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.

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Read more at The Week

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

Will Costco Go to Israel?

Social-media users have mocked this week new Israeli finance minister Bezalel Smotrich for a poorly translated letter. But far more interesting than the finance minister’s use of Google Translate (or some such technology) is what the letter reveals about the Jewish state. In it, Smotrich asks none other than Costco to consider opening stores in Israel.

Why?

Israel, reports Sharon Wrobel, has one of the highest costs of living of any country in the 38-member Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development.

This

has been generally attributed to a lack of competition among local importers and manufacturers. The top three local supermarket chains account for over half of the food retail market, limiting competition and putting upward pressure on prices. Meanwhile, import tariffs, value-added tax costs and kosher restrictions have been keeping out international retail chains.

Is the move likely to happen?

“We do see a recent trend of international retailers entering the Israeli market as some barriers to food imports from abroad have been eased,” Chen Herzog, chief economist at BDO Israel accounting firm, told The Times of Israel. “The purchasing power and technology used by big global retailers for logistics and in the area of online sales where Israel has been lagging behind could lead to a potential shift in the market and more competitive prices.”

Still, the same economist noted that in Israel “the cost of real estate and other costs such as the VAT on fruit and vegetables means that big retailers such as Costco may not be able to offer the same competitive prices than in other places.”

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Read more at Times of Israel

More about: Costco, Israel & Zionism