The Bush Schism Continues: a historically-liberal people collectively find their balls and say, "Oy! Enough Already!"
Further, as many readers here know via some rather impassioned discussions in the comments on Julien's List, most Jews - whether secular or observant; and if observant, whether observantly relaxed (Humanistic Judaism, Reform Judaism), or even more traditional (Conservative Judaism, Masorti Judaism, Reconstructionist Judaism, or Modern Orthodox Judaism); tend to have progressive politics. Whether out of personal views or otherwise, the way Jewish teachings and traditions are applied, it's hard to be Jewish and Republican because the two views are, in reality, incompatible.
The huge irony in the neo-con rise has been the role of Jews in this administration. These are Jews who were raised by 1930s - 1950s liberals; the community that was the hotbed of Socialist and Communist thought at that time. The slur "Jewish Communist" was not just for the Rosenbergs - although in the case of the Rosenbergs the slur stuck beyond what appears to be the executions of innocents, as one can find by exploring this PBS Nova special website.
Many have theorized as to the hows and whys of this trend between the silence of Jewish leaders, the rise of Jewish Neocons, and the mess today - but those who try to paint "The Jews" with a broad brush (especially when the painter is not Jewish) and those who retort with the tired counterattack of, "Anti-Semite! Anti-Semite!" do not seem to address the core issue at hand.
I have long suspected that the role of the Jewish folk in the neocon movement is multifold: (1) the neocon Jews are secular - note none of them has an overt synagogue or movement affiliation: affiliation at worst means enough of a sense of guilt to try to put a decent image on things, even (and perhaps especially) if the core is rotten; (2) the neocon Jews are very success and power driven - no surprise, given their parent's generation was, in truth, very leftist and was, as a result of that leftism and ethnic minority status, left out of the fruits of American society. At the same time, these Neocon ex-liberal turncoats were raised in a community that taught "work hard, do well, and help make the world a better place;" and what I suspect finally happened is (3) these folks got sick of being the minority - of being looked down upon by their Conservative, Christian, Rich, Powerful, East-Coast peers and of working hard playing the minority boot-lick to make their bread: they decided to embrace the opposing side for fun, gain, and profit.
Granted, I can't prove my theory: it's sort of a "gut instinct" thing.
There is good news, though: after a very long period of time silent (silent, in fact, since the 1970s), very broad swaths of the progressive North American Jewish Community collectively found their balls in the last week and are, once again, standing up to their Conservative enemies rather than continuing to do like the Democrats (who are still playing nice and hoping for a crumb). This fantastic Salon.com article breaks the story and is worth the required registration or day pass.
Here's a taste of what's there:
Jews and the Christian right: Is the honeymoon over?...And then he (an observant Jewish social and political leader) launched into the most controversial part of his sermon -- an impassioned denunciation of right-wing homophobia that invoked the historical parallel of Nazism. "We understand those who believe that the Bible opposes gay marriage, even though we read that text in a very different way," he said. "But we cannot understand why any two people who make a lifelong commitment to each other should be denied legal guarantees that protect them and their children and benefit the broader society. We cannot forget that when Hitler came to power in 1933, one of the first things that he did was ban gay organizations. And today, we cannot feel anything but rage when we hear about gay men and women, some on the front lines, being hounded out of our armed services. Yes, we can disagree about gay marriage. But there is no excuse for hateful rhetoric that fuels the hellfires of anti-gay bigotry."
Yoffie's sermon was more than 8,000 words long, and ranged over all kinds of subjects. By all accounts, though, the crowd responded most enthusiastically to his salvos against the religious right. This was something that American Jews have been desperate to hear from their leadership, but much of that leadership has been unable or unwilling to say it. As the Jewish newspaper the Forward wrote in an editorial, "There are many reasons to applaud this month's back-to-back speeches by Abe Foxman and Eric Yoffie on the dangers of the religious right, but here's the most important: They have given voice to something their constituents have been thinking and feeling for a long time."
The Jewish Leftists are back - and I am just so proud I could pop!