July 14, 2024
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Be Grateful That Your Haggadah Doesn’t Spout Failed Social Policies

Reviewing: “To Heal the World?: How the Jewish Left Corrupts Judaism and Endangers Israel” by Jonathan Neumann. All Points Books. 2018. English. Hardcover. 288 pages. ISBN-13: 978-1250160874.

Looking for some intriguing reading for Pesach? May I recommend “To Heal The World? – How The Jewish Left Corrupts Judaism And Endangers Israel” by Jonathan Neumann, a British scholar who lacerates the Jewish left and the way it ransacks our tradition to justify its socialist beliefs.

Neumann recounts with specificity the numerous ways in which leftist Jewish rabbis, radicals, writers and other assorted characters torture our tradition to justify everything from open borders, higher taxes, single-payer health care and the redistribution of wealth, to an embrace of outright Marxism. The ideology he reveals would be ludicrous if it weren’t so tragic.

This all started, Neumann argues, with the Enlightenment, when Jews were permitted to leave the ghettos on condition that they leave behind the squishy parts of Judaism—chosenness, redemption and afterlife, which might be off-putting to the German Christians with whom they were now to live among. Reform Judaism sprang from this desire to fit in with Gentile neighbors. Since religion would no longer be at the heart of Judaism, something had to replace it. And that something was social action of a particular sort—an open embrace of socialist ideas in the name of tikkun olam.

The Jewish left, Neumann writes, uses the phrase tikkun olam as a justification for embracing every leftist notion without reservation, including, unfortunately, ruthless criticism of the state of Israel itself. In the name of tikkun olam, the left can justify anything and claim that whatever they want to accomplish is not only justified, but actually demanded by the Jewish Bible.

The Pesach seder was the initial act of spiritual high-jacking, Neumann writes. Instead of a particularist Jewish story, it becomes transformed into a wide variety of Freedom Seders which have nothing to do with Judaism and everything to do with every other oppressed people, up to and including the Palestinians.

Next to be ignored is the centrality of revelation at Sinai for which the Left has little use, since it’s all about the relationship between God and the Jews and has nothing to do with the Left’s interests in climate change, income redistribution, equality of outcome and other liberal pieties. In their cosmogony, the plagues become ecological disasters, Sinai goes silent, and the Creation story teaches that countering climate change is divinely inspired. Seriously? Yes. Seriously. The Creation story exists to teach us about the climate crisis. Oh, sorry; I didn’t know that.

Progressives use the story of Yosef, the viceroy of Egypt, to justify government control of the economy and even single-payer healthcare. If they would just read that story all the way to its conclusion, Neumann writes, they would discover that it ends with the government selling to the people the grain they freely gave, as well as totalitarian control over the Egyptian people. Doesn’t the left recognize that that’s exactly what happens whenever the government is given too much power? Don’t the examples of the Soviet Union, Cuba and Venezuela have resonance for them? Alas, no.

The Left loves the Prophets, Neumann says, and uses them to justify anything and everything on their agenda. Unfortunately, he says, they willfully distort the message of the Prophets to fit their own agenda. The prophet Isaiah tells the Jews that God is unimpressed with their religious behavior because they are continuing to oppress their fellow man. The left uses this as a way of jettisoning the responsibility for keeping the mitzvot or God’s law.

That’s not what the prophets meant, of course. They’re saying you have to do both—you have to bring God’s offerings and you have to treat people properly. Nevertheless, the left twists the words of the Prophets to make it sound as though you have no other responsibilities than being nice. You’re welcome to disagree with what the meaning of the Prophets’ message, Neumann argues, but you have no right to lie about what they said.

Neumann points out that the key phrase the Left embraces, tikkun olam, is most likely a misprint from the Aleinu prayer. Copyists got the word the l’takein wrong, as evidenced by early editions of prayer books and even the modern Yemenite version. Instead, the word should have been l’tachein, which means “to establish.” So the liberal concept of tikkun olam, or fixing the world, actually should have been rendered as “to establish the world.” And whose job is that, Neumann asks? In a word, God’s. The complete phrase, therefore, translates as “to establish the world under the kingdom of God.” In other words, God is the one doing the establishing, not people. And it’s establishing, not fixing. So the whole concept of tikkun olam as justification for political action crumbles into dust.

Many Jewish parents who want their children to have some connection to Judaism without the full-on Orthodox experience enroll their kids in Reform, Conservative, and Reconstructionist religious institutions, unaware that the leadership of these temples are all too often caught up in the doctrine of socialist politics. Socialist politics that has nothing to do with religion, spirituality, morality or personal behavior. The joke at one’s bar mitzvah decades ago used to be, “Today, I am a fountain pen.” Now it’s, “Today, I am an unwitting vessel for leftist political action bordering on Marxism.”

All, still, in the name of discarding our Jewish identities and fitting in with the Gentiles.

Neumann’s book is at once scholarly and down-to-earth, thought-provoking and entertaining. The terrifying thing is that millions of Jews who benefit from our system of capitalism and free enterprise are unwittingly subsidizing its destruction through their support of feel-good progressive causes. So as you recline at your seder this year, be grateful that you and your children have not been indoctrinated with this leftist hokum. Maybe say a prayer this year for your non-orthodox brothers and sisters, who are led away from Jewish spirituality and toward Marxism by a progressive leadership class that has no shame.


By Michael Levin

New York Times best-selling author Michael Levin is the publisher of Jewish Leaders Books.

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