Lots of my conservative brethren, especially the religious ones, love to laugh at the liberal Jewish ersatz-religion of “Tikkun Olam”. They mock how it replaces thick tradition and principles with a single bumper-sticker slogan, how it is often nothing more than progressive politics with a Jewish veneer, and how it advances assimilation by abandoning anything specifically Jewish for dogmatic universalism.
All this is true, but it misses the key point: Tikkun Olam is a secular (or at least secularized) political faith. As such, it is not open to the kind of debate one might have on, say, the evidence in the Michael Brown case or the positive or negative effects of Obamacare. Tikkun Olam Jews really have replaced God with (what they understand to be) Humanity and Religion with Progressivism.
You see this in any article written by or about people who act in the name of Tikkun Olam. Replace them with a devout Christian or religious Jew acting in the name of God and the article would sound exactly the same. These Jews might not believe in God in the way devoutly religious understand it, but their actions are faith-driven nonetheless – they just believe in something else.
This means that if we want to try and stem the tide of the distancing of these Jews from Israel or even convince them that their political beliefs are wrong, we need to treat them as beliefs and take them seriously. Bashing Tikkun Ha’Olam is good sport, but it’s about as effective as the antagonistic and often greatly offensive methods of the “New Atheists,” which often rub other atheists the wrong way.
A better method would be to talk about how Tikkun Olam, like “social justice”, can be achieved far better through classically liberal means than progressive means of government intervention. The conservative principles of family and tradition are especially important for the poor, since it is often the only way to concentrate resources and ensure a better life for the next generation. There are many other examples I could bring, but I think you get the point.
Tikkun Olam Jews often stress the importance of empathy; the importance of understanding the other person’s point of view. If we want to change the minds of Jews of this faith, it’s time we start to speak to them in their language.