Where Judaism meets liberalism

I picked up a copy of “Oregon Jewish Life” magazine yesterday. It’s a free publication and it seems to be geared more toward Reform Jews. Naturally, it has a liberal bent. A recurring theme seems to be that traditional Judaism has always touted some of the values that today’s liberals support. For example, there’s an article about interfaith outreach to Muslims, a blurb about an “MLK Shabbat,” where “Beth Israel has collaborated with local African American communities… honoring Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.” and even a piece touting the virtues of “marriage freedom.” In this latter piece, a Portland teen (Duncan McAlpine Sennet) actually made the argument (in a “Torah” discourse no less) that since opponents of gay marriage cite the biblical definition of marriage “as the union between one man and one woman,” and yet we find Jacob marrying two women, therefore everybody should be able to marry whomsoever they love. Sennet was encouraged to share his flawed logic with the world and his video went viral.
It’s hard to decide whether to laugh or to cry. But two articles, in particular, caught my attention. One is titled “Should vegan be the new kosher?” In this column, Joseph Lieberman claims that:

A vegan lifestyle isn’t just a healthy choice for our bodies, it’s also an ethical choice that embodies the Jewish ideal of compassionately “healing the world” – tikkun olam.

For the record, “tikkun olam” does not mean “healing the world.” It means “fixing the world,” and refers to a totally different (kabbalistic) concept.
Lieberman goes on to claim that “eating vegan is like a mitzvah,” and he quotes the book “Judaism and Vegetarianism” by Richard Schwartz:

I think that eating meat or fish is a denial of all ideals, even of all religions. … How can we speak of right and justice if we take an innocent creature and shed its blood? Every kind of killing seems to me savage and I find no justification for it.

In all fairness, Lieberman does point out that traditional Judaism requires the use of certain animal products, that “blood sacrifices were a major part of the Temple rituals.” But he goes on to imply that, in light of current mistreatment of livestock, even livestock destined for kosher slaughter, it no longer makes sense to eat meat.
The second article is called “Tu B’Shevat: New Year of the Trees.” Here we find Rich Geller implying that the Jewish new year for trees, which goes back to the times of the Mishnah, is intricately connected to environmentalism. He writes:

Tu B’Shevat is also an opportunity to teach kids to reduce, reuse and recycle. Go green and start composting if you don’t already.

There’s nothing unusual, or objectionable, about tying in traditional Jewish concepts with contemporary issues; this is a long-standing tradition. But when a pattern emerges where all these issues are liberal pet causes, it gives the impression that the starting point is Liberalism, not Judaism.
Reading this magazine reminds me of an article about the pope, written by my friend at diversity chronicle. That article reported that the pope had declared “All religions are true, because they are true in the hearts of all those who believe in them.” But that article was satire. Unfortunately, this magazine is not.
I’d like to ask the editors of the Oregon Jewish Life magazine if there is any belief or practice at all, in traditional Judaism, that modern Liberalism would not agree with. Can they find even a single value, embraced by liberals today, that Judaism would frown upon? I think the answer would be “no.” In their minds, the Torah is but a tool for the advancement of whatever the liberal establishment deems worthy. For them, Judaism has been reduced to an “Amen machine.”
For what it’s worth, I agree with Duncan Sennet that gays should be allowed to pair off as they please, without interference from government. I agree with Joseph Lieberman that a vegan/vegetarian diet is a worthy goal (or at least that its adherents’ intentions are often noble), and that animals should not be made to needlessly suffer. I agree, overall, with the environmental goals of Rich Geller. What bothers me is how they slavishly follow every liberal cause, as if were the word of God – and how they try to force our ancestors to follow along as well. They rather remind me of the old Mormon practice of posthumous conversions.
It’s true that modern Liberalism was largely founded by Jews. It’s even possible that some of Liberalism’s tenets were based upon traditional Jewish ideas. But Liberalism soon took on a life of its own and became master – while Judaism became subordinate. If left-leaning organized Jewry has disdain for whites, it’s not due to any statement in the Talmud, rather it’s due to its slavish adherence to Liberalism (which preaches tolerance toward individual whites, but vile hatred toward whites as a group). Secular, and non-Orthodox observant Jews, give very little credence to Talmudic texts – unless they happen to agree with the Liberal narrative.
When a nation tries to embody everything that is good, then it ceases to be a nation. We don’t try to cook Italian cuisine so that it includes the flavors of Thai food, Japanese food and Polish food. We don’t try to encompass the qualities of rock, blues and country into our opera. We don’t attempt to incorporate the fashions of Shogun Japan, Renaissance Italy and late Czarist Russia into our tuxedos. So too should we not strive to claim that every contemporary popular idea is actually a part of Judaism.
The same is true of America. Politicians speak of “American values” – but I have yet to hear that term defined. I have not yet seen anybody give an example of an “American value” that is not also considered a universal one. For all these lofty words, shallowness and stupidity lie underneath.

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10 Responses to Where Judaism meets liberalism

  1. anonymous2 says:

    Liberal/reform Judaism can only make it, when the surrounding culture is very conservative. Like, Victorian. Now the healthiest religions are “extreme” compared to the “moderate” modern culture.

  2. The only religion that seems to be resistant to change is Islam, and not in a good way. However, the troubling aspect of Western religion–whether it be Christian or Jewish–in the post-modern world is that they’re changing the ancient creeds of righteous behavior to match the ‘new’ and ‘progressive’ ideas of the egalitarians, globalists, xenophiles, psychiatrists, socialists, hedonists, fetishists, radicals, mammon-worshipers, and scientists–also, not in a good way.

  3. George says:

    Modern liberalism was a creation of the Enlightenment, not Jews. The key tenets of modern liberalism were already firmly in place by the time the Jews came upon the scene. The French Revolution was hardly a creation of the Jews. Jews, when they came upon the scene, merely accelerated – if even that – developments that already had a huge amount of momentum behind them. I don’t think Jews have ever created new movements in Western societies; rather, they extended the reach of preexisting developments that already had huge support, in an effort to consolidate or elevate their status in a society where they were a despised minority. This Jewish pattern led to the stereotype of Jews lacking creativity.
    Judaism, incidentally is far more hostile to liberalism than Christianity, and thinkers as early as Machiavelli were criticizing Christianity as a a kind of proto-liberalism. Ultimately, though, liberalism derives from a melange of influences and Christianity is just one of them. Although it would be hard to imagine liberalism arising in a non-Christian society and it is telling that the modern pagan nations of Asia have rejected liberalism.

    • Shooter says:

      Well said.
      That reminds me: there are some people that think Diversity Chronicle is a serious resource. I’ve seen insane right-wingers on Facebook claim it’s all part of the Jewish conspiracy.

  4. Exurban Curmudgeon says:

    Both liberalism and non-orthodox sects of Judaism embrace victimology. Some gentile converts to liberal Judaism seem attracted to the status one may then claim as a victim, with the inferred moral superiority the pc culture so entitles.

    • Shooter says:

      Liberal Judaism is like liberal Christianity, which also embraces victimhood. As we can see, it’s liberalism that does it, not the religions themselves.

  5. CS says:

    I know virtually nothing of Judaism other than from my reading of the Bible. But from that, I infer that Judaism is a theology that serves the interests of group survival and propagation. Christianity, insofar as it was seen as a more inclusive form of the Jewish religion, but with a promise of heavenly rewards to keep the slaves and peasants in check, worked pretty much the same way, and must account in large part for the rise of Christendom to world domination.
    But Liberalism is something quite different. It is the practical implementation of atheistic utilitarianism, which eliminates the fear of God as a social control mechanism, while encouraging everyone to do whatever makes them feel good insofar as it does not harm another. The question of what harms another is not easily resolved, however, which means that without a system of imposed control, a liberal society will degenerate into a free for all. Thus, liberalism ends up as a totalitarian system of universal surveillance and legally enforced political correctness.
    God was a harsh taskmaster but preferable, it seems to me, than the random and often more or less insane dictates of liberals, which are clearly leading to the destruction not only of Western civilization, but of the Western nations.

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  7. M. Less says:

    It seems to me that Jewish sensibilities, political or otherwise, are largely a response to their feelings of vulnerability as a small and historically despised minority. Jewish politics ultimately reflects what they consider the best course of action to mitigate their vuinerabilty.
    They tend to embrace one of two principle strategies for dealing with their perceived predicament; abandon the dominant society or work to transform it into a society in which they would be less vulnerable.
    The first approach involves essentially disengaging from the larger society altogether and living in isolated, self segregated Jewish communities. This approach is most clearly manifested of course in Zionism but to a lesser extent is also evident in self segregated ultra orthodox communities such as Hassidim and to a much lesser extent is manifest in the ethnocentrism of even many secular Jews who limit their associations primarily to other Jews.
    The other approach involves staying in the largely non-Jewish societies in which they live, but attempting to mitigate their perceived vulnerabilty by in essence seeking to create a society in which there is no dominant population; a society composed largely, if not entirely, of relatively small and distinct ethnic populations. This is manifest in Jewish enthusaism for such things as “multiculturalism”, ethnocentrism, encouraging immigration while discouraging assimilation, etc.
    It seems to me this is consistent with the fact that in the 20th century Jews tended to be attracted to either Zionism (the first approach) or Marxism. Marxism and communism, with its goal of a world with no nation states, seems a clear manifestation of the second approach. Being a stateless people is of little consequence in a world without states.
    I see echoes of this in the current trend of asserting that “race is a social construct” while endouraging heightened awareness of ethnicities. This is especially evident in the rather aggressive campaign to “abolish whiteness”. Leftist “whiteness studies” academics, who are overwhelmingly Jewish, openly encourage the dissolution of white America into various hyphenated-American identities. Revisionist history is emplyed to add additional incentive to “abandon whiteness”, asserting that immigrants from virtually every country in Europe (Italians, Greeks, Eastern Europeans, Jews, even Germans, Irish, and Swedes!) were initially considered non-white but eventually “became white” as a reward for being mean to black people.
    A moments browsing of old census records alone quickly exposes this Big Lie which is the foundation of “whiteness studies”.

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