44 / CHRONICLESnLetter From a Statenof Mindnby Jacob NeusnernThe Religion of NeoconseivatismnDid you ever wonder why Jewish neoconservativenthinkers never arguen”from” Judaism, in the way in whichnMichael Novak argues from RomannCatholicism, and Richard Neuhaus arguesnfrom Lutheran Christianity? Thatnis to say, Judaism never forms a point ofndeparture and never defines a court ofnappeal. For the Jewish neoconservativesnJudaism simply does not exist. They donnot despise the Judaic religious traditionnand its intellectual heritage. They simplynignore it. For them, religion maynserve valid purposes; it may even benbeautiful; but it forms no intellectualnreality from which, or even.againstnwhich, to mount sustained thought.nI cannot explain why, because I amnnot a neoconservative, although I amnJewish. On the contrary, I was a conservativenbefore I knew it, stayed a Democratnlong after voting for Republicansn(but made the move in 1968 anyhow).nWhen I was a Henry Fellow at OxfordnUniversity, 3 5 years ago, I discoverednthat I was a conservative, not a liberal,ncertainly not a socialist. As a Jew, thendiscovery surprised me. What I foundnwas that the British left in the eariy 50’snwas anti-American, the right was pro-nAmerican, and I was an American. Wenwere just emerging from the KoreannWar, which, I firmly believed, had savednSouth Korea from Communist aggression.nBut the left in Oxford told me thatnwe were the aggressors and should paynretributions to North Korea. Thesensame folk had just come back from anninternational Youth Festival in Bucharestnand brought with them other wondersnand marvels to behold.nShortly after arrival in Septembern1953,1 located the Oxford UniversitynBlue Ribbon Society, the elite (so theynCORRESPONDENCEntold me) of the conservatives, and forntheir magazine wrote up “Youth Festivalnin Bucharest: A Study in Fatuity.”nFor my efforts I was roundly abused bynthe Socialists, and happily joined thenfray. I defended not what was thenncalled McCarthyism but the view thatnCommunist espionage presented a seriousnproblem to Western security. Inpointed to the Soviet domination ofneastern Europe and the threat to Germany.nIn these and other ways I foundna comfortable position in the conservativenside of Oxford politics in thatninteresting year. When I came home, itnwas, of course, as a Democrat, but anconservative one. I began voting fornRepublicans, and by the mid-1960’s,nthe identification with the RepublicannParty was complete. I began reading,nthen writing for National Review longnbefore Vietnam got rough, and identifiednwith the politics outlined by WilliamnF. Buckley Jr., long, long beforenNorman Podhoretz had broken ranks.nI tell this brief story to indicate thatnalthough I am a Jew and a conservative,nI am not a neoconservative. Sincenpeople generally think that neoconservativesnare Jewish intellectuals whonhave given up on the left, it is importantnto set forth one’s own credentials,nespecially since one trait of the Jewishnneocons strikes me as profoundly hostilento conservatism in culture. That isntheir utterly tone-deaf audience to thenreligion, Judaism. While paying respectnto religion as instrumentally useful,nthe Jewish neocons maintain anvigorous apathy toward Judaism. Wensee this, every month, in Commentary,nwhich while describing itself as somehownconnected to the Jewish worldnrepresents the Judaic life of intellect byndisdain and silence. That is not a newnpolicy to be sure. Even in the laten1940’s, the great rabbi-intellectualnMilton Steinberg dismissed Commentarynas utterly hostile to the rich intellectualnlife of Judaism. It was true,nthen, when Commentary belonged tonnnthe left, and it is equally true now, withnCommentary a bulwark of conservatismnin international and social policy.nJust now I asked myself why itnshould be the case that while thenJewish conservatives (not neoconservatives)nof an earlier generation, representednby Will Herberg and SeymournSiegel, should have lived out a richnaffirmation of the Judaic religious traditionnand themselves helped enrichnthe Judaic intellectual tradition, thenJewish neoconservatives want nothingnto do with either religion or religiousnintellectual life, when these are framednby Judaism. The occasion of this questionnwas a letter from Sidney Hook,nwhom I have admired my whole life.nHe had sent me a brilliant article onnthe conflict between Communist Partynmembership and the possibility of participatingnin universities as they flourishnin the West. I read it, sent it on tonthe Providence Journal in the hopenthat they would understand from itnwhy Brown University should not cooperatenwith the KGB’s Institute of thenUSA and Canada, with Rostock Universitynin East Germany, and withnvarious other Communist centers ofnhigher learning and research — andnthen say so. Then I thanked ProfessornHook and, by way of reply, sent him ansmall monograph of mine. The Makingnof the Mind of Judaism.nThe choice of the book was notnwithout consideration. It is a worknaddressed to a problem of philosophy,nsignaled, to be sure, by my theft of thentitle of the great work by Randall. Inwanted to know the relationship betweennthe logic of intelligible discoursenin the rabbinic texts of late antiquitynand the conceptual limitations imposednby the dominant logic upon thenminds shaped by that logic. Now thenbook may not accomplish its goals, andnit certainly will not teach logic to anynsecond year philosophy student. But itndoes address a question a great philosophicalnmind like Hook should appre-n