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David Klinghoffer

The Disappearing Jews

Elliott Abrams offers American Jews a secular reason for returning to the faith of their fathers.

You could safely bet the price of this book—in fact, the price of several copies—that over the recent Jewish high holy days no cultural or political topic provided the hook for as many rabbinical sermons as Elliott Abrams's Faith and Fear. In the Jewish community, one hears references to it constantly. That is good news, because the book is not only important for what it says, but also for what it doesn't say.

The argument here can be condensed to three points:

1. The orientation of the official Jewish community—its most powerful leaders and the organizations they run—is driven fundamentally by a fear of and flight from Judaism. Abrams, who is president of the Ethics and Public Policy Center in Washington, would have done well to have provided a definition of what he believes authentic Judaism is. There are several contenders for the title, ranging from the Reform Movement—which rejects the main tenets of the Judaism that existed for three millennia before anyone heard of Reform—to Orthodox Judaism, which upholds those tenets (i.e., an eternally valid Torah, given to Moses at Sinai along with an oral tradition explaining it). Yet, despite this omission, it's clear he means that the official representatives of the community fear some version of the religion as defined by ancient tradition.

Otherwise, how to explain the two most striking features of contemporary Jewish leadership? The first is antireligious agitating, such as the persistent demands for legislative and judicial action to curb the influence of faith in American life and the general atmosphere of anti-Christian suspicion found in statements like the Anti-Defamation League's notorious attack on the Christian Right. Both are typically explained as a reaction to Christian anti-Semitism, present and potential. Yet Abrams painstakingly documents the evolution of Catholic, mainline Protestant, and evangelical thinking in the direction of acceptance verging on embrace of Jews and ...

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