Opinion

Rabbi Jeff Salkin: Despite liberal anti-Israel push, U.S. Jews will stick with Dems

RNS asked some of the country’s top faith leaders, scholars and activists to consider what changes the religion landscape will see in 2019. Find all their predictions here.


Almost 2,000 years ago, the Jewish sages said: “Ever since the destruction of the Temple, prophecy has been taken from the wise and given to children and fools.” Since I am neither a child nor a fool (OK, perhaps a fool), I know prophecy and prediction is a very dicey game.

Nevertheless, I will point to a trend that I expect will continue in 2019 — one with serious ramifications. It seems clear to many American Jews that there are elements of the Democratic Party that are moving further to the left on Israel. They are moving from simply criticizing Israeli policies (which is common and often necessary), to flirtations with the BDS (boycott, divestment and sanctions) movement, to outright demonization of Israel itself.

It also seems clear to many American Jews that there are elements of the Republican Party that are moving further to the right on the United States — wandering into nativist, anti-immigrant and, frankly, anti-Semitic territory. Oddly, ironically and tellingly, some of those Republicans are still fervently pro-Israel. They see in the Netanyahu government a mirror of their own xenophobic, authoritarian and hyper-nationalist tendencies.

Therefore, the two major political parties are toying with issues and values that American Jews venerate: the state of Israel and liberalism. This has led to fevered conversations as to whether those two values can continue to coexist. Must American Jews choose between their love of Israel and their commitment to the liberal state?

Those on the center-left are increasingly saying: no, those two allegiances can no longer coexist. Israel has failed, in their minds, to live up to the liberal standards that have nourished American Jewry. Therefore, it is time for a parting of the ways.

But most American Jews will not find that convincing. They will want to continue to hold onto both values. And they should.

That being said, I predict that American Jews will increasingly find themselves to be politically homeless. And, that being said, I predict that most American Jews will reject the homelessness option and continue their historic allegiance to the Democratic Party. They will say that Israel is strong, that she can take care of herself — and that our first priorities will be the healing of the American soul, and that the Democratic Party is the only hope for that healing.

Time will tell if they are right.

Salkin writes the award-winning column “Martini Judaism” at RNS. He also serves as the senior rabbi of Temple Solel in Hollywood, Fla. 

About the author

Jeffrey Salkin

Rabbi Jeffrey K. Salkin is the spiritual leader of Temple Solel in Hollywood, Fla., and the author of numerous books on Jewish spirituality and ethics, published by Jewish Lights Publishing and Jewish Publication Society.

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