Ruth R. Wisse: The conscience of a Jewish conservative

Source: Jerusalem Post, 1-23-11

The late Irving Kristol was not just a Jewish thinker, he was something else: a consummate American intellectual.

A Jewish thinker is normally someone devoted to the study and interpretation of Jewish texts, Jewish history, Jewish issues, Jewish ideas. The late Irving Kristol (1920-2009) was, for the most part, something else: a consummate American intellectual. Founding editor of The Public Interest, contributing editor of The Wall Street Journal, a senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, he is best known as the “godfather” of neoconservatism, a movement of ideas that spurred a major realignment in American politics.

Yet as we are reminded by The Neoconservative Persuasion, a sparkling collection of his essays edited by his widow, the historian Gertrude Himmelfarb, Kristol was also an important Jewish thinker – and especially important for American Jews. Among his cohort of resolutely secular New York intellectuals, Kristol displayed an unusual attitude toward religion. Raised in Brooklyn by nominally traditional immigrant parents, and exposed to an inferior – he called it “decadent” – Jewish education, the teenage Kristol unaccountably chose to attend daily synagogue services after his mother died. (His father declined.)…READ MORE

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