Monday’s Mtg: Jewish Americans’ Religious and Political Beliefs

What is the relationship between religious values and political beliefs?  This is a key question in the world’s most religious large democracy.  Obviously, understanding how religion translate into political opinions is a tricky thing, mostly because so many other motivations are involved in forming political beliefs, like socioeconomic status, education, life experiences, and even the historical epoch one comes of age in.  Still, these days, it seems increasingly simple: The more religious you are, the more likely you are to vote Republican.  This is as true for Jewish Americans as it is for any other group.

Yet, I think taking a separate look at Jews’ political influences matter, for two reasons.  .  First, in a time when Democrats get only around 45% of White votes in a good year, and far, far less in some states (Obama got around 15% of the White vote in Mississippi), Jewish Americans are the only white ethnic group that is overwhelmingly loyal to the Democratic Party.  Is it possible that some religious values are more naturally “liberal” than others?  Can a religion change values as its adherents assimilate into America?  Reason #2 has to do with another important ethnic group in  America: Hispanics.  Will Latinos- – the brass ring of our political future – “become Italians, or Jews,” so to speak; i.e., will they grow more conservative as they assimilate and have more to lose, or will they still vote like the little guy they once were, as Jews have done?

On Monday, I’ll introduce the topic with a brief discussion of Jewish Americans’ religious and political beliefs.  Then, I’ll try to connect the conclusions to the larger question of how does religion affect a person’s political stances.  I’ll also have a new topic schedule for May-August.

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DISCUSSION QUESTIONS –

  1. How distinctive are American Jews’ as a group?  What characteristics define them and make them distinct?
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  2. What religious values do Jewish Americans hold?
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  3. What political values do they hold?
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  4. Do their political views derive from their religious beliefs, or from other factors, like social class, education, etc.?  How can we know a thing like this?
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  5. What does this tell us about the link between religiosity and political opinions?  Between religious values and political values?
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  6. Might other ethnic groups follow the same path that Jewish Americans have taken (becoming very assimilated and successful yet remaining liberal), or is the experience of American Jews sui generis?  Will Latinos end up being “Jews or Italians,” politically?

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LINKS –

Your mother, who you never call, would want you to come to this meeting.  So, join us!

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