American Jews have built a political culture based on the principle of equal citizenship in a secular state. This durable worldview has guided their political behavior from the founding to the present day. In The Foundations of American Jewish Liberalism, Kenneth D. Wald traces the development of this culture by examining the controversies and threats that stimulated political participation by American Jews. Wald shows that the American political environment, permeated by classic liberal values, produced a Jewish community that differs politically from non-Jews who resemble Jews socially and from Jewish communities abroad. Drawing on survey data and extensive archival research, the book examines the ups and downs of Jewish attachment to liberalism and the Democratic Party and the tensions between two distinct strains of liberalism.
The Foundations of American Jewish Liberalism
Wald provides a timely, persuasive, readable, and thoroughly researched explanation for American Jewish liberalism and the post-1928 propensity of Jews to support the Democratic Party. He argues that a distinctive American Jewish political culture emerged in the wake of the American Revolution that embraced the secular state as the best guarantor of Jewish political and social equality. This classical liberal position, he shows, has characterized the American Jewish community from its infancy, continues to persist notwithstanding changes in Jews’ social and economic status, and distinguishes America’s Jews from Jewish communities elsewhere, including contemporary Israel. Wald’s ambitious and sophisticated interpretation, embedded in understated political science theory, supersedes all previous efforts to explain American Jewish liberalism, and makes a major contribution to our understanding of American Jews’ distinctive political behavior.
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