David Bernstein on Biden’s “Jewish Heritage Month”

David E. Bernstein (law professor at George Mason University in the DC suburbs) in the Times of Israel:

President Biden has released a proclamation for Jewish American Heritage Month. This was almost certainly written by Jewish staffers and vetted by whoever is in charge of Jewish communal relations, so it provides an interesting insight into the mindset of the subtype of American Jews who are politically active in progressive politics.

Several things of note.

First, there is no mention of God or of the Jewish religion, beyond a nod to American religious freedom. Instead, there a reference to “Jewish values.”[…]

Second, there is no specific mention of American Jewish contributions to the arts, commerce, education, or science, despite many Jews who have had prominent roles in each area. But there is an entire paragraph celebrating Jews’ contributions to progressive causes: […]

This is followed by a second, vaguer paragraph that alludes to “tikkun olam” (healing the world), a concept that has become a virtual substitute religion for progressive Jews, so much so that some have taken to suggesting that for a segment of American Jews “tikkun olamism” has replace Judaism: […]

Third, there is an acknowledgment that “In recent years, Jewish Americans have increasingly been the target of white nationalism and the antisemitic violence it fuels.” There is no similar acknowledgment of, or even allusion to, antisemitic violence American Jews have faced from Islamists and Black radicals, which includes two recent murders by the latter. […]

Fourth, there is no acknowledgment of Jews’ roles in resettling Holocaust survivors, assisting with the establishment and survival of the State of Israel, and advocacy for Soviet and Ethiopian Jews, the three greatest specifically Jewish accomplishments of the American Jewish community.

Admittedly, this is only one presidential proclamation. But it does reflect the Jewish worldview of a large swathe of American Jewry: secular, proud of their Jewish heritage mostly as a reflection of pride in Jews’ contributions to left-wing politics, a sense of Jews as victims of right-wing, and only right-wing, antisemitism, and a lack of concern for Jews’ ties with their co-religionists around the world.

Unfortunately, while the proclamation gives a nod to “Jewish continuity” this form of deracinated Jewish identity is highly unlikely to survive another generation or two.

Amen. Offering my $0.02 (barely NIS 0.06 at the current exchange rate), and stressing that I am speaking in broad sociological tendencies rather than about individuals: American Jews are disproportionately members of the New Class. New Class members of any ethnicity vote New Class sensibilities first, second, and third, and any Jewish (or other) sensibilities only after that if at all. This is very different from the voting behavior of Jewish communities in Europe, which have a much larger proportion of small business owners and tend to be much more heterogenous politically.

In fact, in continental Europe’s largest Jewish community, that of France, you see a telling intra-community ethnopolitical split — with the older, more establishment, Ashkenazi community trending left on average, and the newer North African Jewish community trending right. The latter community, hailing from France’s former colonies Morocco and Tunisia and from the former French overseas province [département d’outre-mer] Algeria, is both socio-economically more working and middle class and religiously more traditional (if not necessarily Orthodox — I have known several Liberal rabbis of North African origin). As they are less likely to intermarry and more likely to have children than their Ashkenazi brethren, they increasingly are determining the complexion of the entire community. And yes, on average, they are definitely politically more conservative than the Ashkenazim.

But this isn’t an ethnic thing either. The Jewish community in France’s northern neighbor, Belgium, is about 90% Ashkenazim, mostly of Polish origin.[*] Yet we see a similar intra-community split here, again driven primarily by socio-economics.

[*] Belgium’s small Sephardic community is a mix of a centuries-old “Portuguese Rite” group going back to Dona Gracia (Ḥannah) Mendes in the 16th Century, and more recent Turkish and North African arrivals. One longtime leader of that community (now z”l) was of Egyptian-Jewish origin.

3 thoughts on “David Bernstein on Biden’s “Jewish Heritage Month”

  1. New Class members of any ethnicity vote New Class sensibilities first, second, and third, and any Jewish (or other) sensibilities only after that if at all.

    Oh, so the same as Democrat “faithful Catholics” that are at the very least functionally pro-abortion, though more commonly in the groups in favor of forcing medical workers to perform abortions in order to be allowed to be medical workers. (Add in whatever the thing that the progressives have to genuflect to this week in order to be acceptable.)

  2. What you refer as “New Class” is mostly Jews in Academia, Media, Arts and Entertainment. They are numerous and prominent. These are the most vociferous elements. I believe there are in the US also many “petit bourgeois” , small and medium business owners and workers and also free-profesionals (lawyers or doctors).. There is also a big Haredi community. So the “New Class” are maybe a minority , but that is all Biden would be aware of.

    • Don’t forget senior administrators (another group in Biden’s bubble). The term “New Class” was originally coined, independently of each other, by John Kenneth Galbraith for the managerial elite, and by Tito’s former right-hand man Milovan Djilas in his critique of late Marxism, for what George Orwell would have called “the Inner Party”.

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