Last week, a tasteless New York Times headline asked, “Are Jared and Ivanka Good for the Jews?” Not only did the article fail to answer the question, it didn’t even attempt to define the terms.
Instead, it wasted nearly 2,000 words confirming that Jews who loathe everything about US President Donald Trump also express disdain for the Jewish members of his family. Jews who support the president take pride in Jared and Ivanka’s contributions to his administration. If there’s something remotely newsworthy in that analysis, the Times didn’t share it.
The article did, however, contain one nugget capable of leading to an answer: a reference to “fierce divisions” growing within the American Jewish community, a “contingent of American Jews who prioritize Israel above any other political or social issue” and “a great deal of anxiety around the coming of the Orthodox.”
It’s impossible to contemplate what’s “good for the Jews” without understanding this fierce division.
Whether the “coming of the Orthodox” is cause for anxiety or hope, it’s happening as a matter of demographics – as is the “going” of everyone else. The future of American Jewry lies with those who, like Jared and Ivanka, embrace traditional Jewish practice and the traditional Jewish commitment to the Jewish people as a collective. Tradition-oriented Jews marry younger, have many more children, are Jewishly educated and remain engaged in Judaism at far higher rates than do less traditional Jews.
The Times’ suggestion that traditional Jews “prioritize Israel above any other political or social issue” is an insulting oversimplification and a barely sanitized restatement of the classic antisemitic “dual loyalty” trope. Nonetheless, it’s clear that traditional and non-traditional Jews do have very different priorities.
Non-traditional Jews, who have long defined the American Jewish mainstream, often claim to find inspiration from Jewish sources. That inspiration, however, never seems to point in directions that zip code, education, and income would predict independent of religion or ethnicity.
These Jews are disproportionately educated, professional, and affluent. Like all American Jews, they’re concentrated in and around major cities in the Northeast, California, and South Florida – plus Chicago.
Like their neighbors, they skew heavily toward the Democratic Left. They list healthcare, abortion rights, lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender rights, and other progressive priorities as their own. They revere Barack Obama and resist President Trump. They support Black Lives Matter and the Women’s March. They backed the Iran deal and demand a Judenrein state of Palestine. If there’s anything identifiably Jewish about their agenda, it’s well-hidden.
Not so, more traditional Jews. Because these Jews proudly prioritize Jewish issues, they vote increasingly Republican.
Like the GOP, traditional Jews value religious freedom; today’s Democrats insist it’s merely a pretext to excuse bigotry.
Like the GOP, traditional Jews shun antisemites. Today’s Democrats regularly fete Al Sharpton, who led anti-Jewish pogroms in the early 1990s. They promoted a Louis Farrakhan acolyte into party leadership, and are in the process of rehabilitating Farrakhan himself. Hamas supporters and terror apologists run all important new progressive organizations and are entering Congress as Democrats.
Like the GOP, traditional Jews want to preserve Israel as a strong, secure Jewish state. Democrats increasingly condemn Israel’s defensive actions, endorse the BDS movement, champion terror-funding Mahmoud Abbas, mainstream the Muslim Brotherhood and seek to reintegrate a nuclear-threshold Iran into the global economy.
Traditional Jews embrace American exceptionalism and recognize the anti-American and antisemitic malevolence of imperialist bodies like the United Nations and the International Criminal Court. Democrats revere these institutions.
Beyond those issues central to protecting Judaism, Jews, and the Jewish collective, respectively, traditional Jews span the political spectrum. They don’t pretend to hold specifically Jewish positions on economics, the environment, regulation, immigration, entitlement reform, or most other areas of public policy. Like all Americans, they each elevate the concerns closest to their own hearts. For Jared, that issue is sentencing and prison reform. For Ivanka, it’s issues of concern to working mothers.
Traditional Jews are overwhelmingly proud that the president has embraced the traditional Jews in his own family; he clearly values Jared and Ivanka’s perspectives and advice.
And traditional Jews appreciate that Jared and Ivanka are proudly Jewish, rather than loudly Jewish: Gifted and attractive, the remarkably blessed young couple invariably comport themselves with dignity and restraint amidst raucous, hyper-partisan Washington. Quietly, they remain true to themselves, and to the values of the traditional Jewish community, exhibiting extraordinary grace in the face of astonishing venom.
All of which makes it possible to answer the New York Times. Are Jared and Ivanka good for the Jews? They’re wonderful for Jews who prioritize Jewish identity, faith, security, and continuity and who believe in America’s goodness and greatness. As for the rest – Jews whose identity has dwindled to little more than generic progressivism? Following another Jewish tradition, we answer that question with a question: Does it really matter? Bruce Abramson is a senior fellow at the London Center for Policy Research and a contributor to the news and public policy group Haym Solomon Center. Jeff Ballabon is CEO of B2 Strategic and a senior fellow at the Center for Statesmanship and Diplomacy.
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