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   Jeff Jacoby
Jeff Jacoby is a columnist for The Boston Globe.

Feb. 5, 2003

Dear Friends,

The popular Internet journal recently invited me and four other members of the pundit class to take part in a symposium on Jews, Republicans, and American politics. Read the results in The Jews and President Bush.

An excerpt:

What is keeping Jews from flocking to the Republican camp?

Brooks: I think the previous barriers to Jews supporting the GOP are coming down -- fear of the Christian Right, previously strong support of Israel from the Democrats, a polarizing social agenda from the Republicans among other things- and as a result I believe we will see larger support for Republicans in the Jewish community going forward.

Weinstein: Longstanding historical habits are hard to break, but Jews are actually beginning to come to the Republican Party. Bush's support of the State of Israel and the fact he has taken the harsh edges off of the Republican agenda has helped. To the consternation of New York Democrats, George Pataki (not my type of Republican), actually got a majority of Jewish votes over Carl McCall. But it's not Jewish votes that are most significant to the political process; it's the political contributions Jews make and their voices in the media that matter far more than sheer electoral numbers. In both these categories, Bush is doing extremely well.

Jacoby: It's an old story. Part of the answer is history: Jews coming to America from Europe often brought with them the habit of associating parties of the left with tolerance and emancipation -- an association that made sense in a Europe where the most conservative parties were often the most anti-Semitic.

But part of the answer is also theological: Liberalism is the religion of many secular American Jews, who have convinced themselves that the essence of being Jewish is being a good liberal -- and of course to be a good liberal means to be a Democrat.

The perception that the Republican Party is the purview of the "Christian right" and that the "Christian right" is unfriendly to Jewish interests -- an old and mostly unfair shibboleth -- helps keep Jews away as well. Very slowly, this may be changing. I find a growing recognition among liberal American Jews that Christian conservatives are reliable friends on at least the one issue that many of them care about most: support for Israel.

Charen: Many Jews are liberals first and Jews second. Being liberal is part of their identity. They often claim that liberalism is the philosophy that springs more naturally from Judaism, but this is a dubious argument. Judaism teaches personal responsibility, traditional morality, law and order, and forbids abortion except to save the life of the mother.

Jews are also afraid of Christianity and believe that if the majority becomes more Christian, or expresses its Christian beliefs, life for Jews in America is diminished. Nearly every Jewish Democrat I know cites the so-called "religious right" as the main reason he/she could never vote Republican.

To read previous columns by Mr. Jacoby - Click Here

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