Thursday, March 31, 2005

Have We Become Right-Wingers?

I understand why many, perhaps most, Orthodox Jews have come to reject liberal positions on a number of public issues. In some instances, such as abortion, there is conflict between what halacha requires and what is essentially being embraced by people of a liberal orientation. More generally, there is disagreement over the role of religion in society, particularly in what is referred to as the public square. Finally, there is that nebulous term called "values" which was a feature of the recent presidential election and subsequent political analysis.

But if Orthodox Jews reject liberalism, does this mean that we need to or should reject liberal policies on a number of public and social issues where there are no clear halachic requirements? As an illustration, are we to reject what liberals advocate regarding a minimum wage? I don't know a single Orthodox Jew who can make do on what is now the minimum wage. What about racism? Or the environment which encompasses a number of increasingly frightening concerns? I could readily give other examples.

And even if we are not comfortable with anything espoused by liberals, shouldn't it be sufficient - and probably religiously correct - to eschew all ideologies? Yet, it is evident that a great number of Orthodox Jews are comfortable with the right-wing. They agree with the right-wing on gun control. What is emerging is an increasingly expanding comfort zone between Orthodox Jews and right-wingers. Are we forgetful of history? Do we delude ourselves and forget that those on the right include far too many who have articulated anti-Semitic views? Are we forgetful of what Jews experienced for centuries at the hands of devout Christians?

I am not advocating that we come out against the right or become liberals. I am advocating that we be true to Judaism and recognize that halacha is our guide, not any political ideology.