Monday, March 10, 2014

Book Review American Jewish Political Culture and the Liberal Persuasion

American Jewish Political Culture and the Liberal Persuasion by Henry L. Feingold
Hardcover: 384 pages
Publisher: Syracuse Univ Pr (Sd) (December 10, 2013)

Most Jews are aligned with the Democratic Party.  Historically speaking, this dates back to the days of Franklin Delano Roosevelt's presidency during the New Deal.  Since then, the Jewish vote has swayed toward the Democratic Party.

Jewish voters tend to be amongst the most politically active in the United States.

The last Republican president that won the Jewish vote was Theodore Roosevelt way back in 1904.  The Republican Party has tried, and for the most part, but failed to get the Jewish vote in large numbers.  Yes, they have made some in-roads with Jewish voters but mostly within Ultra-Orthodox circles.  Mostly, this has to do with the stance on Israel more than any other issue.

What Feingold does here is walk readers through a political landscape that is filled with internal debate and conflict.  He searches for the source of political encouragement and explores the adapting liberalism that is at the heart of American Jewish political behavior.  In doing so, he draws on sociology and philosophy to inform the historical synthesis of a transcontinental pattern.  Feingold looks at not only voting statistics but also political theory.

There are three overarching concerns when it comes to the contemporary Jewish community in America: the ever-changing definition of what it means to be liberal, the hope and turmoil in Israel, and an obsession with the Shoah.  Feingold finds that it comes down to a culture that is complex and a political voice that is lacking in coherency despite a show in consistency.

The book does have a nice flow to it.  It starts with the historical background of American Jewish politics before moving into old roots and then onto the thematic understanding of the political psyche.  Feingold answers where American Jewish liberalism came from and whether the communal motivations behind it will be strong enough to continue in the 21st century.

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