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Treadmill fears

Books | Jews should not worry about a rightist theocracy

Issue: "'To stay is to be killed'," Nov. 29, 2008

Most Jewish voters on Nov. 4 voted for Barack Obama. Some apparently feared Sarah Palin because they identified her with the "Christian right," a group purportedly intent on imposing a theocracy in America. But two works by Jewish writers-Milton Himmelfarb's Jews and Gentiles and Herb London's America's Secular Challenge (both from Encounter Books, 2008)-contend that concerns about theocracy are way overblown.

London, president of the Hudson Institute, writes that "I, a Jew, have come to appreciate the role that Christianity plays in buttressing . . . the greatest and most liberating tradition the world has yet known." His thoughtful prose suggests the importance of alliance-building between Jews and evangelicals. Many Jews still have in the backs of their minds an awareness that Europe's supposedly most-civilized country killed 6 million of their brethren. But there's no reason to expect that the United States will become a mean place for those it has wonderfully sheltered.

Fear is one explanation of why, as Himmelfarb quipped, most American Jews are affluent like Episcopalians but in their clinging to liberal politicians vote like impoverished Puerto Ricans. Himmelfarb, who graduated from the Jewish Theological Seminary and died in 2006, gently refuted in his essays the "free-floating anxiety [that] is the American Jewish norm. . . . At a time when Jews have been more successful than ever before, above all in politics, they deny by almost two to one . . . that 'virtually all positions of influence in America are open to Jews.' From the outside, American Jews must resemble the poor little rich girl."

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Himmelfarb also meditated on "the disproportion between how conspicuous certain humans called Jews are and how few they are": We speak of "men and women," each about 50 percent of the total, but we also speak of "Jews and Gentiles," although only one out of every 400 humans is Jewish. But Jesus was Jewish and the spiritual sons of Abraham now number (counting loosely) one-third of mankind.

Marvin Olasky
Marvin Olasky

Marvin is editor in chief of WORLD News Group and the author of more than 20 books, including The Tragedy of American Compassion. Follow Marvin on Twitter @MarvinOlasky.

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