There’s More to Being Jewish Than Fighting Anti-Semitism

Source: The Atlantic


A Jewish journalist lives in the big city. He is largely secular and proudly defies religious traditions; he runs easily with his generation’s cohort of elite writers and thinkers. When evidence of virulent anti-Semitism begins to emerge around him, he is shocked. Jews must wake up and recognize their dire situation, he thinks. If only they could band together, he imagines, Jews could not just survive, but thrive: a light unto the nations, modeling humanitarianism and tolerance.

People wear kippas as they attend a demonstration in front of a Jewish synagogue in Berlin

People wear kippas as they attend a demonstration in front of a Jewish synagogue, to denounce an anti-Semitic attack on a young man wearing a kippa in the capital earlier this month, in Berlin, Germany, April 25, 2018. REUTERS/Fabrizio Bensch – RC1B30C01CB0

This was the story of Theodor Herzl, who is credited as the founder of political Zionism and the father of the State of Israel. But it is also the story of Jonathan Weisman, a New York Times reporter who has written a book, (((Semitism))), about the peculiar challenges of being an American Jew in 2018. Both men became aware, rather suddenly, of the potency of anti-Semitism; both have called for a strengthening of Jewish identity in a time of relative Jewish empowerment. Herzl looked east, aspiring to create a Jewish state in Palestine. More than a century later, the success of Herzl’s solution has become Weisman’s major grievance: The writer complains that American Jewish organizations have all become “enthralled with [the] same mission … all spoke of, lobbied on, and raised money for Israel, Israel, Israel.” Meanwhile, he says, neo-Nazis grab headlines, shouting slogans like “Hail victory!” and “You will not replace us!” at rallies on the National Mall. When this happened last summer, Weisman says, “The Jews slept.”

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