“To Return the Crown to its Place”

Our Platform

Who We Are

The Coalition for Jewish Values (CJV), the largest Rabbinic Public Policy organization in America, articulates and advocates for public policy positions based upon traditional Jewish thought. We lead the fight against those who cloak their own secular, left-wing ideals in the mantle of “Judaism,” misrepresenting Judaism’s actual beliefs and values.

We know that Biblical values are the nurturing roots of first-world civilizations, and recognize the efforts of the American pioneers to give expression to those ideals in the founding documents of the United States. We promote these same values today, through education, advocacy, and mobilization of support within the Jewish conservative community, especially the rapidly-growing Orthodox segment.

The CJV is keenly sensitive to our people’s history. We understand that the scourge of anti-Semitism hides behind many facades, and recognize it in the contemporary anti-Israel movement. We appreciate the friendship displayed by pro-Israel conservative groups towards the Jewish People, rather than regarding it with unjustified suspicion.

Rabbinic Authority and Public Policy

Today, the West calls its bedrock values “Judeo-Christian ethics.” While often not laid out explicitly, it is understood that ideals such as valuing human life, peace, universal education, family, social responsibility and equal justice all find their earliest expression in the Jewish Bible.

This gives disproportionate authority to a Jewish voice in American public policy. Priests, imams, ministers and monks – as well as regular citizens and government officials – often give extra weight to the opinions of rabbis, even over those of their co-religionists. Thus it is especially unfortunate for all, not just for Jews, when the name of Judaism is employed to advocate for the abandonment of eternal Jewish values.

Furthermore, there is a disturbing trend today of leftists invalidating religious viewpoints as violating the separation of church and state – even (or especially) on issues of morality and ethics. This is the subtext behind efforts to pigeonhole traditional viewpoints as “Christian perspectives.” The CJV rebuts the false notion that core Biblical values are only appreciated by one segment of the US population.

Judaism Is Not Liberalism

Well over 80% of Reform Rabbis are registered Democrats, making Reform Judaism the most partisan religious denomination in America.[1] A prominent conservative member of a Reform Temple recently accused the movement of becoming a political organization masquerading as a religious denomination.

Conservative Judaism comes in fourth place on the same list, following the A.M.E. Church and Unitarians at just over 70% Democrats. Barely 4% of Reform Rabbis, and under 10% of Conservative, are registered Republicans.

Reform is barely 200 years old, devised as a conscious attempt to “modernize” Judaism by rejecting several of its core beliefs. The first Declaration of Principles of the Frankfort Society of the Friends of Reform proclaimed in 1843 that “we recognize the possibility of unlimited development in the Mosaic Religion” and that the Talmud, the collection of what traditional Jewry calls the Oral Law, has “no authority from either the doctrinal or the practical standpoint.”[2]

If the Holy Bible and its traditional Jewish interpretations are not the final arbiter of their morality, but merely a starting point for “unlimited development,” they then can (and do) place a “Jewish” imprimatur upon every new “progressive” idea. It need not even be truly new; thus they now call homosexuality, a routine practice in the pagan world of ancient times, a modern form of relationship that must be celebrated by tolerant, moral people. Unfortunately, this new Reform movement established early dominance here in America.

The Conservative movement, although founded to “conserve” traditional Judaism and resist its abandonment by the Reformers, in practice follows Reform’s lead in most every area, adopting its “innovations” several years later. Today, Conservative Rabbis who resist performing inter- or even same-sex marriages find themselves forced to choose between their principles and their positions.

While the Jews are a people, in that every child of a Jewish mother is automatically a Jew as well, it is manifest that not every belief expressed by a Jewish individual is necessarily “Jewish.” Liberal Jewish leaders are free to promote their secular ideology, but it is painful and dishonest when they claim to do so under the banner of “Judaism.”

Given the lack of actual Jewish content in the liberal movements, congregants leave them to pursue leftist secularism more directly. Scholars within these groups concede that only 25% of American Jews today are members of Reform and Conservative synagogues.[3] A large portion of those retain their memberships only long enough to enable their children to celebrate Bar or Bat Mitzvahs; the Pew Research Center reported that the vast majority of members attend synagogue only a few times each year.[4]

Most telling of all, Pew also determined that among the non-Orthodox, the birthrate is at sub-replacement levels while intermarriage now exceeds 70% of those who wed.[5] As the majority of children of intermarriage do not identify with any Jewish denomination, the liberal Jewish movements are, at present, on the path to extinction. It is worth keeping this in mind when non-Orthodox leaders present themselves as the representatives of “American Jewry.”

[1] “Your Rabbi? Probably a Democrat. Your Baptist Pastor? Probably a Republican. Your Priest? Who Knows,” Kevin Quealy, The New York Times, June 12, 2017. https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2017/06/12/upshot/the-politics-of-americas-religious-leaders.html

[2] Religion in Society: A Sociology of Religion, Ronald Johnstone, 2016, Routledge Press, p. 349.

[3] “The Pew Survey Reanalyzed,” Jack Wertheimer and Steven M. Cohen, Mosaic Magazine, Nov. 2, 2014. The authors are professors at the (Conservative) Jewish Theological Seminary and the (Reform) Hebrew Union College, respectively. https://mosaicmagazine.com/essay/2014/11/the-pew-survey-reanalyzed/

[4] “A Portrait of Jewish Americans,” Pew Research Center, October 1, 2013. http://www.pewforum.org/2013/10/01/chapter-4-religious-beliefs-and-practices/

[5] Ibid. www.pewforum.org/2013/10/01/chapter-2-intermarriage-and-other-demographics/ See also “Pew survey of U.S. Jews: soaring intermarriage, assimilation rates,” Uriel Heilman, Jewish Telegraphic Agency, October 1, 2013. https://www.jta.org/2013/10/01/news-opinion/united-states/pew-survey-u-s-jewish-intermarriage-rate-rises-to-58-percent

The American Jewish Future

The same demographic surveys have in recent years begun to expose what we in the Orthodox community have known for decades: that our community is growing rapidly, and represents the Jewish future both in America and globally.

The Orthodox comprise but five percent of older American Jews, but are nearly fifteen percent of the middle-aged and more than a quarter of the youth (17 years and below).[1] The Orthodox segment of the American Jewish population has more than quadrupled within two generations.[2] Reflecting that new reality:

● Enrollment in Orthodox day schools grew over 80% between 1998 and 2013.[3]

● Baltimore, MD’s Orthodox Jewish community increased by 50% between 1999 and 2010.[4] Other established Orthodox communities in major cities have seen similarly remarkable growth.

● Entire new Orthodox communities have sprouted in recent years, in states such as California, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Ohio and Texas, to name only a few.[5]

● Orthodox Jewish commerce has grown into the billions of dollars; the kosher food industry alone is now a $12.5 billion industry in the US.[6]

The Pew Survey contrasted the growing Orthodox population with the rest of American Jewry as follows:

The median age of Orthodox adults (40 years old) is fully a decade younger than the median age of other Jewish adults (52)… On average, the Orthodox get married younger and bear at least twice as many children as other Jews (4.1 vs. 1.7 children).[7]

It is already true that the majority of North American synagogues, and the vast majority of American rabbis, are Orthodox.[8] This trend will only become more pronounced in the coming years. While the future of the non-Orthodox communities is uncertain, the Orthodox are ensuring a vibrant American Jewish community in the United States. And the Orthodox are committed to traditional Jewish values and ideals.

[1] “Dramatic Orthodox Growth is Transforming the American Jewish Community, Steven M. Cohen, The Forward, Dec. 19, 2016. https://forward.com/opinion/357517/dramatic-orthodox-growth-is-transforming-the-american-jewish-community/

[2] Ibid.

[3] “A Census of Jewish Day Schools in the United States,” Marvin Schick, Avi Chai Foundation, 2014.

[4] 2010 Baltimore Jewish Community Study, The Associated JCF of Baltimore, 2010. http://www.jewishdatabank.org/studies/downloadFile.cfm?FileID=2722

[5] “The Exodus,” Serial in Ami Magazine, Spring-Summer 2017.

[6] Lubicom Marketing Consulting. http://www.lubicom.com/stats

[7] “A Portrait of American Orthodox Jews,” Pew Research Center.

[8] See “Study finds Orthodox have most synagogues in U.S.,” Jewish News of Northern California, August 16, 2002. https://www.jweekly.com/2002/08/16/study-finds-orthodox-have-most-synagogues-in-u-s/ At that time, the plurality (40%) were Orthodox. Reform and Conservative synagogues have since consolidated, while Chabad centers have grown from nearly 350 at that time to nearly 1000, and other Orthodox synagogues have grown dramatically as well. Regarding rabbis, Beth Medrash Gavoha in Lakewood, NJ, has over 7000 enrolled students, meaning this one institution alone, the largest of many such schools, produces more rabbis than the aggregate of all non-Orthodox Jewish clergy in America.

The Need for a New, Independent Organization

Existing groups representing the observant Jewish population prioritize advocacy for our needs as a unique American community. This requires prudence: a liberal activist state assemblyman will likely give a more favorable hearing to organizations that do not advocate for traditional marriage in his news feed.

Yet this leaves a critical void that the Coalition for Jewish Values (CJV) aims to fill: to interpret and apply classic Jewish ethical and moral teachings, principles today acknowledged as prerequisite to first-world civilization, to current domestic and international affairs.

The CJV begins from the premise that something can be called an authentic Jewish value only if it is rooted in Biblical and Rabbinic teachings through millennia of Jewish history. Neither spurious references to “Tikkun Olam” (fixing the world) nor the use of Biblical verses plucked out of context transform personal views into Jewish tenets. The Rabbinic Board of the CJV provides the necessary knowledge and expertise to correct the record.

Individual rabbis have stepped forward in the past to promote conservative, Biblical values. Most of them are seen as iconoclasts, outside Orthodox convention, for reasons as diverse as the individuals themselves.

The officers of the CJV, by contrast, are mainstream Orthodox rabbis who have served the Jewish and greater American communities for decades as leaders, scholars and opinion makers. Our geographic and ideological diversity ensures that when we reach consensus on an issue, our opinion is likely to be shared by the vast majority of American Orthodox Jews.

To Return the Crown to its Place

The Rabbinic leaders at the beginning of the Second Temple era were called “the Men of the Great Assembly.” The Talmud records that they were given this title because they restored recognition of God’s true attributes, “returned the crown to its place,” when others had clouded vision.[1] At a time when many Americans, Jewish and not, have a distorted perception of Jewish views on basic questions of values, ethics and morality, we similarly hope to return the crown to its rightful place.

In practical terms, the CJV employs three methods to promote and share genuine Jewish values:

  • Educating the general public via press releases, open letters, interviews, op-eds and other communications;

  • Advocacy with government officials and the court system, through meetings, letters, Amicus Curae briefs, and personal interaction;

  • Mobilization within the rabbinate and Jewish community, encouraging citizens to support government policies that best accord with our values.

The CJV is able to function as a hybrid between a public policy and grassroots organization, as it expresses positions sourced in traditional Judaism and thus common to traditional Jews.

 

[1] Tractace Yoma 69b.

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