Growing up in a Jewish household means engaging in a lot of political discourse: discussions about oppression, death, injustice, guilt. In some Jewish households, we discuss social justice, the need to fight for the rights of the oppressed, taking a lesson from the pain of our own history as a “homeless” and shunned people, ensuring that the destructive authoritarianism and hatred that led to the Holocaust are not repeated anywhere in the world again.
The Jewish-American community maintains a strange position within American society. We are largely an affluent and educated community that can “pass” for white and are therefore seen as not subject to the kind of racism and prejudice experienced by other American communities of color. At the same time, we are not considered part of the predominantly Christian, Anglo-Saxon power structure that has held most of the political power in the United States since its founding, and antisemitism has always been present in the United States, which has only worsened in the past six years: Three quarters of Jewish Americans polled by the Pew Research Center said there is more antisemitism in the U.S. today than there was five years ago. Because of this hybrid place we inhabit within American society, we live with the fear that no matter what our economic and social position, we can become the next German Jews — that is, a highly acculturated group that was sent to the death camps during World War II — should right-wing forces prevail to take control of the federal government.
Overall, the Jewish-American community remains a progressive ideological voting bloc, with seven in 10 Jewish adults identifying with, or leaning toward, the Democratic Party and half describing their political views as liberal. It is these considerations that give rise to a complex and conflicting set of feelings regarding the kind of relationship the Jewish-American community should have with Israel. As an example, the same Pew study found that “58% say they are very or somewhat emotionally attached to Israel.” The numbers regarding Jewish-American feelings toward Israel, especially about emotional attachment, vary by denomination. However, there is no broad consensus within the Jewish-American community about our relationship with Israel. [Continue reading…]