Sunday, November 07, 2004

The Religious Right and the Fears of American Jews

Jonathan Rosenblum is a newspaper columnist, who usually functions as an apologist for the Haredi world (In general) and Agudat Yisrael (in particular). As a result, it isn't very often that I find myself agreeing with him. Last week however, he wrote a column in Maariv that was (IMHO) right on target.

Rosenblum was addressing the fears that most American Jews have of George Bush's religiousity, and of the rightward (and increasingly Christian) turn of American society. They fear a breach of the separation of Church and State, which has protected Jews from anti-Jewish persecution. Jewish opposition to any government involvement in religion is dogmatic. As Rosenblum says:

Out of fear of aiding and abetting religion, major American Jewish groups, including the Reform movement, consistently adopt the most extreme positions on separation of state and religion. Noted constitutional scholar Nathan Lewin has quipped that the only Wall at which American Jewry worships is the wall of separation between state and religion. As an example, the Reform movement recently advised its congregations against accepting any Homeland Security funds for guarding their temples and schools from terrorist attack, despite the obvious appeal of Jewish institutions for Islamic terrorists.

The truth of the matter is that separation of Church and State is more a religion for the established Jewish Community, than is Judaism itself. Of course, there are real reasons to be concerned about Christian missionizing, and certainly not a little evangelical support for Israel may turn out to be a double edged sword. Nevertheless, Rosenblum points out that this argument is specious.

Eli Valley, the author of a recent Jerusalem Post piece, who works for Jewish philanthropist Michael Steinhardt, warns that President Bush’s evangelical supporters are bent on “converting the Jews and ending the Jewish religion.” Given the phenomenal success of American Jews themselves in ending the Jewish religion through intermarriage and assimilation it is unclear why the evangelicals should cause shudders.

Quod Erat Demonstrandum.


Gil Student said...

And for those of us who don't speak Latin...?

Jeffrey said...

'That which was to be demonstrated"

Anonymous said...

Rosenblum is at his worst when he wears his Haredi-aplogist hat (a black one no doubt). His pieces that per se have little to do with defending Haredim can be good, such as those on Justice Barak.

i;ajgnlkaj said...

I think the American Evangelicals are utterly dependent on Jews/Judaism/Israel for their eschatology. A different sort of Christianity might threaten Jews in the US, but not this one.

Anonymous said...

It is odd how those that fault Jews (observant or not) who worry about the separation of church and state as being anti-religous. It is not that we are anti- our own religion; many of us are quite comfortable with modern halakhah and hashkafah.

It is that we are worried about the government implementing a religion that is at odds, and sometimes hostile, to our own.

One quick example- Evangelicals' total prohibition of abortion is at odds with our halakhah. Pikuach nefesh and other considerations can permit abortion, which they would be unlikely to do.

The Christian Evangelical approach is not nuanced, it is black and white. This is not the Jewish way- "eilu v'eilu" will not fly with them.

Judge Learned Hand said it best, when he spoke of, "The spirit of liberty is the spirit which is not too sure that it is right." This is the best model for a government (halakhah will stay halakhah).

For a glimpse into what they are planning, check out HR 3799 (I thought it was a joke, until I read the bill on the House web site). Disallowing all judicial review, because an officer of the government claims that his action comes from his belief in G-d?! It's not a joke, and there are a lot of Congressmen on the case:

We can be afraid of, and oppose, the Evangelicals, because their approach is not compatible with ours, or with that of liberty. We fear for the liberty that has allowed yiddishkeit to flourish.