A group of prominent, politically conservative Jewish intellectuals has launched a campaign to woo American Jews away from their traditionally liberal beliefs.
The conservative thinkers made their pitch last week at the first public event of the Jewish Policy Center, a new Washington think tank that aims to be the major voice of Jewish political conservatism.
While the conservatives admitted they were aware that most American Jews seem inextricably wedded to political liberalism, they argued that conservatism is actually more in line with Jewish tradition.
The Oct. 4 kickoff event was a panel discussion modeled on television’s “McLaughlin Group.”
Although the pace was slower and more intellectually thoughtful than that of the often-frenetic John McLaughlin and his journalistic cohorts, the group managed to debate a number of topics ranging from school prayer to the recent Israeli-Palestinian accord.
The panel, which included writers Midge Decter, Irving Kristol and Norman Podhoretz, disagreed on some issues, although the majority of the panelists considered the Sept. 13 agreement dangerous and ill-advised.
But they all agreed on the need for more Jews to adopt what they loosely defined as conservative political beliefs, combined with Jewish values.
Panel members argued that some liberal tenets cherished by the bulk of the organized Jewish community, such as the removal of any hint of religion from the public schools, are outdated remnants of an earlier era and are no longer relevant to today’s American Jews.
And they criticized liberals for quickly embracing the Israeli-Palestinian accord and for being swept up in related euphoric hopes. Such euphoria, they argued, historically often led to problems for Jews.
Other panelists were Rabbis Samuel Dresner and Joshua Haberman, and scholars Marshall Breger, Murray Friedman and Ruth Wisse. The event attracted about 50 interested observers.
The panelists serve on the Jewish Policy Center’s first board of trustees. The center has existed for almost a decade as an affiliate of the National Jewish Coalition, a Jewish Republican group. But in response to increased interest in conservative issues during the 1992 election campaign, the coalition decided to turn the center into a more high-profile think tank.