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. KEFA34

    may the messiah bless you '
    for keeping the ethics of judaism while you served.
    we thank you for your peaceful service
    the chosen people involves obligation rather than privileges
    it is a form of noblesse oblige
    imposing upon the house of Israel the responsibilty to lead a life
    of holiness and righteousness .

    July 12, 2011 at 8:03 pm |
  2. Olayemi (NIGERIA)

    You are a convert to christianity(stated by yourself), but certainly ignorant of Christian history, Bible origins, and the significance of the Last Supper. You have read a few pages of the bible seeing, but read most of the pages without perceiving. If you must know, the OLD TESTAMENT is scripture inherited from the Hebrew Religion, while the NEW TESTAMENT is SCRIPTURE DEFINED BY THE CATHOLIC CHURCH, BY EXTTENSION THE BIBLE IS A PRODUCT OF THE CHURCH AND CANNOT BE SUPERIOR TO THE CHURCH THAT PRODUCED IT TO SERVE AS A COLLECTION/RECORD AND AS A TOOL FOR EVANGELISM. TO GO AGAINST THE CELEBRATION/COMMEMORATION OF THE EUCHARIST(CHRIST-Do this in memory of me, APOSTLE PAUL-Do not forget the breaking of bread when you commune), AND TO CONSIDER IT WORHTLESS RITUAL IS TO BE DISOBEDIENT AND ANTI-CHRIST!!! CHRIST-CHURCH-THEN BIBLE.


    July 12, 2011 at 6:28 pm |
    • Truth Teller


      Sir, Its you who are deceived. While you sound real sincere, being sincere in error, is not unto salvation. You just stated the Catholic Church is above the Bible.

      With all its pagan forms and ceremonies, These might look great to you and a billion others, but see it thru Gods eyes.
      Its God that prescribes the way we worship. The pope is the surrogate of Satan. If you only understood Daniel 7 and 8,
      and the book of Rev. It would do you good to seekout the neareast 7th Day Adventest Church. You will come out of that unpenetratable darkness your in. I really wish you well and hope to see you in Heaven.

      July 12, 2011 at 8:35 pm |
    • samuraishonan@blogspot.com

      You are wrong. The Tenak and the Old testament are not the same. Please do your homework before regurgitating false thoughts.

      July 19, 2011 at 7:35 pm |
  3. Joey

    Reading about what people think about jews and being one myself, I am amazed. Not just by the openly anti-semitic ones but there are also a bunch of just stupid comments. People are so ignorant.

    July 11, 2011 at 10:57 pm |
    • samuraishonan@blogspot.com

      The ignorant will always be amongst us.

      July 19, 2011 at 7:37 pm |
  4. whitemule70

    Grinnell grad. It figures. An agenda-driven journo. Wouldn't know a shul if he fell into one.

    July 9, 2011 at 11:14 pm |
  5. linda

    This article speaks about the Jewish in America as being primarily Democrats. Perhaps these Jewish Dems choose to be involved in politics and they are singled out based on their religion/race but this does not confirm that all Jewish citizens are Dems. Insofar as politics are concerned, the Dem party is far more openly liberal than the GOP so common sense tells most people that there are many more Jewish Republicans than one may imagine since growing up Jewish is quite disciplined. Maybe these Jewish politicians see being a Democrat as an outlet for intellectual expansion since the rules during their up bringing were so strict? IDK but I do know that rebellion makes appearances in many forms.
    The Hebrew Law: The first five books of the Bible is the Pentateuch or Torah. These chapters guide the Jewish peoples laws of life. As far as Christ being the Messiah, IDK however He did come to earth and did teach us humans how to live with one another in a civil and loving manner. Does this equate to being the Messiah? Again IDK but He did good and no harm toward humanity.

    July 9, 2011 at 4:27 pm |
  6. Truth Teller

    Everyone thinks a jew knows the Bible. 99% of jews never even opened a Bible. If they did , they would see that they made a HUGE mistake rejecting the Savior. I was born a jew myself. I checked the Bible and I saw Christ is God.

    If your a jew, go get a Bible and check Isiaih 53, and while your at it Is. 7:14 , and Is. 9:6 to mention a few. Give up your worthless pride and walk in the truth. God loves you.

    July 8, 2011 at 5:35 pm |
    • Patrick from Minnesota

      True, Jews have never read the "Bible" because the Bible is not their holy book. Their holy book is the Hebrew Scripture (us Christians call it the Old Testament). They also believe in Jesus Christ, not as the son of God, but as another prophet proclaiming the word of God. Islam is the exact same. They are NOT rejecting the Savior Jesus Christ as you imply. You should also remember that Jesus himself was Jewish. The Last Supper and the Eucharist that's celebrated at every mass, it's part of the Jewish Passover ritual.

      If you are Jewish or Muslim and I have reported anything incorrectly, please clarify.

      July 9, 2011 at 9:39 am |
    • samuraishonan@blogspot.com

      Pat, the Tenak, and the Old Testament are not the same at all. Just wanted to let you know.

      July 19, 2011 at 7:40 pm |
  7. Tom Kelly

    It should not be hard to explain how a person knows that they are a Jew–yet know one seems to be able to explain it–in any number of posts thus far–

    July 7, 2011 at 8:56 pm |
    • AlienShark

      If you are making fun of people for being Jewish then you are 3 steps behind the rest of us in intelligence.

      July 9, 2011 at 6:33 pm |
    • Patrick

      If you practice Judiasm, you're a Jew.

      July 10, 2011 at 9:58 am |
    • Truth Teller


      Yes anyone that demotes Jesus to less than God is rejecting Him. and The Old Test. is the Bible. There are 2 witnesses, Old and New testiments. To disregard one is not unto salvation. and your blasphemas pagan ritual the eucharist, that keeps Christ crucified is an abomination to Heaven. The Catholic system pope , etc. countenterfiets the Bible with its worthless rituals. It makes all the Bible criteria for anti Christ. Now go ahead and get mad. Your pope claims to be above the Bible. Blaspheme. I'll stand on the Rock, Christ. You stand on the pope

      July 11, 2011 at 12:35 pm |
  8. Tom Kelly

    How do you know you are a Jew?

    July 7, 2011 at 7:22 pm |
    • AlienShark

      How do we know that you have no brains?...we just read your posts and figure it out!

      July 9, 2011 at 6:31 pm |
    • samuraishonan@blogspot.com

      Because lots of racists still want to kill me.

      July 19, 2011 at 7:42 pm |
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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.