Jewish Awakening: Faith and Politics

 

Countless times over the years, people have asked me why Jews overwhelmingly vote for the liberal or progressive ticket, even though many of the Democrat positions appear to be counter to their interests. I won’t spend much time explaining the reasons, but let’s just say that they often worry about the underdog (no matter how valid the reasons are for their suffering). I’ll also add that more observant Jews tend to be Conservative, and barely observant or non-observant Jews tend to be on the Left.

In spite of that history, though, recent events seem to have had a remarkable effect on the less observant Jews. After October 7, Chabad distributed a survey to Chabad-Lubavitch rabbis across the country, and these were the results:

The survey results paint a picture of a Jewish community that is responding to this fraught moment with a renewed sense of solidarity and faith. Rabbis reported that people are lighting Shabbat candles, purchasing and donning tefillin—some for the first time—saving the Shema prayer daily, baking challah, wearing identifiably Jewish jewelry such as Magen Davids [Jewish stars], and attending synagogue more regularly. The respondents noted dramatic growth among Jews who in the past had attended synagogue once a year, if at all, and who had generally expressed disinterest in Jewish life, who are now exhibiting a new desire to connect with their Jewish heritage and other Jews.

This is a remarkable change, given the history of the reformed and secular Jewish community. Instead of pulling back or disguising their Jewish identification, they are becoming more observant and public. The survey results are as follows:

 77.3% of respondents report that they have seen a stronger sense of “Jewish pride and confidence” among community members.

 81.5% of respondents say that people in their communities have increasingly been feeling “scared.”

93.4% of respondents say that they are witnessing a stronger feeling of “connection to the Jewish people or desire to connect to other Jews” among community members.

88.2% of respondents say that people in their communities have “a stronger connection to Israel and her people.”

85.8% of respondents say that community members have been experiencing a “deeper connection to their own Jewish identity.”

The 211 survey respondents include Chabad-Lubavitch rabbis representing communities in all 50 U.S. states, ranging from cities and towns with robust Jewish infrastructures to areas with a minimal Jewish presence.

Many of you may wonder how long this deepening of observance will last; I have the same concerns. But in the meantime, I also see these practices contributing to a possible reassessment of the political affiliation of most of the Jewish community: will they remain with the Democrat party?

My research on this question gave me some reason for hope. Also due to the events of October 7, and the response to the Democrat Party and Progressive statements overall, Jews at least may be reassessing their political positions. At the very least, many beliefs are being challenged. They are witnessing the blatant anti-Semitism and are trying to determine what that means for their lives as Jews. The following observation was stated in response to the attacks on Jews, particularly in America:

As in 1967, many liberal Jews feel the pain of erasure — of not being seen or heard. Non-Jews on the left strike them as blissfully unaware of, even disdainful of, the experience of American Jews viewing imagery of fellow Jews being hunted house-to-house, carted away on trucks, shot, sexually assaulted and murdered. For American Jews, whose synagogues have been under armed guard for several years, at least since the massacre at the Tree of Life congregation in Pittsburgh — many of whom are the children and grandchildren of Holocaust victims — this act of erasure isn’t just a form of disappointment. It’s enraging.

Jen Bluestein, a veteran Democratic operative who served until recently as a top strategist at NARAL Pro-Choice America, gave voice to this sentiment last week when she tweeted: ‘On every single social media platform I’m on, I’m experiencing antisemitism by totally well-intentioned people who probably share many of my values. It is exhausting to be Jewish right now. It’s also heartbreaking & infuriating what’s happening in Gaza. But if your feelings about Gaza lead you say things that your Jewish friends and colleagues hear as deeply anti-Semitic, you may want to listen and learn more than you talk.’

*     *     *     *

Will American Jews experience a transformation in practice and observance? Will they start to re-assess what it means to be a Conservative or a Progressive? Or even what it means to be an American?

We will have to watch to see if the changes are only temporary or have a long-lasting effect.

Only time will tell.

If you would also like to learn more about Chabad’s critical role in engaging unaffiliated Jews in the faith, you can read this.

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  1. JoelB Member
    JoelB
    @JoelB

    One might wonder whether this is like a moment of singing “God Bless America” on the Capitol steps after 9/11 or a more permanent change. I hope its the latter, but experiences over the last few years cause me to lean toward the former. 

    • #1
  2. cdor Member
    cdor
    @cdor

    Susan Quinn:

    • 3%of respondents report that they have seen a stronger sense of ‘Jewish pride and confidence’ among community members.

    • 5%of respondents say that people in their communities have increasingly been feeling ‘scared.’

    • 4%of respondents say that they are witnessing a stronger feeling of ‘connection to the Jewish people or desire to connect to other Jews’ among community members.

    • 2%of respondents say that people in their communities have ‘a stronger connection to Israel and her people.’

    • 8%of respondents say that community members have been experiencing a ‘deeper connection to their own Jewish identity.’

    Every question received less than 10% positive response. Am I missing something? If the Jewish community had really been affected by recent unabashed and widespread antisemitism, I would think those numbers would be 50% and higher. What does it take to wake up our fellow Jews?

    • #2
  3. Hartmann von Aue Member
    Hartmann von Aue
    @HartmannvonAue

    cdor (View Comment):

    Susan Quinn:

    • 3%of respondents report that they have seen a stronger sense of ‘Jewish pride and confidence’ among community members.

    • 5%of respondents say that people in their communities have increasingly been feeling ‘scared.’

    • 4%of respondents say that they are witnessing a stronger feeling of ‘connection to the Jewish people or desire to connect to other Jews’ among community members.

    • 2%of respondents say that people in their communities have ‘a stronger connection to Israel and her people.’

    • 8%of respondents say that community members have been experiencing a ‘deeper connection to their own Jewish identity.’

    Every question received less than 10% positive response. Am I missing something? If the Jewish community had really been affected by recent unabashed and widespread antisemitism, I would think those numbers would be 50% and higher. What does it take to wake up our fellow Jews?

    This is a cut-and-paste problem. Let me see if it works better for me.

    Summary of Results

    • 77.3% of respondents report that they have seen a stronger sense of “Jewish pride and confidence” among community members.
    • 81.5% of respondents say that people in their communities have increasingly been feeling “scared.”
    • 93.4% of respondents say that they are witnessing a stronger feeling of “connection to the Jewish people or desire to connect to other Jews” among community members.
    • 88.2% of respondents say that people in their communities have “a stronger connection to Israel and her people.”
    • 85.8% of respondents say that community members have been experiencing a “deeper connection to their own Jewish identity.”

    Yup. The whole article is worth reading. And, yes, I am on Chabad’s mailing list.

    • #3
  4. Susan Quinn Member
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    JoelB (View Comment):

    One might wonder whether this is like a moment of singing “God Bless America” on the Capitol steps after 9/11 or a more permanent change. I hope its the latter, but experiences over the last few years cause me to lean toward the former.

    I can’t blame you, Joel. If some of these folks are supported by Chabad, which is a very accepting organization, it may “take” for some.

    • #4
  5. Susan Quinn Member
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    cdor (View Comment):
    Every question received less than 10% positive response. Am I missing something? If the Jewish community had really been affected by recent unabashed and widespread antisemitism, I would think those numbers would be 50% and higher. What does it take to wake up our fellow Jews?

    I’m so sorry @cdor and everyone else! Somehow a different set of numbers transferred. How bizarre! Anyway, great progress has been made and I’ve corrected the typos!

    • #5
  6. Susan Quinn Member
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    Hartmann von Aue (View Comment):

    cdor (View Comment):

    Susan Quinn:

    • 3%of respondents report that they have seen a stronger sense of ‘Jewish pride and confidence’ among community members.

    • 5%of respondents say that people in their communities have increasingly been feeling ‘scared.’

    • 4%of respondents say that they are witnessing a stronger feeling of ‘connection to the Jewish people or desire to connect to other Jews’ among community members.

    • 2%of respondents say that people in their communities have ‘a stronger connection to Israel and her people.’

    • 8%of respondents say that community members have been experiencing a ‘deeper connection to their own Jewish identity.’

    Every question received less than 10% positive response. Am I missing something? If the Jewish community had really been affected by recent unabashed and widespread antisemitism, I would think those numbers would be 50% and higher. What does it take to wake up our fellow Jews?

    This is a cut-and-paste problem. Let me see if it works better for me.

    Summary of Results

    • 77.3% of respondents report that they have seen a stronger sense of “Jewish pride and confidence” among community members.
    • 81.5% of respondents say that people in their communities have increasingly been feeling “scared.”
    • 93.4% of respondents say that they are witnessing a stronger feeling of “connection to the Jewish people or desire to connect to other Jews” among community members.
    • 88.2% of respondents say that people in their communities have “a stronger connection to Israel and her people.”
    • 85.8% of respondents say that community members have been experiencing a “deeper connection to their own Jewish identity.”

    Yup. The whole article is worth reading. And, yes, I am on Chabad’s mailing list.

    Thanks, Hartmann. Thank goodness cdor brought it to our attention. I don’t know how it happened, but we’re okay now.

    • #6
  7. cdor Member
    cdor
    @cdor

    Hartmann von Aue (View Comment):

    cdor (View Comment):

    Susan Quinn:

    • 3%of respondents report that they have seen a stronger sense of ‘Jewish pride and confidence’ among community members.

    • 5%of respondents say that people in their communities have increasingly been feeling ‘scared.’

    • 4%of respondents say that they are witnessing a stronger feeling of ‘connection to the Jewish people or desire to connect to other Jews’ among community members.

    • 2%of respondents say that people in their communities have ‘a stronger connection to Israel and her people.’

    • 8%of respondents say that community members have been experiencing a ‘deeper connection to their own Jewish identity.’

    Every question received less than 10% positive response. Am I missing something? If the Jewish community had really been affected by recent unabashed and widespread antisemitism, I would think those numbers would be 50% and higher. What does it take to wake up our fellow Jews?

    This is a cut-and-paste problem. Let me see if it works better for me.

    Summary of Results

    • 77.3% of respondents report that they have seen a stronger sense of “Jewish pride and confidence” among community members.
    • 81.5% of respondents say that people in their communities have increasingly been feeling “scared.”
    • 93.4% of respondents say that they are witnessing a stronger feeling of “connection to the Jewish people or desire to connect to other Jews” among community members.
    • 88.2% of respondents say that people in their communities have “a stronger connection to Israel and her people.”
    • 85.8% of respondents say that community members have been experiencing a “deeper connection to their own Jewish identity.”

    Yup. The whole article is worth reading. And, yes, I am on Chabad’s mailing list.

     Thank you, Hartmann, I feel reassured now! 

     

     

     

    • #7
  8. Susan Quinn Member
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    If you don’t already know my attitude about Leftists Jews, I find them difficult to tolerate. Like most people on the Left, they move in lockstep withe the Progressive agenda, and don’t think about the implications of their support. Over the years I’ve been deeply disappointed in the lack of thoughtful and constructive discussion by Leftist Jews. I hope, if nothing else, that they will reassess where they stand and reconsider their positions.

    • #8
  9. CACrabtree Coolidge
    CACrabtree
    @CACrabtree

    Susan Quinn (View Comment):

    If you don’t already know my attitude about Leftists Jews, I find them difficult to tolerate. Like most people on the Left, they move in lockstep withe the Progressive agenda, and don’t think about the implications of their support. Over the years I’ve been deeply disappointed in the lack of thoughtful and constructive discussion by Leftist Jews. I hope, if nothing else, that they will reassess where they stand and reconsider their positions.

    We can only hope.  However, when I hear a Jewish person saying something like, “…I’m experiencing antisemitism by totally well-intentioned people who probably share many of my values…”  “Totally well-intentioned”?  That totally leaves me speechless.  This strikes me as a person who is having severe identity issues.

     

     

    • #9
  10. Susan Quinn Member
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    CACrabtree (View Comment):
    We can only hope.  However, when I hear a Jewish person saying something like, “…I’m experiencing antisemitism by totally well-intentioned people who probably share many of my values…”  “Totally well-intentioned”?  That totally leaves me speechless.  This strikes me as a person who is having severe identity issues.

    That line struck me, too. I left it in for its irony. They may share her values, but they fail miserably in sharing some of the most important-such as respect for other human beings.

    • #10
  11. Old Bathos Member
    Old Bathos
    @OldBathos

    An old friend, a Reaganite Jew, told me that his cookie-cutter lefty wife was deeply shaken by the left’s weird embrace of Hamas but that she said that she still cannot bring herself to vote for Trump or any MAGA candidate.  I suspect that there are a great number of American Jews whose true religion is secular humanism or some other progressive mishmash.  Being dragged down from some lofty (delusional) intellectual platform into mere membership of one side rather than sitting in judgment of the unenlightened is too painful to endure.

    • #11
  12. Susan Quinn Member
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    Old Bathos (View Comment):
    An old friend, a Reaganite Jew, told me that his cookie-cutter lefty wife was deeply shaken by the left’s weird embrace of Hamas but that she said that she still cannot bring herself to vote for Trump or any MAGA candidate.

    Rather than making the choice, at this time, about Trump, I wonder if she’d vote for a different Republican? This pettiness, when the future of the country is at stake, is aggravating.

    • #12
  13. Old Bathos Member
    Old Bathos
    @OldBathos

    Susan Quinn (View Comment):

    Old Bathos (View Comment):
    An old friend, a Reaganite Jew, told me that his cookie-cutter lefty wife was deeply shaken by the left’s weird embrace of Hamas but that she said that she still cannot bring herself to vote for Trump or any MAGA candidate.

    Rather than making the choice, at this time, about Trump, I wonder if she’d vote for a different Republican? This pettiness, when the future of the country is at stake, is aggravating.

    Would that it were mere pettiness and not the equivalent of a religious faith.  Think of how much mental effort is required not merely to support policies that harm the interests of Jewish Americans but to endorse Hamas’s right to kill Israelis.

    • #13
  14. Susan Quinn Member
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    Old Bathos (View Comment):
    Think of how much mental effort is required not merely to support policies that harm the interests of Jewish Americans but to endorse Hamas’s right to kill Israelis.

    I can’t help but wonder if it’s as hard as we think it is. Maybe it taps into a primitive desire of some kind that is centuries old…

    • #14
  15. Globalitarian Lower Order Misanthropist Coolidge
    Globalitarian Lower Order Misanthropist
    @Flicker

    Susan Quinn (View Comment):

    Old Bathos (View Comment):
    Think of how much mental effort is required not merely to support policies that harm the interests of Jewish Americans but to endorse Hamas’s right to kill Israelis.

    I can’t help but wonder if it’s as hard as we think it is. Maybe it taps into a primitive desire of some kind that is centuries old…

    I think it’s affluence, nearly 80 years of peace, unheard of prosperity, and a feeling that you’ve got everything that you need in life, so spread the good vibrations and assume the best in people.  Nothing can go really wrong.

    • #15
  16. Miffed White Male Member
    Miffed White Male
    @MiffedWhiteMale

    Interesting.  There is a passage from Herman Wouk’s War and Remembrance that has always stuck with me.  One of the main characters in the novel is Aaron Jastrow, a secular Jew caught up in the Holocaust:

    “I was a man of nimble Talmudic wit, insight quick rather than profound, with a literary gift graceful rather than powerful. I was at my best in my youth, a prodigy. My parents took me from Poland to America. I expended my gifts there in pleasing the Gentiles. I became an apostate. I dropped my Jewishness outside and inside, and strove only to be like other people, and to be accepted by them. In this I was successful. This period of my life stretched from my sixteenth year, when I arrived in New York, to my sixty-sixth year, when I arrived in Theresienstadt. Here under the Germans I resumed my Jewishness because they forced me to.  [emphasis added]  I have been in Theresienstadt about a year. I value this year more than all my fifty-one years of hefkerut, of being like others. Degraded, hungry, oppressed, beaten, frightened, I have found myself, my God, and my self respect here. I am terribly afraid of dying. I am bowed to the ground by the tragedy of my people. But I have experienced a strange bitter happiness in Theresienstadt that I missed as an American professor and as a fashionable author living in a Tuscan villa. I have been myself. I have taught bright-eyed, sharp-minded Jewish boys the Talmud. They are gone. I do not know whether one of them still lives. But the words of the Talmud lived on our lips and burned in our minds. I was born to carry that flame. The world has greatly changed, and the change was too much for me, until I came to Theresienstadt. Here I mastered the change, and returned to myself.”

    — War and Remembrance by Herman Wouk
    https://a.co/0n4FPrV

    • #16
  17. cdor Member
    cdor
    @cdor

    CACrabtree (View Comment):

    Susan Quinn (View Comment):

    If you don’t already know my attitude about Leftists Jews, I find them difficult to tolerate. Like most people on the Left, they move in lockstep withe the Progressive agenda, and don’t think about the implications of their support. Over the years I’ve been deeply disappointed in the lack of thoughtful and constructive discussion by Leftist Jews. I hope, if nothing else, that they will reassess where they stand and reconsider their positions.

    We can only hope. However, when I hear a Jewish person saying something like, “…I’m experiencing antisemitism by totally well-intentioned people who probably share many of my values…” “Totally well-intentioned”? That totally leaves me speechless. This strikes me as a person who is having severe identity issues.

     

     

    A person I know lives in L.A. and is politically involved in Democrat politics and policies. I spoke with that person last night. We were unhappily discussing the current wave of anti-semitism in our country and throughout the world. They were especially shocked at our elite college campuses, one of which their son actually attended. Then this person told me about an event they attended in support of a foundation in memory of a “highly thought of progressive Rabbi”. The Rabbi’s wife runs the foundation and many prominent Democrat politicians were at the event, which occurred after October 7th. This person mentioned that her friend, Nancy Pelosi attended. One of the speakers came to the podium and praised the Palestinians. This angered, rightly so, this person’s son, who also attended. He wrote emails to Pelosi and the deceased Rabbi’s wife who was in charge of the event and the foundation. The Rabbi’s wife responded that she felt the need to remain neutral. I said to this person, “Neutral! Are you kidding me? There is no neutral position when the other person wants us dead!” Nancy Pelosi responded that she was sorry but didn’t feel it was her place, at this Jewish event, to say anything. Jews like these are embarrassing. It makes me sick.

    • #17
  18. Susan Quinn Member
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    Miffed White Male (View Comment):
    — War and Remembrance by Herman Wouk
    https://a.co/0n4FPrV

    That is an amazing excerpt. Although I read some of Herman Wouk, I don’t think I read that one; I tend to avoid reading books with “war” in the title. Sounds like it’s time to read it.

    • #18
  19. Susan Quinn Member
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    cdor (View Comment):
    Nancy Pelosi responded that she was sorry but didn’t feel it was her place, at this Jewish event, to say anything. Jews like these are embarrassing. It makes me sick.

    We are seeing people’s true colors, aren’t we? Although Pelosi’s response doesn’t surprise me.

    • #19
  20. Miffed White Male Member
    Miffed White Male
    @MiffedWhiteMale

    Susan Quinn (View Comment):

    Miffed White Male (View Comment):
    — War and Remembrance by Herman Wouk
    https://a.co/0n4FPrV

    That is an amazing excerpt. Although I read some of Herman Wouk, I don’t think I read that one; I tend to avoid reading books with “war” in the title. Sounds like it’s time to read it.

    It’s a fantastic (but really long – my hardcover editions total just short of 2000 pages) set of books – Winds of War and War and Remembrance.   Wouk himself described it as a “romance novel”.   The miniseries based on it is quite good too, if a bit soap-opera-ish [pro tip – fast forward through any scene where Polly Bergan appears, and about half the scenes with Victoria Tennant].  

    But along with Schindler’s List, it’s probably the most gripping portrayal of the Holocaust I’ve ever seen put on film.   They received permission to film the train arrival scene at Auschwitz on the actual site, the first and to my knowledge only production ever to do so.  This was in the mid 1980s, there were several survivors there to see the filming who said it was very accurately done.

     

    • #20
  21. Rodin Member
    Rodin
    @Rodin

    Susan Quinn (View Comment):

    Miffed White Male (View Comment):
    — War and Remembrance by Herman Wouk
    https://a.co/0n4FPrV

    That is an amazing excerpt. Although I read some of Herman Wouk, I don’t think I read that one; I tend to avoid reading books with “war” in the title. Sounds like it’s time to read it.

    I think I read all of his works in my 30s. Great author. The series of books that follow the same family from the 1930s into the 1940s is very compelling particularly because you know the events they will experience but you don’t know the details and places into which Wouk will place them to illuminate those times and make vivid the human travail. This may be a good time to revisit his work.

    • #21
  22. cdor Member
    cdor
    @cdor

    Susan Quinn (View Comment):

    cdor (View Comment):
    Nancy Pelosi responded that she was sorry but didn’t feel it was her place, at this Jewish event, to say anything. Jews like these are embarrassing. It makes me sick.

    We are seeing people’s true colors, aren’t we? Although Pelosi’s response doesn’t surprise me.

    No, me either. But the deceased Rabbi’s wife??????????????? She is a real piece of work!

    • #22
  23. Susan Quinn Member
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    Rodin (View Comment):

    Susan Quinn (View Comment):

    Miffed White Male (View Comment):
    — War and Remembrance by Herman Wouk
    https://a.co/0n4FPrV

    That is an amazing excerpt. Although I read some of Herman Wouk, I don’t think I read that one; I tend to avoid reading books with “war” in the title. Sounds like it’s time to read it.

    I think I read all of his works in my 30s. Great author. The series of books that follow the same family from the 1930s into the 1940s is very compelling particularly because you know the events they will experience but you don’t know the details and places into which Wouk will place them to illuminate those times and make vivid the human travail. This may be a good time to revisit his work.

    Did you know he was an observant Jew? I read a small book by him not too long ago, that was personal, but I can’t remember its name.

    • #23
  24. GlennAmurgis Coolidge
    GlennAmurgis
    @GlennAmurgis

    What I noticed is even most non-observant Jews live conservative but preach left.

    They tend to be married, get married before having a child, work hard and push achievement for their children. 

    I wish they preached what they practice. 

    • #24
  25. Susan Quinn Member
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    GlennAmurgis (View Comment):

    What I noticed is even most non-observant Jews live conservative but preach left.

    They tend to be married, get married before having a child, work hard and push achievement for their children.

    I wish they preached what they practice.

    I think your observation may be correct. The cognitive dissonance must be tough.

    • #25
  26. Paul Stinchfield Member
    Paul Stinchfield
    @PaulStinchfield

    Old Bathos (View Comment):

    An old friend, a Reaganite Jew, told me that his cookie-cutter lefty wife was deeply shaken by the left’s weird embrace of Hamas but that she said that she still cannot bring herself to vote for Trump or any MAGA candidate. I suspect that there are a great number of American Jews whose true religion is secular humanism or some other progressive mishmash. Being dragged down from some lofty (delusional) intellectual platform into mere membership of one side rather than sitting in judgment of the unenlightened is too painful to endure.

    Remember the many loyal communists killed by Stalin? Many of them went to their deaths still loyal, which seems insane until one realizes how strong can be the grip of an ideology.

    • #26
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