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153 of 172 people found the following review helpful
on October 22, 2009
I was rather excited to read this book and was not disappointed. Has a fairer, more important, more anticipated book been written on religion, politics or history? Not in my 30+ years. This book lived up the "hype."

While balanced, Norman Podhoretz traces his journey -- one many of us have taken as we mature and think on our own -- from Democrat/liberal to Republican/neo-Conservative, and is quite honest on both sides. While the legendary Commentary editor examines the roots of anti-Semitism historically and currently, he blames the Right as well, even into the latter half of the 20th century.

{I did not realize that his personal switch occurred (forgetting Commentary was once a left-leaning rag ...before my time) when he continuously realized Israel's enemies not only resided on the Statist Left, but also that it was the pseudo-peaceniks who showed zero interest in Judaism or condemning anti-Semitism/anti-Zionism, and wrongly lent their time to the mundane, "feel good" topics of civil rights, integration, housing. They felt "Israel can take care of itself." I hear that from self-loathing, Democrat-voting "Jews" weekly.}

Essentially, Podhoretz looks at the reasons Jews adhered to liberalism beginning with the persecutions of Christianity, such as European disenfranchisement of Jews, dearth of civil liberties, freedoms, expulsions, the Inquisition, and the shtetls of the modern world to the horrific Dreyfus Affair in France, ending with rise of Nazism and the Holocaust.

He therefore factually recalls that when Jews came to America, they aligned themselves with the Democratic Party because of its close resemblance to the disingenuous left-leaning Europeans (their 'friends' still today), who favored the emancipation of the Jews. He looks at Harry S. Truman as basically the last Zionist Democrat (FDR was not, JFK not so much either, LBJ no way) who recognized Israel and thus won more Jews' support. Concluding, he rightly traces modern Democratic attitudes toward Israel as hostile, contrasting to Republicans (aside from the occasional remnant of 1940s Isolationism lunacy like Ron Paul, Bob Novak or James Baker) who, from Eisenhower and Nixon to Reagan and Bush Jr., have supported Israel with great fervor since the Six-Day War in 1967.

The book is very nicely divided into two distinct sections of the "how" and "why they still are..." in terms of liberal Judaism. N-Pod explains the faux-justifications, but sentiently muses sadly as to why the Jews are so beholden to a party so antithetical (or apathetic) to their best interests. He has stats, voting records, anecdotes and more. It is all extremely well-written and crafted even-handedly.

The vapid left ignored all this then and will do so now.

I read David Brog's "Standing with Israel," about Evangelical support for the Jewish State, concomitantly, which again proves beyond a doubt the irony that Christian Zionists are truly Israel's most hated friends. This is another vital topic explaining why 80% of American Jews "don't get it."

To clarify, as Brog and Podhoretz do, the most common argument against Christian Zionists is that they only support Israel because of the "End of Days" prophecy. (The End of Days prophecy is a Christian belief that the Second Coming of Christ can only happen once the Jews are in Israel.) According to the prediction, in the days before the Second Coming most Jews will either die or convert to Christianity. Because of this, many Jews believe that Christian support for Israel is just an extremely complicated way for Christians to finish the job of the Inquisition.

Bullocks.

As Brog noted, "There is simply no evidence to connect the Christian Zionists' zeal for evangelism to their support for Israel...This argument presumes that Christians-- millions of them-- have agreed to a plan that they are now implementing church by church across America...in order to harvest Jewish souls at some point down the road. Why hasn't someone leaked the memo to the press? Or has this grassroots plan to convert the Jews been orchestrated by a sleeper cell?"

Indeed. But sadly, it's difficult for many Jews to be appreciative of Christian Zionists when they are bombarded with false and slanderous information about the movement from the media and their left-wing Reform Rabbis. The same can be said for their intolerant attitude toward Jews of the Republican Party, or the "neoconservative" movement, which puts the security of Israel at its forefront.

Last year, Christian Zionists raised millions of dollars for Jewish causes, and used their considerable political power to lobby politicians on behalf of Israel. To show appreciation, recently, hundreds of Jewish leaders like the heads of the ADL (the despicable Abe Foxman) and associated leftists, teamed up to denounce Christian Zionism and its supporters in a petition, calling them "bigoted," "extremist," and "anti-Semitic."

The only "anti-Semitism" the left reviles is "Christian." Of course, they are living in the distant past, as such does not exist. Anti-Semitism today comes from the Radical Islamics, but also atheists, agnostics and secular "Jews" themselves, here, in Europe and throughout the world...though they'd disagree and call names if you factually explained.

We Jews, hated for no good reason but jealousy, cannot waste time waiting for a "perfect" friend of Israel to come along. There are not nearly enough who love us the same way.

{It is also very important to note that the last word in the title of the book is plural. Jews may fancy themselves as "liberals" but they really are NOT that "liberal." That is why the title is accurate, as no one over 25, sans some millionaire hippies in Marin, is truly "liberal" if they have a brain, common sense and care about their country and families. Like blacks, hispanics and others voting inapposite to their best interests thanks to bigotry, narrow-mindedness and misinfo from Democrats, Jews belong to a group called "liberals" (plural) but their lifestyles, are often as conservative as you'd find. They live in the same neighborhoods, do the same things as other Jews, have the same friends, etc. Ditto the other aforementioned "minorities." That is NOT liberal. My personal life story is 1000 times MORE liberal than theirs, but I am a conservative. Hopefully that makes sense.}

Returning to the nuts and bolts of his book, Podhoretz, in the second half, explains in-depth how the Jewish vote has shifted throughout the 20th century, but always reverted back:

In the past eight decades, the average Jewish vote for the Democrat in presidential elections has been 75%, which is far higher than that of any other ethno-religious group.

He notes, in a September 2009 Wall Street Journal editorial, "previewing" his book:

"Continued Jewish commitment to the Democratic Party has become an anomaly. All the other ethno-religious groups that, like the Jews, formed part of the coalition forged by Franklin Delano Roosevelt in the 1930s have followed the rule that increasing prosperity generally leads to an increasing identification with the Republican Party. But not the Jews."

He continues:

"Liberalism has become more than a political outlook. It has for all practical purposes superseded Judaism and become a religion in its own right...For many, moving to the right is invested with much the same horror their forefathers felt about conversion to Christianity."

He concludes, perhaps most importantly:

"I think it fair to say that what liberals mainly see when they look at this country is injustice and oppression of every kind--economic, social and political. By sharp contrast, conservatives see a nation shaped by a complex of traditions, principles and institutions that has afforded more freedom and, even factoring in periodic economic downturns, more prosperity to more of its citizens than in any society in human history. It follows that what liberals believe needs to be changed or discarded--and apologized to other nations--is precisely what conservatives are dedicated to preserving, reinvigorating and proudly defending against attack."

Yet, in terms of Israel support, there were reasons to think 2008 would be a good year for the GOP. John McCain's long history of sympathy with Israel should have given him an advantage over Barack Hussein Obama, whose history consisted of associating with enemies of the Jewish state like the unapologetic bigot Rev. Jeremiah Wright.

Nevertheless, proving Pod's assertion that Statist "Jews" have not cared about Israel/Judaism for decades, Obama beat Mr. McCain among Jewish voters by roughly a 70-30 ratio. Obama did far better with Jews than with any other ethnic/religious group, sans blacks, and Podhorertz relays some stats:

The Jewish vote for him was 25 points higher than the 53% he scored with the electorate as a whole; 35 points higher than the 43% he scored with whites; 11 points higher than the 67% he scored with Hispanics; 33 points higher than the 45% he scored with Protestants; and 24 points higher than the 54% he scored with Catholics.

In his closing paragraphs, Podhoretz clarifies a final time:

"The social, political and moral system that liberals wish to transform is the very system in and through which Jews found a home such as they had never discovered in all their forced wanderings tyhroughout the centuries over the face of the earth."

Modern American Jewry has ignored this. Our proud forefathers would weep, but they'd praise 80 year-old Norman Podhoretz for such an important book.
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125 of 153 people found the following review helpful
on September 17, 2009
Although in this fine book Norman Podhoretz comes close, I would have to say that the core of fundamental differences lies one layer deeper.

- Leftists are zealous adherents to a secular religion. While conservatives believe that only God is perfect (the Judeo-Christian ethos) and that each man can strive to be better in His image, instead the left believes that humanity can be perfected.
- Perfection starts with the purity of leftist intentions, most importantly that of equality in all results (the "unfairly" successful must be brought down, and the "oppressed" must be raised up).
- Leftist intentions are made manifest by the cognoscenti via a top-down system, because each individual person cannot be trusted to better themselves.
- A top-down approach can best be implemented by an all-encompassing government that is the keeper and sustainer of perfection.

All other things flow from the above dichotomy, including charity versus welfare, moral relativism, belief in self-correcting versus zero-sum systems, etc., etc. The essence of all this is a clash of religions. Those Jews who are liberal have therefore abandoned Judaism and made God subservient to the leftist religion.

BTW, don't believe the nonsense here from other reviewers about the "Christian Right" holding Jewish conspiracy theories. That is a deceitful liberal trope that is more correctly the obsession of foaming-at-the-mouth leftists whenever they talk about Israel and Zionism.
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18 of 20 people found the following review helpful
on October 19, 2009
Podhoretz's review of Jewish history is fascinating and explains much about why Jews came to distrust kings,emperors and such(the Right)who often inflicted confication, banishment and even murder upon them. However, in the decades leading up to the Communist take over of Russia, the Socialists and Communists (the Left)promised to eliminate all difference among people. This had great appeal to Jews who were singled out throughout history as "different," which served to justify their persecution. However, I am amazed that the great majority of American Jews in our country, where there is no persecution, and where they enjoy equal rights and protection under the law, persist in voting liberal. This brings to mind the lemmings. A fascinating book which I recommend highly. Joseph Sabella
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20 of 24 people found the following review helpful
on October 1, 2009
This book is both interesting and informative. However, it does not satisfactorily answer the question why Jews are liberals. The author gave a very abridged history of the Jews to illustrate why the deep mistrust Ashkenazic Jews had for the ruling powers of Europe and for the Christian Church - in short, the right. This, together with the traditional Judaic teaching, does reasonably explain why Jews tended to be on the left side of the political order. The author admits to be as perplexed as the next person as to why, given a vastly different political, economical and religious context - here in today's America - Jews are still overwhelmingly liberal (and a reliably Democratic voter). He posits various "theories" served up by many students of the subject, but none really quite up to the task (of rationally explaining the anomaly.) Thus, in exasperation, he gave up by serving up the "Jews are politically stupid" line, which is what most people are forced to light-heartedly conclude.

Podhoretz's book was written not to answer the question which entitled the book - as there is not a good answer - but to hopefully provoke the vast majority of American Jewry into searching thoughts on why they are, to their detriment, stuck in a dogma that was formed from circumstances of the past, admittedly a very long and bitter past, but that have now evolved to be so different.

The book is, again, interesting and informative. As a philo-semite (if there is such a thing), I have been perplexed by this question for a long time. This book provides invaluable insight on the subject because it is from the heart and mind of a Jew, a very intelligent, accomplished and influential one, who more or less tells his life story in his quest for an answer.
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13 of 15 people found the following review helpful
on November 14, 2009
This book gives detailed insite into why so many Jews are liberals. It is a great book and helped me understand some of the frustations I have had with the way they vote,knowing we have stood behind them in Israel as the only Democratic state in the Middle East.
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
on October 12, 2009
Jews and non Jewish politicians all ask the question . More specifically why are non orthodox Jews not only liberal but far left wing. A good historical and well thought out point of view on this issue. It is probably not the whole answer but a good start in a difficult field. Well worth the read.
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26 of 33 people found the following review helpful
Liberal by Inertia
The first part of the book is of limited value, and has some serious interpretive errors dealing with the church-state relationship in absolute monarchies and enlightened despotisms. It really sets the background for the main issue of the book and explains why Jews became liberal.
As for why Jews, acting against their own self-interest are still liberal, Podhoretz basically argues that Jews are liberal because of inertia. Just as those Jews that wished to break with the religion sought liberation thru Marxism as being more acceptable than Christianity, today they flee to Liberalism as an escape from religious strictures. In fact, in the Jewish community Liberalism often takes the place of religion. Therefore they will forgive any "excess" on the left, such as Jesse Jackson's reference to "Hymietown" and the writings of President Carter, while excoriating the Conservatives for the writings of Buchanan.
The problem I have with this book is that it fails to deal with the dilemma that I personally face. I am a Jewish Republican who was Jesuit educated (along with a son), belongs to a synagogue, but not a political Conservative. I also have friends who are Evangelical Christians. I have belonged to unions, and been on strike. I am a Classic Liberal and wish the government to stay away from my wallet, my family, my bedroom, and my health. I do not wish to tell anyone else how to live. I have donated money to Republican candidates, volunteered in campaigns, and even been faculty advisor to a "Young Republican" club. I am also a hawk on foreign policy and national defense. Podoretz seems not to understand (along with quite a few "talking heads") that you don't have to be a Conservative to be a Republican. It is the intransigent support of Conservative social doctrines by Republican leadership that keep many Jews away from more active support of the Republican Party.
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26 of 34 people found the following review helpful
on September 24, 2009
Norman Podhoretz has written a thoughtful and well written book which tries to answer the question which is the book's title, "Why are Jews Liberals?" Of course, he might have said 'most Jews,' since my eye doctor is at least as conservative as I am, but that would not have made for as punchy a title.

The first half of the book covers a lot of historical ground, from the birth of Christianity from Judaism to 1968. '68 is the turning point because it was Podhoretz' personal turning point, from liberalism to (neo)conservatism. To my chagrin as a Christian, much of Part One details the shameful way Christians mistreated Jews throughout their mutual history. At least before the so-called enlightenment, it made sense for a Jew to be whatever could have been construed as a liberal in those days, because Christianity was the oppressing majority establishment, although Podhoretz graciously cites many Christian leaders and laity who decried anti-Semitism.

But Podhoretz shows how bitterly anti-Semitic most of the enlightenment bigwigs were, because they were against all religion, so from that time on, it should have begun to make less sense for Jews to be liberals. I was surprised Podhoretz made no mention of the dual role of Baruch Spinoza at the outset of the enlightenment, born a Jew but kicked out of his Dutch synagogue, one of the first to try to delegitimize the Bible.

The successors to the enlightenment/French revolution were the Marxists. In hindsight certainly, but it should also have been in foresight, being allied with that gang would place anyone in the dustbin of history, to coin a phrase.

The 2nd part of the book proceeds from 1968 to the present, with each chapter usually discussing the events surrounding one American presidential election, and events in which Podhoretz was very much a player. The anecdotes from this section give the book much of its punch.

In sum, Podhoretz agrees that it once made a lot of sense for Jews to be liberals, but no longer, and that they should follow him into conservatism. It is from the Left that the vitriolic anti-Semitic and anti-Isreali rhetoric and actions now derive, in the US and europe. He says, and I agree, being one myself, that Christian conservatives are now the best allies Jews and the State of Israel have, and this has nothing to do with the loony fringe who love Israel because it will hasten the rapture. It has to do with the Jewishness of Jesus, the incomprehensibility of Christianity without a knowledge and love of Judaism, and a love for the principles on which America was founded, the so-called Judaeo-Christian ethic, as per the hyper focus on the Hebrew scriptures by the Puritans, etc.

Unfortunately, it seems to come down to a love of secularity over religion. Several times Podhoretz refers to the "sacred right" [rite?], almost a 'sacrament,' of abortion, which all liberals worship and unfortunately Jewish liberals in an even higher percentage. Equally unfortunately, abortion has decimated the number of Jews in the US, as it has with other minorities, which partially explains why there are now more Muslims in the US than Jews, more Hispanics than blacks. Sad.

In this book, Norman Podhoretz plays the prophet. But I'm sure he knows that most prophets don't live to see the day when their prophecies come true.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on June 12, 2010
I want to hold on to this book as it contains a great deal of important history on Jews in general & most importantly, comes as close as is humanly possible to actually answering the question ("only God knows!"). From neat quips like a service at a "reformed" congregation is the Democrat Party at prayer to Mr. P's final conclusion, it is well worth your time. I like to stereotype people and I have found the typical Jew to be intelligent, a bit arrogant at times, and compassionate (among other not so positive things). Liberalism and the Democrat Party may be a new religion for those who "have not been mugged by reality". As I said, it was a great read and I so much would like to keep it on my book shelf but, Obamanomics is forcing me to be a Capitalist as long as I can.
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12 of 15 people found the following review helpful
on June 13, 2010
This book is immensely topical. Here we have the Israeli interception of Turkish "peace mission" ships, and outrage from New York to London to Istanbul to Riyadh to the UN. The Obama Administration, an administration voted in by +75% of American Jews, by chiding Israel, in essence sides with the terrorist-sponsored "peace" mission. It seems that most American Jews, and certainly the liberal press, think Israel went too far. From reading "Why are Jews Liberals," I would not be surprised if most Reform Rabbis criticize Israel and if most Orthodox Rabbis support her for intercepting those ships in international waters. Therein lies the essence of Podhoretz's work--that most American Jews today do not vote as the Torah may command, but as Liberalism may command. Liberalism is defined as "social justice." And the way Israel treats the Palestinians, to too many liberals, is just abhorrent. All these ships were trying to do was deliver supplies to an oppressed people, say the liberals. What they miss is the ships also carried cement to build more tunnels to transport arms from all the enemies of Israel to the Palestinians. Podhoretz shows how misguided too much American Jewish thought, and too many American Jewish voters, have become. While it is true that social justice issues were important to our ancestors who traveled to America, the social justice agenda has been hijacked to aid Israel's enemies, and unwittingly too many American Jews have gone along. Thank you, Mr. Podhoretz, for elucidating the shameful state of American Jewish politics.
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