Are We Ready for Pro-Semitism?

Not so long ago, my cousin returned from a trip to China with some curious news: People thought highly of Jews there. She’d seen it in the shops, where products touted the virtues of the likes of Albert Einstein and other members of the tribe noted for their intelligence and work ethic. She’d seen it in the people, who welcomed them in the most warm manner and introduced them to some extraordinary foods — including a kind of pudding made from durian. And she’d seen it in the country itself, a growing, industrious land much like her own, the United States, filled with people who want to make connections.

The intriguingly positive stereotypes associated with Jews that my cousin encountered in China remind me of the possibility that we may be entering a new era in relations between Jews and the rest of the world. Already, the United States, Great Britain and Canada have taken steps that aim to counter the efforts of the anti-Semitic Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement in their respective nations. Ties between Israel and India are warming up, with big-budget deals on the horizon. And one look at the comments on the Times of Israel‘s Facebook page can say much about the dedication people around the globe have for the Jewish state.

What’s going on here? Surely, there are still those crawling out from under their rocks to malign people of my faith with the usual nonsensical accusations that we are deceitful, have big noses, are out to get everyone and own the banks/media/amusement parks, etc.? Is it possible that we’re discovering a new, pro-Semitic alternate universe?

There’s no question that anti-Semites remain as vocal as ever, and the stereotypes they perpetuate are villainous. They’re still around. Yet another factor has taken effect: The impact of the global economy and players that have come into their own on the worldwide stage. This has led to an influx of good feelings about Jews in general … ones that disseminate a perception of those who adhere to this culture as smart, hard-working, dedicated and driven to succeed. Those are values that should be highly regarded everywhere, but they’re particularly well thought of in countries such as China, where my cousin encountered people who were keen to reach out and connect with her. Such connections were surely made at the “China-Israel Technology, Innovation and Investment Summit” that took place in Beijing last month—an event that strongly points to the burgeoning links between these two nations. Still, the positive vibes surrounding this activity aren’t just relegated to matters of money; there’s an image thing going on, too, and it has to do with how Jews, as a whole, appear to other populations.

Strangely—and, of course, happily—this appearance is a good one.

We’re not out of the woods yet when it comes to anti-Semitism. It still infuses governments, individuals and entities such as BDS while inciting hatred and vile stereotypes about Judaism, Israel and those who embrace them. We are, however, seeing that the Old World that cultivated such vicious misconceptions is now sharing space with a New World that can mitigate such invective … a New World that doesn’t see Jews as conniving, homeless Shylocks with big noses but as a people with a highly developed culture and an enterprising nature, worthy of cultivating relationships with and building trust. If we continue to foster such ties, there’s no telling just how great the success resulting from them will be. My feeling is that these links will keep expanding, and the impact will be significant. Jews have always encountered obstacles throughout their existence. Perhaps this is one time where the obstacles are turning into goals.

Generalizing about a population, however positive and uplifting it may be, is always a fallacy, of course. Individuals are different in every case; no two people are alike in intelligence, appearance, demeanor or behavior. Yet I can only smile when I think about the appeal Jews have in countries such as China, where my cousin found such a warm reception and discovered that her own heritage was associated with goodness, was even touted as something to admire on products sold in stores. It’s a refreshing change from the anti-Semitism we have had to deal with through the ages. I say: Long may it continue.

And I have a distinct feeling it’ll get even better than this.

About the Author
Simon Hardy Butler is a writer and editor living in New York City. He has written for publications ranging from Zagat to Adweek and has interviewed innumerable people—including two Auschwitz survivors whose story may be heard at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum’s website. His views and opinions are his own.
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