The New Jewish Exodus Project

There is a crisis in the Jewish community: Leftist Jews have turned their synagogues into temples to progressivism, driving out those Jews who want to practice the values in the Torah and its commentaries and who are libertarian or Republican in their politics. The New Jewish Exodus Project seeks to create a place for that second category of Jews.

On January 3, 2021, American Thinker published The New Jewish Exodus, in which I wrote about the tragedy and crisis taking place within the American Jewish community. I expressed my frustration and sadness having to leave the synagogue I once cherished because of the prevalence of social justice/identity politics encompassing every aspect of this religious institution.

Within the synagogues, progressive-left ideologies and social justice/identity politics monopolize conversations, newsletters, and activities. Even sermons contain political messaging. As conservatives and Republicans, we don’t agree with their causes or agendas so, sadly, the once peaceful feeling in our “religious and spiritual homes” has vanished, leaving many of us without a religious affiliation for the first time in our lives.

This leads to feelings of alienation and great sadness. As one rabbi told me “They have lost their sense of community.” Divisive rhetoric and personal attacks, when there is a disagreement, have become the norm. Many of us have lost friends and relatives to censorship and cancel culture or chose to walk away from diatribes and arguments with unrealistic conclusions. Respectful listening and debate, oral or written, have a limited life span or are entirely one-sided.

In 2018, two weeks before Yom Kippur, I wrote a letter to my rabbi.

Please don’t discuss politics in your Yom Kippur sermon or any sermon. This is not a time to attack anyone or take sides. I want to be elevated to a higher place, learn something beautiful and meaningful that changes my life and makes me a better person. I have never written to a Rabbi requesting this. But I am so sick of the hatred, disdain and discomfort I experience as a Republican that I want to feel I am in a safe place when I go to shul. Most of our members are Democrats. God bless America, we can choose! I am more afraid of telling people I am a Republican than a Jew. Sad.

I find all this hatred against Trump’s agenda scary, especially when no one’s daily life has really changed. The hate speech from the left is now escalating and inciting violence. Today, I even saw someone on the news blame Trump for the Hurricane coming to North Carolina.

On Yom Kippur, he started his sermon saying, “I received two letters. One said, “Talk about politics. The other said, “Don’t talk about politics.” To my happiness and joy, he chose not to discuss politics. And on this holiest of days, he gave the most wonderful and beautiful sermon I have ever heard. Many of us had tears in our eyes. We need more of this neutrality and spirituality to feed our souls.

I’m not the only one with this concern as can be seen from emails to me and the Conference of Jewish Affairs (“CJA”) all expressing concern about the alienation they are experiencing within their own communities. People are contemplating leaving or have already left their now progressive/left synagogues because of their transformation from spiritual spaces to places that are obsessed with social justice/identity politics. They consistently spoke of the rabbis and Boards of Directors turning deaf ears to their complaints.

How much sadness has this caused within this segment of the Jewish community? In a very Jewish way, I can only answer this question with a question: “When did Judaism stop being Jewish? When it turned its back on its own.”

Remarkably, though, there is hope from this despair. The CJA has responded to these plaints by creating “The New Jewish Exodus Project.” The project reflects the great concern about the divisiveness occurring within the Jewish community, which is seen as a crisis that the progressive/left and socialist ideologies created to undermine the basic constructs of Judaism.

Rabbi Aryeh Spero, the CJA’s president, and I are documenting the schism created by the progressive/left/Democratic Jewish perspective versus the conservative/Libertarian/Republican Jewish perspective. We believe the progressive/left point of view and its messaging of victimization are contrary to Jewish values, are not in the best interests of the Jewish community, and will backfire, eventually leading to increased antisemitism.

For millennia, Jews have been sustained as a people, not by seeing themselves as victims, but through a sense of courage, conviction, and triumph over those who have tried to destroy us for centuries. The best example of this is the State of Israel which overcame the murder of six million Jews in Nazi concentration camps, to become a leader in technology, science, and medicine. What better proof that, with a mentality of courage and conviction, and the desire, dedication, and determination to succeed, you can start with nothing and build a great nation-state and democracy. And, moreover, did this even while your enemies still abound. Victimization? Never!

A critical part of the schism in American Jewry is that fellow Jews are turning their backs on Israel, a place that will always welcome them. The progressive ideologists will sacrifice Judaism and even Israel on the altar of left-liberalism. Multicultural liberalism is their Torah, their “Avodah Zara” or idol. We call this, “the golden calf of liberalism.”

Rabbi Spero sees what’s happening now as a repeat of Biblical descriptions of Jews falling away to worship false idols. As he wrote me once:

Avodah Zara was a combination of hedonism, universalism, moral relativism, and self-hate under the guise of a type of false, but fashionable religion. It is afflicting the Jews today. This time, since religion is not as important today as in ancient times, it goes under a secular ideology: liberalism, leftism, social justice, multi-culturalism, Marxism, universalism, anti-Zionism, anti-Israelism. But, it is the same as before: hedonism, moral relativism, universalism, self-hate, and admiration for those who would kill us. What will happen to the Jews in America? Sadly, American Judaism may whither as has happened in other places in other eras.

The ultimate solution, of course, is to leave politics out of the synagogue. Period! All we want is our spiritual home returned to us so that ALL Jews feel welcome and embraced. And if necessary, a sign on the outside of the synagogue entry doors saying, “Shalom, peace be with you. You are loved. No politics allowed.”

Adrienne Skolnik serves on the National Advisory Committee and Chairman of the North Carolina chapter of the Conference of Jewish Affairs.

IMAGE: Man in synagogue (cropped) by cottonbro from Pexels.

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