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Jews have a home in the conservative movement

The left’s betrayal is an opportunity for Jews to reassess which side truly embraces their most essential values.

Former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley at the Republican Jewish Coalition's conference in Las Vegas, Nov. 6, 2021. Source: RJC/Twitter.
Former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley at the Republican Jewish Coalition's conference in Las Vegas, Nov. 6, 2021. Source: RJC/Twitter.
Jay P. Greene
Jay P. Greene is a senior research fellow at the Heritage Foundation.
James Jay Carafano
James Jay Carafano is the E.W. Richardson fellow at the Heritage Foundation.

These are deeply unsettling times for American Jews. Politically speaking, over recent decades significant parts of the American Jewish community have become ever more liberal and secular while enthusiastically embracing progressive orthodoxies.

In the wake of the Oct. 7 massacre, however, they have been shocked to discover that the movements and candidates they supported have no interest in supporting Jews. They have suddenly realized that the values promoted by these organizations and politicians are not those the Jews thought they had shared. Many Jews now feel they are politically homeless.

They’re not searching for a home in the right neighborhood.

Hard as it may be for many Jews to admit, the values they hold dear, which they thought were being advanced by progressives, are in fact the bedrock of conservativism.

In their hearts, Jews both here and abroad have always viewed America as a force for good in the world. They have clung to Western traditions rooted in ancient Jerusalem, Athens and Rome; traditions that hold all individuals are made in the image of God and deserve equal treatment under the law.

Conservatives cherish these Western traditions; not because they are old, but because they foster human flourishing. They are an expression of God’s will. That is why conservatives support the equal treatment of individuals on the basis of merit, the opportunity to prosper and the realization of Jewish statehood in the Jewish homeland.

The American left upholds a very different set of values that are explicitly hostile to the Western tradition. The left believes that individuals can be divided into the categories of “oppressor” or “oppressed” on the basis of their racial, ethnic and sexual identity. Those deemed oppressors must be stripped of their “privilege,” while those classified as oppressed deserve reparations for the wrongs they’ve endured.

Jews tend to thrive in the United States, but the left sees their success as evidence that they must be oppressors, thriving by virtue of colonization and exploitation. The remarkable accomplishments of the tiny Jewish State of Israel, with its Western political system, elicits admiration from conservatives, but condemnation and demands for “decolonization” from progressives.

In short, Jews have allies in the conservative movement, eager to embrace them with open arms.

Why don’t more Jews make the leap and join this movement? For one thing, long-standing political affiliations are hard to change. In addition, many Jews look at the list of causes supported by conservatives and invariably find some with which they strongly disagree. For some Jews, differences over immigration or gun policy make them think that they could never become conservatives.

The idea that one needs to agree with every aspect of a certain ideology is a misunderstanding of how political movements work. Most people who consider themselves conservative disagree on some issues. In fact, we believe that disagreement is an expression of human freedom and that the best way to promote human flourishing is through debate and dialogue. We identify as conservative because we recognize that the conservative movement best represents our views on the issues that are most important to us.

Jews need to prioritize which issues are essential to them. If they do so, most will recognize that those issues are best represented in the conservative movement. Just like everyone else, Jews can feel at home in the conservative movement while agreeing to disagree with conservative orthodoxy on some issues.

Most Jews do not agree with every aspect of religious orthodoxy, but still consider themselves Jews. They do so because being a Jew is a core part of their identity. Similarly, most Jews do not agree with every aspect of conservative orthodoxy, but they can recognize that their core interests and values are best served by the conservative movement.

It is time for Jews to recognize that they are not politically homeless. They are conservatives.

The opinions and facts presented in this article are those of the author, and neither JNS nor its partners assume any responsibility for them.
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