What Jews Mean to America https://mosaicmagazine.com/picks/history-ideas/2024/02/what-jews-mean-to-america/

February 28, 2024 | Meir Soloveichik
About the author: Meir Soloveichik is the rabbi of Congregation Shearith Israel and the director of the Straus Center for Torah and Western Thought at Yeshiva University. His website, containing all of his media appearances, podcasts, and writing, can be found at meirsoloveichik.com.

Taking a long view of Jewish history, Meir Soloveichik observes that there is nothing especially surprising about the surge of anti-Semitism in the U.S. since October 7. What is surprising, he writes, are the “stalwart, public defenses of Jews” from public figures. Soloveichik believes such attitudes have deep roots in the American founding, and are summed up in Abraham Lincoln’s description of Americans as God’s “almost chosen people,” by which he meant that

America is not biblical Israel’s replacement; it does not seek to supersede or supplant the Jews. It does not envy Israel’s eternity but seeks to learn from it and be blessed by it; it is biblical Israel’s imitator, learning the lessons of Israel’s story. Whereas other nations saw in Jewish eternity a reminder of their own ultimate demise, America, as Lincoln argued, learned from the biblical story that it could hope that it would not “perish from the earth” if it remained true to its covenantal calling. The phrase “almost chosen people” warns and inspires America, implicitly embracing the faith that, despite centuries of exile, God’s covenant with the original “chosen people” remained.

Such attitudes, Soloveichik argues, bolster both American sympathy and antipathy toward Zionism:

It is not merely that many Americans of faith support Israel but that Israel’s story supports faith. Many religious Americans . . . find in Israel the vindication of traditional Western, and especially American, beliefs. Israel’s story is seen as the ultimate indication that “God exists; he drives history; he performs miracles in real time; God’s word in the Bible is true.”

It is only with this in mind that we can truly understand the intense hatred directed at Israel from the American left. . . . Progressives elementally understand that Israel, ancient and modern, is a profound source of inspiration in the way America sees itself as a covenantal people. Many progressives, meanwhile, are driven by the fierce belief that America has never been a nation dedicated to a great idea, . . . and its story is entirely a tale of evil and oppression. Woke progressives hate Israel because they hate America; they work, above all, to undermine the notion that America can consider itself a covenantal nation, and they therefore hate the embodiment of the original covenantal nation.

This is why the more the righteousness of Israel’s current cause is revealed, the more agitated and angry the anti-Semites become. Thus we have those who claw at posters of child hostages, destroying evidence of the evil of Israel’s enemies.

Read more on National Review: https://www.nationalreview.com/magazine/2024/04/what-jews-mean-to-america/