Norman Podhoretz, the venerable neoconservative pundit who served as editor of Commentary magazine for 35 years, explores in his latest book the question of why Jews continue to be overwhelmingly associated with liberal ideas and organizations, despite the fact that, in his view, such associations are not in their best interests. The first half of the book is devoted to a historical review, beginning with the birth of Christianity, unambiguously illustrating how anti- Semitism had been historically linked with right-wing politics in the West, resulting in Jews continually gravitating to liberal groups and social movements. However, Podhoretz argues that in light of the radicalization of the left in the United States over the course of the last 40 years, accompanied by the right’s adopting positions that appear to be more in line with Jewish concerns, including Israel’s security and stable family values, it is difficult to understand why the majority of Jews have not more profoundly shifted their political allegiances. The question of the intrinsic nature of Jewish political perspectives appears to be more powerfully posed than the answers that the author tentatively offers, and to which only the last 30 pages of the book are devoted. This is a topic that deserves continued research and reflection.
Yaakov (Jack) Bieler was the founding Rabbi of the Kemp Mill Synagogue in Silver Spring, MD until his retirement in 2015. He has been associated with Jewish day school education for over thirty years. R. Bieler served as a mentor for the Bar Ilan University Lookstein Center Principals’ Seminar and he has published and lectured extensively on the philosophy of Modern Orthodox education.