“the Jew” as Christian reification: Israel as Jewish reification

In my recent contribution to my blog, Antisemitism and Jewish Survival, Who is a Jew” and the Conversion Problem, a responder moved the discussion from Israel as Zionist to Halacha and Jewish identity, an issue of internal Israeli debate with potentially disastrous consequences for Israel in her obligations as refuge. As background to my response as provided below:


 A reificatory loony bin named Israel.


The simplistic dictionary definition says that “reify” means “consider an abstraction to be real”. Thus, with respect to the term “a Jew” we may ask two questions:


1) WHAT is “a Jew”? Answered: “An abstraction coordinating sensorial events whose qualia appear linguistically, culturally, historically, etc. as “Jewish”.


2) WHO is “a Jew”? Answered: “A reification of the abstraction “a Jew”, by definition – as all reifications – meaningless, misleading and noxious”.

DT: “The only thing absent in your discussion, “Jacques”, is “Reality,” whatever that may be since in the end, as I responded to an earlier such comment, “reification” may simply define an important or sole description of “perception.” And Perception is how humans, individually and collectively (yes, even your more “rational” French) define and describe the world. Reification may, in fact, be all there is!

“But leaving interminable arguments regarding philosophy and psychology, a short turn to History (another reification): for seventeen hundred years we Jews constituted a “religious group” all but trapped in a Diaspora dominated by Christianity. Thanks to the “enlightened rationality” and in order to ease the need to classify all peoples, “the Jews” became themselves a “nation,” alongside the rational French. Except unlike the French we lacked geography! So now we were a “nation apart.” It was, according to your own reasoning, not “the Jews” who created the Jewish Question, the Jewish “nation,” but the rationalists; it was not we, “the Jews,” who rejected assimilation into the Christendom but Christendom who found us indigestible, as had Christianity for seventeen hundred years previous. It was not because we, “the Jews,” had much choice as to reconstitute ourselves a “nation” in the rational French model, but the French, the Germans, the Russians. It was Christendom that perpetrated the Holocaust, that made a Jewish state as refuge a necessity.

“As had Christendom created its reification, its imagined Jewish Problem a millennium and half earlier, defined “the Jews” anathema and deserving of punishment and eventually extermination, so “we Jews” today acknowledge our indigestibility in Christendom, and reified ourselves as the Jewish People within our own state. Still anathema to Christendom, for sure. But at least armed and capable, finally, of self-defense.

“In this context, “Jacques”, your argument for Jews as reification is not just inappropriate and a distraction from how to ensure Israel remains “Zionist” (another “reification”). Because unless and until our Diaspora and, as the present contribution to my discussion represents, Israel herself understands our history and Israel’s role in the future, “the Jews” as reification in Christian lore will be all that remains of us.


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.