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Rabbi Shmuley Boteach



Are politically conservative Jews 
fawning over the Christian majority?
,  Feb. 15, 2005

By Rabbi Shmuley Boteach 

President George W. Bush's victory last November was a triumph for Jewish conservatives who have long argued for a close alliance with evangelical Christians in promoting the Judeo-Christian values upon which America is founded. Such a tiny and vulnerable nation needs friends and I, for one, reveled in Jews having found allies who revere the Bible and prophets, are staunch supporters of Israel, and oppose the crassness of the popular culture.

It has been only four months since the election, but already we have discovered fissures in this special relationship.

As Christmas approached, many right-wing Christians blamed atheist Jews for trying to de-Christianize the holiday. In a TV debate on MSNBC between myself and my friend Bill Donohue, the president of the Catholic League, he made huge news by alleging that "Hollywood is controlled by secular Jews who hate Christianity" and who are poisoning America with a toxic culture.

Then there was the recent revelation that Pope Pius XII had ordered Church authorities not to return Jewish children to their rightful guardians after the Holocaust if they had been baptized. I penned a column condemning the Vatican's plan to canonize this man, and received hundreds of angry, even hate-filled e-mails alleging that I was slandering a holy man whom Catholics are readying for sainthood.

Obviously, even in this new age of rapprochement, Jewish and Christian interests will sometimes conflict. But in such moments, it is incumbent upon the Jewish community to stand up for itself and not pander to our Christian brethren's sensibilities. Such pandering insults Christians by offering them a fraudulent relationship, and it insults Jews by reinforcing the age-old stereotype of the court Jew with no backbone.

Sadly, many of my Jewish conservative colleagues, bending to market forces, increasingly see their role as champions of Christianity rather than of their people.

When my debate with Donohue exploded into the newspapers, I was invited on to the radio shows of fellow Jewish conservatives Dennis Prager and Michael Medved. Both are devout Jews and outstanding ethical lights, with Dennis in particular serving as one of America's most gifted exponents of morality. Yet, I was astonished when both Prager and Medved defended and agreed with Donohue's statement that it was secular Jews who oppose Christianity who were primarily responsible for the sleaze coming out of Hollywood.

But this was chickenfeed compared to what Rabbi Daniel Lapin, another friend and colleague, recently wrote on the subject: "You'd have to be a recent immigrant from Outer Mongolia not to know of the role that people with Jewish names play in the coarsening of our culture. Almost
every American knows this. It is just that most gentiles are too polite to mention it ... The sad fact is that through Jewish actors, playwrights, and producers, the Berlin stage of Weimar Germany linkedJews and deviant sexuality in all its sordid manifestations just as surely as Broadway does today. Much of the filth in American entertainment today parallels that of Germany between the wars."

Not contenting himself with the wholesale defamation of his people, Lapin then does the unthinkable, quoting from Hitler's Mein Kampf to strengthen the point that Jewish degeneracy nurtures anti-Semitism: "Was there any form of filth or profligacy, particularly in cultural
life, without at least one Jew involved in it?"

Far less offensive, but equally curious, was how some of the foremost Jewish conservatives in America became high-profile promoters of Christmas. Jeff Jacoby, the outstanding writer for the Boston Globe, weighed in with a column entitled, "A Jew Says 'Merry Christmas,'" about how much he loves Christmas decorations and music.

Charles Krauthammer, the foremost champion of Israel in America and arguably this country's most talented op-ed writer, wrote that he felt sympathy for those Christian-Americans who "get angry at parents who want to ban carols because they tremble that their kids might feel 'different' and 'uncomfortable' should they, God forbid, hear Christian music sung at their school."

But Jewish kids really should feel uncomfortable if they are compelled to sing Christian spirituals like "Silent Night" in order to be part of a school choir, just as surely as Christian children should feel uncomfortable if they are compelled to sing songs in a school choir about the greatness of the prophet Muhammad.

Now, I too want to see a very robust Christianity in America. But surely these writers understand the paucity of committed Jews capable of promoting something authentically Jewish in American culture. Are not the millions of Christian champions of Christianity enough? Will we Jews forever consign Judaism to the status of a backwater religion?

Is it not highly misguided, not to mention erroneous, for Medved and Lapin to openly speak of America as a "Christian" nation, something bound to make Jews feel like they are guests in someone else's land?

What started this trend was Mel Gibson's The Passion of the Christ, which many Jewish conservatives not only defended but passionately promoted. As late as last week Medved, who called the film the greatest Biblical adaptation ever, wrote a piece in The Wall Street Journal Now, I am not so cynical as to believe that Medved, a noble man, would sell out his people in order to suck up to a celebrity.

But, like me, Medved is a radio host whose show appeals primarily to conservatives and evangelicals, and his actions must be understood in light of these demographics.

Will Judaism ever find a high-profile voice in the world? Or will we forever be forced to choose between Jewish isolationists who argue that Judaism is only for Jews, and apologists who practice Judaism but champion a religion that claims to have supplanted it?

Rabbi Shmuley Boteach is a nationally syndicated radio host daily from 2-5 p.m. EST on the Liberty Broadcasting Network, and was named by Talkers magazine as one of America’s 100 most important talk-radio hosts. A best-selling author of 14 books, his latest work is "Face Your Fear” (St. Martins Press).