American Jews are trending conservative on illegal immigration

They also are far less Israel-centric than our country's Jewish political establishment. What does this all mean? Photo: New immigrants to Israel from U.S./ AP

OCALA, Fla., January 8, 2014 — In American Jewish politics, Israel is not simply an issue, but the issue. 

This has led to a formidable lobby which holds immense power in both Democratic and Republican circles. Said lobby’s prime directive is promoting public policy measures which benefit Israel, even though these measures are created and implemented in the United States.

Despite this, most American Jews do not make Israel the alpha and omega of their lives. Why does the American Jewish political establishment prioritize Israel so much, then?

“If you adopt a philosophy which holds that Israel is your real ‘homeland,’ then making it a priority is understandable,” political columnist Allan C. Brownfeld, who is also the American Council for Judaism’s publications editor, explains to The Washington Times Communities. “Of course, we live in a free and open society. Those who believe that another country is their real homeland are free to move there at any time.  

“Few American Jews who hold this view have seen fit to do so. The overwhelming majority of American Jews reject this view and are perfectly at home in America. It is sad that so many in the Jewish establishment believe that America is not enough. And it is a strange and disturbing enterprise to see young people in our religious schools being taught not about their religious heritage and what living a righteous and meaningful life involves but, instead, being taught that a distant country should be the object of their attention and loyalty.”

Beyond Israel, our country’s Jewish political establishment finds consensus on another topic: Immigration. This agreement revolves around the idea of amnesty for illegal aliens. 

Dr. Stephen Steinlight of the Center for Immigration Studies tells TWTC that “the Establishment’s open-borders’ advocacy reflects a culture of reflexive political correctness; left-liberal ideological conformity; a distorted interpretation of Jewish prophetic values, and an anachronistic misuse of Jewish historical experience. Most obviously, the Establishment’s views on immigration and those of ordinary Jews clash because their politics differ.  

“The Establishment is monolithically left/liberal and post-American, and open-borders immigration is the highest priority of that ilk, regardless of demographic. While the Establishment is fossilized on the political left, the majority is moving center-right.

“Beginning in 2008, the Annual Survey of American Jewish Opinion has found that a steady 56 percent of Jewish Americans characterizes their politics as center-right. Asked to self-identify on a political spectrum, the favorite choice is moderate (30 percent), slightly conservative (10 percent), conservative (12 percent), and extremely conservative (2 percent). That’s means a center-right majority over the 44 percent that describes itself as some variant of liberal: slightly liberal (11 percent), liberal (28 percent), or extremely liberal (5 percent). A 10 percent difference is significant: in a political race it would constitute a landslide.” 

It is clear that the American Jewish political establishment is out of step with the priorities of American Jews. This is true not just about Israel, but immigration. The word “why” cannot help but repeat itself.

Specifically in terms of Israel, Brownfeld claims that “(a)ll of this may be,in part, a reaction to the horrors of the Holocaust, a belief that Jews cannot be safe anyplace but in a country of their own.  This, however, learns what I think is the wrong lesson.  The goal of all men and women of good will are the creation of  societies which promote religious freedom  and a common citizenship for people of all backgrounds.  

“American citizenship is not based on common race, religion or ethnic background but on a willingness to live in a free society and fulfill its responsibilities.   

“How sad that Israel has court cases to determine who is a Jew, who can be married or buried even, in the occupied territories, who can drive on which roads.  Judaism believes that God created all people in His image. Israel claims to be a ‘Jewish’ state but to the degree that it separates people on the basis of faith and ethnicity, it is violating the ethical mandate  of prophetic Judaism.”

Getting back to immigration, Dr. Steinlight believes that our country’s Jewish political establishment acts the way it does for a completely different reason. 

“Highly assimilated, well-educated and largely prosperous, Jewish American political evolution is beginning to follow a more typical trajectory,” he says. “The political analyst Milton Himmelfarb once joked, ‘Jews live like Episcopalians but vote like Puerto Ricans.’ It’s time to replace that bon mot with another: ‘Scratch an American Jew and you’ll likely find a Democrat, but don’t count on finding a left/liberal.’ 

“Sooner rather than later being Republican won’t be heretical; this is especially the case for Jews that care about Israel. A recent Gallop poll reported for the first time a partisan divide has opened with regard to Israel: the GOP is more reliably pro-Israel than the Democrats.  In addition, a significant cohort of younger Jews is far more religiously observant than their elders, most of whom are dyed-in-the-wool secularists. 

“These younger Jews don’t regard being a liberal Democrat as conterminous with being Jewish.  Like any other demographic, the more religious, the more politically conservative.”  

That is not all, however. Dr. Steinlight remarks that “(m)ost Jewish Americans also oppose illegal immigration because a secure American identity causes them to empathize with fellow Americans first, not immigrants, and care more about American interests than abstractions like ‘humanity.’ Intellectual masochists and globalists aside, most don’t feel nostalgia for utopian universalism or outsider status.” 


This article is the copyrighted property of the writer and Communities @ Written permission must be obtained before reprint in online or print media. REPRINTING TWTC CONTENT WITHOUT PERMISSION AND/OR PAYMENT IS THEFT AND PUNISHABLE BY LAW.

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Joseph Cotto

Joseph F. Cotto is a social journalist by trade and student of history by lifestyle choice. He hails from central Florida, writing about political, economic, and social issues of the day. In the past, he was a contributor to Blogcritics Magazine, among other publications. He is currently at work on a book about American society.

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