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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. Henry Miller

    American policy toward Israel has been the greatest single cause of the hatred many Muslims have for this country and thus the greatest single factor in 9/11 and our incessant, insanely expensive, middle-eastern wars. Jews elected to the American Congress have far too often put Israel's interests ahead of America's.

    July 4, 2011 at 9:43 pm |
    • mrkusn

      Nice try at revisionist history. I half agree that our support of Israel has caused friction with several Arab states. However, our staunch support for the Gulf Oil States was one of the main reasons OBL and 9/11. We placed troops on the soil of Mecca. OBL was very angry about that. We have also supported dictatorships in the region: Iraq, Yemen, Iran under the Shah, Jordan, UAE, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, pre-2011 Egypt, and others. In the end I think Israel is a worthy ally as they are one of the few actual democracies in the region – maybe the only one. We have had an interventionist policy. I think blaming Israel for our Middle East policy is unwarranted.

      July 4, 2011 at 9:57 pm |
    • joe

      what do you mean you half agree? don't jerk anyone around here. osama and the like have mentioned israel. israel being a democracy isn't a real reason that a country is a worthy ally. however, bombing a us vessel and taking 2-3 bil a year while spying on the states is a good reason for israel to be an ENEMY of the US

      July 4, 2011 at 10:29 pm |
    • yeah whatever

      I think the Muslims who hate Israel feel that way because their own leaders use Israel to deflect the animiosity away from themselves. It would be a stretch to think that radical Muslims would embrace the US if it were not for US support of Israel. Also, don't kid yourself about how much fellow Muslims love each other. You don't see Arab nations opening their borders to accept Palestinian refugees, do you?

      July 4, 2011 at 11:24 pm |
    • Muneef

      It is because you did no want Jews in Europe you have moved them to Israel immigrating it's natives out skirts and now you wonder wy wouldn't Arab countries open their boarders for Palestinians for the sake of your misjudgments and cruelty ??

      July 5, 2011 at 6:39 am |
    • ElementAZ

      This is kinda funny but all together ridiculous and counter productive. Having most of my energy sucked by the impending doom of default, I find that rationalizing that any one religion, political affiliation, or generation is to blame for the worlds ills is a lot like judging the sound of a fart. Although it is noisy, fun, and a constructive use of social engagement (well at least more so than a message board), it is ultimately as ridiculous as listening to HALF of what comes out most talking heads. Hopefully your fingers don't stink after writing most of this dribble. On the other hand (ie. your other hand), you did find the colon cancer. Hurray your a doctor now? This over simplification to problems using heated rhetoric to gain a false satiety for understanding politics and economics is similar to what religion offers for comprehending the physical nature of the universe.

      July 12, 2011 at 7:49 pm |
  2. ibrad

    I couldn`t understand before why America gave so much money to Israel. Now I got it, the govenment freely gave money knowing they were supporting family & friends back home(more kickbacks)

    July 4, 2011 at 9:11 pm |
    • Oberon

      Israel has bought and paid for the US. There are still far too many people in our Congress and in other areas of government who put Israel's interests first and the US's second. They are shameful.

      July 4, 2011 at 9:24 pm |
    • Odessa

      ? USA gives out her money everywhere. She is simply generous to help other nations. A good country.

      July 4, 2011 at 10:03 pm |
  3. Israel

    Why don't we send the jews, with all their money of course to Israel, then see what happens to the USA. Maybe Obama has a plan.

    July 4, 2011 at 8:54 pm |
    • Odessa

      Hopefully, Israel and USA will be always together, until the Kingdom comes.

      July 4, 2011 at 8:57 pm |
    • Gaven

      Please, make that happen so that Muslims will stop attacking us. It is because of "Jewish politics" that they hate "western ideology" and want us all dead. Just go ahead and take all your money, all your Jews, and go back to Israel where they can off you as a whole without killing Americans. Thanks.

      July 4, 2011 at 9:18 pm |
    • chester

      america will be fine..trust me..

      July 4, 2011 at 9:55 pm |
  4. C. Jenkins

    Extremely anti-Semitic article, and if Dan Schechter is not aware of it, he is even a worse journalist than he appears. A Jewish golden age in the US Congress carries the implication that Jews have controlled the US Congress (in their spare time, probably, along with running the world and being responsible for all its problems).

    July 4, 2011 at 8:53 pm |
    • Oberon

      OF COURSE THEY DO. Just look at how the US supports Israel, which does nothing but screw us over whenever it suits their purpose to do so.

      July 4, 2011 at 9:25 pm |
    • chester

      come on jenkins...dont be a fool...the Jews control the money and have major influence in america..when it comes to money they are certainly there. This is not an anit semitc article just an observation of the current and future system in government concerning jews..why is it bad..he did not say death to jews or the jews are finished. Stop being sensitive and please don't call the defimation league ok... also isreal is fine..America does not need to send money there. With all the Jews in the US will all their money power and influence could probably triple the amount the US sends to Isreal.

      July 4, 2011 at 10:03 pm |
  5. Fichts

    Yeah, Israel and the Jews would do very little if bombs dropped on America. They are -entirely- over represented, bottom line. There is no reason to cling to a group of people who cannot even rival Texas' economy or population and drag us into countless conflicts over the world. Good, let them go.

    July 4, 2011 at 8:53 pm |
    • Israel

      Go do your homework stupid.

      July 4, 2011 at 8:55 pm |
  6. sanity

    Conservatives support Jews and Israel because they stand for freedom while liberals are more supportive of radical Muslims even though Jews never blow-up other people. Why Jews and Blacks vote for Democrats is a mystery because Dems do nothing for either group.

    July 4, 2011 at 8:49 pm |
    • Israel

      Thank you!

      July 4, 2011 at 8:56 pm |
    • really?!?

      learn your history .... who do you think were blowing up british hotels in palestine following ww2?

      July 4, 2011 at 8:57 pm |
    • Gaven

      Are you effin' serious? Pull your head out of your backside.

      July 4, 2011 at 9:12 pm |
    • chester

      sanity you have no sanity...do you even know what your saying

      July 4, 2011 at 10:05 pm |
    • Mycology

      @realy!?! You say it like that was an everyday occurance. The Jewish defense groups blew up the King David Hotel – true, and do you know why?

      Because it was a MILITARY HEADQUARTERS. That means it was a MILITARY TARGET. This was not a civilian-packed hotel, and unalike muslims , the jews did not target it in order to kill or maim civilians. They even called ahead to warn them to get out telling the hotel operator that they had planted a bomb and that they were going to detonate it shortly and to evacuate everyone. The Operator did not believe the caller, and the message was never shared.

      July 7, 2011 at 7:33 pm |
    • Patrick from Minnesota

      Democrats do not support Radical Muslims. The whole reason our Democratic President is assisting the Resistance in Libya is to defeat the Gadaffi and his Radical Muslim cohorts. The reason why Jews typically support Democrats is probably bacause many Republicans want to make America a Christian theocracy, which would negatively affect anyone in America who isn't Christian, ie Jews.

      July 9, 2011 at 9:55 am |
  7. Odessa

    What happens to Israel shows the degree of mankind's evil on this planet.

    July 4, 2011 at 8:46 pm |
    • Gaven

      You're correct...all of the illegal expansion the Jews make on Palestinian land, all of the innocent Palestinians they kill, all of the turmoil the Jews cause in the Middle East...you are soooo right, Jews are an excellent example of man's evil.

      July 4, 2011 at 9:25 pm |
    • Odessa

      Gaven, no, it's about vicious nations that try to destroy Israel, again and again. Palestinians should have accepted terms from Israel instead of clinging to false dreams. They are being used by villains to make Israel look bad.

      July 4, 2011 at 9:58 pm |
  8. Benjamin Hoffman

    Screw this author! I am Israeli and american and we have every right to dominate US policies! We came from WW2 and because of that we have every right to lead the way!

    July 4, 2011 at 8:46 pm |
    • Odessa

      ??? Benjamin, You don't sound at all what you claim to be. American Jews have more intelligent things to say.

      July 4, 2011 at 8:50 pm |
    • Israel

      God bless Israel, I agree with you 100%

      July 4, 2011 at 8:50 pm |
    • Gaven

      You don't have the right to lead American politics. AMERICANS have the right to lead American politics. If you are so proud of Jewish politics, go live in Israel and practice all the Jew politics you want.

      July 4, 2011 at 9:14 pm |
    • chester

      thats why you should go back to isreal and support your people.. America is not only a jewish country but a county that represents many nationalities. It is the precise reason as to why there will never be a jewish president. The WASPY americans will not allow it.

      July 4, 2011 at 10:11 pm |
  9. Monica

    Well, dang, bring them back, this is why we have financial problems! We need some of that Jewish frugality back in Congress.

    July 4, 2011 at 8:45 pm |
    • ElementAZ

      This is kinda funny but all together ridiculous and counter productive. Having most of my energy sucked by the impending doom of default, I find that rationalizing that any one religion, political affiliation, or generation is to blame for the worlds ills is a lot like judging the sound of a fart. Although it is noisy, fun, and a constructive use of social engagement (well at least more so than a message board), it is ultimately as ridiculous as listening to half of what comes out most talking heads. Hopefully your fingers don't stink after writing most of this dribble. On the other hand, you did find the colon cancer. Hurray your a doctor? This over simplification to problems using heated rhetoric to gain a false satiety for understanding politics and economics is similar to what religion offers for comprehending the physical nature of the universe.

      July 12, 2011 at 5:19 pm |
  10. Odessa

    America, if you stop supporting Israel, that's when you lose God's blessing for sure.

    July 4, 2011 at 8:44 pm |
    • evensteven

      Given the support and economic blessings we've received from the Almighty for wars fought in Afghanistan, Iraq and the war on terror, I'm not sure that's a bad idea . . .

      July 4, 2011 at 8:50 pm |
    • Odessa

      Evensteven, USA opened the lids of the Middle East – something no one else ever did, not even the British. Muslims should have Bibles, freedom and human rights. It's time.

      July 4, 2011 at 8:54 pm |
    • Gaven

      The notion of God and religion as a whole is what perpetuates evil in the world. Without religion, without the notion of god...Muslims would not be killing in the name of their faith, Jews would just be another tribe of people in the Middle East, the "Holy Land" would just be "land", and the world would be more peaceful.

      July 4, 2011 at 9:16 pm |
    • Oberon

      Give me a break. What kind of a god would support this murdering state?

      July 4, 2011 at 9:29 pm |
  11. Odessa

    Last 15 years have been also America's rapid moral decadence and decline. Jews, if you want America to be your help in anyway, let Evangelical Christians continue to educate Americans on the Bible. Secular ones are useless both to you and to national defense. Secular Jews, if you continue to corrupt Americans, it'll be a loss to Israel, no matter what you do. You know from your own history of 4,000 years that nations' ambitions never work but only God's sovereignty stands to protect His people.

    July 4, 2011 at 8:41 pm |
    • Antonio

      Why can't God just take over on his own? He needs Jews and Evangelical Christians to do it for him??

      July 4, 2011 at 8:47 pm |
    • Odessa

      Antonio, God is coming back. He was on this planet once before and He will be again, for the Final. Till then, the Church has work to do and Israel will be saved at the end.

      July 4, 2011 at 8:52 pm |
    • Benny Ha

      Um, right Odessa. The last guy who promised that had all his followers selling their homes and emptying their bank accounts, all for... nothing. If you want to go give Bibles to Muslims, fine. Leave the rest of us out of it. What part of separation of church and state do you not understand?

      July 4, 2011 at 9:14 pm |
    • Odessa

      Benny, the mis-application of separation of church and state was the most stupid thing Americans are doing. Conscience and moral education must not be separated from the State.

      July 4, 2011 at 10:00 pm |
    • Mycology

      Odessa – I am a Jew, and I am secular (I dont want the country to be run by and for religion), and I have ALWAYS been FOR prayer groups in school, bibles in school, and having the Ten Commandments outside courthouses (etc). Christianity is clearly the religion of peace, it is clearly designed to be for all people even (and especially) sinners. I recently went to my first baptism for my neighbor's 13 year old daughter. Her father and I regularly discuss the bible and passages from it. Thank you for your support of Israel... I am an American, and I am loyal to America, but my love is for Israel, I would love to move there but my family connections, job, finances, and the language barrier make it hard to break my ties to America.

      I hope we'll all be ok.

      July 7, 2011 at 7:36 pm |
    • Patrick from Minnesota

      Odessa, according to your Born Again friends, you're going to Hell. Rapture was on May 14th and you're obviously still here.

      July 9, 2011 at 9:50 am |
  12. brown

    When one expresses an opinion that differs from that of the Jewish power elite, they are muzzled and branded an anti-semit!

    July 4, 2011 at 8:36 pm |
    • slim32

      Oh kind of like disagreeing with 0bama makes one a racist? LOL

      July 4, 2011 at 8:37 pm |
    • evensteven

      Careful . . . you're walking a very fine line here . . .

      July 4, 2011 at 8:51 pm |
    • Dave

      BS...you live in America and can say almost anything you want under the 1st amendment. But be willing to have your ideas criticized by others who have the same right. What has been lost in America is the ability to speak with courtesy and dignity to those who disagree. People have forgotten how to be civil toward one another. And we have become stupid and reliant on believing the BIG LIE as used in our politics because news is no longer truthful. Reporting is only opinion and ratings and full of incompetent faces in front of us. The BIG LIE as in 1933 in Germany. It's like telling us the deficit matters by people who increased it more than anyone in history. It's like blaming liberals for government spending. Neither is accurate anymore. It'sike telling us it's ok for 98% of Americans to be bamboozeled by the eliteist 2%. And you called poor liberals elite because a few are educated? Look what the corporate crooks have done to America. And it is not better when they are paying the lowest taxes in over 50 years.

      July 4, 2011 at 9:12 pm |
    • chester

      totally agree.. its as if you hear anything bad about a jewish person published then something is wrong with the person who promoted the idea. We are lead to believe that all jewish people are good and honest people. There are dishonest people in all nationalities however once you hear something some says about jewish people the trillion dollar funded jewish defimation league comes down on you like a ton of bricks like how dear you.

      July 4, 2011 at 10:29 pm |
  13. GG Liddie

    One World ... Globalist Religion; Gaia ... please hurry ... these Man-made religious idiots have nearly ruined the planet for all inhabitants!

    July 4, 2011 at 8:35 pm |
  14. Jake

    Jewish activism has been central to the opening of US borders. They advocated strongly for it in the 1920s, and finally succeeded with the passage of the 1965 Immigration Act, which made a future non-white majority in the US a foregone conclusion.

    Jews should really own up to this particularly nasty bit of nation-wrecking. Confession is good for the soul.

    July 4, 2011 at 8:35 pm |
    • Monica

      And your whole comment is bad for the soul...

      July 4, 2011 at 8:48 pm |
    • rs1201

      and you should own up to your very obvious racism....

      July 4, 2011 at 8:49 pm |
    • Dave

      Are you really concerned about a "non white majority"? Yes, ou just proved the greatest point about America? Racist!,I am a white Jew and would open the door to everyone as our history has demanded through bloodshed and terror among us. Do you have an inkling of American history? Gettysberg? The South LOST! And they may still think that secession was right so they could keep their slaves. And some are right by strongly criticizing the Zionists as racist. They come in all religions and races and are scattered throughout the world.

      July 4, 2011 at 9:01 pm |
    • Patrick from Minnesota

      You need to own up to your contribution to Antisemitism.

      July 9, 2011 at 9:46 am |
  15. Dave P

    American politics is the politics of influence. If one group is over represented, it seems to fit within our system. Those who complain on the basis of religion are like those based on race, national origin, etc. Has anyone notice who now owns the majority of the US debt? It's China. Nothing compares - not Jews, Arabs, Africans, Russians! Here, citizens of any kind need to involved in the political process. Most who complain the loudest are not involved enough. Did anyone notice that Jesus was an orthodox and committed Jew?! How far have we come to be still struggling with ancient questions of religious freedom! Too many Jews? Perhaps not enough? However, everyone needs to learn a little Chinese! Who bought America? Not the Jews!

    July 4, 2011 at 8:30 pm |
    • dave k.

      Very interesting angle. I like!

      July 4, 2011 at 8:36 pm |
    • Nick D

      I think you need to check your fact. The Chinese does not own the majority of USA debts. It never did and never will.

      July 4, 2011 at 8:45 pm |
  16. Jman

    I have to agree: who the heck is David Schecter and what does he mean by "The following may cheer those who complain that Jews exercise too much influence in the American political system." It is a cowardly strawman comment – who are these fringe people that he is refering to? Own up to it, Schecter – this is blatantly offensive.

    July 4, 2011 at 8:27 pm |
    • slim32

      The "fringe people" he is referring to is pretty much most liberals. Hang out on the soundoff board a while, you'll see what I mean.

      July 4, 2011 at 8:36 pm |
  17. Sheridan

    I wish I could say that I am stunned by some of the antisemitic comments in this thread. That someone actually spouts the antisemitism of Hitler and the Nazis and seems to sympathize with them is utterly disgusting. What does surprise me a bit is the first sentence of this article and the reference to a "Jewish Agenda." As a supposed journalist, Schechter ought to be more conscious of his word choice.

    July 4, 2011 at 8:18 pm |
    • Ross

      Considering that Schechter is almost certainly a Jew, that no doubt crossed his mind, and apparently passed it.

      July 4, 2011 at 8:29 pm |
    • Oberon

      Maybe not a Jewish agenda, but certainly a Zionist one. And it's about time it was stopped. I'm sick of my tax dollars going to support Israel and Israelis.

      July 4, 2011 at 9:32 pm |
  18. frank

    Jews took my baby! Or maybe it was a dingo.

    July 4, 2011 at 8:13 pm |
  19. Moses

    Antisemitism is alive and well on CNN.

    July 4, 2011 at 8:12 pm |
    • angela

      Roger that – and on the blogs too. Apparently Jews are still responsible for everything bad and no one else is to blame for anything, including their own bad spending decision.

      July 4, 2011 at 8:19 pm |
    • rs1201

      It has always been and will remain so in the foreseeable future...

      July 4, 2011 at 8:52 pm |
    • chester

      just give the palestines back there land and everything will be fine.

      July 4, 2011 at 10:21 pm |
    • Patrick from Minnesota

      Hitler would be very proud of numerous people on this comments page.

      July 9, 2011 at 9:43 am |
  20. dave k.

    If you think that Saudia Arabian oil doesn't have a strangle hold on the way congressmen and congresswomen behave, then you are seriously misguided by thinking that it is all those pesky Jews fault. Jews, myself included, were humbled by the Holocaust in Europe, and were deeply appreciative of having America, and supporting a small piece of land, Israel that historically we've been repeatedly kicked out of. We felt a need to give back and help others. Jews were right on the bandwagon with the civil rights movement, and labor movements. Jews believe in education and studying to get where we want, and we work hard for it. No one was putting a quota on any other nationality from getting into politics. It is deeply saddening to see the hatred. In my mind, Israel and Judaism go hand in hand, and if you disagree with Israeli politics, then go to Israel yourself. Not just European Jews but Sephardi Jews (Jews from Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan and parts of Africa) wanted a state of their own. I don't think that is a big deal. Yes, there is a refugee problem, but not just of Palestinians, but of Jews. My mother and her family are deeply grateful for America and for also have a place where we can freely express our religion in Israel without question. You can also express any religion in Israel and participate in the government. It is only logical that America would support democracy in Israel.

    July 4, 2011 at 8:12 pm |
    • Zman

      The poor Palestinians had no hand in the Jews moving to Europe. Under no international law can one "return" to their h"homeland" 2000 year later, kick out the locals, and claim that land to be theirs because their ancestors lived their thousands of year ago. It is blatantly illegal and immoral. The Israel of today is not a democracy but an apartheid. Just ask Jimmy Cater.

      July 4, 2011 at 8:56 pm |
    • Lycidas

      @Zman- I don't think any nation used the "return" law to justifiy allowing the Jews to move to Israel. First off, there have always been Jews in what we refer to as the Holy Lands. But what we might call the modern migration of European Jews to what we now call Israel started in the 1800's.
      There is nothing illegal with Israel being there. After all, the British let them come didn't they? Many like to forget that "Palestine" was a British territory. They could do with it as they pleased. Unless you want to give the land back to those that owned it before...The Turks. Bet the locals would love that..lol.

      July 5, 2011 at 6:41 pm |
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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.