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To Heal the World?

To Heal the World?

How the Jewish Left Corrupts Judaism and Endangers Israel

Jonathan Neumann

All Points Books

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A devastating critique of the presumed theological basis of the Jewish social justice movement—the concept of healing the world.

What is tikkun olam? This obscure Hebrew phrase means literally “healing the world,” and according to Jonathan Neumann, it is the master concept that rests at the core of Jewish left wing activism and its agenda of transformative change. Believers in this notion claim that the Bible asks for more than piety and moral behavior; Jews must also endeavor to make the world a better place.

In a remarkably short time, this seemingly benign and wholesome notion has permeated Jewish teaching, preaching, scholarship and political engagement. There is no corner of modern Jewish life that has not been touched by it. This idea has led to overwhelming Jewish participation in the social justice movement, as such actions are believed to be biblically mandated.

There's only one problem: the Bible says no such thing.

In this lively theological polemic, Neumann shows how tikkun olam, an invention of the Jewish left, has diluted millennia of Jewish practice and belief into a vague feel-good religion of social justice. Neumann uses religious and political history to debunk this pernicious idea, and shows how the Bible was twisted by Jewish liberals to support a radical left-wing agenda.

In To Heal the World?, Neumann explains how the Jewish Renewal movement aligned itself with the New Left of the 1960s, and redirected the perspective of the Jewish community toward liberalism… More…

A devastating critique of the presumed theological basis of the Jewish social justice movement—the concept of healing the world.

What is tikkun olam? This obscure Hebrew phrase means literally “healing the world,” and according to Jonathan Neumann, it is the master concept that rests at the core of Jewish left wing activism and its agenda of transformative change. Believers in this notion claim that the Bible asks for more than piety and moral behavior; Jews must also endeavor to make the world a better place.

In a remarkably short time, this seemingly benign and wholesome notion has permeated Jewish teaching, preaching, scholarship and political engagement. There is no corner of modern Jewish life that has not been touched by it. This idea has led to overwhelming Jewish participation in the social justice movement, as such actions are believed to be biblically mandated.

There's only one problem: the Bible says no such thing.

In this lively theological polemic, Neumann shows how tikkun olam, an invention of the Jewish left, has diluted millennia of Jewish practice and belief into a vague feel-good religion of social justice. Neumann uses religious and political history to debunk this pernicious idea, and shows how the Bible was twisted by Jewish liberals to support a radical left-wing agenda.

In To Heal the World?, Neumann explains how the Jewish Renewal movement aligned itself with the New Left of the 1960s, and redirected the perspective of the Jewish community toward liberalism and social justice. He exposes the key figures responsible for this effort, shows that it lacks any real biblical basis, and outlines the debilitating effect it has had on Judaism itself.

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INTRODUCTION


On the second night of Passover in April 2009, several White House staffers gathered in the Old Family Dining Room for Seder night, the Jewish ceremonial dinner that takes place on the first two evenings of the festival....

Praise for To Heal the World?

"There is a strong and growing segment of Jews who are critical of liberal ideology and of their co-religionists who embrace it. Anyone wishing to understand the critics' point of view would do well to read Jonathan Neumann's new book -- a hard-hitting polemic against the Jewish left."
-ROBERT P. GEORGE, McCormick Professor of Jurisprudence at Princeton University

"This highly readable book is a devastating exposé of one of the worst vices in American Jewish life -- the penchant of many rabbis and communal leaders to pass their own progressive politics off as continuous with the classical Jewish sources. It also opens a window onto a conception of Judaism that is broader, less partisan, and spiritually richer than many Americans have ever known."
-JON D. LEVENSON, Albert A. List Professor of Jewish Studies, Harvard University

"For too long, Jewish leftists have used Jewish sloganeering to serve their leftism, claiming that 'tikkun olam' dictates their politics. Neumann shows that the linkage between Judaism and leftism isn't merely false, but fatally damaging to Jewishness itself, and that those who claim they are healing the world on God's behalf are in fact ripping out the roots of Judeo-Christian civilization while cynically flying the Biblical flag."
-BEN SHAPIRO, Editor-in-Chief of The Daily Wire

"It is all too rare for any intellectual, let alone a Jewish one, to blow the whistle on one of the tragedies o… More…

"There is a strong and growing segment of Jews who are critical of liberal ideology and of their co-religionists who embrace it. Anyone wishing to understand the critics' point of view would do well to read Jonathan Neumann's new book -- a hard-hitting polemic against the Jewish left."
-ROBERT P. GEORGE, McCormick Professor of Jurisprudence at Princeton University

"This highly readable book is a devastating exposé of one of the worst vices in American Jewish life -- the penchant of many rabbis and communal leaders to pass their own progressive politics off as continuous with the classical Jewish sources. It also opens a window onto a conception of Judaism that is broader, less partisan, and spiritually richer than many Americans have ever known."
-JON D. LEVENSON, Albert A. List Professor of Jewish Studies, Harvard University

"For too long, Jewish leftists have used Jewish sloganeering to serve their leftism, claiming that 'tikkun olam' dictates their politics. Neumann shows that the linkage between Judaism and leftism isn't merely false, but fatally damaging to Jewishness itself, and that those who claim they are healing the world on God's behalf are in fact ripping out the roots of Judeo-Christian civilization while cynically flying the Biblical flag."
-BEN SHAPIRO, Editor-in-Chief of The Daily Wire

"It is all too rare for any intellectual, let alone a Jewish one, to blow the whistle on one of the tragedies of Jewish and modern world history. But that is what Jonathan Neumann succeeds in doing in this consistently absorbing and important book. Keep some tissues handy -- if you love Judaism and Israel, you might shed tears."
-DENNIS PRAGER, Nationally Syndicated Radio Host and author of The Rational Bible

"Nothing short of a lethal indictment – actually a conviction – of the leadership of liberal Judaism, documenting the distortion and destruction wreaked by an assortment of misguided and agenda-driven left-wing icons and activists during the past half century."
-RABBI AVRAHAM GORDIMER, Chairman of the Rabbinical Circle of the Coalition for Jewish Values

"This is a turning point, a moment of awakening about just how bad things have gotten, how distorted Judaism has become. Well written, deep, textually aware, thoughtful, idea-driven rather than ad-hominem. This is the book to return sanity to Judaism."
-RABBI GIL STUDENT, Book Editor of the Orthodox Union’s Jewish Action magazine, Rabbinical Alliance of America

"An important new book. The tikkun-olamers, Neuman shows in painful detail, have cherry-picked the Bible to reinterpret the decisive events of Jewish history in their cause... The Jewish Left’s version of tikkun olam reduces a robust religious tradition into contemporary progressive talking points, to human will with a mild Yiddish accent… Neumann is a right-winger like me, and I relish his excoriation of the Jewish left. "
-DAVID P. GOLDMAN, Author of How Civilizations Die, Spengler column in Asia Times and editor First Things

"A knowledgeable Hebraic critic considers a concept honored by the vast majority of his co-religionists and finds it all wrong."
-KIRKUS REVIEWS

"The work will spark useful discussions about the intersections of Judaism and politics."
-PUBLISHERS WEEKLY

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Reviews from Goodreads

Jonathan Neumann

Jonathan Neumann is a graduate of Cambridge University and the London School of Economics. He has written for various American, British, and Israeli publications, was the Tikvah Fellow at Commentary magazine, and has served as assistant editor at Jewish Ideas Daily. He is the author of To Heal the World?