Counter-Reactions: Immigration Policy and Jews pt. 1

On Facebook my friend M.G., a left-leaning secular Jew, offered his thoughts on my November 5 blog entry. I’ve chosen to respond here because it offers more room and greater opportunity to link to sources.

[It’s] worth noting that support for immigration is a very popular American view, shared by people of all races, and not a fringe or “Jewish” one;  if one argues in favor of stricter immigration laws, there’s a legitimate policy case to be made, but if one argues that America’s Jewish population is uniquely responsible for the size of America’s immigrant community, one is not only incorrect, one has advanced an argument unlikely to change anything, both because it’s predicated on false facts and also because it’s likely to alienate everyone not already sympathetic to alt-right politics.

The Pew Research Center says that 68% of Americans agree that “America’s openness to foreigners is a defining characteristic of the nation” while just 26% think “if America is too open to people from all over the world, we risk losing our identity as a nation.”  But an NPR article notes more Americans favor decreased over increased immigration.  And a 2014 Federation for American Immigration Reform poll found 56% of Americans opposed Obama’s efforts to grant legal status to between 5 and 8 million illegal immigrants.  Depending on whom and how you ask immigration may or may not be popular.  But it is undoubtedly controversial — even among American Jews.  A December 2001 survey by the American Jewish Congress found 49% of American Jews believed immigration should be decreased and only 9% felt it should be increased.

While Jews show high ethnic cooperation and cohesion they are by no means a Leftist monolith.  Ben Shapiro, Laura Loomer and Ezra Levant are some well-known Jewish New Right figures who come to mind immediately.  We should also distinguish between secular Jews and observant Jews. While 70% of American Jews as a group identify as Democratic or Democratic-leaning and only 22% favor Republicans, Orthodox Jews lean Republican by 57% to 36%.   This suggests the American Jewish community will be more socially and politically conservative in the future, thanks to those famously large Orthodox and Hasidic families.

And because arguing is one of Judaism’s core competencies, you certainly have Right-wing Jews arguing against the American Jewish community’s Leftist slant.  Jonathan Neumann writes:

The phrase “tikkun olam” was quietly lifted out of context from a Jewish prayer before the Second World War to mean social justice. It was popularized in the 1970s and 1980s by radicals like Michael Lerner, who founded the extreme left-wing magazine, Tikkun.

Since then, we have been led to believe that the purpose of the Jews in the world is to campaign for higher taxes, sexual permissiveness, reduced military spending, illegal immigration, opposition to fracking, the banishment of religion from the public square and every other liberal cause under the sun — all in the name of God.

But the truth is that tikkun olam and its leftist politics have no basis in Judaism. Tikkun olam is not Judaism at all but a distinct religion, whose adherents, it might be said, have culturally appropriated this ancient faith. This religion of tikkun olam commands the allegiance of most non-Orthodox Jews (and some Orthodox ones), who make up the overwhelming majority of the American Jewish community. The dogma of this religion is appealingly simple: Judaism is tikkun olam, which is social justice, which is liberalism. The Jews are called upon to do no less — and no more — than cultivate a liberal paradise in America.

Reviewing Neumann’s  To Heal the World?: How the Jewish Left Corrupts Judaism and Endangers Israel, Washington Free Beacon writer David Isaac noted

[T]he Jewish Funders Network distributes $1 billion in grants each year and the Jewish Federations of North America over $2 billion. Both cite tikkun olam as the first of their core values. According to legions of its adherents, he writes, it’s Judaism’s most fundamental message—”the Torah teaches that the greatest service a Jew can do before God and for humanity is to heal the world—to pursue social justice.”

Neumann and Isaac are primarily concerned about the impact of tikkun olam on Israel and the very existence of the Jewish people. Also from Isaac’s review (emphasis added):

“Indeed, the very existence of Jews as a distinct people ultimately conflicts with Jewish social justice’s universalistic aspirations. If the role of the Jews is to help repair the world, that role will end once the world is repaired, and in a repaired world there will be no Jews.” Neumann finds this the most profound divergence of Jewish social justice from traditional Judaism. “It is simply not plausible,” he writes, “that a major teaching of Judaism could be the belief in its own abnegation, yet this is precisely the implication of tikkun olam, which undermines Jewish Peoplehood and forecasts the redundancy of the Jews.”

This is the heart of the debate between Globalism and Identitarian movements: it also highlights yet another divide within the Jewish community.  American Jews have been among Israel’s most voiciferous critics: many Jews support the Boycott Divestment Sanctions movement. Israeli Jews are considerably more conservative than their American brethren and secular American Jews have grown increasingly uncomfortable with the power wielded by Israeli religious courts.   And while most American Jews despise Donald Trump, our 45th President has lots of fans in Tel Aviv.  There is a great deal of diversity in Jewish political thought and culture: as with “White,” “Jew” can be an identity which conceals, and which dismisses, more than it reveals.

Do I believe Jews are uniquely responsible for American immigration policy? No, but I believe they have played a disproportionally large role in shaping it.  I believe they have done so in support of ideals which I reject, and that the end result of these policies will be detrimental to America. I recognize that many Jews share my distaste for these ideals. I also reject out of hand the concept of collective guilt and understand the importance of protecting speech and activism even if I disagree with the cause.

That being said, what I believe is less important than what the world believes.  Jews have become associated with immigration reform and open borders the way the Roman Catholic Church became tied to anti-abortion activism. Over 2,000 of the nation’s 3,209 rabbis have signed an HIAS petition which asks elected officials “to ensure that the refugee program be maintained and strengthened for refugees of all ethnic and religious backgrounds — not halted, paused, or restricted.”  While this has recently resulted in violent pushback from an angry White male, Squirrel Hill may be and hopefully is an outlier.  But as the issue continues to fester the American Jewish community is likely to face hostility both from immigration skeptics and from the very people they supported.

But that is a discussion for another day. Coming up next: a response to the burning question “so what do a few Jews have to do with the Swedish refugee crisis and Maoist China?”

5 thoughts on “Counter-Reactions: Immigration Policy and Jews pt. 1

  1. I don’t disagree with most of this, with the caveat that aims say Jews tend to be disproportionately involved in every side of any American political issue (Trump, for instance, has many Jews in positions of trust) which I take as a largely a function of their higher than average education, concentration in urban areas, and high political commitment.

    That said, wouldn’t the Roman Catholic Church be more associated with pro-immigration policies (in the United States, anyway) than Judaism?*



    Liked by 1 person

    1. There are 9. All of them are involved in religion in some way. Lutheran, Catholic, and Jewish are the three religions involved; the Jewish religion far outweighs the other two in pushing for refugees but the Lutherans are by far the most greedy and vocal in crying about funds being cut.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. On point, here’s the one study I’ve found on American Jewish attitudes towards immigration. Jewish attitudes on the subject appear to be fairly unexceptional ;
    “majorities of all religious groups, including Hispanic Catholics (74%), Hispanic Protestants (71%), black Protestants (70%), Jewish Americans (67%), Mormons (63%), white Catholics (62%), white mainline Protestants (61%), and white evan­gelical Protestants (56%), agree that the immigration system should allow immi­grants currently living in the U.S. illegally to become citizens provided they meet certain requirements.“

    If American Jews are being associated with uniquely pro-immigrant politics, as you suggest, it certainly seems like an unfair link to me.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Tinfoilhatsociety: I am planning to talk about the other refugee organizations in my next post. The Catholics are certainly a major player in the game, and have a vested interest in the continuing flow of Roman Catholic immigrants from Central and South America. (And if you’re an Evangelical Protestant, you’ll find a large, growing and enthusiastic Evangelical/Pentecostal population south of the Rio Grande). One could argue that Catholic and Protestant refugee organizations have a clearer ideological reason for promoting demographic replacement than the Jewish ones do — certainly one which is more in their self-interest than “tikkun olam” is for Jews.


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