web analytics
April 19, 2014 / 19 Nisan, 5774
At a Glance
InDepth
Sponsored Post
Spa 1.2 Combining Modern Living in Traditional Jerusalem

A unique and prestigious residential project in now being built in Mekor Haim Street in Jerusalem.



Home » InDepth » Monitor »

Remembering Milton Himmelfarb


Media-Monitor-logo

Share Button

Milton Himmelfarb died earlier this month at age 87, and chances are you never heard of him if, like most Americans, you tend not to be a devotee of intellectual and political journals. But Milton Himmelfarb — Mendy, as he was known to his family — was, by virtue of temperament, history and family, a seminal figure in the development of neoconservatism as one of the country’s most influential political forces.

Serving in various capacities at the American Jewish Committee for better than 40 years, Himmelfarb was the longtime editor of the AJC’s American Jewish Yearbook and a contributing editor to Commentary, which under the editorship of Norman Podhoretz became, in the late 1960′s, the flagship journal of the emerging neoconservative movement.

“Himmelfarb,” wrote the exemplary New York Times reporter Joseph Berger in an obituary the Times incomprehensibly ran a full week and a half after Himmelfarb’s passing, “was a member of an astonishingly accomplished intellectual clan with working-class and liberal roots that evolved into neoconservative royalty. His younger sister, Gertrude Himmelfarb, is a historian of Victorian thought…. His brother-in-law, Irving Kristol, is a founder of neoconservatism; and his nephew is the founding editor of the influential conservative periodical The Weekly Standard.”

A writer with a penchant for turning a memorable phrase, Himmelfarb, describing the curious political habits of American Jews, once observed that “Jews earn like Episcopalians and vote like Puerto Ricans.” The line became an instant favorite with academics and journalists, quoted over the years in countless articles and studies on Jewish voting patterns.

In a symposium on “Liberalism and the Jews” in the Jan. 1980 issue of Commentary, Himmelfarb elaborated on his dismay with the American Jewish voter. Looking back at the Nixon-McGovern presidential contest of 1972, he scoffed at the notion that Jews were on the brink of switching party loyalty:

Before the 1972 election there was hardly an issue of a news magazine without its revelation about the new Jewish conservatism. Though the Democrats were, then as now, the majority party, and though the Republican nominee was unattractive, about 69 percent of white Christian voters voted against the Democrats. Of Jewish voters, about 65 percent voted for him. That is what Jewish conservatism means: giving a two-thirds vote to the most unpopular Democratic candidate in memory. Compulsive smokers know that smoking is not good for them but they keep smoking. Most Jews are compulsive Democratic voters….

Himmelfarb’s assessment was just as fresh nine years later in an April 1989 Commentary article — sardonically titled “American Jews: Diehard Conservatives” — on the 1988 presidential election:

Most whites once voted for Democratic presidential candidates but have long since changed to voting for Republicans….Practically alone among white voters, Jews have changed hardly at all…. Clinging more than most to old attachments and habits, American Jews may fairly be called more conservative than most.

For all of Himmelfarb’s political perspicacity, it was when he wrote about specifically Jewish subjects that one got a glimpse into what was intrinsically important to the man. Though long removed from the Orthodoxy of his youth, he peppered his articles with references to biblical and rabbinic literature. His deep and abiding sense of Jewishness was on eloquent display in an exultant October 1967 Commentary article titled “In the Light of Israel’s Victory”:

Each of us Jews knows how thoroughly ordinary he is; yet taken together, we seem caught up in things great and inexplicable. It is almost as if we were not acting but were being acted through….The number of Jews in the world is smaller than a small statistical error in the Chinese census. Yet we remain bigger than our numbers. Big things seem to happen around us and to us….
When the Psalmist says “I,” the pronoun is singular and plural, individual and collective, personal and referring to the children of Israel — as in another verse from the last of the Hallel psalms: “I thank Thee, for Thou hast answered me, and art become my salvation.”

Share Button

About the Author: Jason Maoz is the Senior Editor of The Jewish Press.


If you don't see your comment after publishing it, refresh the page.

Our comments section is intended for meaningful responses and debates in a civilized manner. We ask that you respect the fact that we are a religious Jewish website and avoid inappropriate language at all cost.

No Responses to “Remembering Milton Himmelfarb”

Comments are closed.

SocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

Current Top Story
FBI Wanted poster for Osama bin Laden
Pakistan Library Renamed to Honor bin Laden
Latest Indepth Stories
matza

If itis a mitzva to eat matza all Pesach, then why is there no berakha attached to it?

Masked Palestinian Authority Arabs hurl blocks at Israel Police during and after "worship" at Temple Mount mosque. (archive photo)

When we are united with unconditional love, no stone will be raised against us by our enemies.

Haredim riot after draft-dodger is arrested.

The reporter simply reports the news, but it is greater to be inspired to better the situation.

Bitton-041814

The Big Bang theory marked the scientific community’s first sense of the universe having a beginning.

Freeing convicted murderers returns the status of Jewish existence to something less than sanctified.

“The bigger they are the harder they fall” describes what God had in mind for Olmert.

We, soldiers of the IDF, who stand guard over the people and the land, fulfill the hopes of the millions of Jewish people across the generations who sought freedom.

How much is the human mind able to grasp of the Divine?

Jews have brought the baggage of the galut (exile) mentality to the modern state of Israel.

The Haggadah is an instruction manual on how to survive as strangers in strange lands.

It’s finally happened. New York Times public editor Margaret Sullivan reported on her blog that “many readers…wrote to object to an [April 2] article…on the breakdown in peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians,” claiming “[they] found the headline misleading and the article itself lacking in context.” Ms. Sullivan provided one such letter, quoted the […]

Nor did it seem relevant that according to widely circulated media reports, Rev. Sharpton was caught on an FBI surveillance video discussing possible drug sales with an FBI agent.

Jewish soldiers in the Polish forces often encountered anti-Semitic prejudice.

When the state was established, gedolim went to Ben-Gurion and asked him not to draft women and, later, yeshiva bachrim.

More Articles from Jason Maoz
Bob Grant

What really makes one wonder about the affinity felt by certain Jews for Grant was the welcome mat he put out for some of the country’s most pernicious anti-Semites.

Camelot-112213

With 2013 marking half a century since Kennedy’s fateful limousine ride in Dallas, the current revels are exceeding the revisionist frenzies of years past, with a seemingly endless parade of books, articles and television specials designed to assure us that, despite everything that has come to light about him since his death, JFK was a great president, or at least a very good president who would have been great had his life not been so cruelly cut short.

As someone who for the past fifteen years has been writing a column that largely focuses on the news media, I’ve read what is no doubt an altogether unhealthy number of books on the subject. Most of them were instantly forgettable while some created a brief buzz but failed to pass the test of time. And then there were those select few that merited a permanent spot on the bookshelf.

George W. Bush has been getting some positive media coverage lately, with recent polls showing him at least as popular as his successor, Barack Obama, and a big new book about the Bush presidency by New York Times chief White House correspondent Peter Baker (Days of Fire, Doubleday) portraying Bush as a much more hands-on chief executive than his detractors ever imagined.

Readers who’ve stuck with the Monitor over the years will forgive this rerun of sorts, but as we approach the fortieth anniversary of the Yom Kippur War – and with the stench of presidential indecisiveness hanging so heavily over Washington these days – it seemed only appropriate to revisit Richard Nixon’s role in enabling Israel to recover from the staggering setbacks it suffered in the first week of fighting.

Shakespeare had it right. The evil that men do indeed lives after them. Case in point: Nahum Goldmann, who served in a variety of Jewish and Zionist organizational leadership posts from the 1920s through the 1970s.

Oscar “Ossie” Schectman, who scored the first basket in the history of the league that evolved into the National Basketball Association, died last week at age 94.

It’s certainly been a while, hasn’t it? And yet it seems like the conversation was never really interrupted, as I’ve enjoyed, in the three and a half months since this column last appeared, many an interesting exchange, via e-mail and phone, with some very intelligent readers.

    Latest Poll

    Now that Kerry's "Peace Talks" are apparently over, are you...?







    View Results

    Loading ... Loading ...

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/media-monitor/remembering-milton-himmelfarb/2006/01/18/

Scan this QR code to visit this page online: