The Wind Analysis: Quick Observations
In several cities across the United States, the-go-to Jewish community these days are members of the Orthodox community. This represents a fundamental political shift! Where thirty years ago, liberal Jewish organizations, and more directly Reform and Conservative rabbis, would be the political address for city politicians, much has changed.
On one level, the rise of a well-organized Jewish conservative base has given political elites a second option. Rather than only focusing on liberal Jewish audiences, the Orthodox community along with other conservative Jewish elements have created access points for certain politicians.
The downsizing of JCRC’s (Jewish community relations committees) in some communities, the movement on the part of various liberal Jewish constituencies to focus on single-issue activities in such areas as homelessness, hunger and criminal justice, and the transition of the national agencies to focus on national affairs has resulted in the loss of influence in some local political settings of such mainline organizations. In its vacuum, the Orthodox community has successfully organized itself to advance its agenda from security concerns to public funding initiatives. Along with a focused set of interests, this constituency has also delivered significant financial resources for their political friends!
Where once politics was seen as a problematic playing field for some Orthodox rabbinic leaders, today there is a much more positive perspective on being in the political playing field. A part of this newly acquired political power is based on demography, as their numbers permit such influence, especially in metropolitan areas as New York. A second factor is the proven success of the OU on the national level in garnering the attention of elected officials and in its ability to produce political outcomes favorable to its constituencies.
Steven Windmueller, Ph.D.