Reviewing Dara Horn’s recent anthology, People Love Dead Jews, which he describes as simultaneously “filled with anger” and “delectable,” Elliott Abrams writes:
Horn’s target is a world obsessed with dead Jews, whether found in Holocaust memorials, the rebuilding of old and abandoned synagogues and cemeteries, or in assigning students the reading of The Diary of Anne Frank. Jews, she writes, are “part of a ridiculously small minority that nonetheless played a behemoth role in other people’s imaginations,” both here and in countries where they have faced persecution and even extermination. As Horn observes of some high-school girls she met in Nashville when she was seventeen: “Like most people in the world, they had only encountered dead Jews: people whose sole attribute was that they had been murdered, and whose murders served a clear purpose, which was to teach us something. Jews were a people who, for moral and educational purposes, were supposed to be dead.”
The center of this book is Horn’s absolute rejection of all that ostensibly heartfelt, morally significant, admirable concern about dead Jews. “I had mistaken the enormous public interest in past Jewish suffering for a sign of respect for living Jews,” she writes, but it is not so. She concludes that “even in its most apparently benign and civic-minded forms,” it is “a profound affront to human dignity.” People Love Dead Jews explains why, and does so in colloquial, even conversational language with sparkling insights about Jewish life. At root, Horn says that this obsession with dead Jews distorts not only Christian but also, and perhaps more painfully, Jewish understanding of Jewish reality.