President Biden has released a proclamation for Jewish American Heritage Month. This was almost certainly written by Jewish staffers and vetted by whoever is in charge of Jewish communal relations, so it provides an interesting insight into the mindset of the subtype of American Jews who are politically active in progressive politics.
Several things of note.
First, there is no mention of God or of the Jewish religion, beyond a nod to American religious freedom. Instead, there a reference to “Jewish values.”
Second, there is no specific mention of American Jewish contributions to the arts, commerce, education, or science, despite many Jews who have had prominent roles in each area. But there is an entire paragraph celebrating Jews’ contributions to progressive causes:
As our Nation strives to heal these wounds and overcome these challenges, let us acknowledge and celebrate the crucial contributions that Jewish Americans have made to our collective struggle for a more just and fair society; leading movements for social justice, working to ensure that the opportunities they have secured are extended to others, and heeding the words of the Torah, ‘Justice, justice shall you pursue.’
This is followed by a second, vaguer paragraph that alludes to “tikkun olam” (healing the world), a concept that has become a virtual substitute religion for progressive Jews, so much so that some have taken to suggesting that for a segment of American Jews “tikkun olamism” has replaced Judaism:
A central concept in Judaism, ‘l’dor v’dor,’ or ‘from generation to generation,’ recognizes both the continuity of the Jewish people and the intergenerational responsibility we have to heal the world for our children. During Jewish American Heritage Month, we honor Jewish Americans, who, inspired by Jewish values and American ideals, have engaged in the ongoing work of forming a more perfect union.
Third, there is an acknowledgment that, “In recent years, Jewish Americans have increasingly been the target of white nationalism and the antisemitic violence it fuels.” There is no similar acknowledgment of, or even allusion to, antisemitic violence American Jews have faced from Islamists and Black radicals, which includes two recent murders by the latter.
Fourth, there is no acknowledgment of Jews’ roles in resettling Holocaust survivors, assisting with the establishment and survival of the State of Israel, and advocacy for Soviet and Ethiopian Jews, the three greatest specifically Jewish accomplishments of the American Jewish community.
Admittedly, this is only one presidential proclamation. But it does reflect the Jewish worldview of a large swathe of American Jewry: secular, proud of their Jewish heritage mostly as a reflection of pride in Jews’ contributions to left-wing politics, a sense of Jews as victims of right-wing, and only right-wing, antisemitism, and a lack of concern for Jews’ ties with their co-religionists around the world.
Unfortunately, while the proclamation gives a nod to “Jewish continuity” this form of deracinated Jewish identity is highly unlikely to survive another generation or two.
David E. Bernstein is a professor at the Antonin Scalia Law School, George Mason University, where he teaches constitutional law and evidence. He is married to an Israeli and travels to Israel regularly.