The Enigma of Jewish Identity


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Here and there a rare and tenuous bloodline may connect a given individual to incorrigible Habiru ancestors even the patriarchs and the prophets despaired of ever civilizing. They cannot be more than a handful and must remain undetectable. And it is far from clear whether even these originals may be considered “Jews,” a designation which came appreciably later. As the Koran rightly suggests, neither Abraham nor Moses were Jews; it appears that Mordecai of the Book of Esther was the first to be called a Jew.

Jean-Paul Sartre in Anti-Semite and Jew: An Exploration of the Etiology of Hate may not have been far off the mark when he said “a Jew is someone who is called a Jew” and “it is the anti-semite who creates the Jew.” This may not be the whole story but, counter-intuitive or even flippant as it may sound to some, it is an important chapter—perhaps the most important chapter. Jews who happen to have escaped the stigma are either exceedingly fortunate or blindly oblivious.

Jews should take their cue from the Muslim Brotherhood, especially the electoral program of its Egyptian parent. The crowd assembled at the Al-Azhar mosque in Cairo chant: “one day we shall kill all the Jews.” Their primary quarry is Israel, of course, but Jews in the Diaspora are also targeted for extinction. As Joseph Klein writes, “The rally was co-sponsored by the Al-Azhar University, which President Obama had referred to as a ‘beacon of learning.’ ” But this presumptive beacon has diffused its scarifying light not only through the Middle East; it has sent its leprous influence into the chanceries and public squares of the non-Muslim West as well. Much of Europe has already become a danger zone for Jews. Acts of anti-Jewish vandalism and instances of hostility to the Jewish state and its supporters are clearly on the rise in America. And both the European and American governments are conspicuously sympathetic to the Brotherhood, whose gradual ascendance to power they have facilitated.

The Brotherhood of hatred, however, is plainly not only Muslim in origin. It is a Brotherhood with a lengthy past in the blood-soaked abattoirs of Europe and also in the realm of public and official sentiment in North America, in particular among the camarilla of the Left—which is, rather perversely, the home of a plurality of Jewish voters as well. Nonetheless, the meeting of poisoned minds grows more intimate by the day—a confluence that makes little distinction between the diverse forms of Judaism, including its secular and revisionist varieties.

Some Jews may drive BMWs, but their near ancestors were transported in cattle cars. Some Jews live in decent or luxurious houses, but their relatives were brutalized in the mellah. Some Jews may pride themselves on their elegance and sophistication, but they remain apes and pigs for the Muslim world. Others believe that political calculation will work to their advantage. One remembers Rabbi Stephen Wise, Co-Chair of the American Zionist Emergency Council during World War II, who downplayed the horror of the Holocaust and even obstructed relief efforts in order, according to his lights, not to vex or offend the Roosevelt administration. Such reasoning would not have cut much ice with the millions who died in the Shoah or its survivors.

As Matthew Hausman points out in a seminal essay, many Jewish organizations in the U.S., such as the Anti-Defamation League and the Jewish Theological Seminary, as well as many secular Jewish leaders, “have been addled by their slavish devotion to an ideological agenda that in the name of tolerance has excused hateful rhetoric masquerading as political discourse – particularly when that rhetoric comes from the Left.” Their disposition “to deny their history, or to accept as fact the national and religious myths of those who wish to subjugate and destroy them,” reveals that they are simply a more nebulous version of nominal Jews. Hausman concludes, rightly: “Community leaders lose all credibility when they advocate or excuse policies that compromise the safety of Israel or threaten Jewish survival.” Such leaders are the tactical connivers among the Jewish public who elevate a political or electoral priority—in this case, the re-election of Barack Obama—above  whatever might be said to constitute the corpus of Jewish values. They, too, in any worst case scenario, would go the way of their congeners.

Others still are convinced that assimilation or recreancy has served to render them impervious to the black winds of history, but political weather is unpredictable and they may yet find themselves facing the blast. As for a significant portion of the Jewish cognitive class, their credentials are no antidote to intellectual seizure and no remedy for the discomfiture or reprisals they may one day be made to feel. The antisemite is not impressed by probity, achievement, like-mindedness, secularity or the inevitable social and professional disparities. Differences tend to be scrubbed out, for the truth is that Jews remain Jews by negative definition, despite claims to the contrary or the assertion of some mysterious entelechy that accounts for their chronicled essence.

There are some things that cannot be evaded. Mortality is one. Antisemitism is another. And the Jew is subject to both. The former establishes his common humanity. But the latter fixes his decisive and unappealable identity.

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  • http://www.resonoelusono.com/NaturalBornCitizen.htm Alexander Gofen

    Most of enigma and confusion was added to Jewish identity in the recent 150 years.

    1) Before that Jews were understood as adherents to a particular faith, culture, and philosophy called Judaism (the observance varying).

    2) Then a purely ethnic-racial definitions was elaborated and "applied" to the European Jewry by Nazis and Sovetskih.

    3) Finally, since restoration of Israel, its citizens are called Jews (just as citizens of Denmark are called Danes – but with great deal of hate).

    In the modern times all the three categories do exist in the reality, comprising the generic term Jewry, making it vague, thus facilitating the task of anti-Semites, which now can go after any of the three categories at hand.

    Yet the core of the Jewish identity and the key to survival of Israel and Jewry is in the definition (1), as I tried to prove in an essay
    http://www.resonoelusono.com/ApostasyOfJewry.htm

  • Jim

    When the bad guys are out to get you because they think you are a Jew then you are a Jew no matter who thinks otherwise.

  • ziontruth

    "What is it, then, that ultimately brings us together, that presumably unifies us as a people, and that, in effect, paints the bulls-eye on our backs? The answer should be obvious: it is precisely that which sews the yellow badge upon our lapels. As the great Zionist visionary Theodor Herzl came to believe, the Jew is defined by his enemies."

    No, Mr. Solway, no go. "Defining" one's "nationality" by negative characteristics is exactly the sordid pseudohistoric ruse the Arab settler-colonists in Palestine employ, and is the reason why Gingrich so hit the mark with his recent observation about them.

    I'll grant you the Jews' enemies keep many otherwise estranged Jews from straying to other fields—from the Orthodox believer's point of view, that is after all the reason why HaShem won't blow the closing whistle on Jew-hatred until the time of redemption (soon amen). However, that doesn't form an identity. An identity requires positive characteristics. You say the "black-coated, earlocked, fur-hatted" Ultra-Orthodox Jews are hopelessly parochial, and I might even agree on a few points there (though the Ultra-Orthodox of Israel are very much different, and far more involved in the affairs of the society around them—probably because it's a Jewish society despite everything), but Orthodox Judaism has the corner, the monopoly on positive Jewish identity. Even those aspects of Jewish identity that are not immediately connected with the religion, such as the language and the calendar, have been maintained over the centuries only by the force of religious conviction.

    And, of course, there is the very choice of the homeland in the Land of Israel. Surely the Jews didn't set up their state smack in the middle of the Muslim Middle East for the fun of it, right?

  • Moshe Pupick

    M., 12/12/11 common era

    I was raised in the Reform movement but returned to Torah (thank G-d) when I was age 40. Reform "Judaism" was concocted to reduce or even eliminate antisemitism by making Jews' religious practices more closely resemble those of their Protestant Christian neighbors. The Kosher laws, separate seating for men and women, Hebrew prayers, etc. all were rejected as being outdated. And where did this all happen?
    Why, in dear old Deutschland.

    I read that the number of Orthodox Jewish men and women in the I.D.F. has increased exponentially in the past few years and shows no signs of abating, thank G-d!