Global, Politics

Denominations Outpace Lobbies on Civil Liberties

…or completely screw up our political relationships. Relationships with demonspawn, but relationships nonetheless.
The more I think about it, the more I feel that because of the continually precarious situation of the Jew-in-exile or “diaspora Jew,” our Jewish leadership negotiates on our behalf and often against our will, not because they’re necessarily slimy and advancing their own interests, but because they realize they have to French the asshole of every tyrant to whom we find ourselves subject. Case in point, the Iranian Jewish leadership. Or, perhaps a more definitive historical example is that of the pre-Shoah American Jewish appeasers who chose not to speak up about the Nazis lest they worsen the situation for German Jewry.
Personally, I don’t think the approrpiate action in this predicament is autocapitulation to our leadership, as others may. When the country’s turned on the administration and you’re still coddling your relationship, you have to retain awareness that when the emperor goes down, you go down with him. A more effective strategy than developing insider relationships and becoming part of that inscrutable Them, is developing grassroots relationships and becoming part of a real national community. Say what you will about the irrationality of antisemitism, but if Pirkei Avot (The Ethics of the Fathers) teaches us anything, it’s that appearances are everything. Empires fall left and right, and one crook replaces the next. Jews are persecuted and expelled on the turn of a dime. If you have the public behind you, rather than their oppressors, you stand a better chance in the long run.
In any event, I digress. Here’s what I’m all hopped up about.
The Forward reports,

The country’s two largest synagogue movements are stepping up their criticism of the Bush administration’s domestic wiretapping program and treatment of detainees, in sharp contrast to the approach of the major non-sectarian Jewish civil rights organizations.
Senior figures of the Conservative and Reform movements have recently called on the White House to prohibit the use of torture and urged Congress to look into the secret wiretapping program launched by the National Security Agency in the aftermath of the September 11, 2001 attacks. Officials at the Anti-Defamation League, American Jewish Committee and American Jewish Congress, on the other hand, have been silent on the wiretapping program and generally less confrontational when offering any critique of the administration on the torture issue.
The two issues highlight what appear to be both substantive and stylistic differences between the non-Orthodox synagogue movements and the Jewish civil rights groups, as well as policy gaps between the Jewish community’s grassroots and the more hawkish donors who hold increasing sway on many Jewish organizational boards. While the synagogue movements can boast of representing the millions of members of their congregations, observers in Washington say that lawmakers are more likely to see the nonsectarian groups as the Jewish community’s main address on security issues.

Nevermind the fact that 54% of American Jews identify as Democrats and only 16% as Republicans. Or that 44% identify as liberal, 26% as conservative and 29% as moderate. Or that 60% of American Jews disapprove of the government’s handling of the “war on terror,” and that 70% disapprove of the war in Iraq. Halakha states that a Jew is obligated to abide by the law of the land in which he resides. In the United States of America, the Bill of Rights is law, as are the Geneva Conventions and the UN Declaration of Human Rights. Bush doctrine is not law. It’s an anomaly, and one, G-d willing, soon to meet its end.
Should I be surprised it’s the religious leaders representing the majority of affiliated Jews who are standing up for real American values over the misdirected self-interest our Orthodox and Right-leaning secular organizations?

6 thoughts on “Denominations Outpace Lobbies on Civil Liberties

  1. M, why ascribe evil motives when only g-d knows what is going on in someone’s heart. My guess is that Orthodox leaders reflect most of their followers when they lean to the right – the same way Reform groups lean to the left, also a reflection of the more leftist tilt of Reform Jews. There is no one answer in life – and either side of the privacy argument can make good valid points in their own favor. So instead of examining motivation, an examination of the issues (if there really is anything new to be said) is the better way to go.

  2. A prime example of the short-sightedness of Orthodox organizations is their support of the Christian anti-abortion movement. The Christian Right wants to ban all abortions, whereas halacha, while not allowing a free-for-all, clearly prescribes abortions under various circumstances.
    Surely it would be better for Orthodox Jewish women who are committed to following halacha to have the freedom to decide to have an abortion under these circumstances. How can it be better for Orthodox Jews if the state tells them what they can and cannot do than if it is left up to them to decide? How can Orthodox rabbis support a situation where it is illegal to follow halacha?

  3. M, you’re right, I misread you, you explicitly said they weren’t evil, just axxkissers. But substitute axxkissers for evil in my above post and my point still holds, they are not axxkissers if they believe what they say.

  4. personally i don’t think Jewish religious organizations should get involved in politics.
    Religious Jews probably should.
    I urge all of you to write your congresspersons (i just realized there’s no gender neutral term for someone in congress)
    about whatever it is you disagree with that’s going on. whether your a righty or a lefty.
    help make democracy work!

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