American Jews were very fortunate in North America to be welcomed by societies with strong liberal streaks. The U.S. and Canada offered freedom, respect, and opportunity beyond what had been available to Jews in their European points of origin.
Not that antisemitism did not exist in the U.S. and Canada. In some places housing and facilities were “Restricted to Christians,” elite universities such as Harvard and McGill had quotas to limit the number of Jews admitted, and some hospitals did not want Jewish interns. In response, Jews built their own hospitals and their own country clubs.
In gratitude and self-interest, Jews became determined liberals at a time when ‘liberal’ meant commitment to individual freedom, social toleration, a diversity of opinion, and equality of opportunity. On this basis, Jews affiliated with the Democrat Party in the U.S. and the Liberal Party in Canada.
But a funny thing happened in North America at the end of the 20th century and through the early 21st: the Democrats and Liberals moved far to the political left, allying with socialists and adopting socialist policies. They also shed their liberal policies and adopted illiberal ones: treating people no longer as individuals, but as members of races, genders, and sexualities; raising some categories of people over others; silencing voices that did not agree with their policies; and using coercion to oppress political opponents.
In the new illiberal dispensation, not only was the white, Christian majority of citizens denounced and vilified, but successful minorities, such as Jews and Asians, were classed with the majority as ‘evil oppressors’ of subjected minorities. Jews now went from being an appreciated minority to being a source of evil. Israel, the newly revived ancestral country of the Jews, was selected for special opprobrium of all countries in the world. Antisemitism became socially acceptable and, in some circles, such as universities, common and even politically mandatory.
How did the Jewish community react to these developments? The leaders of the community had become so embedded in the Democrat and Liberal Parties that they became paralyzed when those parties turned extremist and illiberal. The communal organizations that Jews had constructed to protect themselves were so compromised by their affiliations with the Democrat and Liberal Parties that they abandoned defense of the community to continue to serve the parties. Many so-called community ‘leaders’ followed the party politicians into the far left, in effect abandoning the no-longer fashionable Jewish Community.
Betrayal: The Failure of American Jewish Leadership, edited by Charles Jacobs and Avi Goldwasser, sets out in convincing detail the historical developments and in-the-trenches struggles to defend the community. The twenty-four authors report with deep, first-hand knowledge of the rising attacks on Jews and liberalism in North America, and the unwillingness of the Jewish establishment to confront and counter them. This work signals that the Jewish community is finally waking up!