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Leaders who have guided the Jewish vote are losing power

Written By | Jan 17, 2014

OCALA, Fla., January 17, 2014 — The United States is going through a period of great transition. Social and economic norms are being turned on their heads as an unsure, and certainly unfamiliar, future presents itself.

Our country’s Jewish-interest political establishment bears testament to this in a way which few other societal mainstays can. Just how and why tells us much about the larger trends changing the face of this nation.

“Those who pretend to wield power in the name of the Jewish community, which they have no mandate to do, have already seen their influence decline dramatically,” says political columnist Allan C. Brownfeld, also the American Council for Judaism’s publications editor, to Communities Digital News.

He continues: “They did their best to prevent Chuck Hagel from becoming Secretary of Defense, but failed.  The fought any interim agreement with Iran over nuclear weapons, and have failed.  The latest polls show that an overwhelming majority of American Jews support such an agreement.  And when AIPAC, the ADL and the American Jewish Committee attempt to speak in the name of American Jews, there are other vocal Jewish groups, such as J Street and Jewish Voice for Peace, making clear that there is no united Jewish view on these issues.

“The playing field has been changed and the political dynamics in the future will be far different.”

Aside from Israel, America’s Jewish political establishment has long been noted for its support of open immigration policy. While this support remains steadfast, positive sentiment about it among American Jews does not.

“The Establishment regards its support for amnesty and mass immigration as exemplifying Jewish prophetic ethics,” Dr. Stephen Steinlight of the Center for Immigration Studies says to CDN. “But most Jewish Americans understand immigration is a zero-sum game, and the Establishment’s idea of ‘justice’ show indifference towards the millions of poor Americans for whom amnesty and mass immigration have brutal consequences.”

Jewish religious doctrine is often used as a rationalization for immigration amnesty. Dr. Steinlight believes this to be secularly-motivated misinterpretation.

“Jewish teaching, as reflected in the Talmud, establishes a hierarchy of those to whom we have moral obligations: it begins with family and kin and then encompasses our community and nation,” he states. “Only when our moral obligations to these are fulfilled are we meant to focus on ‘others.’ The Jewish Establishment’s politically-correct vision reverses this traditional Jewish moral order.

“For older Jewish Americans, and Establishment membership is overwhelmingly comprised of the aging, nothing haunts the issue so much as the ghost of the bigoted immigration restriction movement of the 19th and early 20th centuries.  To decry past bigotry is correct; to construct future policy based on defunct bigotry is not.  The restrictionist movement has been a straw man for 45 years; it ended with the passage of the ‘Immigration and Nationality Act’ in 1965.”

Since the mid-twentieth century, Jewish political life has mainly been defined by ethnic background. This has led to the term “Jewish American” finding prominence, whereas “American Jewish” generally fell by the wayside.

Or has it?

Brownfeld is “not sure there is a meaningful difference” between the terms. He mentions that “(o)ne seems to stress the American portion of identity, the other the Jewish portion.  If we were to say Catholic Americans or American Catholics, would there be a difference?  Often, different terms are used simply to diversify the use of language.  I have seen  an individual referred to as ‘African American’ and ‘black’ in the same paragraph.  I have used the term ‘American Jews’ and ‘Jewish Americans” interchangeably myself.”

Getting back to immigration, why do so many in the American Jewish/Jewish American political establishment have a love affair with amnesty?

“Though some continue to deny it, from 1933-1945 the American-Jewish Establishment did nothing to save Europe’s Jews,” Dr. Steinlight says. “Cognizant of events in Europe, it chose not to rock the boat and risk its own privileged position.  It didn’t use it modest influence to try rescuing Jews, but wielded it against American Jews and refugees who wished to oppose US refugee policy publicly. It focused primarily on protecting FDR and maintaining his status as a deity among Jews. American-Jewish leaders, including iconic figures like Rabbi Stephen Meyer Wise, were the worst offenders.”

President Roosevelt’s traditional stature among American Jews easily surpasses any other political figure. As time passes, though, historical data have led many to wonder about the true role Roosevelt played in American Jewish life.

Dr. Steinlight continues: “Devoted to and beguiled by Roosevelt, they told Jews to keep quiet while they, the ‘Court Jews,’ would handle things behind closed doors.  Exhibiting unforgiveable indifference, the American Jewish Committee couldn’t convene an emergency meeting while the St. Louis, a ship with 900 Jewish refugees from Europe, steamed up and down America’s east coast trying in a vain to land its passengers. It upper-crusty members didn’t wish to interrupt their summer holidays.  The ship finally returned to Europe where almost all its passengers were eventually murdered in concentration camps.

“Establishment vehemence about open-borders immigration is arguably an unconscious expression of the desire to expiate this sin.  But how does one atone for indifference to murdered European Jewry by inundating America with tens of millions of illegal, low-skill foreign workers and transnational migrants who hurt America’s most vulnerable people, damage its economy, destroy its social cohesion, and resuscitate the nation’s anti-Semitism?  (Foreign-born Hispanics and Muslims have the highest levels of anti-Semitism in the world.) Seeking expiation by supporting policies injurious to America and American Jews constitutes a fresh crime.”

Joseph Cotto

Joseph Cotto is a nationally syndicated columnist. He hails from central Florida, writing about political, economic, and social issues of the day. In the past, he wrote for The Washington Times Communities and Blogcritics Magazine, among other publications.