by Lawrence Davidson, To the Point Analyses, 8/18/14
Part I – The Liberal Ideal
Liberalism, framed as a socio-political ideal, argues that human beings are good and social progress achievable. It is a “glass half-full” outlook. Within this paradigm all individuals, not just members of a specific religion, race or nationality, should have political and civil rights. Here also neither the state nor the law is an end in itself. They are instruments for the creation and maintaining of a environment meant to promote freedom while minimizing social inequalities. Holding this ideal does not preclude identifying with a particular ethnic or religious group. It does, however, preclude any claim of exclusive rights for such groups to the detriment of others.
Within the Western environment many Jews held to this liberal ideal. They saw it as in their interest to work toward an environment of universally applied political and civil rights while minimizing social inequality. For instance, by the mid-twentieth century in the United States, many Jewish organizations were allied with African Americans in their struggle for civil rights and equality. However, this proved to be a complex alliance and it ultimately broke down. Its demise marked a waning of organized American Jewish liberal activism. What had happened?…
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