Is this the end of American Jewry’s golden age?


By Adam Garfinkle



How cosmically lucky the American Jewish community is, blessedly sited at the intersection point of two forms of chosenness, two forms of exceptionalism. A perfect storm of mazel, one might say: American Enlightenment universalism and Jewish particularism matched up like peas in a pod. Our serendipitous good fortune is invoked routinely for any number of purposes. Here is how the Tikvah Fund advertised a March 26 lecture by Ruth Wisse on Irving Kristol: “[H]e felt twice blessed, as a Jew and an American, and cheerfully shored up the best of both traditions …”

This self-serving celebration of conjunction has always been an exaggeration, fully credible only insofar as the celebrants didn’t push too far into the details. But it no longer much matters because the bottom is falling out of the very basis of the exaggeration. Whatever American Jewish “golden age” there may have been is over, folks. And it’s over for a small number of entwined reasons that are as easy to grasp analytically as they are hard to take on board emotionally.

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One of those reasons is that American Jews are rapidly and irreversibly becoming politically homeless. They are losing their “natural” political hearth in the Democratic Party. Partisan political support for Israel has shifted sharply to an increasingly white-populist GOP—a party the vast majority of American Jews will never feel at home in. That shift was probably accelerated by some shrewd if shortsighted political maneuvering a few years back, when the Israeli prime minister, at the invitation of Republican leaders, blindsided the president of the United States from the rostrum of the Congress. But it was happening anyway, pushed by the Democrats and pulled by the Republicans.

That is one meaning of the recent Ilhan Omar affair. The Democratic old guard couldn’t even squeeze a pathetic symbolic anti-Semitism resolution out of the House. Imagine what it won’t be able to do when something that really matters happens. Whoever missed this episode can count on many similarly manufactured such episo