Why American Jews Tend to Be Liberal


Jonathan Bernis explains why many American Jews defend liberal social issues which may compromise biblical morality.

The predilection of American Jews to embrace liberalism both vexes and perplexes. We want our modern Chosen People to exemplify the “kingdom of priests and holy nation.”¹ God called them to do just that, yet we often find the majority of American Jews on the frontline of liberal social issues that compromise biblical morality. Why? Let’s take a look.

Not all American Jews are liberal. Approximately ten percent of the American Jewish community is Orthodox—meaning they believe the Torah (Genesis through Deuteronomy) to be the Word of God. Many have a vibrant faith and believe prayer touches the heart of God. Generally speaking, the Orthodox and a small percentage of Conservative Jews hold to conservative values and biblical morality.

On the other hand, most American Jews are aligned with Reform or Conservative Judaism, while holding liberal views. While traditionally not Torah observant, many of the values and ethics that quicken the liberal heart surprisingly spring from a biblical heritage of social consciousness. There are countless Scriptures expressing God’s commandments to defend, secure justice for, provide for, remember, deliver, and answer the cries of the poor. This has become ingrained in the Jewish mindset from time immemorial.

Judeo-Christian ethics have deeply impacted the Western world as well, the essence of which is based on the Torah. Into a barbaric world the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob introduced elemental concepts of civilization: “love your neighbor,”² “care for the poor,”³ and “establish justice.”

One of the most famous Jewish Rabbis, Simeon ben Gamaliel, who taught Paul the apostle, said: “The world rests on three things: justice, truth, and peace” (Pirkei Avot 1:18). This exemplifies the Jewish worldview.

In the Hebrew Scriptures, Israel is exhorted to walk in righteousness before God. What is righteousness? In Hebraic understanding, righteousness, or tzedakah, is kindness to the needy, charity, compassion for the suffering, and bringing peace and justice to the world—called tikkun olam—healing the world.

Socially conscious commandments are not difficult even for the least religious. Contemporary Jews keenly identify with the underdog, borne of their own suffering throughout history. It is perplexing, however,  that the  American Jewish community supports abortion and gay rights, a seeming contradiction, considering the Torah establishes very clear moral commandments, instruction and exhortation. It demonstrates that most Jewish People no longer feel bound to the literal interpretation of scripture and in most cases have no tie to their scriptures whatsoever. The only issues of concern are the preservation of the Jewish People and furthering the causes of social justice.

The Hebraic heritage subconsciously inspires most Jewish People to “do good.” And, indeed, the Jewish People have blessed the world in multitudinous ways. Far disproportionate for their small numbers, the Jewish People have been world leaders in major scientific and medical research and development breakthroughs, have founded medical relief societies, world class hospitals, human rights organizations, and are often among the first on site offering aid when a natural disaster hits a third world country. However, all that is “good” by the world’s standards is not necessarily “good” by God’s standards. Apart from God, we lack the discernment to know the difference. When mankind fell, sin blinded us to spiritual truth. Scripture says that every inclination and thought of man’s heart is only evil.5

In Luke 4:18, Yeshua (Jesus) quoted a passage from Isaiah: “The Spirit of the Sovereign LORD is on me, because the LORD has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners” (v. 61:1). Today, portions of that verse have been used in campaigns for various social agendas from same-sex marriage to abortion—agendas in direct opposition to God’s Word. The people promoting these agendas are by and large motivated by a sincere desire to do good and help their fellow man. But they are sincerely wrong—they have missed the heart of God, as does the Jewish Community so often when moved by passion for man, but not for God.

God does care deeply for the poor, the oppressed, and the brokenhearted . . . for justice, mercy, and charity. The Scriptures overflow with His compassion and concern for the widow, the orphan, and the impoverished. It’s easy to see a biblical impetus for Jewish involvement in liberal social programs and passion for human rights.

So how can one know what God’s will is regarding how we fulfill His commandments? Paul gave us a trustworthy formula: “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will” (Romans 12:2).

1 - Exodus 19:6

2 - Leviticus 19:18

3 - Proverbs 14:21,31

4 - Amos 5:15

5 - Genesis 6:5

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