Now It’s OK to work with the Religious Right

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Ten years ago, liberal Jews heaped scorn upon those Orthodox — like Rabbi Daniel Lapin of Toward Tradition — who worked with Evangelical Christians on issues where they found common cause. Although liberal Jewish and Christian groups forged their own alliances long ago, Reform Judaism magazine called collaboration between Orthodox Jewish and Christian conservatives “Strange Bedfellows.”

What a difference a decade makes. Now, Rabbi Jack Moline, a leading Conservative Rabbi described in the NY Jewish Week as “a Jewish centrist in almost every respect,” (which, considering the NYJW’s definition of the “center,” probably paints him as more of a lefty than he actually is) is inviting people to a “Night to Honor Israel” under the sponsorship of Evangelical Pastor John Hagee’s group, Christians United for Israel.

The Orthodox position has been consistent — what Christians say will happen at the End of Days, and what they expect will happen to us, is far less important than what their positions are in the here and now. And on issues from school choice, to Israel, to preservation of the traditional definition of marriage, traditional Jews and traditional Christians are indisputably on the same page.

Moline and others, however, oppose traditional Christians on most issues besides Israel, but feel that conditions have forced them into an uncomfortable partnership. “Rabbi Moline says his views about the domestic dangers posed by the religious right have not changed, but conditions have. ‘We’re no longer in a position of being too selective in choosing our friends,’ he said, citing the threat posed by Iran and Israel’s growing isolation.”

Not only are prominent liberal leaders lining up with Hagee, but — perhaps due to the uncomfortable nature of the current arrangement — there seems to be an effort to stifle debate. “Jewish leaders who have been critical of Jewish participation in local ‘Nights to Honor Israel’ say they have been pressured into silence… a prominent Jewish leader [said] ‘I can’t even talk about it now; I feel a real sense of intimidation because people in our own community are saying I’m opposing something that’s good for Israel, that I’m hurting Israel.'”

So rabbis and liberal leaders are flip-flopping on alliances because of current needs, partnering with those whom they ordinarily oppose, and refusing to debate the validity of their positions. Strange Bedfellows, indeed. For the record, I don’t think they are wrong. But one can only imagine what the NY Jewish Week, Reform Judaism magazine, and other outlets would have to say, were the rabbis Orthodox.

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14 Responses

  1. David N. Friedman says:

    Charles, I thank you for the response and I am happy to refer you to the headline of this particular thread–it is surely OK for Orthodox Jews to join conservative Christians since Christians have taken certain stands because they have accepted our Torah as part of their religious faith.

    The value of prayer, for example. It is surely rare for even a single Christian politician to promote a public prayer that is a sectarian prayer and it is wrong for Jews to believe that banning all prayer in the public square is a good thing since there is no iron-clad warranty that all prayers might be “non-denominational” in every instance.

    Regarding abortion–you are mistaken. When asked, by me for example, Jerry Falwell would have been pleased as punch with the Jewish standard against abortion since this would ban most abortions (rape, incest, life of mother, plus rare birth defects–as exceptions.

    Regarding stem cells, this is truly a frustrating topic. We live at a time when there is great scientific advances being made, almost every month, in adult stem cells. These are fantastic discoveries and the nation should be in total unity over these modern medicall miracles that help save and extend human life. Instead, something tragic has happened. We have been mislead to focus on embryonic stem cell research and this research is sucking away huge amounts of money and not helping to save any lives. The allegation that it will be potentially worthwhile has simply not come to fruition. Please turn the issue around and see the truth of the matter. What kind of morality would take valued money away from helpful therapies and literally throw it away on speculative ones? Gov. Shwarzennegger is forcing Calif. taxpayers to waste $6B for research that surely kills a lot of embroyos but does not help anyone human have a better life. What a waste. Tell me Charles, is it Jewish to be so wasteful and is it moral to look past the very therapies that help people by contorting the issue to make conservative Christians appear unwilling to be kind to the ill?

    Regarding politics and your point of the community of Kiryas Joel, it would be better if all elements in the Jewish community voted on principle and not some narrow economic advantage and this is nothing to advertise–it is shameful. Similarly, some religious parties in Israel have made dreadful alliances with liberal party candidates if the price offered in compensation is high enough.

    It is Rabbi Menken’s point that we are naturally on the same page as conservative Christians on a number of cultural, social and political matters. I agree.

  2. Will Choose says:

    Charlie-
    Yashecoach. Gut gesugt.

  3. Charles B. Hall, PhD says:

    David Friedman,

    The Christian right most definitely does not accept the Torah view of abortion — not to mention stem cell research. I’ve have two different rabbis of different hashkafot tell me that Jews should not serve on juries in capital cases in the US because the standards of justice fall so far below the Torah standard. I also see nothing in the Torah that opposes high taxes in a secular government — and most of those tax revenues at the federal level go to national defense, social security, and health care, all of which benefit Jews greatly. Yes, most of the Christian right is pro-Israel (Patrick Buchanan is a notable exception), but so are almost all of even the most liberal Democrats in Congress.

    Does the Christian right support national health insurance? Rabbi Dr. Moshe Tendler says that the Torah mandates it:

    http://curiousjew.blogspot.com/2007/01/yu-medical-ethics-creating-in-gods.html

    The Christian right supports government paid missionary activity by military chaplains. The Christian right wants public prayer all right — public Christian prayer by government employees forced on Jews. It is clear that in some areas the Christian right supports Jewish interests. In some they do not. They do not deserve our blanket endorsement.

    Last fall, the *Jewish Press*, which bills itself as the largest English language Orthodox newspaper, endorsed 47 Democrats, 2 Republicans, and one Independent (Sen. Lieberman). Most of those Democrats would be classified as liberal by any standard. Finally, last fall the Orthodox Jews in Kiryas Joel were the margin of victory for Congressman John Hall, a liberal Democrat, against his opponent, former Congresswoman Sue Kelly, a Republican who had voted against the interests of that community. IIRC the specific issue was a water pipeline for the growing population.

  4. Bob Miller says:

    The Orthodox Jewish vote is probably skewed by the fact that Orthodox communities are generally in areas where the Republican party is very weak in general. Orthodox politicians on the make have no chance in those areas if they’re not Democrats. People who develop the habit of voting Democratic are less likely to favor national Republican candidates.

  5. David N. Friedman says:

    I can find no hard data that singles out the Orthodox vote from the Jewish vote based upon actual serious polling–only guesses. 50% must be low and the point is that even if the number might be only 65% (a scandal, why not at least 80%?)–whatever the last actual count was–it is going to go up in the next election as long as Dems continue to identify with pacifism towards the jihadists. At a local level, I concede Orthodox Jews may be more willing to vote on both sides.

    David N. Friedman

  6. mb says:

    Orthodox Jews at most vote 50% Republican. Go ask New Square!

  7. Will Choose says:

    David Friedman-

    Did you dream your numbers?

  8. mycroft says:

    For Will Choose, yes, the Orthodox community votes about 65-70% Republican. There is indeeed meaning in the fact that the secular Jewish community votes overwhelmingly for the Dems and the frum community, in the significant majority, for the Republicans

    But according to you then 30% or so of frum Jews vote Democratic and are liberals not conservatives. Whatever the percentages Frum Jews have a variety of political viewpoints. Cross Currents IMHO by writing so much on political matters takes away from its message-which is often exceptionally well argued.

  9. David N. Friedman says:

    For Will Choose, yes, the Orthodox community votes about 65-70% Republican. There is indeeed meaning in the fact that the secular Jewish community votes overwhelmingly for the Dems and the frum community, in the significant majority, for the Republicans.

    For Rabbi Menken, I regret that a political alliance is “uncomfortable” in your eyes since one might presume no good Jew could feel MORE comfortable in alliance with the political left and its antisemitism, pro-socialism and general anti-religious character. We must choose and there is clearly more common purpose with the so-called religious right which is so outwardly philo-semitic and pro-Israel.

    It seems obvious to me that instead of strange bedfellows, we are natural political allies–the Christian right has merely accepted the traditional Jewish view on abortion, gay marriage, public prayer, a strong national defense, the death penalty for murderers, fair taxes, a pro-Israel foreign policy,etc.

    We would do well to accept political allies graciously and thankfully.

    David N. Friedman

  10. Jewish Observer says:

    “Where is your evidence Orthodox Jews vote Republican?”

    – if the Orthodox vote according to the gedolim’s guidance, we can know whom they vote for

  11. Will Choose says:

    Where is your evidence Orthodox Jews vote Republican?

  12. Ori Pomerantz says:

    The religious right doesn’t convert Jews away from Torah. It takes Jews that are already away from Torah, and converts them from nothing much to Christianity.

    Maybe I’m not sensitive enough, but I don’t see Christians who believe I’d be better off as a Christian as my enemies. They are misguided, but what they want is what they believe is good for me.

    My enemies are those who want me dead, those who want my mother to be a refugee (she lives in Israel, I don’t) and those who would point a gun at me and force me to do things. I have enough of those without digging for more.

  13. Loberstein says:

    But one can only imagine what the NY Jewish Week, Reform Judaism magazine, and other outlets would have to say, were the rabbis Orthodox.

    This is not hypothetical, the Orthodox have voted Republican in national elections and made common cause with the Christian Right for a long time, much to the chagrin of the liberal Jewish establishment.

    Historically, the Agudath Israel in Poland between WW I and WW II also aligned in the Sejm with anti-semites for short term political gain.So, I guess we have to look at the short term as well as the long term.

    The political system in the United States is so corrupted by money that I wonder if ideology is really that much a factor in reality. This 2 year long Presidential campaign is fueled, in my opinion, by the fact that so many people make so much money off of the campaign that they want it to be a full time 4 year cycle job. How many politicians alter their views because of polls and handlers . Romney is a total flip flop, at least Guiliani is consistent.

    The Christian Right shares many values with the orthodox community and it is not only Israel that creates the affinity. This being said, I dread the day when they take over. I hope we can live in a free land with freedom to live our lives without the church overseeing our every move.

  14. Joe Fisher says:

    When the religious right wants to give us support, they are our friends. And when they spend tens of millions of dollars converting Jews away from the Torah, they are our enemies.

    Over the years I have seen many intelligent people who imagined they could be friends part of the time with people who were really their enemies.

    It never worked.