Is Norman Podhoretz Jewish?

Yes Norman Podhoretz is a Jew. He is an unhappy Jew. He is dismayed because so many of his fellow Jews are liberals. He has written a nasty and disrespectful book with the title, Why are Jews liberals?

His column in the WSJ today has the utterly sad subtitle, "I'm hoping buyer's remorse on Obama will finally cause a Jewish shift to the right."

With major league irony we note that the writer of that title is also the writer of "My Negro Problem -- And Ours, 1963".

Podhoretz is (now) a conservative republican Jew. Hence - apparently by definition - his writings are cruel and insulting towards his fellow Jews and towards his own religion.

Exempli gratia from the WSJ today. When Podhoretz quotes with approval a "cruel wag" who blithely insults Reform Judaism, is he not doing the same? Sure he is - and it's so obvious to us.
The upshot is that in virtually every instance of a clash between Jewish law and contemporary liberalism, it is the liberal creed that prevails for most American Jews. Which is to say that for them, liberalism has become more than a political outlook. It has for all practical purposes superseded Judaism and become a religion in its own right. And to the dogmas and commandments of this religion they give the kind of steadfast devotion their forefathers gave to the religion of the Hebrew Bible. For many, moving to the right is invested with much the same horror their forefathers felt about conversion to Christianity.

All this applies most fully to Jews who are Jewish only in an ethnic sense. Indeed, many such secular Jews, when asked how they would define "a good Jew," reply that it is equivalent to being a good liberal.

But avowed secularists are not the only Jews who confuse Judaism with liberalism; so do many non-Orthodox Jews who practice this or that traditional observance. It is not for nothing that a cruel wag has described the Reform movement—the largest of the religious denominations within the American Jewish community—as "the Democratic Party with holidays thrown in," and the services in a Reform temple as "the Democratic Party at prayer."

As a Jew who moved from left to right more than four decades ago, I have been hoping for many years that my fellow Jews would come to see that in contrast to what was the case in the past, our true friends are now located not among liberals, but among conservatives.
Ha ha, what a clever put-down of liberal Reform Jews. Not.

Anyway, after what is now the expected Republican right wing tirade of insults directed against liberals, Podhoretz finally gets around to his rhetorical exercise telling us namely, that liberals are rotten people with bad attitudes, conservatives are patriots with correct opinions and Jews ought to be in the latter camp, but to his dismay the majority are not. Gee that sounds like a major insult to us.

Along the way he says utterly charming things like this, "...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 for to other nations—is precisely what conservatives are dedicated to preserving, reinvigorating and proudly defending against attack."

The not-at-all-veiled insinuation of this insulting characterization is that cowardly liberals want to throw away all that is good in the world and brave conservatives want to protect you from that danger.

If it didn't sound so darned insulting we would point out in response to Norman, that actually, it is the exact other way around.

We would tell him that liberals want to protect what you have, sometimes by intelligent and benevolent government regulation and intervention. Conservatives want to let the capitalist lions roam freely and allow them to gobble up whatever they wish, no matter who gets hurt.

Ahem. Didn't you lose 40% of your retirement account last year in a matter of weeks? Don't you know someone who is unemployed and in financial distress or foreclosure? Aren't you entirely fed up with the bizarre billings and copays and denials of your health plan? Doesn't the mini-mansion next door that looks like a public school - with its 4 air conditioner condensers constantly droning in your ears - make you want to puke?

Yes Norman, as everyone is telling you now, there are many distinct Jewish streams of thought, not one. Monotheism applies to our vision of God, not our vision of politics and society.

Some Jews, like you and your conservative co-conspirators, want to sanctimoniously and selfishly amass wealth for yourselves and your cronies, and to prevent progress, to freeze the supposedly perfect world that you pretend to see.

Your right wing guys have no messianic visions or progressive hopes. You reject that core belief of Judaism that indeed we work every day to bring into being the Messiah and the messianic age of peace and equality.

You want more war and more disparity. Other Jews, like me and my liberal friends, want to provide a safer, healthier, more equitable and more peaceful world for all its inhabitants.

There has been a really tremendous focusing of liberal Jewish sentiment, thanks to Podhoretz and his ilk making clear exactly where they stand, i.e. on the side of greed and war, making it clear that they have no arguments of substance to back up their positions, only the weapons of fear-mongering, insulting and bullying.

And they have made the liberal task so much easier for us by providing for us clever attacks (without any logic, but with slogans that sound good) that can be turned back at them with mere soft edits.

To wit and to conclude:

We're confident buyer's remorse on the likes of Podhoretz certainly will cause a greater Jewish rejection of the right and more solidification than ever on the left, on the side of liberalism.

You taught us well, Norman.

And for a swift kick in the rear type of review see this one, "Because They Believe," by Leon Wieseltier in the Times.

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