American Jewry

Louis Proyect lnp3 at
Fri May 23 14:42:09 MDT 2003

I am glad we are beginning to discuss this question in a calmer fashion,
since it is of some importance given the power of American Jewry to
influence US policy at a very high level.

To begin with, I want to recommend two books. One, that I have read, is
Stephen Bloom's "Postville", which deals with the clash between Lubavitcher
Hasidim and their Gentile neighbors in a small Iowa town where the Hasids
have bought and reopened a defunct packinghouse in order to supply the
kosher needs of their brethren back east. The author describes them as an
utterly repugnant and clannish group that holds its Christian neighbors in
contempt, while cheating them out of tax revenues. Guess what. The author
is a Jew himself, who teaches creative writing at the U. of Iowa.

One that I haven't read, but plan to, is "Jew Versus Jew" by Samuel
Freedman who teaches in the journalism school at Columbia. Check out for information on the book. The prologue,
which is online, contains the following:

 >>This civil war, while building for nearly a half-century, has reached
its most furious pitch in the final years of the millennium. In November
1995, a yeshiva student named Yigal Amir assassinated the Israeli prime
minister Yitzhak Rabin amid a climate of theological approval developed
partly by American rabbis. In the wake of the killing, the peace process so
divided American Jews that they could not agree on whether a rally in
Madison Square Garden should commemorate Rabin for his negotiated
settlement with the Palestinians or demonstrate Jewish cohesion despite the
controversial Oslo accords. In March of 1997, an association of
ultra-Orthodox rabbis, the Agudath Harabonim, declared that the Reform and
Conservative movements, which collectively represent about two-thirds of
American Jews, were "not Judaism at all." Less than three months later, the
first of the haredi attacks on egalitarian and mostly American worshippers
at the Western Wall occurred. The religious parties holding the swing votes
in Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's governing coalition introduced
legislation to formalize the Orthodox monopoly on conversion, marriage, and
burial, which is to say the entire question of "Who is a Jew?" Such was the
outcry among American Jews that Netanyahu promised a national convention of
4,500 fund-raisers, educators, and community leaders, "There can be so such
thing as a second-class Jew."<<

I would also look at Lenni Brenner's "Sociology of American Zionism" at:

It contains the following:

 >>The results are in for the latest American elections to the World
Zionist Congress. They show the continuation of the steep decline of
Zionism within the country's Jews. According to the 4/19 Forward:

"The Reform movement finished first in this year's American Zionist
elections to the World Zionist Congress - but lost ground from the previous
election five years ago. Meanwhile, the Orthodox linked
Religious Zionist Movement virtually doubled its representation, nearly
surpassing the Conservatives for the No. 2 spot.

Participation declined by nearly 20,000 from the last elections in 1997,
with only 90,000 Jews casting their ballots this year.... Of the total 145
delegates elected by Americans, ARZA/World Union, the
Zionist arm of the Reform and Reconstructionist movements, won 61 seats,
down from 70.

The Religious Zionist Movement, supported by the Orthodox, took 29 seats,
up from 16, the Conservative arm's Mercaz USA finished second with 32
delegates, down six from the last election."

Some Zionists who are not members of the World Zionist Organization must be
added to these figures. Meir Kahane's terrorists are not allowed in. They
are dangerous, but not numerous. My estimate is in
the low hundreds, nationally.<<

My impression is that a sea-change is taking place among young Jews. At
Columbia University, as I have pointed out here, hard-core support for
Israel seems limited to observant Jews, while many of the anti-occupation
activists appear to be Jewish by name at least. The plain truth is that an
outfit like Hillel is *not attractive* to the average secular Jew. With
each passing year, I should add, more and more Jews become secular.

This tendency, of course, is alarming to the Jewish establishment which was
even accused of faking poll numbers to make the phenomenon of assimilation
appear less pervasive. I should add, by the way, that while I am dead-set
opposed to the assimilation of indigenous peoples, which by its very nature
will be forced, I am for the speedy assimilation of all Jews, starting with
me. I was always inspired by the anecdote in Isaac Deutscher's "The
Non-Jewish Jew" about how he took part in an initiation ceremony when
joining the socialist movement in Poland, which for young Jews like him
apparently involved discarding old religious beliefs. Namely, he ate a ham
sandwich in a Jewish cemetery at midnight.

Louis Proyect, Marxism mailing list:

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