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American Politics and the Jewish Community: Jewish Role in American Life, Volume 11

Bruce Zuckerman Editor
Dan Schnur Guest Editor
Lisa Ansell Associate Editor
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  • Book Info
    American Politics and the Jewish Community
    Book Description:

    At its broadest level, politics is the practice of making a community a better, safer, and more tolerant place to live. So it should be of no surprise that America’s Jews have devoted themselves to civic engagement and the democratic process. From before the Revolutionary War to the early twenty-first century, when America saw the first Jewish vice presidential nominee of a major party and the first Jewish Speaker of the House of Representatives, the Jewish community has always devoted itself to public service, issue advocacy, and involvement in politics and government at every level. While strong support for the safety and security of the state of Israel has been a hallmark of US foreign policy since Israel’s founding, it is by no means the only policy area in which American Jews are involved. Nor are American Jews monolithic in their politics. Although the Jewish community has become a reliable part of the Democratic Party’s base in most partisan elections, American Jews represent a wide range of ideologies on most economic and foreign policy matters. In addition to becoming leaders in business and labor, in academia and in philanthropy, Jewish Americans have always helped shape the discussion over the issues that form the country’s future. In this volume, a mix of professors, graduate students, and lay people in the field of politics with a breadth of experience debate some central questions: Is Israel still the most important policy concern for American Jews? Why does the Jewish community vote Democratic in such overwhelming numbers? Can American Jews balance economic, security, and human rights concerns in a rapidly changing international community? And how will such profound transformations affect the role of America’s Jewish community as the United States seeks out its own role in domestic and global politics?

    eISBN: 978-1-61249-299-5
    Subjects: Sociology, Political Science

Table of Contents

  1. Foreword
    (pp. vii-x)
    Bruce Zuckerman

    It’s hardly surprising. In the course of putting together, in collaboration with our various guest editors, thisAnnual Reviewof the Casden Institute for the Study of the Jewish Role in American Life, we have focused on a broad variety of topics, and areas of research and interest—indeed, from my standpoint, the broader the better. Yet in many if not most of the articles we have published there has tended to be an underlying theme that always seems to be there. Politics. As I said, it is hardly surprising that most everything worthy of consideration about Jews in America...

  2. Editorial Introduction
    (pp. xi-xviii)

    Anyone who would pick up a book with the titleAmerican Politics and the Jewish Communityis almost certainly interested not only in the American Jewish political experience but is also an informed observer of our political system overall. As a result, you are likely to be as alarmed as I am about the growing polarization and hyper-partisanship that has crippled our democratic process. You are just as likely to understand why the continued gridlock caused by two political parties beholden to their respective ideological bases will prevent our government from adequately addressing our society’s most pressing challenges. Whether you...

  3. Introduction: Where Does Israel Fit In?
    (pp. xix-xxviii)
    Dennis Ross

    The theme of where Israel fits into American politics and policy tends to produce debates that typically generate more heat than light. Arguments are almost always heavy on assertion and sparse on facts. Yet, as a practitioner of policy on the Middle East in five different administrations and as a political appointee of four Presidents, I have had an interesting vantage point from which to assess this issue.

    For one thing, I am struck by the fact that in nearly every administration of which I was a part, Israel figured prominently in the US approach to Middle East policy. For...


    • The Jewish Contract with America
      (pp. 3-38)
      Steven Windmueller

      With the election of George Washington, the Jewish congregations of the new republic issued a series of congratulatory letters, and the Jewish community of Newport, Rhode Island received a return note from President Washington. It represents one of the most extraordinary statements defining the ideals associated with American society and frames some of this nation’s key civic values. The letter serves as an important element in defining and shaping the “Contract” between Jews and America:

      The Citizens of the United States of America have a right to applaud themselves for giving to Mankind examples of an enlarged and liberal policy:...

    • Geography, Demography, and the Jewish Vote
      (pp. 39-76)
      Ira M. Sheskin

      Data on the number of American Jews is not available from the US Census. This is due to restrictions caused by the separation of church and state and the treatment of Jews by the US Census Bureau as a religious group, rather than as the ethnic group that they also constitute. As a result, the organized American Jewish community has collected its own data via national and local telephone surveys on the demography, geography, and religiosity of American Jews (seeBerman Jewish Databank).

      Various estimates of the number of American Jews are available, ranging from about 5.4 million to about...

    • American Jews and the Elephant Question
      (pp. 77-98)
      Eric M. Uslaner

      My parents cried at their wedding.

      Many people do, but these were tears of sorrow, not of joy. My parents were married on April 12, 1945. It was the saddest date in memory for American Jews. President Franklin D. Roosevelt died that day.

      While Roosevelt’s role in protecting Jews from the Holocaust is a matter of sharp debate, his strong opposition to Hitler played a key role in the conversion of Jews from Republicans to strong Democrats (Gamm 55 and ch. 2 more generally). For many Jews, Roosevelt was a hero. After a courtship in 1928 and 1932, American Jews...

    • Jewish Elected Officials for National Office, 1945–2013: From Representing Fellow Jews to Assimlated American Politicians
      (pp. 99-122)
      L. Sandy Maisel

      With the retirements of Herbert H. (“Herb”) Kohl (D-WI) and Joseph I. (“Joe”) Lieberman (I-CT) from the United States Senate and the retirements of Barney Frank (D-MA) and Gary Ackerman (D-NY) along with the defeat of Howard Berman (D-CA) from the US House of Representatives, Jewish legislators, who possessed 140 years of cumulative experience at the end of the 112th Congress, did not take their seats when the 113th Congress, convened in January, 2013. Many, who might have reason to worry about representation by Jews at the highest levels of government, expressed concern. Not only did these senior members of...


    • “Boxes” for Israel: The Personal Journey of a Jewish Republican
      (pp. 125-130)
      Fred Zeidman

      It all started with packing boxes—hundreds of boxes. In 1950s Wharton, TX my parents—owners of the local clothing store—joined their contemporaries from other small Texas towns to collect and pack goods for Israel. The Jewish State was a few years younger than me, and it needed the same care and love as any young child. However, at the age of eight, I didn’t have much appreciation for the overarching ideal of building a Jewish State. I was tired. I wanted to go to sleep.

      My father told me that there was no more important thing that we...

    • Why My Party Is the Best Choice for Jewish Voters
      (pp. 131-134)
      Matthew Brooks

      The Republican Party is the party of Abraham Lincoln and Ronald Reagan, of Jack Kemp, Max Fisher (founder of the Republican Jewish Coalition) and Eric Cantor. Their principles and the policies derived from them are the best expressions of the American ideal. Their party, my party, is the best home for all Americans, but perhaps especially for Jewish-Americans.

      The Republican Party’s core principles of individual freedom—economic liberty, responsibility for one’s neighbors who are poor, elderly, or suffering, the vital importance of strong families and strong communities—all of these resonate deeply with Jewish voters, because they are based on...

  6. The USC Casden Institute for the Study of the Jewish Role in American Life
    (pp. 141-142)