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Should Jews Support the Tea Party Movement?

Dear Bintel Brief,

I am a Jew who rarely delves into political matters, but I can’t help but take notice of the Tea Party movement. They are all over the news with their anger and rebellion. I’m attracted to some of the things that they stand for, like constitutionally limited government, and fiscal responsibility, but they also oppose taxes and health care, which I think is wrong. And didn’t the Obama Hitler comparison come out of their town hall meetings this summer? Their values don’t appear to be Jewish ones at all.

Can one be both a Jew and a Tea Party supporter?


Ariel Levy responds:

Dear Fearful,

As it happens, I just returned from a trip to the Holy Land with 160 Evangelical Christians, many of them Tea Partiers, for an article I’m working on. They were all extremely nice people. But they had certain points of view that were, shall we say, unexamined. For example, a Tea Party enthusiast I met who lives in Georgia told me that she and her fellow TPs were sure that President Obama had been educated at a Madrasah. I asked her why she was convinced of this and she was silent for several moments before she replied “Google.” Another gentleman I spoke with who loves a good Tea Party was certain that despite the virtually unanimous position of the scientific establishment that global climate change is caused by human activity, he felt sure that it was just a bunch of hooey and claimed that there had never been any proof that carbon emissions pose a threat to the planet.

“Establishment” is a key word to the TPs. The ethos of the movement is anti establishment, anti government, anti authority. A Tea Party, then, is basically Woodstock without sex, drugs or rock and roll. But the paranoia and mind expansion through dubious means—acid for the flower children, Google and Glenn Beck for the TPs — remain intact.

Judaism has always been a religion based on law, scholarship and rational thought. Though the zest and enthusiasm of the Tea Parties might appeal to you, I question their compatibility with a reason-based view of the world.

My advice? Stick to coffee.

New Yorker staff writer Ariel Levy has profiled the intersex South African runner Caster Semenya, the fashion designer Marc Jacobs, the director Nora Ephron, and Cindy McCain, wife of former Republican presidential hopeful Senator John McCain. Previously, Levy wrote for New York magazine for more than decade. Her work has been anthologized in “The Best American Essays” and “The Best American Crime Reporting.” Levy is the author of “Female Chauvinist Pigs: Women and the Rise of Raunch Culture” (Free Press, 2005).

If you have a question for the Bintel Brief, email [email protected]. Selected letters will be published anonymously. New installments of the Bintel Brief, featuring Ariel Levy, will be published Mondays at


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