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The Death of Jewish Liberalism

In Annie Hall, Woody Allen observed that “the rest of the country looks upon New York like we’re left-wing, communist, Jewish, homosexual pornographers…I think of us that way sometimes and I live here.” It might be time to revise that judgment, at least according to a report from the UJA-Federation of New York [1].

[2]

The overall number of Jews in the New York area has risen from 1.4 million in 2002 to over 1.5 million in 2012. Almost all of that growth, however, has come from the Orthodox community. The data are especially striking when age is taken into account. The report finds that six in ten Jewish children in the area live in Orthodox households.

A piece in The Jewish Daily Forward [3] argues that these trends have political implications. Orthodox and Russian-speaking Jews already make up 56 percent of the city’s Jewish population. They’ll be a larger majority in the future. Few of these Jews are liberals, and many are not even Democrats. So the unified Jewish vote that was thought to  be a pillar of New York politics looks like it’s breaking up.

It’s hard to evaluate the impact of these changes. On the one hand, I’m pleased that there’s ever less support for the belief that there’s a single distinctively Jewish politics. As the old joke goes, two Jews, three opinions. Multiply that by 1.5 million.

On the other hand, the demographic decline of the kind of secular, liberal Jews that Allen affectionately mocked isn’t necessarily a victory for conservatism. Jews of Russian origin often hold the hawkish views that are often criticized on this blog. And while ultra-Orthodox Jews hold traditional views on social issues, they are also heavily dependent on government services.

The political result, then, is likely to be less significant than it might appear. Rather than a shift toward Republicans, the diminishing population of  left-wing, communist, Jewish, homosexual pornographers is likely to mean increasingly solid support for the hawkish establishment Democrats.

But Democrats like these, including Senator Schumer and Secretary Clinton, already dominate the party in the state. In fact, it’s hard to think of a really liberal New York politician who enjoyed strong Jewish support since Mario Cuomo. The Jewish community in New York may be changing. But old-fashioned Jewish liberalism died a long time ago.

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#1 Comment By Jordan Bloom On June 22, 2012 @ 1:30 pm

Mainline Democrats lose a huge share of the orthodox and ultra-Orthodox over gay marriage, it’s just a complete non-starter for them. Also, many of those ultra-Orthodox Jews are very anti-Israel. But you’re probably correct that as fa as giving any electoral advantage to the right, it’s probably a wash.

#2 Comment By cka2nd On June 22, 2012 @ 4:15 pm

If polling on a whole host of issues – social, economic and international – can be believed, this report on the death of Jewish Liberalism is greatly exagerated. The demographics may be changing, and Israel is of course still an outlier, but the Jewish community is still overwhelmingly liberal to a greater or lesser degree.

I would also bet that Jerrold Nadler, Carolyn Maloney, Tom Duane and other liberal New York legislators have enjoyed considerable Jewish support.

#3 Comment By Nergol On June 22, 2012 @ 9:17 pm

Don’t you believe it. A large number of American Jews may be neocons, but that is not at all the same as being genuinely conservative.

#4 Comment By Clint On June 23, 2012 @ 9:33 am

“78% of Jews voted for Barack Obama. Additionally, 83% of white Jews voted for Obama compared to just 34% of white Protestants and 47% of white Catholics,”

#5 Comment By David On June 23, 2012 @ 12:42 pm

Death of Jewish Liberalism? Try the death of liberalism as it’s currently understood.

Secular people regardless of race/creed/religion are reproducing at rates far beneath replacement while conservative religious people reproduce above replacement.

This phenomena is happening across the world – most apparent in Europe, Russia, and Japan.

Those who purport Darwinism as the only explanation of existence are themselves being selected out of the human race.

Irony’s a bitch…

#6 Comment By TomB On June 24, 2012 @ 10:14 am

Sam Goldman wrote:

“But old-fashioned Jewish liberalism died a long time ago.”

WIth old-fashioned conservatism similarly seeming dead, with at least some of the questions thus being whether there’s a connection or common cause between the two.

A totally unrelated coincidence hardly seems likely.

#7 Comment By Michael Lewyn On June 24, 2012 @ 11:55 am

Jewish liberalism isn’t dead; it just moved to the sunbelt an the suburbs. Outside Queens and Brooklyn, most Jews are secular and liberal (thpugh in a Democratic Establishment kind of way rather than a radical-chic way).

#8 Comment By Dan On June 24, 2012 @ 5:55 pm

IIRC most Orthodox Jews are opposed to a state of Israel on the grounds that the Messiah would do that.

#9 Comment By Mike On June 24, 2012 @ 7:44 pm

The Orthodox have been unable to transfer their numbers into any real political power. Those high birth rates tend to translate into high levels of welfare dependence and much lower education rates than Jewish people generally. Without money or a real professional base, the Orthodox are doomed to always been bit players politically outside of the occasional election in Brooklyn or Rockland County.

#10 Pingback By TAC Digest: June 25 | The American Conservative On June 26, 2012 @ 1:42 am

[…] Daniel Larison decided that Romney’s meaningless campaign does not matter, and Samuel Goldman dissected the death of Jewish Liberalism. Scott Galupo followed hyperventilating liberals, and mildly […]

#11 Comment By Ellen On July 21, 2012 @ 3:25 pm

Jewish liberalism of the hypocritical Woody Allen sort did indeed die a long time ago. The Crown Heights riots in 1991 and the gross destruction of NYC by its favorite policies were the nail on the coffin of that ideology. The growth of Orthodox and traditional Judaism is NOT just in Brooklyn. It’s everywhere in the NY area and other cities too. NJ has the second largest concentration of Orthodox Jews after NYC.

The Jewish community of the future will be socially conservative, very pro-Israel and pro-Likud, but dependant and supportive of government intervention. In other words, it will confound all current stereotypes, which are pretty silly to begin with. If there were still a Conservative wing to the Democratic Party, that is where the Jews of the future will be. If not, the votes will go to the sane wing of the Republican Party.