the hispanic vote ,[not the Cuban vote,there's a difference ] because Rubio sold out on immigration as soon as he took office . Not to mention , winning Florida would be inconsequential this time around .
    If anything is to be learned , it is that radical ideology , and irrational, baseless, mean spirited accusations will not fly with the portion of the electorate known as Independents and Centrists , which have been mocked by republicans[ to their own detriment] as know nothing fence sitters , and the idea that they could be brow beaten to their side .The same held true with the Jewish vote .

    • Mary Sue

      Oh because enforcing immigration laws is radical and extreme. Why not just let anybody in without having them pledge allegiance first? Heck, just let me come and go as I please without having to bother with Customs.

      • amused

        Dont tell me Mary sue go speak to Rubio , that was not my conclusion ,or opinion , it was that of the Hispanics in Florida . And no , it neither IS nor WAS the notion of the Hispanic Community , to go as they please , as you so ignorantly blurted out . It had EVERYTHING to do with the Dream Act , which Rubio backed off from as soon as coming into Office .
        An axiom for you Mary Sue …."Be sure brain is engaged before putting mouth in gear " , you would do well to follow it .

        • Avital

          Amused, any way you can reply to posts without making references to the intellectual capacity of their authors? Not sure if you are aware, but ad hominems weaken your argument. Debating 101, you know? Perhaps you are the one who should turn on your brain before posting..just saying.

          • SCREW SOCIALISM

            Not true. Making ones opponent angry and losing their cool is a way to win.

        • Mary Sue

          amused, I was making a joke about letting ME come and go as I please. Not Hispanics.

        • http://www.themadjewess.wordpress.com MAD JEWESS

          Yeah? Well Rubio aint a Jew.

  • amused

    Oh well I told you so . Centrists and independants would decide the race . As for "voter fraud" Kay ?
    Either side will scream it when they lose .

    • SCREW SOCIALISM

      Solution.

      Voter ID – Voter verification.

      Benefits all, hurts those who want to cheat.

  • http://whatdirectdemocracymightbe.wordpress.com/ Daryl Davis

    Thank you, Mr. Greenfield, for the historical rundown. I hope your encouraging, ten-year prediction with respect to Jewish voters in New York proves true. I hope we need not see how these American subgroups of Judaism unite or clash if and when Israel strikes Iran, unilaterally or otherwise.

    But if the strongest steel is forged in the hottest fires, the Jewish people ought to be a more valued ally of these United States than President Obama seems to find them.
    http://whatdirectdemocracymightbe.wordpress.com/2

  • marios

    Dem's/liberals or what ever they name themselves are socialists thirsty for power, Power using all means.
    They use gullible people and Jews are among other. 'amused" mentioned tolerance and charity . Rep's /conservatives give about 3times more charity than Dem's/liberals to non-profit organizations. Biden gave .01% of his income $300 out of $3 ML, very generous, isn't it? Rep's Romney gave 14% of his income. Striking contrast. Dem's don't want to give any their own money but they want to redistribute OUR TAXPAYERS money. They are greedy, cynical hypocrites who does not care about any of us. Tolerance? You liberals tolerant to Islamists who openly declared Israel and Jews annihilation but you are not tolerant to Orthodox Jews, not tolerant to victims but always tolerant to criminals, to murders. Liberalism is mental disorder. Liberals ideology is cultural decadency, immorality toward traditional values, against common sense. Liberals are against life fundament: against traditional family. Roman empire, as well as Greek one are failed being destracting from within. The same now is with our great country.

    • Mary Sue

      It's interesting to note that any place that has a "state church" soon has a problem with people not giving a lot to charity (this is common in Europe, in places such as Iceland, Sweden, etc) because they're desensitized by the fact that the Government does it all for them. They don't even give money directly to the church they attend because the Government does it for them.

  • http://www.facebook.com/david.k.howard David Kimber Howard

    Love for fellow human beings? Tell that to the Kapos. Tell that to Jesus of Nazareth.

    • amused

      David , go get your head screwed on straight , then you mayy be worthy of a reply .

    • http://www.themadjewess.wordpress.com MAD JEWESS

      Jesus of Nazareth was handed to Romans who murdered him.
      Luke 18: 32
      READ your Bible

      • Paula

        You are right that the

  • amused

    There is no State Church here in the US Mary Sue , or didn't you know that ? Claiming to be an.. ahem … cough…. cough… Canadian. I would challenge that remark about Europe/Iceland /Sweden , it is more rhetorical than true .

    • Mary Sue

      amused-bouche misses the point again. I know there's no State Church in USA, I was pointing to the failures of places that HAVE them and why people who rely on Government to do their charity for them LOSE THEIR CAPACITY FOR CHARITY.

  • Moishe Pupick

    Tu., 11/13/12 common era

    Reform "Judaism" is a product of the French Enlightenment. It was designed either to eliminate antisemitism or at least sharply reduce that phenomenon. Much of the Torah was either discared or
    radically altered to comport with "enlightened" beliefs, and it all happened in dear old Deutschland.