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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.’
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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.Published in