Russian Jews and the Liberal Jewish Establishment:

David Bernstein's post about conservative Jews being alienated from the liberal Jewish establishment is particularly relevant to the special case of Russian immigrant Jews. Russian Jews are politically well to the right of most native-born Jews. For example, some 75% of Russian Jews voted for Bush in 2004, compared to less than 20% of other Jews.

Russian Jewish immigrants tend to be very secular and are therefore are not socially conservative; although I haven't seen polling data on the subject, I suspect that the vast majority of Russian immigrant Jews are pro-choice, for example. But they are, on average, far to the right of native-born Jews on national security issues and economic policy (because of the experience of living under socialism). Russian Jews are in the unusual position of being a highly secular, yet also generally right-wing ethnic group.

These ideological differences between Russian and native-born Jews are not new. In the 1970s and 80s, many Russian Jewish immigrants were angered by the fact that most mainstream Jewish organizations opposed taking a hard line against the Soviet Union. However, the War on Terror (on which most Russian Jews are more hawkish than native-born Jews), has increased the saliency of these disagreements. This has led to a number of Russian vs. native-born disputes within Jewish organizations, similar to the ones documented in the Wall Street Journal article linked above.

The rapid growth of the Russian Jewish community over the last 30 years has increased the potential importance of this constituency. According to the WSJ article linked above, there are now some 700,000 Russian immigrant Jews in the US, which is about 12% of the total American Jewish population. It is also perhaps worth noting that nearly all of the Russian Jewish academics and intellectuals I can think of are conservative or libertarian - a striking fact given the reality that academics tend to be far more liberal than the general population. While Russian Jews are currently underrepresented in the intellectual world relative to native-born Jews, the gap is likely to keep closing as immigrants rise in socioeconomic status. If Russian Jews continue to increase in numbers and political/intellectual influence, the Jewish establishment may find it more costly to ignore our concerns than has been the case so far.

Will mainstream Jewish organizations moderate their leftism in order to attract more Russian Jews? It's hard to say, but I suspect that most will not. It is possible that assimilation will lead more Russian Jews to become liberal, thus closing the gap between the two communities. But I suspect that the longterm partisan profile of Russian Jews is more likely to resemble that of other relatively affluent white ethnic groups than that of native-born Jews. For these reasons, the ideological alienation of Russian Jews from most mainstream Jewish organizations is likely to continue.

Related Posts (on one page):

  1. Russian Jews and the Liberal Jewish Establishment:
  2. Are Politically Conservative Jews "Turned Off" by the Jewish Establishment?: