Jewish Denial and American Exceptionality

“Robert is an agnostic “Christian” struggling to understand how the Jewish Problem exists, survives and how it is that, as regards American-Jews, the main population under discussion since I am a member of that community, view the United States. In particular Robert is puzzled by the application of the term, “exceptional” by Jews to their country of birth. What follows is a very brief and incomplete discussion of the issues involved, at least as I understand them.

First, I see no effort in history or present to hide the Jewish Problem, nor its efforts towards “solution.” I expect that most contemporary Christendom, which is now “secular” in regard to social and political expression, while acknowledging the existence of the Jewish Problem as “unconscious” presence in antisemitic stereotype and prejudice, sincerely rejects the notion that they actively seek the “solution” to the Problem. But, as its “active” reemergence in the killing fields of Europe attest, the Jewish Problem is as “alive” today as in the decades following WWI; the days following the Emancipation of the Jews in the nineteenth century; as in the days of Luther, and Augustine and Chrysostum.

As regards the Jewish people, the issue, while equally obvious, is far more difficult to provide the “short” answer. Which is why I have spent several years spelling it out in this blog.

After two thousand years of persecution by our dominant neighbors of the Diaspora, repeatedly leading to a lethal end, we Jews today are as accustomed to living in the west as are Christians. And yet, for some (to most of us) unknown (intentionally, which makes it Denial) reason we are not accepted (provide our own myth of acceptance, “exceptionality”). When things are “normal” (expressions of antisemitism minimal, which is typical since only extreme social distress raises it to the surface) we are assured that we are “accepted.” It is this “acceptance,” so elusive, that we crave, are willing to risk the occasional explosion of lethal antisemitism for the “norm” (imagined) of acceptance. Except the Holocaust, the adoption of annhialative antisemitism as the ultimate and final solution that has changed the rules of the game. No longer are most survivors the assured outcome of lethal antisemitism. It is the Final Solution that is now precedent. And Jews are as conservative to adopt to change as are all people, loathe to accept the “unthinkable.” And so we are trapped by tradition of “only” partial eradication, and the new reality of total eradication.

If all looks calm in your surroundings, Paul, how would you decide?

About the Author
David made aliya in 1960 and has been active in Jewish issues since. He was a regional director for JNF in New York, created JUDAC, Jews United to Defend the Auschwitz Cemetery during that controversy; at the request of Jonathan Pollard created and led Justice for the Pollards in 1989.