This article was originally published in the Jerusalem Post on January 10th, 2024, written by Adam Milstein
All Jews agree on one thing…that all Jews never agree. At any Jewish gathering around the world, you’ll hear heated debates on food, religion, culture, and everything in between. Politics are no different, but the debate is louder.
James Baker once said “F*** the Jews, they don’t vote for us.” While perhaps untrue, Baker’s sentiment reflected a historical American Jewish political truism – the Jewish community votes Democrat. Since the early 1990’s, a growing number of Jews have shifted rightward, but the majority of the Jewish-American community reside in the “liberal” camp.
After the October 7th terrorist attack, prior to Israel’s ground operation in Gaza, the true sentiment of the left towards Jews was exposed. Protests on college campuses, airports, freeways, bridges, outside synagogues, and Holocaust museums forced Jewish Americans to face a stark reality. Leftist and their Muslim allies were exposed not only as anti-Israel but as plainly anti-Jewish groups. Mobilizing under a guise of liberation (“From the River to the Sea”), and civil rights (“justice” in Palestine), one thing became increasingly clear – for a large coalition of leftists and Muslims in America, Jews have no right to self-determination in their ancestral homeland and deserve no safety anywhere.
Liberal Jews’ residence among American leftists is now in peril.
Historically and for good reason, Jews have been fixated on the antisemitism from the far right as our greatest threat. This focus on antisemitism’s political affiliation left us vulnerable. We have virtually ignored the growing warning signs of antisemitism from the Islamo-leftist camp. After all, Jews were an integral part of the left. In the name of Tzedek (Justice), we’ve marched with every marginalized community throughout American history. Yet, on October 7th, 2023, we marched alone. As our women had blood dripping down their legs, women’s rights groups didn’t express any outrage. They stood silent. As our children were identified by their ashes, children’s rights organizations were nowhere to be found. And as our civilians were brutalized, all human, civil, and LGBTQ+ rights didn’t march, didn’t organize, and didn’t protest. On the contrary – they stood with the attackers.
In the wake of October 7th, American Jews were left speechless. The wakeup call has been loud. The Jewish political home, the American left, turns a blind eye to war crimes and to the sexual mutilation of women, children and men when the victims are Jews. It has become evidently clear that in leftist spaces, the American Jew is dehumanized as a mere “oppressor”, an “Occupier”, a “Colonialist”, “White privileged”, and “Apartheid” supporter. Compassion for the deep trauma Jews sustained was nowhere to be found.
One must wonder, if killing Jews and raping women in Israel is ‘just’ and legitimate under the guise of a victim using ‘resistance by any means necessary’, what prevents our enemies from committing the same crimes in America? And where can liberal Jews find a political home?
Jewish-Americans, motivated by our people’s values, traditions and history, gravitated to the political left in America. With an emphasis on Tikkun Olam, American Jews embraced a critical role in social justice movements throughout history. Our commitment to ‘repair the world’ found common cause with social movements on the left, solidifying the Jewish liberal alignment.
We memorialize female ancestors like Deborah, who personified courage as the “woman of torches”. And we lionize Esther who taught of female strength and resilience and Ruth who embodied integrity and diligence. Guided by these matriarchs, Jews across the nation fought for women’s rights and Jewish women like Betty Friedan and Bella Abzug led the feminist movement.
Our scripture mandates us to advocate for the marginalized – “what is hateful to you, do not do to your neighbor” (Babylonian Talmud, Shabbat 31a). Embedded in Jewish tradition is the notion that all man is “created in the image of God” (Genesis 1:27). Just as Abraham didn’t turn anyone from his tent, Jews fought for the rights of Black Americans. Jews helped establish the NAACP in 1909. And in 1965, Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel embodied the Jewish community’s collective support for civil rights as he marched alongside Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in Selma.
In 1967, Rabbis joined Cesar Chavez and urged Kosher communities to only support union grapes as the non-union grapes were forbidden as Oshek. The Jewish community continued its activism throughout the 2020 marches for Black lives and then again in 2021 to stop Asian hate.
Jewish Americans have served as indispensable allies, leaders, and activists on issues of human dignity, civil rights, and progress throughout American history. This allyship with the left was presumed to be reciprocal. October 7th changed everything.
The Reality Check
In recent years, Critical Race Theory (CRT), Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) ideology and the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement carved out large pieces within the left’s agenda. Many liberal Jews have supported these developments believing that they’re the next phase of a long tradition of liberal activism. They were mistaken, no allyship with CRT, DEI, and BLM will protect them. Jews who tirelessly fight for acceptance and admittance in the intersectionality coalition will remain disappointed. We are not welcome.
Enamored with the seemingly laudable goals of DEI: to promote the representation, participation, and fair treatment of historically marginalized groups, liberal Jews ignored DEI promoters, and CRT advocates, as they advanced a radical agenda to fundamentally undermine American values. For years they have been promoting equality of outcome over equality of opportunity, collective identity (race, gender, etc.) over individual character, censorship of opposing viewpoints over freedom of speech, and a “victimhood Olympics” culture that crudely bifurcates society into oppressors and oppressed.
Liberal Jews failed to recognize how CRT and DEI initiatives, and intersectional theory would be weaponized against them. And today, we see how Jewish students are maliciously portrayed as wanton oppressors and colonialist abettors. American universities who fully adopted these doctrines are now hotbeds of antisemitism due to embedded leftist orthodoxy.
The Next Steps
So, where do liberal Jews go from here?
The “October 8th Jew” as Bret Stephens coined it, recognizes their home as a centrist. The October 8th Jew knows that the extreme left, like the extreme right before it, is no political home. The October 8th Jew is united in the mission to fight enemies of America, who always come first for the Jews. “Never again” must be backed by action and Jewish unity.
First, no more blind voting for Democrats or Republican for the sake of historical precedent. All Jews, including liberal Jews, must adopt a litmus test for candidates and support only those determined to fight antisemitism and support the U.S.-Israel alliance.
Second, pull support from organizations and academic institutions that promote the erasure of Jewish suffering and tacitly endorse Jew-hatred.
And finally, unite and support American organizations that protect and promote equality and inclusion rather than division and an ideology that aims to destroy Jewish life and American values.
This op-ed is published in partnership with a coalition of organizations that fight antisemitism across the world.