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End of Jewish golden age on Capitol Hill?
July 4th, 2011
12:32 PM ET

End of Jewish golden age on Capitol Hill?

By Dave Schechter, CNN

The following may cheer those who complain that Jews exercise too much influence in the American political system.

“The massive overrepresentation of Jews on Capitol Hill, long a source of pride for the community, has been shrinking in recent years and could drop in the coming election cycle from 41 to the mid 30s, a level last seen 15 years ago,” Nathan Guttman recently wrote in The Forward, the Jewish newspaper.

Perhaps a golden age of sorts is coming to an end.

“It is the drawing down of a generation that believed in civil service,” Jacques Berlinerblau, director of Georgetown University’s Jewish civilization program, told Guttman, citing generations of post-World War II American Jews who, as Guttman phrased it, “saw special value in entering public service and also in reaching beyond the interests of their own community.”

Berlinerblau expanded on the subject in The Chronicle of Higher Education:

In my own writing I have referred to this half century as the era of 'secular Yiddishkeit.' It was the moment when the children of immigrant Jews of Eastern and Central European appeared to take over the world. They excelled in art, science, politics, journalism, academe, etc., and they did so in numbers completely out of proportion to their actual size. Of late, Jewish population growth has stagnated somewhat. The great generation of secular liberal Jews is graying. This may be one reason why we are witnessing a substantial, though not necessarily alarming, decrease in Jewish representation in many fields.

A January report by the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life on the religious makeup of Congress notes that Jews were barely 2 percent of the 87th Congress in 1961-62, so the generations that came of age after World War II did indeed make their mark.

Today, Jews make up more than 7 percent of the 112th Congress while being just 1.7 percent of the U.S. population.

There are 13 Jews in the Senate and 28 in the House, all but one a Democrat; the lone Republican is House Majority Leader Eric Cantor. Since the 112th Congress convened in January, two Jews have resigned their seats: Jane Harman of California (to head the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars) and Anthony Weiner of New York (you know . . . those photographs).

Of course, the vagaries of electoral politics play a role.

When Republicans are ascendant, such as in the 2010 election, the Democrats lose seats, including those held by Jews. Indeed, seven Jewish lawmakers lost seats in the last cycle. Already there are concerns that redrawing the lines of congressional districts in California will eliminate a House seat currently held by a Jewish Democrat. Of course, Democratic fortunes in 2012 will hinge, in part, on the strength of President Barack Obama’s electoral coattails.

But there are also irrefutable demographic trends at play.

“While experts disagree on the short-term significance of shifts in Jewish political representation, all point to the likelihood of a long-term decline," writes Guttman. "Growth in Jewish population is stagnant and composes an increasingly smaller portion of the population in general.”

Kurt Stone, a political science professor at Florida Atlantic University and author of two books on Jews in Congress, told The Forward that the decline in Jews in Congress "won’t matter much in terms of the Jewish agenda.”

Peter Beinart set off a firestorm in some Jewish circles last year when he wrote about a declining affinity among younger Jews for the “Jewish homeland.”

“Among American Jews today, there are a great many Zionists, especially in the Orthodox world, people deeply devoted to the State of Israel," he wrote in the New York Review of Books. "And there are a great many liberals, especially in the secular Jewish world, people deeply devoted to human rights for all people, Palestinians included. But the two groups are increasingly distinct. Particularly in the younger generations, fewer and fewer American Jewish liberals are Zionists; fewer and fewer American Jewish Zionists are liberal.”

Beyond Israel, Guttman notes that, “On social issues that are dear to the community, much depends on the broader makeup of Congress, since Jewish priorities on domestic issues are largely aligned with those of the Democratic Party."

Indeed, coalitions are the way policy is made on the Hill. If your share of the population is not growing, it’s best to align with someone whose is.

Reports Guttman: “Changing demographic realities are pushing Jewish activists to seek a political partnership with Latinos, America’s fastest-growing minority group, for help in supporting the U.S.-Israel relationship.”

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Judaism • Politics

soundoff (267 Responses)
  1. tom kelly

    To my mind Jews do not know what they are even though they know they are Jews it cannot be explained by the average person or person that calls themself a Jew–

    July 7, 2011 at 2:58 pm |
    • Mycology

      I'm Jewish. I know that I am human, and I know that I am imperfect, and that I am always changing, that with new information and situations that my mind and my personality develops.

      July 7, 2011 at 7:13 pm |
    • Truth Teller

      In responce to Tom

      It is written ( If you be in Christ you be Abrahams seed and heirs to the promise Gal.3: 29 ) so there you have it.

      A jew by lineage is not really a jew. You gotta have Christ or your spiritually dead. I'm a witness

      July 8, 2011 at 9:43 pm |
  2. Bribarian

    lol Jews worshipping themselves, there was never a golden age.

    July 7, 2011 at 2:53 pm |
    • Patrick from Minnesota

      Look up Jerry Fallwell and Pat Robertson.

      July 9, 2011 at 9:41 am |
  3. tom kelly

    So Jews are a cult...

    July 7, 2011 at 12:36 am |
    • DiamondSky

      Tom, I think you have a problem. Stop pondering by yourself and do some scholarly reading.

      July 7, 2011 at 10:01 am |
    • Lycidas

      @tom- you might want to study up on the term "cult"

      July 7, 2011 at 1:46 pm |
    • Mycology

      A "cult" is something you're not allowed to leave, usually under penalty of death or pain.

      By that definition, Islam is the cult, not judaism.

      July 7, 2011 at 7:14 pm |
    • Voice of Reason

      You just don't know when to give up do you, Tom. I'm half Irish and there's a special spell we put on people who annoy us by spouting non-stop drivel. It's the curse of the seven snotty orphans ! One, two, threeeeeee..........................................

      July 9, 2011 at 1:18 pm |
  4. dinak

    Liberal Jews are helping to destroy Israel. Congratulations. Also, congratulations on supporting a party that supports abortion at all stages of pregnancy (ignoring science, which Liberals claim to revere), and also congratulations for supporting a party that promotes giving people advantages based on their outward appearance. Wow, what a great philosophy you've embraced. Convert to agnosticism or atheism and you'll be complete.

    July 7, 2011 at 12:12 am |
    • Voice of Reason

      Oh, well said, indeed. Good post. It was the hypocritical Liberal Jews who attended the meeting with Obama recently when the POTUS was pushing for 1967 borders . The Media headline said: "Pro-Israel Jews applaud Obama" LIARS. Pro-Israel Jews were unable to be there because it was scheduled for the SABBATH. They couldn't get there till mid afternoon [after the cameras were gone] Manipulation of the media and political chicanery at its worst. These Liberal Jews are Socialists – they feed off the name Jew but sell their brothers for a mess of pottage. They should be ashamed.

      July 9, 2011 at 1:27 pm |
  5. jracforr

    The christian scriptures states that the

    July 6, 2011 at 4:01 pm |
  6. Jackie Rose

    Odessa, two Popes have said that the Jews are not to be blamed for killing Jesus. But that will not deter the hard-core Jew-baiters of all religions or none at all.

    July 6, 2011 at 3:08 pm |
    • Odessa

      Jackie, the Bible curses those who harm Israel and also the false Jews. Mankind did evil to Israel and to the Jews because mankind is utterly evil. Judgment awaits everyone. Claiming the name Christian or whatever doesn't work. Hypocrites get the most severe punishment. Only the genuine faith in Jesus alone (manifested in real life) saves any individual.

      July 6, 2011 at 11:49 pm |
    • Odessa

      You need to know Christians are the single group of people who got persecuted the most, even worse than the Jews, throught the history in the entire world.

      July 6, 2011 at 11:52 pm |
  7. Jackie Rose

    Maybe the Jews were so successful because they were smart. Sorry, I just got carried away.

    July 6, 2011 at 3:07 pm |
    • Odessa

      Read the Bible – the source of every wisdom and smartness and also strength. Reading the Bible, you can't be purposeless or duh. It never gives you break – for good reasons.

      July 6, 2011 at 11:54 pm |
  8. tom kelly

    Jews need to describe themselfs so as not to cause future preception problems–

    July 6, 2011 at 2:23 pm |
  9. tom kelly

    Now it becomes murky–this is

    where it becomes imposible to

    describe a Jew without creating preception problems–

    July 6, 2011 at 2:21 pm |
  10. tom kelly

    Now it becomes murky–this is where it becomes imposible to describe a Jew without creating preception problems–

    July 6, 2011 at 2:19 pm |
  11. tom kelly

    So...Jews are “atheists” who have Jewish surnames–

    What is a Jewish Surname?

    July 6, 2011 at 1:26 pm |
    • Bannister

      I misspoke, I meant to say Gentile surnames – as in John "Leibowitz" Stewart. Also, I did not say that all Jews are atheists, I said that many of the "atheists" who filed lawsuits against public displays of Christianity were in fact, Jews. Perhaps these people were in fact, legitimate atheists who just happened to be Jews, but in many cases, they were simply liberal Jews who strategically adopted the label of atheism so as to not attract negative attention to the larger Jewish community.

      July 6, 2011 at 2:00 pm |
    • Brun

      Bannister, since you have no actual knowledge of the facts, your suppositions have no weight.
      Also, you are not differentiating between Jews as an ethnic group and Jews as a religious group.
      In short, you are an idiot.

      July 6, 2011 at 10:46 pm |
  12. The Other Guy

    So we're going to blame the Jewish guy for our problems again? At least allow me to get my shotgun before you start trying to kill us off again.

    Thanks
    A Jewish Guy

    July 6, 2011 at 1:06 pm |
    • Bannister

      Sorry, the liberal Jews made all the shotguns illegal!!!

      July 6, 2011 at 2:14 pm |
    • Mycology

      I'm Jewish, and I certainly approve of the right to bear arms.

      When you make it illegal to bear arms – only one type of person (non-military non-police) will have arms, and thats the bad guys. The police cannot be paid to be everyone at once... and even if they could, do you really want them everywhere?

      July 7, 2011 at 7:17 pm |
  13. Odessa

    @Reality, Christians are 2.3 billion and the non-religious are 0.9 billion.

    July 6, 2011 at 9:20 am |
  14. Reality

    It is all about the number of voters. See below to see where the followers of Judaism rank:

    Third place and gaining as we type:-––

    o http://www.adherents.com/Religions_By_Adherents.html

    oReligion >>Adherents

    "Christianity 2.1 billion

    Islam 1.5 billion

    Irreligious/agnostic/atheism 1.1 billion

    Hinduism 900 million

    Chinese traditional religion 394 million

    Buddhism 376 million
    Animist religions 300 million
    African traditional/diasporic religions 100 million
    Sikhism 23 million
    Juche 19 million
    Spiritism 15 million
    Judaism 14 million
    Baha'i 7 million
    Jainism 4.2 million
    Shinto 4 million
    Cao Dai 4 million
    Zoroastrianism 2.6 million
    Tenrikyo 2 million
    Neo-Paganism 1 million
    Unitarian Universalism 800,000
    Rastafari Movement 600,000"

    1.5 million Conservative Jews and there rabbis have concluded that Abraham, based on lack of text and architectural evidence, probably did not exist. Therefore Christianity, Islam and Judaism have no foundation and fail as religions moving irreligious, atheists and agnostics to the top of the list.

    -------------------------------------------------------------–

    July 6, 2011 at 8:56 am |
    • Mike

      Jesus is the foundation of Christianity, not Abraham. Proving that Abraham did not exist (and your argument is weak here) is hardly more undermining than proving that the Garden of Eden was metaphorical rather than literal.

      Christianity still dominates the population, unless of course, you'd like to argue that Jesus did not exist due to "lack of architectural evidence".

      July 6, 2011 at 9:43 am |
    • Brun

      Mike, without a real "Eden", any claims of "sin" are automatically null and void and the idea of "Jewishness" in any form are also null and void.
      That means Jesus, a "Jew", was just another crazy man who got executed for p!ssing people off with his craziness. In his case, he p!ssed off the people in charge of his own religion. Their "authority" was given by G-d himself and he went against it. He went against the "holy" authority without any support from G-d. That's one of the reasons they were p!ssed off at him.
      There is no authority to your Bible. No authority to the Book of Genesis. No basis from which your Jesus could have spoken honestly.
      Jesus was a liar.

      July 6, 2011 at 10:53 pm |
  15. Joe

    I really wish there would be 0 religious influence on our politics. Also, it'd be nice if we made decisions without letting our emotions get in the way, but that's way to much to ask.

    July 6, 2011 at 8:44 am |
    • Brun

      At this time it is too much to ask, yes.

      July 6, 2011 at 11:05 pm |
    • Odessa

      Go to the moon or Mars to live if you don't want Christian influence. You atheists are the most ignorant species in the universe. Everything good you are enjoying – freedom, justice, etc – is from Christianity, nothing else. Atheism is only good at destroying good things.

      July 6, 2011 at 11:41 pm |
  16. tom kelly

    So Jews are inbread–

    July 6, 2011 at 12:00 am |
  17. tom kelly

    So...we do not know what a Jew is–

    July 5, 2011 at 10:53 pm |
    • rollingeyes

      Get back in your cave..

      July 6, 2011 at 9:31 am |
  18. nader paul kucinich gravel mckinney baldwin

    Independent Voters will control the primary
    Independent Voters will control the election

    government criminals
    controlled media
    federal reserve
    911 cover-up
    corporatism
    AIPAC
    ZNN

    July 5, 2011 at 6:39 pm |
  19. Muneef

    As it seems Zionests and Jews are the back bone financial capital for America...for a country said to have not gold deposit for printing money,understand they are using big families financial assistance...
    Guess such reasons and being in debth to others deprive you from your voice and choice of actions...America is like a hulk tied up by debths to big families who must of them are either Zionests or Jews..

    July 5, 2011 at 6:30 pm |
  20. Annette

    This is a really creepy article for me, as someone who grew up in the 70's & 80's when the culture (Sesame Street, anyway) encouraged us to see people as equal and valuable. There is something scary about a respected website like CNN feeling comfortable with an article suggesting that "too many" Jews were elected by their fellow citizens into public office. Should there be a limit? Should they have to wear gold stars?

    Do we have too many black people sitting in the front rows of buses? To many women wearing shoes? Should we pick one person to be the breed standard for Americans and then round up everyone who deviates from this new norm and stick them in special camps? Scary.

    July 5, 2011 at 6:00 pm |
    • Bannister

      CNN is not suggesting there are too many Jews in Congress. In fact, CNN itself is pretty much run by Jews (just ask Rich Sanchez, lol.)

      CNN is merely reporting on mathematical and demographic realities. Jews are becoming a smaller and smaller slice of the American population. Ironically, it's their own fault – American Jews (more than any other ethnic group) have been promoting open borders and mass immigration into the United States. (to understand the reasons for this, I recommend googling "The Culture of Critique" by Kevin MacDonald)

      Without the recent mass immigration of Hispanics, America would still have a demographical stable population and Jews would still retain their traditional overrepresentation in Congress. This article suggests that Jews are seeking a "political partnership with Latinos" but they are in for a big surprise. The Latinos are out for themselves. The are strong Catholics, pro-life and often anti-semitic. Once the Latinos no longer need the Jews to achieve power, they will push them aside.

      July 6, 2011 at 8:54 am |
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About this blog

The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.