The Costly Paradox of American Jewish Success

Over the past century and a half, Jews have achieved incredible success in the U.S., finding their way into almost every area that was once the province of the White Anglo-Saxon Protestant (WASP) elite. Yet, notes Samuel Goldman, this upward mobility “came at a cost.”

Jews moved smoothly into positions opened to meritocratic competition, but gradually lost the vitality that fueled their success. Despite their decline into social invisibility, WASPs won by losing, as institutions including Harvard, the Federal Reserve, and the judiciary achieved ever greater influence over American life. American Jews lost by winning, taking over the reins of power but giving up their distinctive identity.

On the whole . . . Jews were better integrated in American life than anywhere else in the Western world. Jews responded in kind. . . . An almost religious commitment in America as the first true home Jews could claim in 200 years fueled an extraordinary record of creativity. American literature, cinema, music, and scholarship are unimaginable without Jewish contributions.

Goldman sees some of this tension highlighted in Joshua Cohen’s The Netanyahus, a fictional and satirical treatment of the very real sojourn at an American university of the Israeli medievalist Benzion Netanyahu, the father of the former Israeli prime minister:

Zionists like Netanyahu argued that [American Jews were on] a road to national death, whether by the gentle method of assimilation or the unimaginable threat of murder.

The Netanyahus lampoons this argument as fanatical, paranoid, and vaguely malevolent. What the satire reveals, though, is Benzion wasn’t totally wrong about the American Jews who ended up joining and ultimately displacing WASPs in their academic and other bastions. The WASPs faded from the scene but established a framework for cultural influence and social mobility that continues to exist today. Jews have flourished within that framework, but lost the characteristics that once made us so energetic and interesting.

Create a free account to continue reading

Welcome to Mosaic

Create a free account to continue reading and you'll get two months of unlimited access to the best in Jewish thought, culture, and politics

Register

Create a free account to continue reading

Welcome to Mosaic

Create a free account to continue reading and you'll get two months of unlimited access to the best in Jewish thought, culture, and politics

Register

Read more at The Week

More about: American Jewish History, American Jewry, American society, American Zionism

The Arab Press Blames Iran Rather Than Israel for Gaza’s Woes

Following the fighting between Israel and Islamic Jihad over the weekend, many journalists and commentators in Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates, and Saudi Arabia didn’t rush to condemn the Jewish state. Instead, as the translators at the Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI) note, they criticized the terrorist group for “operating in service of Iranian interests and thus inflicting suffering on the Gaza Strip’s residents.” One Saudi intellectual, Turki al-Hamad, wrote the following on Twitter:

It is apparent that, if at one time any confrontation between Israel and the Palestinian organizations would attract world and Arab attention and provoke a wave of anger [against Israel], today it does not shock most Arabs and most of the world’s [countries]. Furthermore, even a sense of human solidarity [with the Palestinians] has become rare and embarrassing, raising the question, “Why [is this happening] and who is to blame?”

I believe that the main reason is the lack of confidence in all the Palestinian leaders. . . . From the Arabs’ and the world’s perspective, it is already clear that these leaders are manipulating the [Palestinian] cause out of self-interest and diplomatic, economic, or even personal motives, and that the Palestinian issue is completely unconnected to this. The Palestinian cause has become a bargaining chip in the hands of these and other organizations and states headed by the [Iranian] ayatollah regime.

A, article in a major Arabic-language newspaper took a similar approach:

In a lengthy front-page report on August 7, the London-based UAE daily Al-Arab criticized Islamic Jihad, writing that “Gaza again became an arena for the settling of accounts between Iran and Israel, while the Palestinian citizens are the ones paying the price.” It added that Iran does not want to confront Israel directly for its bombings in Syria and its attacks on Iranian scientists and nuclear facilities.

“The war in Gaza is not the first, nor will it be the last. But it proves . . . that Iran is exploiting Gaza as it exploits Lebanon, in order to strengthen its hand in negotiations with the West. We all know that Iran hasn’t fired a single bullet at Israel, and it also will not do this to defend Gaza or Lebanon.”

Create a free account to continue reading

Welcome to Mosaic

Create a free account to continue reading and you'll get two months of unlimited access to the best in Jewish thought, culture, and politics

Register

Create a free account to continue reading

Welcome to Mosaic

Create a free account to continue reading and you'll get two months of unlimited access to the best in Jewish thought, culture, and politics

Register

Read more at MEMRI

More about: Gaza Strip, Iran, Islamic Jihad, Israel-Arab relations, Persian Gulf