Zev Chafets has a new book out: “A Match Made in Heaven: American Jews, Christian Zionists, and One Man’s Exploration of the Weird and Wonderful Judeo-Evangelical Alliance.”
The book has blurbs from Joe Klein (“wildly entertaining . . . I couldn’t put it down, and I’ve been thinking about it ever since”), Bernard Goldberg (“a story told with intelligence, passion, and lots of wit”), Bob Simon (“a page turner . . . and deeply respectful analysis”) and Yossi Klein Halevi (“at once brilliant polemic, exquisite reporting, effortless prose, and laugh-out-loud humor . . . an essential and courageous contribution to the most important debate of our time”).
As a sample of his style, here is Chafets’ reflection of growing up in the Jewish community in Pontiac, Michigan in the 1950s:
Around this time a local Reform rabbi named Sherwin wine announced that he didn’t believe in God and that he was starting a congregation for Jewish atheists. This seemed perfectly natural to me. Most of the Jews I knew in Pontiac were Reform Jews. Their denomination (and mine) in those days was almost entirely about civil rights. We didn’t speak to one another about God. Our prayers, such as they were, consisted primarily of reflection on an abstract being who resembled Franklin D. Roosevelt. The Bible was second-rate Shakespeare. To the extent we read it at all, we concentrated on those prophets whose teachings were in line with Pete Seeger. The Holocaust was never discussed. Israel was a foreign country.
After the Six-Day War, he moved to Israel, landed a job with what was to become the Likud and, after Menachem Begin won the 1977 election, and there were more senior government positions than Likudniks to fill them, found himself as director of the Government Press Office (something like the White House director of communications) at age 29:
The American Jewish leadership was scandalized and outraged by the company Begin was keeping. Most of the Jewish grandees were liberals who had never met an evangelical Christian and didn’t want to. They disagreed with Begin’s settlement policy and saw (correctly) that it would lead to a clash with the Carter administration. They were also put off by Begin’s European looks and Jewish mannerisms. The Jews of New York and Los Angeles wanted Sabra heroes like the dashing, one-eyed warrior Moshe Dayan. Begin reminded them of their uncle Louie in dry goods.
By the time of 9/11, he and his wife had moved back to the United States, and found that:
The main culprit, as far as my friends were concerned, was George W. Bush, followed closely by Republican Christians. Wasn’t Osama Bin Laden just a bearded version of Pat Robertson? And did you hear that Jerry Falwell blamed the attack on American promiscuity and immorality? The fact that Falwell and Robertson and the other Christian fundamentalists were on their side of what Bin Laden called “the jihad against Jews and crusaders” didn’t seem to register with many liberal Jews. As far as they were concerned, the real enemy was George W. Bush and his fundamentalist supporters.
Chavets thinks many American Jews “can’t get past two thousand years of Christian persecution and two hundred years of secular liberalism.” He understands the skepticism, but reports favorably on the year he spent among evangelical Christians.Related post: The NeoChristian Lobby.