The culture war over Jewish values

The real 'Jewish values' are not necessarily whatever is trending and perhaps observant Jews should take back that expression before it is too late.

Rafael Castro

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Observant Jews tend to justify their social and political positions in terms of Torah and/or Zionist values,  but when a person argues they support a position driven by “Jewish values”, one can almost be sure the cause they support is progressive and championed by assimilationist milieus.

This situation is regrettable. To begin, it gives the impression that Torah values are a subset of Jewish values, rather than their fountainhead. Secondly, it gives the impression that progressive positions are more Jewish than conservative positions, something which in the 21st century is at odds with reality.


One can defend LGBTIQ marriages on many grounds, but not by claiming that the Torah defends them
As a result many young Jews and non-Jewish people get misleading signals of what Judaism actually advocates. I remember being derided in a Jewish social media community when I claimed that one can defend LGBTIQ marriages on many grounds, but not by claiming that the Torah defends them. My interlocutors had every reason to be perplexed: In Reform circles and liberal Jewish milieus it is 'orthodoxy' to claim that progressive causes represent core Jewish values.

People who have spent some time studying Jewish religious texts know that this, to put it mildly, is a misleading claim to make. Nevertheless, religious Jews are losing the battle over the hearts and minds of their younger coreligionists. By defending their political and social positions in the name of Torah and Halakha, they get bulldozed by Jews who claim their liberal views are more “Jewish”.

If religious Jews also start to argue they advocate Jewish values, they may still win the Jewish culture wars. Admittedly, the concept of “Jewish values” lacks the clarity and concreteness of claiming one defends a halakhically-sound stance. Yet ultimately, this semantic finesse is irrelevant. It is the loyalty of youngsters wishing to adhere to Jewish values that is at stake in this battle.

It is high-time that Jewish youngsters and the non-Jewish world realize that supporting Planned Parenthood, Jewish Voices for Peace or Palestinian independence is an expression of many values, except the Jewish values progressive milieus claim to champion.

This is the reason Torah-loving Jews need to reclaim the mantle of “Jewish values”. To fail to do so paves the way for over three thousand years of ethical and spiritual traditions to be conflated with ideological fads that undermine the Jewish people and the message God wishes humanity to hear from Jews.




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