Thursday, January 31, 2008

'Politics sort of is the Jewish religion'

Flashback 14 months:
Blaming Judaism for his father's peculiarities, the first Jewish member of Congress converted to Christianity to hide his heritage and preserve his political career.

But with a name like David Levy Yulee, he was only fooling himself.

Times have changed since Yulee became Florida's junior senator in 1845 - more than a century before the southern state became a favorite destination for Jewish retirees from the northeast.

After a handful of victories in Tuesday's election, Jews are poised to have their largest congressional representation ever. This U.S. community of roughly 6 million people - about 2 percent of the nation's population - will contribute 30 members to the House. With 13 Jewish members of the Senate, the proportion in the upper chamber will be 6 1/2 times greater than that in the general population.

"Jews are just political animals," said Steven Windmueller, dean of the Los Angeles campus of Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion.

"Politics sort of is the Jewish religion," he added. "There is just such a passion for being in the game, in the process. Jewish life thrives in societies where democracies work, and that is why there is such a heavy buy-in into the American political process."
I decided to resurrect this story, which I wrote in November 2006 for the LA Daily News, in light of my story for this week's Jewish Journal, which I will blog about later this afternoon when it goes online. You can read the rest of the above story here. You'll notice the same cheesy Roosevelt joke.

(The pictured book, one every person involved with or interested in American Jewry should read, can be found at Google Books and, obviously, Amazon.)

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