, Volume 48, Issue 4, pp 323-329
Date: 21 May 2011

American Jews Beyond Judaism

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Why do American Jews identify overwhelmingly with the Democratic Party? Why do they seemingly identify with left-liberalism and evince hostility toward conservativism? Is this stance an outgrowth of Judaism or a substitute for it, as Norman Podhoretz has argued? Is American Jewish liberalism a belief system that stands alone or is it instead part of a suite of bourgeois beliefs and behaviors, that is, culture? A striking parallel with recent Jewish history suggests the latter.

A series of essays by the late historian George Mosse presented an incisive portrait of German Jewry between the World Wars. Possessed by the German middle class ideals of bildung or self-cultivation, German Jews pursued what we would today call liberal ideals of self-improvement and the goals of social responsibility and German nationalism. By becoming more German than the Germans themselves, a portion of the Jewish community, including the wealthy and educated, sought full acceptance and participation as Germans ...