Jewish Values Versus Conservative America

Judaism as a Counterculture

In 1915, one year before he became the first Jewish U.S. Supreme Court Justice, Louis Brandeis in the premiere issue of the Menorah Journal that “the 20th-century ideals of America have been the ideals of the Jew for more than twenty centuries.” Among the shared ideals he identified were an “all-pervading sense of duty in the citizen,” a preference for “leadership … marked by force of character and intelligence,” and a”deep-seated community feeling.” Brandeis recognized, of course, the chasm between such virtues and the segregationist, monopolistic America of his day, but like other great reformers, he consistently sought to base his demands for social justice on our country’s most hallowed documents and traditions. In doing so, he helped turn the Jewish thirst for social justice into a vital part of ‘Americanism.’

Lately I’ve been wondering if Brandeis would have written such a passage about 21st-century America. When an “all-pervading sense of duty in the citizen” produces far more votes for the performers on American Idol than for presidential candidates, and our preference for “leadership … marked by force of character and intelligence” yields the likes of George W. Bush, it seems to me that a set of American values very different from those that Brandeis described — and quite contrary to the key values of the Jewish tradition —have been pushed to center stage.

October 22, 2007 | 1 Comment »

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2 Comments / 1 Comment

  1. Having not been raised in Jewish tradition, your article’s description of this, for lack of better word, clannishness, made me feel claustrophobic.

    In fact, I think it may have caused many others to feel the same way, which may explain why so many American Jews, as well as Israelis if I’m to believe the many published stories of corruption and mob influence, have partaken in this explosion of greed and callousness.

    Certainly, this claustrophobia doesn’t excuse one from making a pact with the devil, but I think it may be one of several reasons for doing so.

    I for one, am neither liberal or conservative, usually describing myself as a virulent anti-ideologist. I don’t think one’s ideals must be codified into a set of rigidly adhered to rules of order. Doing so only disorients my
    natural sense of right and wrong. Not to mention the fact my belief that anyone incapable of doing the right thing without a guide book or the threat of immediate physical of spiritual extinction is morally defective.

    Having said that, I don’t think a one’s inability to perceive evil, with minimal instruction as to what evil is, is the problem. Getting one to admit that they are committing it is the problem.

    To that end and for the construction of a happy and prosperous society even the most efficient ideology is only partially useful.
    Unfortunately, ascribing to an ideology usually
    forces one to accept it in its entirety or not at all.

    Peronally, I’d rather be free to to agree with what’s agreeable and to ignore the rest and I am not going to make peace with a pack idiots for the sake of party unity, religious solidarity, or for the wrongly perceived benefit of any other societal organization if the result of administering an ideology is
    our eventual destruction.

    This is why I say a pox on both the American and European liberal and conservative philosophies and their insistence on towing the party line and being ideologically consistent.

    Life isn’t consistent and the illogical rigidity of ideology dooms it to failure before it can even perform its first act of tyranny.

    Personally, I am only interested in what works; the solidarity not of a party, but of what is created. If capitalism works in one instance and socialism another, so be it.

    By being a free agent, so to speak, one has no ego, but truly feels that nothing’s personal just business. I’m one the most emotional people on the face of the earth. When I see a person cry I start crying, but I honestly believe that emotionality and so-called passion
    should be reserved for personal matters, not for governing. If one is certain of his motivations and comfortable with them then a reliance on superficial emotionality is unneccessary.

    Because no one seems to be able to understand
    this and the concept of egoless leadership we, the people who live in the United States, are
    experiencing a period of rapacious Republican/
    Conservative tyranny that I think any person of good conscience can objectively admit to and deplore.

    Even so, that does not exhonorate the Liberal Democrats. Indeed, America has also experienced
    a 35 year period (until the election of King Ronald) of liberal tyranny that created such a backlash that for the past 25 years Americans
    have put men in office who have raped and plundered our nation.

    Aside from rectifying the human rights abuses,
    primarily but not exclusively committed in the South, Democrats did little to unite our people. Obviously, if they had the moronic Christian right along with the so-called Joe Six Pack white vote wouldn’t have so readily
    shifted parties and traded their autonomy for a few kind words after being slammed on the head by self-righteous liberals.

    As for me, after the frustration of suffering
    through these two opposite but equally inane eras, I can only wish a person of any
    ideology to go to hell and their George Bushes
    and George Souroses with them.

  2. Shalom Ted,

    I do not know what “social justice” means. It’s used twice in the article.

    Does President George W. Bush lack attributes found in the other US Presidents?

    When President Wilson took office in 1913, he reintroduced segregation into the federal government.

    President Andrew Jackson was a bigamist. He married his new bride,Rachael, before her divorse papers were finalized.

    One most hallowed document, the Declaration of Independence, displays Thomas Jefferson’s inserted phrase “merciless savages”. The phrase was accurate but won’t win awards with the author of this article.

    I don’t want to mention names but a US President introduced a Test Act into Utah Territory re polygamy.

    Don’t ask how Hawaii was annexed under the provisions of hallowed documents.

    Is an = ASSAULT = on business regulations really contrary to Jewish views ? In re the author’s “New Deal liberalism” that he grew up with, concurrently, we lost our US flag merchant marine fleet because of the business regulations. This loss relates to the other, later losses of large industries.

    the Tarshish fleet came in bearing gold and silver I KINGS 10:15

    I do not know what “unalienated sexuality the Judaism classically promotes” but it sounds interesting. See Deutronomy 21:10

    Issac Wise sought FDR’s attention for the pending situation re German Jewry. Wise’s efforts were hindered by Brandeis (and Frankfurter).

    Brandeis was part of the problem.

    Kol tuv,

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