A Jewish Contract With America
Normally, when the representative organizations of a small minority emphatically back public policies that are just as emphatically rejected by the majority of American voters, one might expect at least a modicum of internal soul-searching about the wisdom of the minority’s positions—particularly when those positions are only tangentially related to the group’s actual interests. Yet any such mood of introspection has been noticeably absent from the organized Jewish community since last November, when a new Republican majority came to power in both houses of Congress on the basis of a Contract With America.
That “contract,” among other things, runs counter to the fundamental approaches of Jewish public policy, with its decades-long tradition of endorsing government spending on social problems and its unquestioning faith in the proverbial “wall of separation” between church and state. But instead of pondering the sagacity of a position so out of sync with the mood of the country, the established organizations, after recovering from their stunned disappointment at the election results, have pledged themselves to combat the Contract With America. Remarkably, there seems to have been no debate about whether such an unbending approach is really good for American Jews.
About the Author
Jack Wertheimer is professor of American Jewish history at the Jewish Theological Seminary in New York. Among his contributions to COMMENTARY are “Judaism Without Limits” (July 1997), “The Orthodox Moment” (February 1999), and “The Perplexities of Conservative Judaism” (September 2007).