Silencing of the Liberal American Jew

We've Allowed Noisy Minorities To Censor Our Voices

Silencing Liberal Voices: A Miami synagogue recently scrapped a talk by Debbie Wasserman Schultz after a powerful member who is a Republican complained.
getty images
Silencing Liberal Voices: A Miami synagogue recently scrapped a talk by Debbie Wasserman Schultz after a powerful member who is a Republican complained.

By J.J. Goldberg

Published June 05, 2012, issue of June 08, 2012.
  • Print
  • Share Share
  • Single Page

(page 2 of 2)

It’s often claimed that the changed stance of the community’s leaders must somehow reflect a changing mood in the pews. Not so. Two new surveys of American Jewish opinion, one conducted by the Public Religion Research Institute for the Nathan Cummings Foundation, the other by Professor Steven M. Cohen for the Workmen’s Circle, portray a community as committed as ever to its famously liberal values.

A confession is in order here, and a disclosure. I wrote about the Cummings survey a few weeks ago and got it wrong. I argued that because support for social issues — gender and minority rights — is stronger than economic liberalism, we’ve become a community of limousine liberals. I missed the fact that economic liberalism, while weaker, still runs above a healthy 60%. Social liberalism without workers’ rights represents just a thin slice of the community. And the disclosure: I found my error when comparing the Cummings survey with the soon-to-be-released Workmen’s Circle poll, to which I got an advance peek while doing consulting work for the Circle (I didn’t work on the survey).

Both surveys found majorities of around 90% favoring legal abortion in all or most cases and 70% to 80% backing same-sex marriage. No surprise there.

The surprise: The Cummings Foundation survey found that 73% of American Jews believe the nation’s economic system unfairly favors the wealthy. In the Workmen’s Circle survey, 62% agreed that the power of financial institutions poses a “major threat” to the nation’s economy (only 8% saw “no threat”). Both surveys found majorities or clear pluralities in favor of tougher environmental protection, “even at the cost of jobs.”

Both found overwhelming majorities favoring higher taxes on the wealthy. Tellingly, fewer than 50% in the Cummings survey were willing to pay higher taxes to increase aid to the poor — but that shifted as income rose. Among wealthier respondents, a majority were willing to pay more.

Most unexpectedly, the Workmen’s Circle survey asked whether respondents’ “first reaction” upon hearing of a strike is to side with the union or the company and found 61% backing the union, versus 39% for the company. By contrast, a 2011 Pew Research Center survey of Americans overall found 40% siding with the union and 43% with the company.

We’re often told that Jews are an insignificant minority of the American population, politically important only because of their money. In fact, current research indicates a Jewish population numbering about 6.5 million and rising — fewer than Catholics, Baptists, Lutherans or Methodists, but greater than Presbyterians, Episcopalians or Mormons. They represent close to 5 million votes, mostly concentrated in 11 states with a combined 177 electoral votes. They have long been an important voice for justice. It’s a pity that they let their voice be hijacked, diverted or cut off from allies by an unrepresentative minority.

Contact J.J. Goldberg at goldberg@forward.com


The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.





Find us on Facebook!
  • Is Twitter Israel's new worst enemy?
  • More than 50 former Israeli soldiers have refused to serve in the current ground operation in #Gaza.
  • "My wife and I are both half-Jewish. Both of us very much felt and feel American first and Jewish second. We are currently debating whether we should send our daughter to a Jewish pre-K and kindergarten program or to a public one. Pros? Give her a Jewish community and identity that she could build on throughout her life. Cons? Costs a lot of money; She will enter school with the idea that being Jewish makes her different somehow instead of something that you do after or in addition to regular school. Maybe a Shabbat sing-along would be enough?"
  • Undeterred by the conflict, 24 Jews participated in the first ever Jewish National Fund— JDate singles trip to Israel. Translation: Jews age 30 to 45 travelled to Israel to get it on in the sun, with a side of hummus.
  • "It pains and shocks me to say this, but here goes: My father was right all along. He always told me, as I spouted liberal talking points at the Shabbos table and challenged his hawkish views on Israel and the Palestinians to his unending chagrin, that I would one day change my tune." Have you had a similar experience?
  • "'What’s this, mommy?' she asked, while pulling at the purple sleeve to unwrap this mysterious little gift mom keeps hidden in the inside pocket of her bag. Oh boy, how do I answer?"
  • "I fear that we are witnessing the end of politics in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. I see no possibility for resolution right now. I look into the future and see only a void." What do you think?
  • Not a gazillionaire? Take the "poor door."
  • "We will do what we must to protect our people. We have that right. We are not less deserving of life and quiet than anyone else. No more apologies."
  • "Woody Allen should have quit while he was ahead." Ezra Glinter's review of "Magic in the Moonlight": http://jd.fo/f4Q1Q
  • Jon Stewart responds to his critics: “Look, obviously there are many strong opinions on this. But just merely mentioning Israel or questioning in any way the effectiveness or humanity of Israel’s policies is not the same thing as being pro-Hamas.”
  • "My bat mitzvah party took place in our living room. There were only a few Jewish kids there, and only one from my Sunday school class. She sat in the corner, wearing the right clothes, asking her mom when they could go." The latest in our Promised Lands series — what state should we visit next?
  • Former Israeli National Security Advisor Yaakov Amidror: “A cease-fire will mean that anytime Hamas wants to fight it can. Occupation of Gaza will bring longer-term quiet, but the price will be very high.” What do you think?
  • Should couples sign a pre-pregnancy contract, outlining how caring for the infant will be equally divided between the two parties involved? Just think of it as a ketubah for expectant parents:
  • Many #Israelis can't make it to bomb shelters in time. One of them is Amos Oz.
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.