Joshua Shanes has published what can only be termed a screed, declaring that Orthodox Jews supporting Donald Trump for president are pursuing a “civil religion” which stands in opposition to Judaism. Full disclosure, Josh has long since blocked me on Twitter because of my support for Trump, which might lead one to wonder who is really making their politics into a religion.
But let’s delve a bit.
Josh starts off by lauding Iriving Greenberg. A self-identified “Orthodox” Jew who has publicly declared that since the Holocaust, God’s commandments are no longer binding on us. Yes, really.
In retrospect, the divine assignment to the Jews was untenable. In the covenant, Jews were called as witness to the world for God and for a final perfection. In light of the Holocaust, it is obvious that this role opened the Jews to a murderous fury from which there was no escape. Yet the Divine could not or would not save them from this fate. Therefore, morally speaking, God must repent of the covenant, i.e., do teshuvah for having given his chosen people a task that was unbearably cruel and dangerous without having provided for their protection. Morally speaking, then, God can have no claims on the Jews by dint of the covenant.
What then happened to the covenant? I submit that its authority was broken but the Jewish people, released from its obligations, chose voluntarily to take it on again. We are living in the age of the renewal of the covenant. God was no longer in a position to command, but the Jewish people was so in love with the dream of redemption that it volunteered to carry on its mission.
— Irving Greenberg, “Voluntary Covenant”
After citing Greenberg as a moral authority in whom Shanes is deeply disappointed because he has abandoned his social justice purity, Shanes goes on to whine about how, essentially, Orthodox Jews who support Donald Trump are heretics, blaspheming against the secular Jewish religion.
It’s not just that Trump is a decent man (albeit flawed, as we all are) who sacrificed his life of ease in order to help America when he saw that no one on either side of the aisle was going to do it. It’s not just that he has Orthodox Jewish grandchildren. It’s not just that he is literally the most pro-Jewish and pro-Israel (each on its own and the two of them together) president in American history.
It’s that the other side is a haven for antisemitism. Ilhan Omar and AOC and Ayanna Pressley and Rasha Tleib, and an entire Democrat establishment that views arch-antisemite Louis Farrakhan, the black Hitler, as a spiritual leader to be respected. Barack Obama, the most anti-Israel and anti-Jewish president in American history, spent 20 years sitting in church, with Jeremiah Wright spewing anti-Americanism, racism, and antisemitism, and secular Jews voted for him in droves.
The Democrat Party is happy to shut down synagogues (and churches and mosques) while they allow leftists to engage in violent riots around the country.
Joshua Shanes, you see, is a preacher, calling to the masses of Jews who no longer accept the socialist-leftist religion of secular Jewish Americanism, and he honestly can’t understand how they can walk away from the religion he believes in so devoutly. And as good leftists do these days, he projects his own flaws onto those he opposes.
Shanes, as a member in good standing of the Church of the Secular American Jew, insists on the major tenets of that faith today. The Bad Orange Man is white supremacist (check), his supporters are mindless worshippers (check), racists (check), homophobes (check), and sexists (check), who luuuuurve their guns (check).
You can see, where Shanes talks about craving “a Jewish community equally committed to the prophets and Halacha”, that his understanding of “the prophets” is the same as that of the early Reform Movement, who read their secular “social justice” ideals back into the prophets of Israel via very Christian readings of those prophets, with complete disregard for the Jewish tradition. Like other “Open Orthodox” types, Shanes yearns for what’s been termed “social Orthodoxy”. Where one can be, to paraphrase Gordon, a frum Jew in the shul and the kitchen, and a normal leftist in the street.