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May 09, 1986 - Image 32

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1986-05-09

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Friday, May 9, 1986



In Search Of A New Jewish
Political Consensus

". . a careful analysis of ,imerican Judaism
and public philosophy [and} at the same
time a thoughtful critique of romantic
utopianism. It deserves serious attention,"
Jenne .1. Kirkpatrick,

ons-:::fotiAmerican Jews

* * * * * * * * * * * * *

lurray Friedman

Foreword by Michael Novak

icking their wounds
in this era of conserva-
vative political ascen-
dancy, many Ameri-
can liberals — Jews pro-
minently among them —
seem honestly perplexed over
their rejection by the Ameri-
can electorate. Some liberal
candidates today concede, at
the very least, a need to find
new tactics to fight their
good fight. New liberal for-
mulations surface almost dai-
ly for the achievement of
sweeping social objectives
within a context fiscal re-
sponsibility, a quaint coupl-
ing, arousing surprise not too
different from earlier bemuse-
merit over the alliance of tra-
ditional conservatives like
Ronald Reagan and formerly
liberal Jewish intellectuals of
the neo-conservative stripe.
Once again, the old saw about
politics making strange bed-
fellows comes to mind.
American Jews, who figure
among the most consistently

liberal liberals in this nation,
even sacrificing what many
experts perceive as their col-
lective self interest in their
voting patterns, are also en-
gaged in this uncomfortable
self scrutiny. Murray Fried-
man, a regional official of the
American Jewish Committee,
suggests that organized
American Jewry has mistak-
enly equated the liberal agen-
da with the cause of social
justice, as if the two were in-
herently identical. This, ac-
cording to Friedman, is no
longer the case in the 1980s.
The Utopian Dilemma:
American Judaism and Pub-
lic Policy (Washington: Eth-
ics and Public Policy Center,
1985) is Friedman's effort to
nudge the organized Ameri-
can Jewish community away
from its traditionally left-
leaning loyalties. He sug-
gests that the principal error
of contemporary American
liberal political thinking —
and therefore the thinking of

Murray Friedman's new
book, The Utopian
Dilemma, exposes the
stale rigidities of Jewish
positions in light of
emerging political parties,

Special to The Jewish News

most mainstream Jewish or-
ganizations — is the tenden-
cy to assess issues in "ideal-
istic" or "utopian" terms,
rather than in harshly realis-
tic terms. If politics is under-
stood as the art of the possi-
ble, then realistic options, not
merely •clesirable alternatives,
must be weighed in making
political choices and pro-
moting political programs.
Liberals haven't been dealing
with the world as it exists,
but rather as they wish it ex-
isted, Friedman believes. In
bald terms, what Friedman is
politely advocating is a more
pragmatic approach by Jew-
ish organizations to replace
continued adherence to what
critics of liberals used to
derisively label "fuzzy-
headed" (overly idealistic) or
"knee-jerk" (dogmatic or doc-
trinaire) liberalism.
The author constructs a
strong case demonstrating
the consistent, almost slavish
liberal ideological posture of

the organized American Jew-
ish community. He quotes ex-
tensively from the public
statements of the Jewish ad-
vocacy groups clustered un-
der the umbrella of the Na-
tional Jewish Community
Relations Advisory Council.
He presents excerpts from
speeches of some of the Jew-
ish leaders, and he cites
statements of the consti-
tuents of the Synagogue
Council of America, which he
regards as the most represen-
tative body of Jewish reli-
gious interests.
Friedman also identifies
the groups — including those
on the Orthodox right and
the Reform left — which have
deviated significantly from
the mainstream consensus on
various matters. Among the
issues covered are race rela-
tions, educational policies,
crime, welfare, Israel, the
Viet Nam war and human
rights overseas.
Friedman's extensive evi-

dence of a liberal tilt in
mainstream Jewish advocacy
groups on most crucial mat-
ters is certainly convincing,
and his method is probably as
judicious as any that could be
devised. But the results don't
make for lively or particular-
ly stimulating reading. The
language of officialdom rare-
ly sparkles. Friedman himself
complains that NCJRAC and
its constituents have tended
to serve up little more than
rehashes of old-line liberal
Posing alternative strate-
gies for dealing with present
day political exigencies,
Friedman quotes enthusiasti-
cally from the arguments of
such celebrated Jewish neo-
conservative thinkers as Irv-
ing Kristol, Nathan Glazer,
Midge Decter, Norman Pod-
horetz and others of the
"Commentary crowd" (While
the American Jewish Com-
mittee, for which Friedman
works, also sponsors Corn-

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