In 1892, Jews came to the United States as cheap labor. In 1946 they came with the remnants of communities that they were determined to rebuild. While the second wave fled to the suburbs, they stuck it out in the cities building up integrated communities that remained true to their culture and their religion. These communities were primarily concerned with the education of their children.
This is not true of the entire third wave, just as not everything that I have said is true of the entire second wave. But largely the second wave operated on a progressive impulse, while the third wave operated on a traditionalist impulse. The second wave was concerned with leaving behind the old ways, while the third wave tried to preserve them, reconstructing the ashes of the thriving Jewish communities of Russia, Poland, Syria, Egypt and Iran in the United States.
The second wave adapted, and lost their identity. The third wave adapted and kept their identity. The second wave had few children and even fewer Jewish children. The third wave had a great many children and viewed having children as a cultural and religious duty. And through the force of simple demographics, theirs is the future. 74 percent of Jewish children in New York are Orthodox. Ten years from now, the New York Jewish vote will be as reliably Republican as it was once Democrat.
The third wave is innately conservative. Orthodox Jews from Eastern Europe and Syria are as reliably conservative, as second wave Jewish college educated suburbanites were liberal, and Russian refugees from Communism are as conservative as Cubans refugees from Communism. All three groups have an instinctive distaste and distrust for the rhetoric of progressivism. They have lost too much not to be traditionalists. Their identity is all that they have.
Second wave liberal Jews is what most people think of when they think of American Jews, but the relevance and demographic sway of that group is dimming. The new American Jew can be found in the working class sections of New York and he is an Orthodox small businessman poring over boxes of t-shirts or toasters in a hole in the wall in Brooklyn, he is a Syrian Jew clearing land on a new lot and an Israeli getting another moving company off the ground and a Russian immigrant driving a cab.
This is the new face of the American Jew and it will be the definitive one for some time to come. The Post-Jewish vote of the Liberal Post-American Post-Jew is on the way out and the Jewish vote is already coming into play in Brooklyn where Republicans are beginning to win Jewish districts.
The new American Jew is not overly committed to political parties, but to values. He believes that small business should be able to operate without government interference, he believes that families raise children, not governments, and he distrusts government in general. The messianic impulse of progressivism holds little appeal for him. He does not feel guilt over race relations and is not moved by appeals to abortion. He has no use for gay marriage and while, like a lot of working class people, he feels some sympathy for unions, he does not like public sector unions who seem to have it made.
Unlike his liberal second wave predecessors, he believes in G-d, not as some abstract inspiration, but as an actual reality. Values to him are objective, right and wrong is black and white, and family is all that matters. Government to him exists to crack down on criminals and on foreign invaders, he does believe that the country can kill its way to a solution and dismisses politicians who think it can’t.
He is a man or woman of common sense and what his common sense tells him is to distrust glibness and to trust results. He doesn’t want to lower the oceans or worship at the feet of a political messiah. He isn’t looking for a religion to replace his religion, he doesn’t want a savior, he wants a future for his family. He is the new American Jew and his vote, the vote of the third wave is the vote of the Jewish future.
While Greenfield has distinct bias it is an illuminating analysis. Perhaps the reason that the second wave of Jewish immigrants became so much more liberal than the current third wave is simply the time period in which it occurred. The second wave left a Europe struggling with classically liberal values to come to a country which embraced them. The new immigrants are leaving countries where social liberals (as distinct from classical liberals) have gone amuck. They are more likely to associate progressive policies with the oppression they experienced.