A few weeks ago I read a blog post (and watched a video) by a guy named Ben Shapiro titled “Why do Jews Vote Leftist?” In this blog post, the author spells out his thesis as to why Jews tend to vote leftist and then tries to systematically quash these reasons. I watched his video and I became angry at what I was hearing. I felt the need to refute some of his statements. While my blog on the Times of Israel may have more visibility, that blog is meant to be about the Conservative Movement, and I do not want to break my own rule, so I am writing here again.
He spends his first few paragraphs tying President Obama to anti-Semites. I am not going to spend time refuting this, because some of it is correct. However, you can look at many different campaigns and administrations and you will find plenty of anti-Semites there as well. So I find these paragraphs inflammatory and of no real use.
His next argument is that most Jews don’t care about Judaism. He brings numerous polls for his proof text. I cannot refute the polls, and I am not going to try. However, I wonder if Mr. Shaprio would be surprised to learn that many of the people who don’t seem to care about Judaism, DO seem to care about being Jewish. Now, I don’t have polls and stats to give other than what I can see around me. I have met Jews who feel very strongly about their Jewish heritage. Here is an example. In a past job, there was a gentleman who was 100% assimilated. He was married to a non-Jewish woman. He ate non-Kosher food. He hardly ever celebrated a Jewish holiday. By all accounts, this person, whom I will call “Joe”, would be a perfect candidate for the vast majority of Jews who do not care about Judaism. However, Joe was more than happy to talk about his Jewish family, his Jewish upbringing, and his fond feelings for his Jewish heritage. A far cry from someone who does not care about Judaism. I have met numerous people like Joe, and I will hazard a guess that many Jews in America feel the same way. I recall once suggesting to someone I met who was just like Joe, that he was not “really” Jewish. His reaction was one of shock and brought him to tears! Polls can tell us a lot, but I think they miss this aspect of “feeling Jewish”.
Mr. Shapiro then begins his real thesis. He posits that “Most Jews aren’t Jewish in any real sense beyond ethnic identification.” That they don’t care about Torah or Mitzvot, and polling Jews is no different than polling Catholics. Since Jews don’t care about Judaism, according to Mr. Shapiro, they don’t care about what the Torah has to say. He then goes on to say the most surprising thing to me. “The Torah is not a left-wing document.” WOW! That is some statement. He continues to say that Jews who vote leftist are betraying “Torah Judaism.” I think the term “Torah Judaism” is a horrible term and perhaps in another post someday I will explain that comment, but I am here to say that voting left does not betray the Torah. In fact, I am here to say that the Torah is, in fact, a leftist document! By FAR!
Mr. Shapiro’s evidence that the Torah is not leftist is that “It opposes abortion and opposes same-sex marriage. It does not believe in a grand welfare system, but in private charity.” First off, the Torah does not oppose abortion. In fact, the Torah never mentions abortion. Most post biblical sources, including the Talmud see a human fetus as a potential life so abortion in general is not permitted, however, in a case where the pregnancy or birth will be dangerous to the mother, abortion is not only permitted, but required! This has also been interpreted to mean even for mental health reasons one abort a fetus! As for Same Sex Marriage, the Torah also has nothing to say. The Mishna, Talmud, Codes, etc. also have nothing to say about same sex marriage. These documents never even consider the possibility of a same sex marriage! So to say that the Torah opposes these concepts is misleading at best, and just plain wrong at worse. To suggest that the Torah does not believe in a grand welfare system, almost suggests a total misunderstanding of what the Torah is teaching! Judaism itself is a “grand welfare system” where we are told that we are to take care of the poor.
So his “proof” holds no water. But is he still correct? Is the Torah a right-wing document, or can it be shown that it is in fact, what Mr. Shapiro calls a “leftist” document? My thesis is that the Torah, is a “leftist” document. While the Torah is filled with ritual Mitzvot, it is also filled with many ethical Mitzvot. We are taught to treat the stranger with respect. We are taught to feed the poor be sure that the orphans are cared for. The Torah is easily a manifesto for social Justice. In fact, at the literal center of the Torah is the verse “Justice, Justice shall you pursue”! Not only that, but Jews are told that we are to be an “Or LaGoyim”, a light unto the nations. Our most important role in the world is to bring justice to the world! If that does not make the Torah “leftist” I don’t know it is.
This is then almost self-explanatory as to why Jews vote liberal. Many Jews are brought up within a culture that not only praises social justice, it is a culture that requires it! Mr. Shapiro’s final statement is “Jews who care about actual Judaism don’t vote leftist. And those who prioritize leftism don’t vote Jewish.” Well, Mr. Shapiro, I care deeply about “actual” Judaism and I am proud Democrat and a proud “leftist”! In November I will be voting for the candidate who will advance the ethics and morals of the Torah, and I can promise that that candidate will not be a Republican.