Should Jews Fear The Conservative Victory?


This evening we were cleaning a cabinet, and found a copy of Reform Judaism (magazine) ( from Spring 1995, with the cover article: “Should Jews Fear the Conservative Victory(ETA: Link added) by Marshall Breger (“no”) and Arthur Hertzberg (‘yes”). Hertzberg’s article talked about how a leading neo-conservative said “Jews once again displayed their inclination to be as well off as the Episcopalians and to vote like the Puerto Ricans”. Hertzberg noted that:

“Neo-Conservatives have been telling Jews for years that their self-interest dictates that they vote with their pocketbooks, just as other Americans of their economic class do. The vast majority of Jews has rejected this argument, understanding that the basic interest of Jews is bound up with peace in society. Jews have known for many centuries that they are the most vulnerable of the haves, and that Jew-hatred is most marked among the have-nots who fear the future.”

Spring 1995. How prescient for this year’s campaign as well.

Here’s a particularly telling pull quote:

“If the social safety net is removed, a violent reaction will follow. It will no longer be enough to blame the liberals; Jews will become the prime scapegoat.”. Here’s another quote: “We are now living a moment in American history when high-tech jobs are more available, but less secure, a time when opportunity for blue-collar workers is shrinking irreversibly. Not so very subtly, right-wing ideologues are already deflecting these angers at scapegoats — the black and the poor — suggesting that the chronic unemployed, recent immigrants, and welfare mothers are destroying the moral fabric of society and, because of their supposed innate intellectual inferiority, are undermining our nation’s economic future.”

Here is another quote, again, very prescient:

“The conservatives have thrown an attack on multiculturalism into the mix to position themselves as defenders of traditional European civilization against the liberal commitment to multiculturalism. This makes most Jews uncomfortable, and even nervous. The conservative vision of American culture says to us that our Jewish heritage is outside a canon dominated by the writings of ancient Greeks and medieval and modern Christians. The rich will get richer through lowered taxes in revival of “trickle down” economics, and the sinking middle class will be told that punishing unwed mothers will satisfy their hungers. The move from crying out that liberalism and not injustice, is the enemy to shouting that the Jew, the outsider, is responsible for that injustice is a possibility that now seems nearer to the horizon.”

Alas, the issue is not online. I’ll have to scan it next week, and I’ll link it here. [ETA: Here’s a link to the issue, with Breger’s “No” first, followed by Hertzberg’s “Yes” and the RAC response.] But when others stress that Jews must vote with Trump because of his position on Israel, we must remember that as Jewish Americans — as American Jews — our vote is based more on one issue. We have seen the slips into antisemitism from the Trump campaign. We have also seen the campaign make its attacks on social justice. Progressive Judaism’s position is based on the social justice values that form one of the cores of our faith — the remembrance that, as Hertzberg put it, “Jews remember when they were poor and have sympathy for Americans who still are.” It is one of the many reasons why #ImWithHer and supporting Hillary.

*: This was originally a Facebook update, which was expanded. It was edited again on Mon 8/8 to add a link to the PDF of the article.