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A poll conducted by the Public Religion Research Institute, published April 3rd, finds American Jews to be very wary of the Christian sects that claim to support Israel and its expansionist policies most vocally.  The Forward has published a thoughtful article on the poll results and on related recent polls:

The survey [PDF],conducted by the Public Religion Research Institute and published April 3, asked Jewish respondents to rate the favorability of several religious groups. Mormons received a 47% favorability rating, Muslims 41.4%; the group described as “Christian Right” was viewed in favorable terms by only 20.9% of Jewish Americans. [emphasis added] In contrast, the general American population, as shown by other polling data, views evangelicals more favorably than Muslims and Mormons.

“Most liberal Jews view the Christian right as wanting to impose a Christian America on them,” said Marshall Breger, professor at the Catholic University of America’s Columbus School of Law and leading voice on inter-religious relations. “To the extent to which the bulk of Jews are liberal, both politically and culturally, they’ll have negative views of the Christian right.”

Social views of Christian conservatives have been drawing attention in recent months as an increasingly significant part of the Republican presidential primary discourse. Attempts by GOP candidates to prove their conservative credentials in order to win over the Christian right have had, experts believe, an adverse effect on the Jewish community, turning it away from the Republican Party.

Given all the money some prominent uber Zionist Jewish donors, such as Sheldon Adelson, have thrown at GOP candidates so far this cycle, this news may come as a surprise to some.

The poll was conducted during the height of the GOP’s late winter war on women.  Over the winter, Jewish members of my family, all very liberal, were at least as upset as I’ve been over the crescendo of anti-feminist and sexist rhetoric aimed at eroding hard-fought positions American women have won over the past 40 years or so.  The Forward article on the poll results seems to note that:

Social views of Christian conservatives have been drawing attention in recent months as an increasingly significant part of the Republican presidential primary discourse. Attempts by GOP candidates to prove their conservative credentials in order to win over the Christian right have had, experts believe, an adverse effect on the Jewish community, turning it away from the Republican Party.

“It’s a huge factor in preventing Jews from becoming more attracted to Republican candidates,” said Kenneth Wald, distinguished professor of political science at the University of Florida and a leading expert on the intersection of religion and politics. He explained that the prominent role played by Christian conservatives in Republican politics is the major obstacle facing the party as it tries to win over Jewish voters.

The Forward article, though not directly addressing the growing rift between American Reform Jews and their more conservative Orthodox brethren, does note:

All research points to the sharp contrast between Jews and Christian conservative views on abortions, women rights, gay and lesbian rights, and the separation of religion and state as the key factor distancing the two communities. But David Brog, executive director of Christians United for Israel, America’s largest evangelical pro-Israel organization, sees these issues as an excuse.

“On the social issues, there is more-or-less unanimity between Christian Conservatives, Mormons, Muslims and Orthodox Jews,” Brog argued. But it is only the Christian conservatives who are treated with mistrust by Jews — a situation caused, Brog posited, by Jewish concerns over evangelical proselytizing or adherence to the belief that the Christian faith should replace Judaism. “We in the Jewish community need to stop viewing the present through the lens of the traumatic past,” he said.

While praising Jewish organizations and federations for welcoming Christian evangelicals, Brog pointed to the Reform movement as leading the opposing views. [Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein, founder and president of the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews] spoke generally about liberal Jews who “are concerned about tikkun olam [repairing the world]” more than about Israel, as those who still refuse to trust evangelicals as partners.

In response, Rabbi David Saperstein, head of the Reform movement’s Religious Action Center, said that it is not the Christian right’s beliefs on social issues that pose a problem to the Jewish community — it is their attempt to bring those beliefs to the public sphere.

I’m reading Peter Beinert’s new book, The Crisis of Zionism, right now.  Beinert has much to say on how the evangelical right, and liberal Jewish distrust of their machinations play a part in the changing tenor of the debate on support for Israeli governmental policies.

To me, it is not surprising that American Jews are far more wary of Christian evangelicals and fundamentalists than the media seems to portray as the case.  It might be interesting to see more detailed polling on this subject, to find out how deep-seated the mutual distrust between these communities actually is.

The high standing American Jews seem to give to Mormons, on the other hand, must be good news to the Romney campaign, particularly regarding the swing state of Florida.  Recent articles on Romney’s decades-old friendship with Israel’s prime minister point toward an already formed relationship where Romney considers Benjamin Netanyahu to be the senior partner in a possible future leader-to-leader dependence:

The relationship between Mr. Netanyahu and Mr. Romney — nurtured over meals in Boston, New York and Jerusalem, strengthened by a network of mutual friends and heightened by their conservative ideologies — has resulted in an unusually frank exchange of advice and insights on topics like politics, economics and the Middle East.

In a telling exchange during a debate in December, Mr. Romney criticized Mr. Gingrich for making a disparaging remark about Palestinians, declaring: “Before I made a statement of that nature, I’d get on the phone to my friend Bibi Netanyahu and say: ‘Would it help if I say this? What would you like me to do?’ “

…Martin S. Indyk, a United States ambassador to Israel in the Clinton administration, said that whether intentional or not, Mr. Romney’s statement implied that he would “subcontract Middle East policy to Israel.”

..Mr. Netanyahu was startled in January by an article exploring why Sheldon Adelson, a billionaire casino executive and outspoken supporter of Israel, was devoting millions of dollars to back Mr. Gingrich. It described Mr. Netanyahu and Mr. Adelson as close friends.

Indyk’s analysis of Romney’s words aren’t Romney’s own words, but his analysis is troubling.  To me, Obama’s Middle East policy is already subcontracted to Israel more than enough, thank you.

image by Philip Munger